Compassionate Nutritional Care: Treating the Whole Person

In healthcare, where we would expect every provider to express empathy and understanding, clients are often met with cold and clinical approaches to care. As professionals in nutritional care, nutritionists will work closely with clients can reveal deeper, emotional and psychological connections with food. Through a working relationship, exercising compassion allows you to gain the trust of your clients, and empower them to make successful dietary changes by nutritional care.

For Lorraine Kearney BASc, NDTR, like many other wellness professionals, the journey to becoming a nutritionist has been influenced by people she’s met who have had significant emotional struggles with food. Therefore, the interactions have allowed her to see the connection between food and mind. And, in turn, Lorraine pursued a degree in nutrition, with a minor in psychology. 3 years ago, she launched her private practice and established a team that takes a compassionate and holistic approach to help individuals recognize the negative effect poor diet and stress can have on their body.

Follow Lorraine’s story to learn how she exercises compassion in aspect of nutritional care, including how she customizes the Healthie platform and Programs tool to incorporate her philosophy.

Compassionate Nutritional Care: Treating the Whole Person

How has your personal journey influenced your compassion-based counseling approach?

When I first moved to New York from Ireland, I decided to open up my home to wounded veterans. I housed three veterans over three years, and took away something so meaningful from each. In other words, they impacted me a lot and contributed to my business as well as my philosophy over time.

The first veteran taught me how love, honesty, and communication can rebuild relationships and help shape the future.

The second soldier taught me patience and knowing when to give a person time to open up without pushing.

The third soldier opened my eyes to the importance of food and to the psychological effect our mind has in making food-related decisions. He was incredibly sick, and the only thing that he wanted to eat was peanut butter and jelly, just like his mom used to make him.

After meeting him, I knew that I had to pursue a career in nutrition to help people navigate through this amazing field.

Compassionate Nutritional Care: Treating the Whole Person

So I went on to complete 400 hours of dietetic internship work at the New York State Veterans Home. And I also worked with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention. Also, I developed and implemented programs to improve the health and wellbeing of all New Yorkers.

These experiences over time helped lead me to my approach: combining a compassionate, whole person approach to nutrition, by making the connection between food and our mind.

When you bring on a new client to nutritional care, how have you tailored your intake forms to help you capture their emotional history and relationship with food?

I have added questions that pertain to their eating habits as a child and how their family unit was like during meal times. Majority of my clients are over 30 years old. And they learned their eating habits from their mother’s who back in the 80/90’s were always on a “diet” or doing many of the fad diets that were around back then. After asking about childhood eating habits it gives me a greater understanding of where their food beliefs stem from.

In your practice, you emphasize the value of your custom programs. How do you create a program that still feels personalized for each client?

When I first started my business, I was experiencing “compassion burnout,” frequently. Because I was giving all my time and energy to building my practice and my personal time and relationships were suffering. Then I was exhausted, trying to do it all – marketing, blogging, cold calls, networking, creating informational handouts and working will clients with a variety of different needs. But I did not have a niche and was spreading myself thin. I was burning out and it was not beneficial to helping people.

Almost a year after starting my business, I found my niche. I learned that I was passionate about empowering women on how to nourish their body with whole food and helping them understand food habits and triggers. I began developing programs for nutritional care and marketing around my niche. Through my tailored programs, I was then able to provide my clients with a better service that was geared towards their needs.

How has the Healthie platform allowed you to build healthy boundaries for you and for your clients, to avoid “compassion burnout?”

My business number is also my personal cell number. When I first started my practice, clients would message me all the time. In the middle of the night, weekends, during sessions, during events and dinner parties. It was hard to not answer them in a timely manner as they knew it was my phone and were expecting a response right away. Some would email questions and then text me. It was getting messy and confusing!

I also used my Google Drive account to create content, I had paper HIPAA forms signed that were kept in a filing cabinet, billing was done through an app, and clients had to call me to ask my availability before scheduling appointments.

Then I joined Healthie and life became easier. When I sign up a client with Healthie, I tell them all communication moving forward with be held within the portal, all files are kept in one place and credit card information is securely stored.

With Healthie, discover calls with potential clients are scheduled right into my calendar from my website. I have certain times during the day I chat with new clients to hear if they’re a right fit for my programs.

Healthie saves me time by having everything integrated on one portal. Healthie provides lots of benefits for nutritional care with a one-stop shop for billing, scheduling, intake forms, waivers, contracts, storing informational handouts, goals setting. Prior to Healthie, I felt my documents were scattered in different folders. Now I’m organized and have piece of mind that everything I need is at my fingertips.

Compassionate Nutritional Care: Treating the Whole Person

What are 4 tips for fellow nutrition professionals to help them run compassion-based businesses, but still find balance in their lives?

1. Find your niche and stick with it.

We can’t help everyone. Focusing on what your good at and passionate about gives clients a better service.

2. Switch off all email notifications and check messages during your scheduled work hours.

As a business owner, we want to provide a great service, but we don’t need to be available all the time. Keep work at work and home life at home.

Clients are going to contact your around the clock, especially when they are finished with their work. If you are home resting after a long day, the last thing you want to see at 11pm is your phone light up with a notification from a client. A lot of people will want to respond straight away, or will constantly think about replying all night. This increases the stress response and interferes with your personal time.

3. Set boundaries with clients.

Let them know they can message you anytime to ask quick questions in between sessions through the chat feature in Healthie, but please allow 24-48 hours for a response.

We live in a world where everyone wants instant gratification and a city where everyone wants results, fast. If we try to answer every email and message as they come in, it can make it hard to find time to apply to your other clients. Each client deserves the same attention from you, so schedule a time in your calendar each day for replying to messages.

4. Be crystal clear in what services you provide, especially when creating packages.

How many sessions are included in a package, duration of sessions, what’s unique about each package, what value does it give your client, what should they expect from you, what do you expect from them? Painting a clear picture for your client makes sure the client has a good experience working with you.

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From helping wounded veterans heal, to empowering women to nourish their bodies, Lorraine has built her nutrition business on the foundation of providing compassionate care. By making the connection between mind and body, she’s been able to carve out a niche and curate programs that meet the needs of her clientele. Visit the Lorraine Kearney Nutrition website and Instagram page to learn more about Lorraine’s story and vision.

Stefanie Mendez, MS RD CDN

Stefanie is a New York City-based dietitian, with a master's degree in clinical nutrition from New York University. As a dietitian, Stefanie has spent her career working in private practice, helping her clients achieve healthier, more fulfilling lives. Looking for ways to support and mentor other dietitians, Stefanie found her calling when she joined the Healthie marketing team. Although she still counsels clients, she is able to write, connect and inspire other dietitians to make the leap as entrepreneurs.

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