One of the great services that WVU provides their students, is the free service of seeing a Registered Dietitian on campus. I know of a lot of universities across the US have a Registered Dietitian on staff, sometimes through the student recreation center or student dining services. However at many universities students have to pay a fee to meet with a dietitian, so I think its great to have a free service here at WVU.
Students can set up a meeting with the RD for many different reasons. Meetings can be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour in length, depending on the student and their goals. They may want to talk about recent food allergies, weight loss, weight gain, muscle gain, body composition change, how to eat for an upcoming race or competition (ie: marathon, 1/2 marathon, sprint triathlon), eating disorders, or basic nutrition information.
As a dietetic intern working with the RD here on campus, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on and participate in the counseling sessions with students. Sometimes there are just one or two meetings a day, and other days there are half a dozen meetings with students, all with different nutritional goals.
Since many of the meetings are first-time sessions, and not follow-up sessions, there are a lot of questions that need to first be asked in order to paint a picture of the student’s area of concern. For example, let’s say a student sets up a meeting mid-semester and complains that he has gained 10 pounds since starting school (almost the full “Freshman 15”). What are some questions that you would ask him to determine how to help him?
Here are some questions that I would ask:
- What is your height?
- What is your usual body weight? How long have you maintained that weight?
- What is your current body weight?
- How much weight have you gained in how many months?
- Do you have a meal plan or do you shop and cook for yourself?
- Walk me through your day, focusing on what you eat and when.
- What beverages do you drink during the day & night?
- Do you eat out at restaurants/fast food places?
- How often do you eat dessert, and what type and serving size of dessert?
- How do you think your diet differs now compared to what it was back home? (what was your typical diet like at home in high school?)
- What was your activity level like in high school?
- What is your activity level like now?
- What are your weight-loss/body composition goals? Why?
- When would you like to reach these goals by? Why?
- How are you best motivated?
These are questions that anyone can ask themselves if they are trying to lose weight. When you sit down and write down the answers to these questions, you are laying out all the details of what got you to where you are now. This detailed picture now helps the dietitian and the student to see patterns and problem areas that if worked on, can be fixed. For example, maybe a student used to never eat fast food at home, but now finds themself eating at Burger King 3 times a week. Maybe the student used to be active in sports in high school, but now is sedentary due to lack of organized sports. Perhaps a student used to eat dessert only a few times a week, but now they are unable to resist the donuts and ice cream that are available at every meal in the dining hall. Maybe the student used to eat 3 scheduled meals a day back in high school, but now they are grazing throughout the day.
The point is, in order to fix the problem and help the student reach his weight loss goals, you need to help him identify what patterns lead to the 10 pound weight gain. Once the patterns are identified, you and the student can work on making nutrition goals that will be tailored to his individual problem areas.