Clifford D, Curtis L. Motivational Interviewing in Nutrition and Fitness, 1st Edition. New York, NY: The Guliford Press, 2016 (1).  This review was written for graduate nutrition class “Obesity,” 2016.
Elizabeth Parker, MS, RD

About the Authors
Author Dawn Clifford is an Associate Professor and Director of the Chico State University Didactic Program in Dietetics (1). She earned her B.S. in Dietetics from Northern Arizona University, and M.S. and PhD in Nutrition Science from Colorado State University (2). Clifford is a speaker on topics of motivational interviewing (MI) and non-diet health and wellness, as well as a published researcher. She has received the “Outstanding Dietetics Educator,” and is a member of the “Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers” (1).

Author Laura Curtis is the Director of Nutritional Services at Glenn Medical Center (1), she also teaches Medical Nutrition Therapy at Chico State University where she earned her B.S. and M.S. in Nutrition, and where she followed-up with her dietetic internship (2). She had held several positions as a Registered Dietitian, including nutrition counseling where she pairs her extensive MI skills with non-diet principles and “Health at Every Size” (1).  

This book, written for nutrition and fitness professionals, is broken down into five sections, with an introduction and appendix. The introduction covers motivational interviewing basics, starting with an introduction mentioning the latest research in a shift of how health practitioners counsel – from “weight-focused” to “weight neutral”(1). This helps prevent eating disorders, fat-shaming, yo-yo-dieting, and “miserable exercise regimens” (1). The focus has shifted to more realistic lifestyle changes for health and emotions that occur with eating, not weight-focused counseling. The chapters aim to break down parts of Motivational Interviewing (MI) both in descriptions, and examples of dialogues in vignettes.

Section one: Motivational Interviewing Basics
Chapter one briefly discusses why habits form (benefit or reward outweighing the cost), and the “Stages of Change” or “Transtheoretical Model,” that was created by Prochaska and DiClemente (1). Other topics explained are “ambivalence” or uncertainty of wanting to change, neural plasticity, when your client wants a “quick fix,” and the “righting reflex” of the practitioner to correct the client’s wrong beliefs.

Chapter two talks about the “Spirit of MI”: partnership, acceptance, compassion, and evocation. This puts the practitioner and client on the same level, and places the client as the “expert” of their own body, instead of the practitioner telling them “you should [do what I say]…” This chapter is about respect and building a trusting relationship between the client and practitioner.

Section two: The Four Processes of Motivational Interviewing
Chapter three starts with two of the processes: engaging and focusing. This is the start of the MI process, where rapport is built and the focus of the session is determined. This is done through warm interactions and asking questions that invite the client to pick a direction or topic to focus on. Chapter three also points out the similarities of MI and the Nutrition Care Process (NCP) of “Assessment, Diagnoses, Intervention, and Monitoring” (1), as well as the importance of nonverbal communication (body posture, eye contact, etcetera).

As any good practitioner knows, listening is of utmost importance, and this chapter devotes a section to the benefits of really listening. By listening effectively, the practitioner can help the client choose a topic to focus on for change, and can break an overwhelming health concern into smaller, simpler, steps. By working on just one step at a time, the client is set up for success, is more likely to build confidence in tackling future change, and the practitioner has a solid topic to bring focus back to when conversation strays.

Chapter four: Evoking. Listening for certain communication cues, the practitioner can pick up on the client’s ambivalence and/or preparation to make a change. A mnemonic device that the authors like to consider where a client stands, is “D.A.R.N. C.A.T.” (4); this stands for: “Desire to change, Abilities to change, Reasons to change, Needs for change, Commitment to change, Activation, Taking steps.” When these intentions are missing the client is likely using “sustain talk,” or the lack of desire to change.

