Dear Non-Diet Dietitian, You Aren't Alone
You are probably reading this because at some point you have experienced feeling isolated as a non-diet dietitian. Even if you feel confident among your HAES/IE/non-diet social media accounts and podcasts, it can still feel overwhelming at times.
As non-diet dietitians it’s easy to feel alone in a profession where we are taught to put people on the scale, count calories and praise weight loss. Most dietitians receive no training in Intuitive Eating/HAES in school or our internship, yet we are out there practicing it. Whether you've seen the damage dieting does through client interaction or have been on your own Intuitive Eating journey, the struggles are common but not often talked about.
Less teaching and more questioning
I think one reason non-diet practitioners struggle is because they feel like they have to teach others the intuitive Eating process. In a way, you want to be intuitive about sharing intuitive eating. It's always helpful for me to remember that I just need to guide my clients to ask more questions. Instead of trying to convince them, help them shift their perspective. I go back to my own journey with Intuitive Eating and realize that no one taught me. I explored and was guided by those who had already been through what I was trying to achieve.
Own who YOU are unapologetically
Evaluate your own relationship with food. It is important to be 100% clear on your own food values. You can only take people as far as you have gone, so if you are still struggling with your own relationship with food then your confidence in helping clients is going to struggle too. If you have a messy food past, let your clients know. Our clients don’t need us to be perfect, they need us to be real.
Be patient with yourself and the client
Learn to hold space for people’s emotions. Often people come to our office because they are having a difficult time processing emotions, which manifests into disordered eating habits. Feeling uncomfortable because they are feeling uncomfortable can only perpetuate the issue. Silence can feel like an eternity, but allow it. Even if you sit in silence for 10 minutes or more, hold that space. Let the tears flow, anger be heard, or frustration be felt.
It isn’t your job to “fix” anyone
You won't be happy until you understand that your client's success has no bearing on your worth as a dietitian. It isn't your job to fix anyone or say things just to make them happy, but instead to ask questions, as if you are the moderator of their health. This is very impactful and even if you do not completely change their life, you might be the spark that starts it. Find fulfillment in other forms such as helping clients realize that they have options and that health doesn't look the same for everyone. You provide support and inspiration and it's up to them to do the work.
I can remember one of the first times I gave a client permission not to diet. I told her that it was ok to take care of her body without trying to change it. I asked her to entertain the idea that her body was already acceptable. From her facial expression, I realized the idea had never crossed her mind. She said, "no one has ever told me that it's ok not to focus on my weight."
Sometimes we simply just need someone to give us permission.
So dear non-diet dietitian, it is ok not to promote what’s popular. It’s ok to be different. It’s ok to be honest with yourself and others. You will have both rewarding and challenging conversations. You will receive praise as well as scrutiny. Don’t let the tough days make you forget why you started this journey. You are brave, bold and do amazing work. You belong here!