Quick bit of trivia: There is currently no official Dietetic Association or Registered Dietitians in Slovakia, Czech Republic, or Serbia. Hence, my “Nutritional Voyage”…
I just returned from a trip to Slovakia where I (along with two other friends and co-presenters from Loma Linda University) taught a group of about 120 people about nutritional counseling. There is an organization there called “Life and Health”, which trains lay people to be able to start what they call “Health Clubs” and provide group lectures and nutritional guidance to people with the most common health conditions: Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, Dyslipidemia, Celiac Disease, and Cancer.
People from Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Serbia were present, so I was able to communicate via two different translators. If you haven’t used a translator before for a presentation, it’s quite the experience! During the pause, I was either gathering my thoughts for my next blurb or I was losing my train of thought :P I was also thoroughly impressed with how my translators were able to communicate all the difficult medical terminology and concepts. Kudos to them!
During our 20-hour intensive course, I presented a lecture on motivational interviewing and barriers to change, and for the remainder of our time, I took responsibility for the practical application of the disease lectures. For example, after the lecture on obesity, I discussed briefly the various factors that contribute to the condition. If you know me, you’ll know that I emphasized that the etiology of obesity is multifactorial and individual. The contributing factors may include:
Following my discourse on why we shouldn’t judge people based on their weight or what they eat, I had the audience break into groups of 3 with one person being the nutrition counselor, one being the patient/client with the disease we just covered, and the third person being the observer. The role of the observer was to take notes on the major issues faced by the client (i.e. stage of change, main barriers to change, etc.), the skills or techniques employed by the counselor, and what counsel was given to the client to ameliorate their condition. Depending on the scenarios I provided as options, there was also a fourth person who acted as the parent to a pediatric client or as a spouse, bringing in all the nuances of counseling when incorporating the family system.
It was very interesting to hear what they came up with in their groups, and the commonly held beliefs in this group of what constituted healthy eating. More than once, a group recommended that a client eat mostly fruit for dinner. I had to keep emphasizing that a balanced meal (especially for a person with Diabetes) includes lean protein in addition to complex carbohydrates and non-starchy vegetables.
Here’s proof that they learned this (you’ll have to trust me on this one since it’s written in Slovakian):
The cuisine of Slovakia was also very interesting. We were all staying in what was previously a school and dormitory and had all our meals prepared for us. Breakfast was not what we in the U.S. would consider breakfast food. There were often raw vegetables with some sort of starch or tofu dish. I should tell you that since this organization is run by Seventh Day Adventists, all of our meals were vegetarian J, so some of the meals were modifications of traditional Slovakian dishes. One meal we had a vegetarian substitute for blood sausages!
Here’s one breakfast we had (that’s a walnut puree by the way):
Our last dinner, we were served a traditional pasta dish covered with poppyseeds and a slightly sweet sauce. Don’t take a drug test after this meal!:
As you can see, many meals were low in or devoid of protein, so I definitely encouraged them to make use of more beans, legumes, tofu, eggs, (and low-fat dairy if desired).
Overall, this was a very rewarding trip! I was able to guide this group in compassionate nutrition counseling, and they will now go out and touch many more lives and help people improve their health. I love my job!