So, what do you do?
I’m a Dietitian.
(Nervous laugh) Oh, I don’t usually eat chips/burgers/pizza/insert other stigmatised food. I’m usually a ‘healthy’ eater.
I have experienced many variations of this exchange recently when meeting new people and it has been playing on my mind. I can see why someone would have this response. It’s in the name after all – Dietitian. When the word ‘diet’ is on the table it’s not uncommon for people to think about food rules, guzzling fruit and vegetables and avoiding (perceived) ‘bad’ foods.
However, I must admit, this response makes me uncomfortable. I do not want you to feel compelled to have to justify your food choices around me. I certainly did not become a Dietitian so I could be the food police. I became a Dietitian to empower people to manoeuvre the world of food, nutrition and health in a way that enhanced their wellbeing. Essentially, I wanted to help people embrace food that made them feel good.
That is why in my work, I look at the bigger picture. Beyond food rules and diet plans. I appreciate that health and wellbeing are shaped by so much more than what we eat.
Of course, that is not to say that I can not see the value in nutrition. I just see greater value in viewing nutrition alongside other wellbeing-related factors, such as:
· Social connectedness and relationships
· Enjoyable movement
· Alcohol consumption
· Making time for sleep
· Body image & self-esteem
· Mental health
· Prioritising self care
These factors interplay with health, disease and eating behaviours – three areas that Dietitians help people navigate. Without consideration of these factors I would be unable to do my job effectively.
Instead, by viewing people within the larger context of their health, I am able to avoid making assumptions. I am able to see the harmful and misguided nature of making judgements based on food choices and behaviours.
Ultimately, I am able to see that whether or not you eat those chips says very little about your health.
Jessica Tilbrook (BNutDiet) is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) with a passion for people, their stories, and understanding their relationship with food.
Jess has completed a Bachelor in Nutrition and Dietetics with Flinders University, and has since gone on to train in disordered eating, intuitive eating and mindfulness.
Since graduating she has worked in the acute, sub-acute and private sectors, including aged care, rehab and mental health specialties. Most significantly, she has spent three years managing Dietetic services across QLD, NSW and ACT for a large non-for profit.