How can a dietitian help me or someone I love who is struggling with food and/or their body image?

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Yes, I am a dietitian. But no, I do not fix people. I do not fix their eating patterns nor their food intake nor their bodies. Nor do I tell people what to eat or what to do with their food. Rather, I hold space for the humans I work with. What does “holding space” mean, you ask? I’m not big into reinventing the wheel so I would like to share this article written by Heather Plett who so beautifully describes what “holding space” means. 

What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone

Those 8 tips for holding space that she describes in the article can absolutely be applied to the work dietitians do. And in my case, they ARE absolutely applied and integrated into my work as a dietitian. More specifically, here is how that may look during nutrition counseling sessions and/or your work with a dietitian:

  • You are given permission to trust and believe in yourself, your body, your intuition, etc. The idea of trusting and believing yourself may be difficult to do , and there may also be times when you don’t want to trust yourself, your body or intuition. That is ok. That is valid. And ultimately, you may choose not to trust yourself or your body. I believe you (we all) have the right to choose. And I believe that giving you the permission (rather than telling you TO trust yourself and your body) empowers your autonomy in choosing for yourself what feels best for you at the time.

  • Some of nutrition counseling may involve nutrition education (such as learning about the awesomeness of carbohydrates), but only as much as you would like and as much as you want. YOU get to decide. Yes, nutrition education and being able to decipher between truth and myth can be helpful, but not so much if it is going to leave you feeling overwhelmed and frazzled. 

  • I believe in both transparency and full disclosure during care, and I also don’t want to overwhelm you. I find it is helpful to work within a client’s window of tolerance (the area in which a person’s brain is able to function and process stimuli more effectively) so that you are able to work towards your goals.

  • You hold your power all along the way. I think that when healthcare providers tell clients what to do that creates a power dynamic that ultimately removes the client from being in charge of their own care. Healthcare should not be centered around what the provider wants or even thinks is best. And it is on us as providers to continue to check-in with ourselves to ensure that you and your preferences and your decisions are being honored. It is about YOU!

  • As one of my mentors, Dana Sturtevant of Be Nourished, says “Our role [as dietitians] is not to change our clients or even convince them to change. Our role is to explore with our clients the possibility of change.” Holding space can offer opportunities for curiosity and exploration about whether or not you need/want to make changes, how these changes may impact your life (evaluating benefits and costs) and if these changes are in alignment with your values (aka what gives your life meaning and what is important to you). 

  • You do not have to compartmentalize yourself when you come to nutrition counseling sessions (if you don’t want to). You are able to be your whole self. Nutrition counseling can involve improving physical health and also the other dimensions of health too, like emotional health, intellectual health, social health, financial health, etc as each of these dimensions intersect with and affect each other. We are not just physical beings, thus, nutrition is not just about our physical health. All of the other dimensions are at play, too. For example, how a person feels about food is just as (if not more) important than providing their body with adequate nutrients (though don’t get me wrong, our bodies having adequate nutrients to thrive important!). So here we have both physical and emotional health involved (and potentially other dimensions). As another example, let’s say you want to integrate more movement into your life. However, past attempts at integrating movement have both cost you money you don’t have and interfered with quality time with your friends. So we have your physical, financial and social health at play, and all of them are important to consider. Our work may look like exploring how you can support your physical, social and financial health as you work towards a goal of moving your body a little more. (*I have a masters degree in exercise physiology which allows my scope of practice to be expanded to not just include nutrition but also exercise/movement) .

Live in Georgia and are looking for someone to provide support and guidance in your journey in finding food and body peace as well as assist with deciphering all of the confusing messages about nutrition, health and exercise? I would be honored to work with you. Click here for more information!