No surprise there’s a notion that dietitians are the food police. I see it on the faces of some new patients who walk into the clinic looking like they want to run back out. Maybe because they expect a dietitian to tell them to stop eating all their favorite foods. Or that they need to lose 50 pounds and to exercise every day. If the dietitian is slim and looks like he or she has it all together, that may create even more resentment.
What I wish people knew is that dietitians struggle with the same food and weight issues as everyone else. You may not see it from their personal websites and social media. They present beautiful photos of healthy recipes, their adorable active kids, blog posts about nutrition advice you assume they always follow. From these images, anyone would believe that dietitians have mastered the art of eating well. But I guarantee you that dietitians face the same challenges: skimping on fruits or vegetables now and then, overeating from a stressful job or family problems, periodic weight gain.
Here’s my confession: Sometimes I skip meals because of busyness and overeat later. Sometimes I eat too many chips and cookies after a full dinner. Or, horrors, sometimes I eat chips and cookies for dinner!
But having these behaviors doesn’t make me a hypocrite. If I criticized others for these same behaviors it would. Instead I try to gain wisdom from struggles, whether they are yours or mine. They give me empathy and better insight into solutions. Following a healthy lifestyle pattern all the time is incredibly challenging and an uphill battle in an unhealthy world that pushes overindulgence, the wrong role models, and stress.
But it’s not impossible with the right tools. Start with acquiring solid nutrition knowledge about how food works in the body and basic biochemistry of how metabolism works, both things a dietitian can help with. Other strategies might be committing to a flexible mindset, and appreciating the uniqueness of body types. Your body is not the enemy and food is not the enemy. It’s just understanding how each works. The human body isn’t meant to weigh the exact same number on the scale every day. What you eat and drink (even within the same calorie level), your stress level, your hours of sleep, your activity, etc. can all change your weight up or down. Your body is also designed to self-protect and guards fiercely against radical changes, like a 10-pound-in-a-week loss from a cleanse diet.
My hope is that instead of focusing all energy on dropping that scale number, people may want to discover the exclusiveness and wonder of their unique body. So that we can work with it instead of manipulating or forcing it to fit an expectation. A good lifestyle plan is one that feels right physically, mentally, and spiritually. You know you’re on the right path when those key factors are aligned.
If you need help to get started, find a dietitian who is experienced with both mindful eating and nutrition science. Remember what I said that most are navigating a path of healthy choices just like you and are not judging you! They are there to educate and coach. If you come across one who isn’t the best personality fit, don’t give up; find another. If you have a negative body image stemming from years of dieting or childhood trauma, seek a mental health counselor specializing in this area. I can’t stress enough the importance of this and often refer clients to this website where they can select a therapist by specialty, location, insurance, etc. and read their bios: Psychology Today – Find a Therapist
Have you found a satisfying path or are you still on a seemingly neverending rollercoaster of frustration? What healthy behaviors inspire rather than tear you down?
4 thoughts on “What I Wish People Knew About Dietitians”
This reminds me of one of my eating disorder dieticians, who is very HAES informed, and even on the more radical side of that.
She stated on Twitter, that eating disorder dietitians need to think about what they post on social media, especially if it’s something like Twitter or Instagram that’s specifically created to interact with clients. She stated that eating disorder dietitians posting a grocery cart of only fruits or vegetables can be very triggering, and deceptive, to their clients.
Unfortunately, concern trolls (the term I’m going to use to apply to people that lecture people, usually fat people, about their health, and insist they’re doing it for their own good) and actual internet trolls saw this post and I believe she is still getting social media comments with pictures of vegetables saying things like “does this trigger you?!”
This was a bit of a tangent. But what I am getting at is, I think dieticians have a responsibility to be a little transparent with their patients. Obviously, boundaries are crucial. And all social media is curated in some way to show a different reality, even if it’s meant to seem “natural” or personable”, it’s still constructed to show only part of the story. Linday Ellis did a great video about YouTubers in particular called Manufacturing Authenticity (For Fun and Profit!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FJEtCvb2Kw And while I know this a but of a leap from dietitians specifically, when clinicians are representing themselves online, even if the authenticity is manufactured, the impact on clients should be carefully considered.
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I’ll check out the video thanks! Social media has the same problem as texting and emailing—people can take a well-intentioned message out of context depending on where they’re coming from. These posts are simply a snapshot without background info. It would be nice if people could have kind, constructive dialogue if a post is offensive to them; rather than attacking the creator who I’m sure would not intentionally post something hurtful. I don’t see anything wrong with posting a pic of beautiful colorful fruits and vegetables? But if someone with ED translates this as a proposed diet for the day and it triggers them negatively, then of course it’s harmful. But that’s not the creator’s fault if people perceive things differently. Other people may find a photo like this very inspiring.
I have been meaning to reply to this for months. Sorry about that.
I disagree with you about the last part- because I think you if you specialize in eating disorders, and are using social media to connect with current and potential clients- you have an obligation to understand common triggers for eating disorder patients and keep them in mind when posting content
But thank you for always hearing me out and considering my thoughts and feelings on these topics.
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I agree with you there; a specialist in eating disorders should be more aware of potential triggers on a social media post. I was initially interpreting it as someone showing a general post of fruits and vegetables (not an ED specialist). Thanks for sharing your point of view!