Health & Wellness Society & Culture

ASPIRE Clinic trains UGA students, provides free nutrition counseling

ASPIRE Clinic Rachel Laudel Courtney Spillane
Dietetic interns Rachel Laudel

Athens, Ga. – For University of Georgia students and members of the Athens community looking for help with nutrition and diet planning, the College of Family and Consumer Sciences ASPIRE Clinic provides nutrition counseling services at no cost.

The student dietetic interns who provide the service have met requirements from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, are pursuing a master’s of science in foods and nutrition degree and are working toward becoming dietitians.

“ASPIRE helps us as professionals, especially when we can collaborate with other professionals to meet our clients’ needs, and that’s really powerful,” intern Gisselle Rosa said.

Through the service, interns are able to gain valuable, firsthand counseling experience working with their own clients in a supervised setting.

“The program is intensive,” said Barbara Grossman, a faculty member in the FACS food and nutrition department who oversees the dietetics internship program. “We meet once a week to debrief and talk about what is going on in the clinic. The interdisciplinary nature of ASPIRE is unique, and everyone involved can really benefit from it.”

The ASPIRE Clinic, located across from the UGA Center for Continuing Education in the McPhaul Center, seeks to provide holistic counseling services to address a variety of needs. In addition to nutrition counseling, the ASPIRE Clinic offers individual, couple and family therapy, financial counseling and education, home environment and design consulting and legal problem solving.

“When you have a client come in and see that they have adopted the goals you have set from a previous session and just seeing their life improve from that, it’s really special to change someone’s life like that,” she said.

Student dietetic interns at the ASPIRE Clinic work with clients on a whole host of issues, but many want guidance on weight loss. The first step to addressing weight management is simply education, Rosa said.

“I think it’s safe to say that all students at UGA are pretty smart people, but you’d be surprised as to the limited amount of knowledge people have about nutrition because there is just a lot of misinformation out there with television and the Internet,” Rosa said.

With new college students, ASPIRE dietetic interns say they see many obstacles to good nutrition.

Budgeting is one, Laudel said, as is time management. ASPIRE Clinic clients can work with both a financial counselor and a nutrition counselor to help solve the issues of eating healthier on a student budget.

ASPIRE Clinic interns also are equipped to address other challenges that often push healthy eating to the backseat in college.

“The hours people are awake are an issue, too,” Laudel said. Students “are awake longer. Drinking is definitely a part of it but also just eating at later hours and not necessarily knowing how to control their own diet. Many freshmen are used to mom and dad planning their meals, and they get on the meal plan with so many options and often don’t know how to handle that.”

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