Chapter four explains how to respond to ambivalence to nudge a client toward “change talk” (1). One way that this can happen is by using “scaling questions” which ask the clients, on a scale of 1-10, where do they stand in terms of confidence to change, importance of changing, or readiness to change (1).  Additional sections of chapter four go over what to do if a client is crying in a session, and why to not “jump the gun” when getting to the planning process, at risk of losing motivation for follow-through.

Chapter five offers advice on how to plan for change without giving unsolicited advice. Asking permission is a key concept to MI, in which the practitioner asks the client if they would like to hear the information they have. This can be done in many ways, but overall it follows the format of “elicit-provide-elicit”(1). Elicit-provide-elicit, means finding out what the client already knows and asking them if you can give them information they are missing, providing the information once you have their permission, and following up with a check-in to see how they feel about that information. Chapter five finished up with assessing confidence to change, and potential barriers to making the change.

Section Three: Mastering the Microskills: OARS
Chapter six, the “O” in OARS is for “open-ended questions.” Open-ended questions (versus closed-questions) elicit thoughtful responses that are more likely to promote change talk (1). The chapter gives several examples of good open-ended questions for a variety of ways to direct the conversation, as well as closed-questions to avoid. Scaling questions are once-again used to question readiness to change.

Chapter seven, “Affirmations” is the “A” in OARS, building self-efficacy through how the practitioner acknowledges positive changes. This chapter explains that affirmations are not “cheerleading,” but building self-confidence through empowering the client by acknowledging what they have done and how they have noticed the benefit of the change. Affirmations can also help reduce defensiveness.

Chapter eight, “R” is for “Reflections,” or a statement paraphrasing what the client has said in a way that shows they are heard and understood. Reflections can be used after nearly every client statement, and the book covers several types of reflections for different occasions or goals. These include: how to reflect when the client is expressing change-talk, ambivalence, or sustain talk; using metaphors or reframing negative statements, double-sided reflections (using “and” in place of “but” when listing both sides); and several other types of strategic reflections.

Chapter nine, “Summaries,” rounds out OARS. Similar to reflections, summaries can, and should, be used frequently throughout a counseling session. Summaries work well to show the client you are hearing them, and are a way to assess if you have understood exactly what the client is expressing. Summaries are good for transitioning to another topic, bringing the conversation back on track, and bringing closure to a session.

Section four: Beyond The Basics
Chapter ten covers common pitfalls of trying to direct a client that is not ready for change. Some poor choices include, “the expert trap,” the “question and answer trap,” using “scare tactics,” “information overload,” and others. The chapter goes over how to “read” and work with a client who feels forced to be in the session.

Chapter eleven covers “what to do when there’s little time.” How to use MI with brief interactions, covering all four processes of MI, is coupled with how to keep a client on track. The chapter emphasizes the importance of staying true to the MI structure and focusing on one small change instead of taking on too much and/or driving the client away by providing information without asking permission.

Chapter twelve teaches how to address misinformation that the client has picked up, in an unthreatening way. This involves the practitioner letting go of their own agenda, and focusing on what the client finds important. Diminishing the “righting reflex,” or “temptation to provide unsolicited advice” (1) gives the client autonomy and feel they are in control. Providing information (in easy to understand terms) should only come after asking permission from the client. This chapter also covers how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) fits into the MI process.

Section Five: A Closer Look at Motivational Interviewing in Nutrition and Fitness Industries
Chapter thirteen is about how to use MI in nutrition counseling, specifically. This is broken down into subtopics, including: dealing with a new diagnosis, meal planning, grocery shopping, expanding food variety, and more. This chapter does a good job addressing emotional eating, disordered eating, and when it would be helpful to refer to someone when the issue is out of the practitioner’s scope, or needs other professionals on the treatment team.

Chapter fourteen explains how to use MI in fitness counseling. It problem solves how to fit depth of MI into training sessions, when talking becomes more limited. The differences in “autonomous” (internal) and “controlled” (external) motivation are explained, with tips to progress each type through the stages of change.  This chapter addresses potential barriers to change with tips to guide a client through each.

