Making dietary changes can feel overwhelming and sometimes even a little scary. So it’s actually very natural if you are feeling dubious about seeing a dietitian for the first time. (Like will they tell you off for what you eat, or demand you to follow a rabbit food meal plan?)
Maybe it’s that common misconception that dietitians are the ‘food police’? (To test this theory out, all I have to do is casually mention what I do for work at a social gathering, and the next minute people will say things like ‘I swear this is the first time I’ve eaten cake in six months!’ or ‘I’d hate for you to know how much I love salt and vinegar chips!’ (me too, Sharon, me too).
So, here’s what I want you to know. From supporting you with your weight, managing chronic health conditions like type two diabetes, or improving your gut symptoms; making dietary changes with a dietitian doesn’t have to feel overwhelming.
Maybe (just maybe!) we aren’t that scary after all… and our biggest wish is to support you in becoming the best version of yourself through healthy, sustainable (and delicious) dietary habits.
Here’s five things you can expect when you work with me.
- This is a judgment-free zone.
You might assume that because I talk about healthy eating all day at work, I am going to judge anyone who falls short of the guidelines. Feel assured. I am not here to judge, nor do I have any inklings to do so (no matter how different, unhealthy, or downright appalling you think your dietary habits might be!) If you are a first time client then, yes, it can feel a little strange having someone ask you specific details about your daily eating habits. Talking about this stuff can feel really personal! Often times, I commend first-time visitors on completing one of the hardest steps of all… showing up to the appointment. The relationship you develop with a clinician takes time; so only share what you feel comfortable with to start. Trust that the more honest you can be about what you are eating (and I mean, really eating), the better I can support you in achieving your goals.
- We don’t have to talk about weight.
To be honest, I’d actually prefer it if we didn’t! Jumping on the scales can feel triggering, especially with a stranger in a random office who you only met five minutes ago. Traditional (and outdated) nutrition practices take a weight centric approach (i.e. using this measure above all else to assess outcomes of dietary change). These days, many dietitians like myself use a weight-neutral approach. This means less focus on the scales, and more focus on other markers of health. Like your cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and how you actually feel in your body (can I get an Amen?). Yes, there are some clinical conditions where tracking weight is still important. But generally, I am happy to let the scales gather dust while we discuss more helpful ways to measure your progress or overall nutrition status. Questions you can expect to be asked could include: How do your energy levels feel? Are your clothes fitting differently? Do you feel good in your own skin?
- I’m not fussed about the McDonald’s burger you eat once a month.
Or the cake you eat once a fortnight at grandma’s house. Or the chocolate bar you purchase every few weeks as a little treat at the supermarket. Let’s not sweat the small stuff! What I am interested in learning about are the eating habits that you engage in on a daily basis. Hint: hang onto your receipts from the supermarket and places you regularly eat out, or take a scroll through your bank statement to jog your memory. Why? Because these have a big impact on your health. Before you visit a dietitian, take some time to reflect on the foods that you eat most often (extra points if you keep a food diary in the week leading up).
- Just because I am a dietitian, it doesn’t mean I eat perfectly.
Believe it or not… I eat more than carrot sticks, celery and hummus. I don’t hold back when I order food out at dinner. I eat chocolate a minimum of four days a week. There are some days where I don’t want to cook, deciding that a can of Heinz tomato soup with a slice of toast will suffice. This ties into the fear of judgment stuff I spoke about earlier. I am human. I still struggle with body image stuff. I don’t eat perfectly. Nobody does. Just like I don’t assume my yoga teacher spends her life in a constant state of enlightenment, I encourage you to let go of the idea that dietitians have it all figured out when it comes to their food intake. But that doesn’t mean you can’t trust us any less. Dietitians have undertaken a minimum of four years study at university, so you can trust that we are relatable, informed about the latest nutrition science, and ready to work with you where you are at, right now.
- I’m not here to give you a quick fix solution.
If you are looking for someone to hand you a magic meal plan or pill that will fix all of your food troubles, then you might need to refer to Dr. Google instead. That’s not what us dietitians are about at all. A common scenario I see play out in clinic is where the client leaves with a dissatisfied look on their face, which I can only assume is because I didn’t offer a miracle solution to their dieting struggles in the first 45 minutes we spent together. My advice? Book in when you feel ready to do the work. I’m here to teach you how to tune into your body. Which products to buy at the supermarket. What a healthy portion size looks like. How we can tie this all together in a way that supports and celebrates you. For some, this means fine tuning healthy habits that are already in place. For others, it can mean learning a whole new way of eating. Am I saying that this will feel easy, or that progress will track on a linear trajectory? Nope. What I can tell you is that it will offer you a more sustainable, realistic and affordable approach to healthy eating.