One of Mike’s least favorite things to do is go to the grocery store. This is usually my job, as I actually enjoy browsing the aisles, finding deals, and picking up new products to try. Mike is good at scooping up a few ingredients for weeknight dinners, but he generally avoids the large weekend trips.
Unless I am swamped with work.
A perfect storm situation happened this weekend – dietetic internship applications are due in 10 days (more on that to come next week!) and it was Superbowl Sunday, meaning that Mike had to take the shopping reins on arguably one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year. Before you continue reading, know that I DO appreciate Mike’s efforts.
Thank you Mike.
Moving on…I was responsible for my famous wings and a make your own taco bar so he didn’t have too much to buy. I always make a list for him and my lists have been referred to as “unclear” in the past, so I tried to be as explicit as possible. Or so I thought.
When Mike arrived back from shopping, I immediately got up to
inspect help him unpack the groceries.
Hm. A few things didn’t look quite right.
I had written “2 lbs of top sirloin” for these Chili Rubbed Steak Tacos.
Mike got 2 lbs of ground sirloin.
I had written “reduced-fat shredded cheese” for the taco bar.
Mike got reduced-fat shredded Mozzarella.
I had written “4 lbs of wings” for, well, wings.
Mike actually called me on this one – they were out of wings (lesson – don’t shop the day before the Superbowl) and this conversation occurred:
Mike – They are out of wings.
Katie – Blast! Um…ugh. Bummer. Is there any alternative?
Mike – You want me to go off list?!
Katie – It’s not off lists – just ask if they have some of the drumettes – they sometimes sell those separately than the actual wings.
(what Katie is picturing in her mind during this exchange)
Mike – Yeah, they have drumsticks, but they’re kind of big.
Katie – How big?
Mike – (clearly over this conversation) I don’t know Katie, they’re bigger!
Katie – Ok well they are for wings and you know how they usually look when I make them – just use your judgement.
Mike came home with 4 lbs of these.
It actually took me a few seconds to react to this one. The beef? Maybe my fault (I didn’t put “steak” after sirloin). The cheese? Surprising as he knew we were having tacos but again, I wasn’t very specific.
But the chicken. Seeing 4 lbs of full-size drumsticks in the bag where I thought I would find drumettes was so comical that I couldn’t even be angry over the fact I would have to go to the store on Superbowl Sunday.
I obviously felt the need to tell everyone that came over yesterday this story. On the one hand, I needed to know if anyone had any good chicken drumstick recipes, since Mike and I would be eating them for the next week, but I was also so amused by the face that technically Mike wasn’t wrong. He had followed my instructions – sirloin, shredded cheese, and chicken. But while I had pictured steak, cheddar and drumettes he had brought home ground beef, mozzarella and giant chicken drumsticks.
The more I told this story, seemingly at my husband’s expense, I realized that it really wasn’t his fault. He was quick to point out that my “vague, unordered” lists are to blame, to which I responded, “they seem pretty clear to me.” And that was exactly the problem – the list was clear to me. Even though I had written out full words instead of acronyms (my lists almost always start with “SS (smoked salmon), EM (English muffins), and FL (frozen lunches)”) he read this list and interpreted it differently than I had intended.
I thought a lot about this while watching the Patriots break hearts across the city of Boston, and I realized that this kind of miscommunication is exactly why I chose the MS program at Tufts. Nutrition can be translated and understood in so many ways, and the difference between communicating clearly and leaving space for interpretation can greatly change the way nutrition advice is put into action. Imagine if, as a dietitian, I met with a patient at risk for heart disease and told him that he needs to decrease fat intake. Did I mean saturated fat? Omega-3 fatty acids? The fat from olive oil? The fat from meat? Without being specific, my message can easily be understood multiple different ways. Obviously as a dietitian I would explain my intentions clearly, but that is exactly why being an effective communicator is just as important as providing the appropriate nutrition advice.
The lesson I learned this weekend was that even when we think we are being clear, messages are easily lost in translation. When it comes to nutrition, it is important to be clear about what you say, whether your writing a grocery list or setting personal health and wellness goals.
My advice for effective nutrition communication?
- Be specific – especially with yourself. If you set nutrition or fitness goals recently, make sure they are measurable. Don’t leave too much up for interpretation. If you decided you are going to “cut back on alcohol” during the work week, how much are you going to cut back? 1 glass of wine/night or drinks on only 3 nights/week?
- Don’t get frustrated by having to explain yourself. It is natural that you are going to interpret messages differently than someone else. If you work in a nutrition/wellness field and find yourself working with clients/patients, approach your nutrition advice from the client’s shoes. Sure, you are comfortable throwing around terms like “Fage” and “quinoa” but they are completely foreign to the majority of the population. Be patient and be clear.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. If you’ve met with a dietitian or trainer and the directions seem unclear (you may be wondering, does she mean sirloin steak or ground sirloin?) then ask for more information. Nutrition, like anything else, has a vocabulary all its own, making misinterpretations common.
- Learn to roll with the miscommunication punches. Learning how to take drumsticks and make lemonade is the key to being a more effective communicator. The lessons we learn from our communication missteps are often the most valuable – I think we all know by now that I will be providing pictures to accompany my grocery lists from now on.
Nutrition communication is such an important aspect of this field, but it truly goes both ways. Both the grocery list writer (communicator 1) and shopper (communicator 2) need to constantly ensure they are meeting each other half way. Because if that communication system fails, you just end up with a whole bunch of chicken.
So, does anyone have any good drumstick recipes?
- The Aspiring RD