Encouraging Discussion

The Physicians Committee

Encouraging Discussion

In most sessions, you will want to devote some time to encouraging participants to describe their successes and challenges. A good way to do that is to go one by one, asking them to describe what went well or not so well in the past week. As this proceeds, you will discover that you can be less and less active as the group takes on the task of discussion. For example, you’ll find that you do not always need to call on the next person—they will start “passing the baton” automatically.

Many people will ask you questions. In general, it’s good to turn questions back to the group as much as possible so they get used to problem-solving, although often you will have to provide answers.

This curriculum helps participants adopt a plant-based diet, reduce their overall fat intake, and, for people with diabetes, use the glycemic index to choose healthful carbohydrate sources. Don’t feel a need to set dietary “rules” about things that are beyond the scope of this curriculum (e.g., salt, sugar, artificial sweeteners). If a question comes up in one of these areas you can say, “There may well be issues about salt or sugar, but for this program, we’re really focusing on avoiding animal products and keeping oils to a minimum. Salt and sugar are not restricted, although you may well want to limit them, and that’s certainly sensible.”

The discussion is very important. But sometimes one or more people will take too much time. In a rare case, you can move it along by saying, “I want to make sure we have time for everyone.”

If someone describes having had a deviation from the diet, you might say with a bit of humor, “This sounds like a cry for help! What can we do to help John?” The group will jump in. Avoid being judgmental. Simply ask the group to reassert the dietary rules, and they will work as a team.

Someone will ask whether honey is vegan. It is not, of course, but we also risk sounding a bit odd if we let this minor issue assume any importance. A good answer is to simply say, “It’s made by an animal, so it’s not actually vegan. But from a nutritional standpoint, it’s basically just sugar.”

If weights are not taken before class, encourage participants to weigh themselves at home on a weekly basis, sometime before the group session, so they can report on whether they are making progress. Any weight loss, no matter how small, is good. If anyone is stalled for more than a week, it helps to have them record a day’s worth of meals, so you can check for any deviations.

Many people are sensitive about their health histories, so be cautious about asking group members about their medical histories during the group.

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