When I say the word “dietitian” what kind of person do you imagine?
What happens when you go into a dietitian’s office and they don’t “look the part”? You know what I’m talking about. Fit, healthy, slender, etc. What if they’re overweight? As a client looking to lose weight, what would you think?
Why are they telling me to lose weight? They look like they need to.
Is this person really going to be able to get me results?
Or maybe you would feel less judged by the RD sitting opposite you. Maybe you feel comfortable opening up to them. Everybody reacts differently, but I firmly believe that their effectiveness as a counselor should be independent of their appearance. If a dietitian can get their clients to a point where they feel they are succeeding in their nutrition-related journey, then isn’t that their purpose? Does it matter that they’re overweight? I don’t think it does.
Not everyone shares this opinion.
If you’re in the profession or aspiring in that direction, how do others react around you when you reach for that extra serving or bring cupcakes to an event? Does it suddenly feel like you’ve got the food police swarming you with jibes like:
But I thought you were studying nutrition?
Do nutrition students really eat that?
You politely plaster a smile on your face and say, “It’s about moderation” but what you’re really thinking is: for God’s sake I don’t eat a salad at every meal.
A few weeks ago in my New Year’s Resolution post (see here) I mentioned that nutrition students and professionals aren’t perfect by any stretch. We’re still human. RDs crave things, splurge on things, and still enjoy their food. To be held to a different standard simply because we’re pursuing nutrition is, in my opinion, ridiculous. Nobody’s perfect so why should we be expected to never have indulged in, enjoyed, or craved food that maybe isn’t so good for us? Yes I believe we should certainly be experienced in healthy eating practices, be mindful of our own nutrition and fitness, but by no means do I believe we should follow a straight and narrow path that never allows us indulgences.
I live mostly by an 80-20 rule; 80% of the time I try to eat well, and 20% of the time I can eat whatever I want. Now this isn’t set in stone by any means, but it’s a way to focus on healthy eating patterns while still enjoying food. This is the sort of advice I would give anyone who asked, and I think it’s important not to hold anyone to any sort of standard, myself included.
So how do we overcome this unnecessary pressure that may be placed upon us dietitians (or future dietitians)? Simple: be yourself. Do what you love to do, keep the relationship with food that you want to keep. Don’t try to attain perfection because you believe it will make you more credible as a dietitian. You’ve gone through the schooling, toiled through your internship, taken the exam, and you are more than qualified to help others. Just because you may not look like the conventional image people have of dietitians does not mean you are any less of one! 🙂