Chapter fifteen, “putting motivational interviewing to work to address weight concerns and disordered eating,” focuses on weight-neutral talk, and “health at every size” (HAES) (1). It takes away using weight as a measure of “goals” to meet, and focuses on being healthy and happy at whatever size your body wants to naturally maintain. Although this chapter addresses eating disorders, it does not go into depth on counseling clients with eating disorders. This chapter does promote a smart way to speak to any person to not trigger negative body image feelings.

Appendix 1 covers when and how to make a referral to a therapist or other health professional. It covers “scope of practice,” specifically the scope of a registered dietitian, and when it is smart to add to the treatment team or refer to a specialist. This chapter gives a script of what to say to a client when making a referral, so the client feels supported and is more likely to follow-through.

Appendix 2 is additional resources for counseling techniques. This appendix lists more books on MI, resources for nutrition counseling techniques, resources for fitness counseling techniques, and resources for addressing body image concerns.

Personal commentary and evaluation
The authors are extremely qualified to write this book on MI. Both are registered dietitians with a master’s degree (and Clifford has a PhD in Nutrition), and have had personal experience using MI to counsel and teach the principles of it in their other work. Curtis was a student of Clifford’s, so they should be of the same mindset and training. 

The authors have written a strong book for teaching the essential counseling skills, laying them out in a well-organized fashion. Although this book was somewhat “dry” reading, it could not have come to me at a better time, as I was finding my counseling becoming very complacent. Working slowly though this book, I was able to shake-up my counseling practice and have better interactions with clients using the MI skills I had let slide.

The only weaknesses I can think of with this book are not covering every area of
nutrition and fitness that could come up in a session (which would be impossible to do), and that there are already many books on MI available, many of which from the same publisher. This being said, a strength is that they filled a specific need by tailoring the book to the specific issues that credentialed nutrition and fitness professionals face, staying true to science-based information and not teaching fad diet principles. I was very pleased to see the use of weight-neutral talk and how to speak to promote positive body image.

It was too difficult to pick out very specific tidbits of information that were supported by other works of literature, because MI is so prevalent in the counseling world. In light of that, I choose two books that I have used, as support for Motivational Interviewing in Nutrition and Fitness. In their book on treating eating disorders, authors Herrin and Larkin state that the process of nutrition counseling should allow clients to make their own decisions (except in the case of harming self or others), and that advanced training in counseling skills including MI is expected of the nutrition professional (5). A section on MI is included in their book, highlighting the same skills that are laid-out in depth in Motivational Interviewing in Nutrition and Fitness. Likewise, the book Counseling Overweight Adults (6) has a section devoted to MI practice and its importance in the counseling process for nutrition professionals, including using “scaling questions” to determine confidence in making a change.

I would highly, highly, recommend this book to nutrition and fitness professionals (and even other health professionals). This resource breaks down each step of MI into useable tactics, and gives clear examples of when the principles are being used or not used. While the general public might not need this nutrition and fitness-specific book on MI, MI is a skill all professionals should have, regardless of what type of counseling you do, and this book is a wonderful resource to teach it.

1.Clifford D, Curtis L. Motivational Interviewing in Nutrition and Fitness, 1st Edition. New York, NY: The Guliford Press, 2016.
2.Linked-in profile: Dawn Clifford. Accessed October 17, 2016.
3.Linked-in profile: Laura Curtis. Accessed October 17, 2016.
4.Rollnick S, Miller WR, and Butler CC. Motivational Interviewing in Health Care. New York, NY: The Guilford Press, 2008.
5. Herrin M, Larkin M. Nutrition Counseling in the Treatment of Eating Disorders. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge; 2013.
6. Kushner RF, Kushner N, Blatner DJ. Counseling Overweight Adults: the Lifestyle Patterns Approach and Toolkit. Chicago: American Dietetic Association; 2009. 

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