I may have the word ‘diet’ taking up a significant portion of my professional title, but the truth is, I wish I didn’t. The word diet conjures up many negative connotations of restriction, guilt, hunger and images of boring, uninspiring food. And unfortunately, when client’s come to see me they often think that is what I’ll put them on. But that’s actually not what Dietitians are all about (would you ever have guessed?).
I like to educate people about healthy food, give them new recipes and meal ideas to try, get them excited about food and teach them how to decipher food labels so that they can choose healthier products themselves. I like to show people how to get in touch with their own body and listen to the signals it is sending them. Not actually hungry? Then don’t eat. Feeling full but enjoying a delicious meal? Then stop, save the leftovers for the next day and enjoy it twice! And believe it or not, we have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to medical conditions too. In fact, we studied ‘medical nutrition therapy’ or ‘clinical dietetics’ at university and have a good understanding of the relationship between food and the body (how does food impact on cholesterol, or blood pressure, blood sugar levels or energy levels, bowel function, or appetite, recovery from surgery or healing of wounds, body composition or athletic performance? We could tell you). Some of us even work in hospitals and determine tube feeds to sustain patients while they can’t eat for themselves, or in aged care and encourage higher calorie foods in malnourished older residents. So it isn’t all about weight loss. And heck, even in ‘weight loss’ cases, it isn’t all about weight loss.
The aim is to give someone the power to make their own decisions and to support them through that process. Sure, we can make suggestions, but ultimately it’s not up to us what actually goes into their mouth. In fact I try to avoid giving out meal plans because I know they aren’t going to be stuck to. And that’s ok! Food is about so much more than just fuel, or an energy in energy out equation, it’s about pleasure! Do you really want to miss out on a piece of cake on your birthday or order salad at a famous Italian pasta restaurant? I sure wouldn’t. Be flexible and be kind to yourself. Eat well most of the time and those few occasional treats aren’t going to do you any harm.
My tip? Stop focusing on the numbers on the scales. Focus on you, how you feel and the health benefits associated with your healthy lifestyle. Want to find out more about food and how it affects you? Speak to a Dietitian- it’s what we do! Or maybe we should change our title to Fooditian (do you think it’ll catch on?).