Can a nutritionist stage an intervention?
February 11, 2007 8:17 PM   Subscribe

I’d like to find an Austin-area nutritionist who makes house calls, if such a person exists. I’m talking about someone who will come in and go through the fridge and the cupboards and the pantries, throwing out the over-processed, obesity-fostering crapola, and then provide—even dictate—a shopping list and a weekly menu. If that’s not possible, what’s the nearest approximation?

I thought about posting only the question, with no [more inside], but I figured that’s just pure flame-bait. And, really, who am I—an avid AskMe reader—to hoard the intimate details that we all find so compelling? And so—

I’m asking about this for my nephew, who is seriously overweight. He’ll be nine in May; he’s 5 feet tall and weighs 160 pounds. His parents divorced when he was almost four and my brother has full custody. Our parents, especially our mother, handle a lot of the day-to-day child care. (Brother [let’s call him Bob] and nephew [“Nick”] live in the house Bob and I grew up in; my parents live in a house they built, about 100 yards away. My mother is retired; my father works four days a week.) Nick has always been off the charts in terms of length/height, which is not surprising since Bob played college football as a defensive lineman, and his ex, Nick’s mother, was a college basketball player. Up until Nick was about five, he was just a big, tall kid. At some point, he started gaining weight and he hasn’t stopped. He's had all the standard tests for any hormonal abnormality—negative.

They all live in my hometown, and I live in NYC. They come here or I go there twice a year, and we talk regularly, at least once a week. Of course I was aware of Nick’s weight gain. Talking to my parents and brother on the phone, it sounded like they were doing all the right things: giving him healthy choices, encouraging physical activity, not singleing him out for “special” foods, aiming for weight stabilization instead of weight loss, etc. That’s not necessarily what I saw on my visits, but it’s hard to tell over four days.

Then I went home for the holidays, for almost three weeks, and really got to know everybody’s daily rhythm and habits. The problem that seems easiest to deal with is the food selection at my parents’ house. (My brother doesn’t cook at all, so Nick and/or Bob eats breakfast and/or dinner there every day.) My parents’ idea of helping Nick is giving him a lite HotPocket for breakfast, which I doubt is much of an improvement over the heh-vee HotPocket.

I love my parents and my brother, but I’m absolutely certain that they’re fucking up with Nick’s diet. I’m equally certain that while they can’t hear it from me, they’d accept guidance from an outsider with credentials.

Can I hire someone for a nutritional intervention?

One night, after Nick had fallen asleep on the sofa, my mother and I were telling family stories, which veered into me talking about my husband’s death, 15 years ago. Not the next afternoon but the one after, there was a poem slid very clumsily under my pillow, a poem about loss and devastation and a dog hit by a car. (“He was puffy and black/ I wish he was back”)

I love love love this boy, and I want to do right by him. Help me out here.
posted by vetiver to Human Relations (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hmm, talking w/ the parents might be a better first step than having an 'intervention'. Maybe come along with a book that has kids nutrition info and plans.
posted by cschneid at 9:38 PM on February 11, 2007

Hmmm...I'm not sure about the Austin area or whether nutritionists make house calls. I would be interested to hear, though, what the rest of Nick's family members (/role models) are eating. Are they eating Hot Pockets too? Child psychology would dictate that if they really want to help Nick out, they should reform their diet so that it matches the one they want Nick to be on as well. They also might try engaging in more family exercise- going for walks, etc. "Encouraging" is not nearly as helpful as demonstrating.

That said, I went to a nutritionist myself for a while, and it was extraordinarily helpful in two ways- I learned how to eat healthily, and I had to be accountable to someone for what I was eating by keeping a food journal. If you can motivate one of Nick's family members to seek out the nutritionist by him/herself, the house call/intervention may not even be necessary- when (s)he reports what Nick has been eating, the nutritionist may shame him/her enough to clean out the pantries anyway.

Good luck!
posted by liberalintellect at 9:43 PM on February 11, 2007

I live a country away from you, but my nutritionist once told me that she helps clients buy food (goes with, on shopping trips) and does house calls too.

My suggestion - call around, ask for their full range of services. These are highly trained practitioners, but they are not doctors. Some are perfectly content to work from a desk, and others - like the nutritionist I used to see long ago - will also offer extended services to help people reorganize their relationship with food.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:28 PM on February 11, 2007

Might I suggest a registered dietitian and not a nutritionist? In most states and provinces, anybody can call themselves a nutritionist, and most nutritionists' courses are from diploma mills and other unaccredited universities. Dietitians must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university and must be registered with the appropriate organization.

In other words, there is no requirement for nutritionists to have even five minutes of actual studies in nutrition. Dietitians must have at least four years' worth.
posted by watsondog at 10:37 PM on February 11, 2007

Google turned up the following:

Texas Dietetic Association

Austin Dietetic Association

sCULPture Nutrition and Fitness in Austin
I kind of hesitated to link to this, both because of their weird name and because of the "boot camp" thing (which seems to only befor adults) (not to mention that its just a blind google result - I've never even been to Texas). They do talk on the site about "Nutrition for Kids" and one-on-one supermarket tours with a nutritionist, which might be a better fit for working with your mom than having someone go through her cupboards and make judgments about whats in her own home.

I'm glad you're there for Nick, but do make sure the whole family is on board. From that distance, it could easily seem like you're being really critical of their life and lifestyle (which you are, but for a good reason).

Also, I wonder how the food served in your mother's house has changed since you and your brother were kids. Would it help to talk with your mother about it from that point of view? I'm willing to bet that she would not have served you two hot pockets when you were children, or you would have mentioned it.
posted by anastasiav at 10:58 PM on February 11, 2007

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