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Phone Coaching Helps Nutrition Habits

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Mar 01, 2008

Mind-Body-Spirit News

Social support continues to be a critical factor for successfully changing lifestyle practices. Turns out, even telephone calls can be a catalyst to improve dietary habits. Women who received phone counseling to encourage healthy eating ate more nutritious foods for a 4-year period than those who did not receive any live coaching, according to the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Study, published in the October issue of The Journal of Nutrition (2007; 137, 2291–96).

Researchers divided 3,088 women at risk for breast cancer recurrence into two groups—one that received phone counseling and newsletters, and a control group that received printed materials about healthy diets. Both groups were offered cooking classes. The counseling group received approximately 18 coaching calls the first year and progressively fewer in subsequent years (only three in year 4). Counseling followed social learning theory, with different phases focusing on building self-efficacy, improving self-monitoring, modifying the environment and planning relapse prevention strategies. Toward the end of the study, coaching concentrated on maintaining motivation and preventing reversion. Even after 4 years, the counseling group was eating 40% more fruits and vegetables than the comparison group.

The main purpose of the study was to provide a definitive test of the role of dietary patterns in additional breast cancer events. Therefore, achieving a significant difference between groups with respect to eating habits was important. The results allowed researchers to evaluate the role of nutrition in breast cancer and showed that intensive phone counseling was successful at achieving dietary behavioral change.

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at