What I Wish People Knew About Dietitians

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.

C7318424-5569-438D-AB70-9CE1AD63A25BMy 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?

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