I really enjoy telling people that I am not putting them on a diet. That just seems to be the expectation. Sometimes people fear this; sometimes they hope for it. I have heard it more times than I can count. “Just tell me what to eat,” or “give me a list of foods to eat and not eat.”
I can’t even imagine how many foods I would have to know of, and the amount of time I would have to spend on such a list for each person. Also, what good does that do? What happens when you encounter a food that is not on this naughty-or-nice list? That is no way to live and I do not suggest you try it.
Will I provide a few sample meals and snacks? Maybe some cool recipes? Sure. Will I provide guidance and education on how to choose foods that may best serve your body? Yep.
What I will not do is support the idea that restriction, misery and anxiety should be the expectation when trying to change eating habits and improve a lifestyle.
As a dietitian, I provide medical nutrition therapy. I tailor a plan, goals, education, and recommendations based on my full assessment of the individual. This is designed to be a plan one can realistically implement with behaviors that can continue long-term. Do I ever advise clients to avoid or limit specific foods or ingredients? Yes, as medically necessary. That advice also comes along with further review of how we can ensure key nutrients are not overlooked. This does not mean they are on a diet. This means that we are tailoring their lifestyle for optimal health. An improved lifestyle lasts a lifetime. A diet lasts until you just can’t, or don’t want to do it anymore.
I see patients for many reasons. Do I discuss calories and macronutrients? Sure, but not because I am suggesting people become obsessed with counting them — sometimes that reference point is helpful.
Knowledge is power and I want to give my clients the power of knowing how they can impact their health. I assess and educate, we set goals, then reassess after a period of time. This model allows me to help them overcome barriers, identify their strengths, and uncover their personal relationship with food. My work does not come with judgment or harsh words. It comes with encouragement and realistic expectations of the hard work associated with changing a lifestyle.
It is about finding a balance. The balance is unique to everyone, but the way we achieve this is important. A healthy lifestyle comes with an understanding of how to be good to your body. This does not look the same for everyone and we certainly do not get there by being on a diet.