The honest thoughts of a dietitian about weightDave Smith
Something interesting has happened in the field of nutrition: weight has become a very sensitive issue.
When I got my degree, emerging research on obesity was a hot topic. I wrote many magazine articles about weight loss, and my master’s thesis was a survey of people who had undergone gastric bypass surgery. One of my first jobs as a dietitian was to work at a local recreation center, advising and leading small groups for people interested in losing weight.
Finally, although weight control was a popular specialty in nutrition, I decided it was not the right approach for me. A lot has changed in the 15 years since then.
A growing number of dietitians are moving their businesses away from weight control and helping people trust themselves around food through intuitive eating. There is also a growing emphasis on health in all sizes, an approach that emphasizes physical and emotional health while accepting and respecting all body shapes and sizes.
I am delighted that the messages of body positivity are spreading in our culture. I love seeing women with different body types in catalogs, more shaded mannequins in Target and even a greater diversity of bodies walking along the catwalk. I want to get up and encourage actresses who talk about airbrushing and the idiocy of the “body after baby” pressures.
However, there is also a dark side. I see embarrassed dietitians on social networks for talking about weight loss or sharing their experience trying things like intermittent fasting. One day, when I joked on Facebook about sighing for my metabolism of 20-something, someone hinted that I was promoting diet culture.
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So, is it possible to have a positive body and try a low carb diet? And on the other hand, is it okay to stop trying to lose weight regardless of what your doctor says?
There is a diversity of opinions and approaches among dietitians when it comes to weight, and that is a good thing, because different approaches work for different people. But this is what I believe:
I think you have the right to be happy with your body and your weight and not want to change it, no matter what a scale says, a BMI chart, a magazine, a talk show, a friend, a family member, a doctor, a commercial, a celebrity, a billboard or society.
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I think you have the right to want to change your weight. If you want to lose weight, that does not mean that you have acquired a dietary culture that you have low self-esteem or that is part of the problem. While someone may be satisfied and happy with their body with a certain weight, someone with that same weight may not feel satisfied and happy. Your body is yours and you decide.
I think you should never be ashamed of your weight. I also believe that you should not be ashamed for wanting to gain or lose weight. Your body is your business.
I think that dietitians are trained and have a unique ability to help people control their weight safely, unlike celebrities or those who position themselves as experts because something worked for them. I also believe that dietitians should not be judged or embarrassed for helping a client lose weight if that person wants to do it.
I think different ways of eating work for different people. Some people thrive on low carb, some wilt. Some love being vegan, others would not dream of giving up meat and dairy. If you have found a way to eat that makes you feel good, I am happy for you.
I think you have the right to try different ways of eating, which include, among others, counting macros, intermittent fasting, keto, counting points, Mediterranean diet, eliminating dairy, not eating gluten, The way you eat depends on you, and you should not be criticized or ridiculed for it. If you ask for my professional opinion, I will give it to you. If you don’t ask, I will stay out of your business. (It may not be necessary to say so, but if you have disorderly eating behaviors, your family, friends, dietitian and doctor also have the right to worry and help you.)
I believe that parents have a responsibility to create a physically and emotionally healthy environment around food and weight. That means access to nutritious foods, adults who model healthy attitudes and behaviors around food, and many opportunities for activity and exercise. It also means that parents should not criticize their own bodies, talk about “bad” diets or foods, or withhold foods such as candy as punishment.
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I believe that no child should be ashamed, pointed out or “put on a diet” because of their weight. A healthy home environment is important for children, mentally and physically. But if changes are made in a home, such as reducing the consumption of soda or serving more vegetables, they should be made for everyone’s health, not for certain family members based on their body size or weight. Children come in all sizes and shapes, as do adults.
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