Coaching Tips for Offering Feedback on Participant Self-monitoring Records


Suggestions to encourage your participants as they self-monitor their eating and activity behavior.

By Linda Semler, MS, RD, LDN

When reviewing self-monitoring records, such as food and exercise journals of participants taking part in a healthy lifestyle program like the DPP Group Lifestyle Balance program, it is important for the lifestyle coach to provide the participant with feedback. The overarching goal in providing feedback is to increase awareness of personal eating and activity behaviors and to reinforce healthy lifestyle changes.

In this post, we’ll provide you with guidance on how to provide the most meaningful feedback to your participants.

#1: Read through the entire journal to understand the big picture.

As you read through each of the entries, take note of overall patterns. Also, be mindful of the color of ink that you use when making comments. We recommend using a green pen, as a red pen may come across as harsh and negative. Think back to your school days – seeing a teacher’s corrections in red pen never felt good! Highlight positive changes made, especially those that relate to the previous session’s topic. Write comments on the inside of the diary. Catch the participant doing something right and write one short comment/praise per page. A common pitfall is to provide too many “corrective” comments. Always give as much positive reinforcement as possible.

#2: Comment on Self-Monitoring behaviors.

Keeping a detailed record is key to self-monitoring. We recommend that participants write 1 food or drink per line, include a description of the food, portion size, and the number of calories and fat grams. Participants should keep a running subtotal as they carry out their day, and then calculate a final total for each day’s calories, fat grams, and minutes of physical activity. These items should also be totaled for the week. Encourage participants to weigh themselves at home at least once each week and to record it.

#3: Comment on eating behaviors.

Provide feedback on eating behaviors by praising the participant for using the ways to eat fewer calories, staying within fat and calorie goals, and dividing calories throughout the day. Here are a few other suggestions that we use when commenting on eating behaviors:
● Replace unhealthy fats with healthy oils
● Include five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day
● Have low fat protein at each meal
● Include foods high in fiber and calcium
● Drink calorie-free beverages (mostly water) and limit liquid calories

#4: Comment on physical activity.

Physical activity plays an important role in diabetes prevention and weight management. Begin by praising all efforts to be physically active. Then, praise the participant for being active most days of the week and/or meeting their weekly goal. If they have fallen short of these goals provide encouragement and additional tips on how to integrate activity into their day.

When providing feedback, remember that lifestyle change isn’t easy! Use positive reinforcement whenever possible. One approach that we’ve found to be particularly helpful is to use the “sandwich approach,” where a positive comment is followed by a suggestion and then another positive comment.

Sandwich approach: positive comment + suggestion + positive comment

Using the participant’s self-monitoring records to provide feedback on their eating and activity behaviors is an opportunity to establish a relationship with your participants. Remember to be positive, encouraging, and nonjudgmental. Your participants will appreciate your efforts and look forward to your assistance in helping them to make healthy lifestyle changes!

Learn strategies for providing feedback to your participants and more at the upcoming DPP Group Lifestyle Balance Coach Training on March 22 & 23, 2016 (registration closes on February 29!).  For information on registration, please click here.

How do you provide feedback to your participants? Share your tips in the comments section below.