So you’ve ditched the restrictive low-fat, low-calorie diets, embraced healthy fats like butter and coconut oil, and adapted a fresh, real food approach to fueling your body on your low carb lifestyle. As a result you’ve shed pounds without feeling deprived, your energy levels have soared, and your cravings have been suppressed. But… you still feel slightly uncomfortable about telling your doctor the good news about your new nutrition program. Do you admit to eating half a dozen eggs each day? Do you let your doc in on the fact that you’re going through sticks of butter each week despite your family history of heart disease, and say you’re actually eating it to protect your heart?
Do you say your allergy symptoms completely disappeared after eliminating grains? When asked if you’re consuming milk for strong bones do you lie, or confidently boast that you’ve given up milk for better health? Discussing your nutrition program with your doctor isn’t an easy task. It can be daunting to think about where to start and what to say without feeling shameful or taking the risk of being put down for following dietary advice that opposes conventional wisdom–even though in your heart you feel so proud of making these lifestyle changes since they’re helping you reach your health goals. As you’re thinking about having this conversation with your doctor about your healthy low carb lifestyle, I would encourage you to take the following tips into consideration and step into your next appointment confidently and at ease, excited to share the healthy changes you’ve made with your doctor.
Dietitian Cassie’s Top 10 Tips for Talking to Your Doctor about Your Nutrition Program
Have realistic expectations
Many people’s journeys to a low carb lifestyle weren’t overnight transitions. Change rarely happens in a day. “Un-brainwashing” yourself from years and years of conventional wisdom takes time. Chances are you won’t change your physician’s opinion about your nutrition program in one or two appointments, so keep your expectations realistic. Acknowledge they may be skeptical and probably won’t jump onboard right away, and that’s okay. The journey to improving health is indeed a journey and because of this you can’t expect your doctor to automatically change. All you can ask for is their support as you run your own race.
Set the stage for a friendly chat
From the very moment you walk into the office, be intentional about keeping a smile on your face and a light heart. If you’re already in defense mode when you step foot in the door, then you’ve already put a negative stamp on the potential conversation about what you know is changing your life–your healthy low carb lifestyle. But, if you’re in the right mindset and have the right attitude, then go for it! Be excited about starting a respectful conversation with your doctor about the new nutritional approach you are taking and the positive changes you’ve already seen. It’s a good idea not to assume from the get-go that they are completely stuck in the mainstream way of thinking. You may even be pleasantly surprised to hear they are familiar with the positive benefits of eating lower-carb or that they may have had other patients follow a similar approach. Try not to accuse them of not being onboard or get defensive if you don’t need to. Even mainstream medical doctors may be more open-minded than you think.
Invite your doctor to the party
By inviting your doctor to the party you are allowing him or her to celebrate your health victories WITH you. Remember that you both have the same goal: improving your health. Give your doctor the benefit of the doubt and assume they are on your team unless proven otherwise. When you no longer need the drugs your doctor prescribed to you and your health markers improve, share your excitement and invite them to experience the joyful feelings with you. If you feel resentful or frustrated that they didn’t give you a more natural approach in the first place or maybe because they’re skeptical about the way you are eating, that’s okay. Acknowledge your feelings but don’t let them get in the way of the excitement you feel for reaching your health goals.
Be your own proof
You matter! When your acne clears up, your weight goes down and your blood sugars stabilize–that speaks wonders. There is nothing more powerful than a testimony. At the end of the day theories can be debated, but experiences cannot be denied. Show your doctor proof and explain your experiences and the positive results you’ve seen in your life. Let it evolve into a learning session for both of you. If your doctor gets defensive, back off a little. Never forget the powerful adage that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Being genuine and transparent will go a long way in making this a good experience for you both.
Although your health improvements do matter, science can help back you up when you discuss your low carb lifestyle. If they don’t believe you, then refer them to someone they might believe! Some doctors may not be interested in seeing the research, but some might. If you’ve come across studies or have books that reference studies that can support your approach to nutrition, bring them with! When you come across an Evidence-Based Study that is different from the conventional wisdom approach, bookmark and be ready to share it. Use wise judgment and be careful not to cross the line of flaunting the research in their face, but be prepared to provide science-based evidence in case you are asked.
Keep in mind that your doctor is likely not a nutrition expert
Out of the long, many hours of medical school, a very small amount of these are spent on nutrition education. Many doctors will admit they have a nutrition certification from a weekend seminar at most. Chances are high they didn’t become nutrition experts in the course of a weekend and you can bet the information they obtained at said seminar drilled the low-fat, lean meat, whole grain message. Because of the lack of nutrition knowledge required to be a doctor, you can’t expect them to be a nutrition expert. This isn’t the case for all doctors; some might have a passion for nutrition and its effect in their own lives, but if not, don’t hold it against them. Give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they have your best interest at heart. Your doctor is likely doing the best job he or she can with the limited knowledge of nutrition they have.
Focus on the positive
Instead of listing the foods you no longer eat, emphasize the foods you DO eat that make you feel great. Maybe healthy fat has significantly improved your mental clarity and taken away your cravings. Maybe eating protein more frequently gives you more energy. Perhaps avoiding artificial sweeteners improves your digestive function. Perhaps eliminating grains clears up your sinuses.
Don’t ask for permission
Your health is in YOUR hands and only YOU have the power and authority to choose what you eat. Regardless of what your doctor says or believes, ultimately you are the one responsible for making your own choices. Be confident in your beliefs and stand by them.
Don’t challenge their authority
Ask for their help if you can. Ask what it will take for you to come off a certain medication or if they may have seen the research supporting health benefits of saturated fat. But flaunting what you “know” in most cases causes more harm than good.
You get to choose your physician
If you get to the point where you are overwhelmed with frustration, remember you can always find a different doctor. Just like you are in charge of what goes into your body, you also have the choice of which doctor gets to see you.