Happy Registered Dietitian Day!
That was a bit like wishing yourself a happy birthday, wasn’t it? Alas, it is RD Day, a day to celebrate the work of dietitians promoting health in a variety of settings, and posing in a lab coat with an apple in hand (dietitian joke). There’s a lot of dietitians out there, doing very different and cool things - feeding patients by tube or IV in acute hospital settings, developing and enacting public health policies, conducting research, writing for news or magazines, and developing creative and healthy recipes just to name a few.
I’m used to there being a lot of confusion about what dietitians do. When I worked in an inpatient setting, dealing with complaints about hospital food was almost a daily thing! As a non-diet, private practice dietitian, I still run into a lot of misconceptions about what I do, and I think a lot of those misconceptions can make people afraid to reach out for help. Will you be told what you can and can’t eat? Will you be judged for your weight or eating choices? Will you be lectured about nutrition the whole time?
It takes a lot of courage to trust someone with something as personal as your relationship with food. This is especially true if you’ve had a bad experience working with dietitians, nutritionists or other healthcare providers. Most people’s expectations of working with a dietitian are colored by this idea of us as the food police, so it’s hard to imagine working with someone who says that’s the opposite of what they do.
If you’re like me, I feel a lot less nervous about something if I have some idea of what to expect walking into a new experience, so here’s what to expect in working with a non-diet dietitian.
What to expect working with a non-diet dietitian:
Focus on your relationship with, and behaviors/habits around food - NOT the scale.
Non-diet dietitians know the BMI scale is BS. While changes in weight can provide us with some information that might make weighing a client helpful in specific circumstances (for example, renourishing a client in eating disorder recovery), we know that it tells us practically nothing about about your health, your eating habits, and absolutely nothing about your value as a person. The scale is a distraction from helping you take practical steps to improve your health and wellbeing - which is not the same thing as weight loss. Instead of focusing on the scale, a non-diet dietitian will provide a safe environment for people of all bodies in working towards their individual, non-weight related goals.
Lots of listening.
You are the expert of your body, and your experience. While we have plenty of insight and advice, we want to understand each individual client and their unique needs before dispensing it. No one-size-fits-all approaches here! Non-diet dietitians are typically trained in counseling techniques like motivational interviewing, supportive listening, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Sessions should feel like you’re chatting with that trusted friend who is a good listener and always supports and cheers you on. If you’re afraid you’ll get lectured about eating your greens, I promise you’re in safe!
All foods fit.
There are no good and bad foods in our office - all foods have a place on the table. Instead of fearmongering about foods, we’ll help mythbust the unhelpful and inaccurate nutrition information you’ve been taught, and teach evidence-based information about nutrition that also recognizes the role of pleasurable eating in health.
Non-diet dietitians strive to provide a space that’s safe for all people. Your body is not a problem to be solved, and in honoring that, we’ll work wth your body and not against it.
We won’t be mad at you if you make a mistake.
Mistakes are also learning opportunities. One of the purposes of follow up appointments is to chat through and troubleshoot any areas or goals you might be struggling with - I expect you to make mistakes with eating! Instead of feeling disappointed in you, we’ll get curious about what happened, and why, and help you come up with a better plan for the next time.
We may be non-diet dietitians, but we’re still dietitians! Depending on your individual needs, nutrition may be more or less emphasized, and will likely look different than the kind of nutrition you usually see, but nutrition therapy will still be part of your care. Here’s an article I wrote about what gentle nutrition in intuitive eating looks like.
If you’re currently working with a “non-diet” dietitian and not getting these things out of your work together, it might be time to consider what value you’re getting out of your working relationship. Although I love that body positivity and intuitive eating have become more mainstream, it also means that unfortunately there are more people using the non-diet label who do not truly commit to the values of Health at Every Size or intuitive eating. Non-fad diet is not the same as non-diet!
Whether you’re working towards healing your relationship with food or trying to understand how to best take care of your body with a health condition - or both! - our goal at Rachael Hartley Nutrition is to help you define health on your terms, and provide the support you need. Read more about the practice philosophy here, and reach out if you’d like to see if we’re a good fit to work together.
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