This August I conducted an extensive Whole Foods Study for school. It was a project where I coached 15 volunteer participants through a 2 week program titled the Au Naturale Nutrition “Healthy Whole Foods Challenge”.
If YOU were one of these wonderful people, I want to thank you again for helping me with my project, filling out the surveys, allowing me to learn coaching skills, and helping me earn an A+!
The primary goal of the challenge was to have participants replace refined foods and beverages with whole foods for fourteen days.
The purpose was to conduct a nutrition program in which participants learn how to make healthy food choices, develop healthy eating habits, and recognize individual health benefits from eating a healthy diet. Perfection was NOT expected. Some participants made the transition from refined foods to whole foods in stages.
I conducted the “Healthy Whole Foods Challenge” by actively coaching and engaging the participants throughout the study.
The participants were given:
1) a Calendar of important dates (the Instructions to the “Challenge”),
2) a Journal for writing down foods and thoughts,
3) The “Healthy Whole Foods Challenge” Handbook, which I wrote over the summer. The Handbook contained basic nutrition information, explanations of micro and macronutrients, definitions and substitution examples of refined and whole foods, guidelines for shopping and preparing meals, methods for developing new habits, explanation of the 85/15 Way of Eating, The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15, suggested websites, a reference list, and a disclaimer.
4) a “Nutrition Newsletter” email every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the 2 week challenge. They contained summaries of interesting health articles, a recipe, and a daily affirmation. The six Nutrition Newsletter topics included: The Truth about Grains & Dairy, Summertime Vegetables & Sunshine, Digestion, Weight Management, Myth Busting… Cholesterol, Eggs, and Fats, and Are You Wired & Tired (stress & sleep).
5) Q & A emails every Tuesday and Thursday during the 2-week challenge, in which I answered ongoing questions from individual participants and shared the answers with the group.
Whew, it was a lot of work... and I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT!!
It was a success! Of the 15 participants, 13 completed the whole 2 weeks. (My professor said her last student had only 1 of her 5 participants finish.) Several individuals had real health improvements; I believe they stemmed from lowered inflammation. Awesome!
Upon successful completion of the “Healthy Whole Foods Challenge, most participants:
What I learned from this experience:
I definitely learned more about how difficult it is to facilitate behavioral change, even when providing the necessary knowledge to my “clients”. While the participants were willing, the stressful American lifestyle, with a plethora of convenient, addictive, refined foods, was the largest roadblock. I learned that actively engaging the participants with daily reminders, like the newsletters and emails, was a successful strategy at the beginning of a BIG dietary change. Helping the participants understand the "WHY" behind their foods choices was important.
I found that the participants (who knew they were in a group program) also enjoyed the individual coaching they received by asking me questions and having the ability to share their experience with me. Whether the participant felt negative or positive, they were eager to share their successes and challenges. I made certain to acknowledge the importance of their personal health journey. Every person was in a different stage of wellness. The participants were comforted knowing that others in the group were experiencing similar feelings, such as cravings and finding more time to cook at home. It was a good exercise in developing my listening skills and also formulating good written and oral responses to my “clients”.
I also learned first-hand the value of observational data. The written and oral responses from the participants carried heavy weight in the success of the program (vs. the numerical survey data alone). It felt wonderfully rewarding as a coach to see my friends reap real health benefits from a whole foods diet. I also received lots of positive feedback about the “Healthy Whole Foods Challenge” program itself from the participants; they felt armed with new, valuable knowledge about health and nutrition and more comfortable with dietary change. I felt honored to gain their respect in a "professional" forum.
Overall, this program was quite an extensive undertaking and an equally rewarding experience. Because it was an online/email based program, I can see myself doing it again when I start a business someday.
I'm a "Maven". According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book Tipping Point, Mavens are "information specialists", or "people we rely upon to connect us with new information. They accumulate knowledge, and know how to share it with others." The joy I felt during this project was simply from the pleasure of sharing my love of holistic health and nutrition with others. -Jenny
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