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.