Here I am at the beginning of vacation already criticizing photos of myself. Ugh.
I went paddle boarding with my sister and rather than focusing on the fun I had with her or the serenity of the lake I could only see my white, less-than-toned abs. The negative thoughts and doubts rolled in. Do I do enough for my health? Do I drink too much? Are my workouts sufficient? And so on and so forth. One friend said, “what’s healthy for you may not be what’s healthy for others.” Those words hit me like a slap in the face. This is a message that I tell my patients…so why can’t I believe it for myself?
Being a dietitian is hard. You’re put on a pedestal and expected to be thin and fit because that is what you help others strive to achieve. But at what point is that stereotype hurting us as humans? At what point are we allowed to just be someone who knows a lot about metabolism, food, and health, but we don’t need to be the spitting image of what a dietitian should look like.
I’m a clinical dietitian. Most days I am trying to get people to eat more to promote wound healing, prevent muscle atrophy, or increase strength. Some days I get to discuss general healthy nutrition and goal setting for patients who’ve had a wake up call and want to be healthier overall. Never do I pretend to be an expert, but all the time I am seen that way. I’ve been called the food police and the nutrition lady. I’ve been called dietary, which drives me up a while. I don’t care what you call me, but I do want you to know that I am right there with you struggling to live healthfully but also enjoy everything that life has to offer.
It’s this internal struggle that manifests when I see a photo or feel a certain way. How can I know so much about nutrition and health and not be at my fittest? How can I help people lose weight when I can’t lose weight on my own? In those moments it’s when I need to be slapped back into reality. I know it’s not about weight loss, but rather habits. It’s not about what you look like or your weight but your health which is defined in so many other ways. It’s about mental health in combination with physical health.
I’m a dietitian and I struggle, too. I have my own dietitian friends who I reach out to for support when these thoughts creep in or when I need a reality check. If you find yourself struggling in similar ways, please reach out to you PCP for a referral to meet with a dietitian. More and more insurance companies are covering a few visits a year. We’re all human and we all need a little help sometime. And all my dietitian friends out there, we don’t need to be perfect to be successful.