What You Are Really Saying To The Dietitian When You Say…

What you are really saying to the dietitian when you say… (2)

Have you ever wondered what you are really saying to the dietitian?

Below I have translated what most people are really saying about nutrition and health based on my experiences.

Nutrition Relationship Needs Work

“I need to lose weight.” –  Translation: I would like you to tell me what foods I should and should not be eating so I can get healthier.

Alarm bells ringing….Most people saying this believe weight loss or a thin body alone equals health. This is black and white thinking encourages me to explore the underlying issues.

Health comes in many different shapes and sizes. Focusing on weight loss will not make you healthier or happier, however, the positive dietary and lifestyle behaviour will. Improving your dietary and lifestyle behaviours may result in weight loss and/or even gain. The outcome depends on your personal situation, previous dieting history and your genetics. The point is weight is not the be all end all. You can still live a healthy and happy life despite what your body does or does not look like.

I find some client’s stuck in the dieting world, try to turn my advice into eating and/or food rules for managing their condition(s). Consequently, food is valued as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ when food should be viewed as morally neutral.

Health conditions usually change over time and as does dietary advice. Therefore, applying fixed food rules is not helpful or appropriate. Often people not following your ‘food rules’, believe they should be following them too, as that is what rules are, aren’t they?….For everyone?

A saying which I used to say in high school when I realised that rules in general everyday life (outside of eating), were controlling and rebel behaviour inducing, ”Different rules for different people” was the catch cry. How appropriate this saying is for nutrition…Except, I’d probably reword it to, “different eating behaviours for different people”. And the reason comes back to the fact that ‘everyone is different’.

“I can’t seem to lose that last 5kg” – Translation: “I’ll be happy when I lose 5 more kilos”.

Why is this last 5 kg such a concern to you? You’re healthy right? What will your life be like after having dropped that weight?

Mindset change needed stat, ASAP or realistically when you are ready to respect the body and improve your health.

“My weight is slowly creeping up and I don’t know why?” – Translation: “I can’t seem to think about anything other than how others see me”.

Assessment often reveals chronic dieting behaviours. Research shows that with each and every attempt of dieting, body set point shifts up a notch. Further questioning often leads to understanding client’s genetic and family history. Significant members of the family have been larger people.

“I would like you to tell me how many calories I should be eating for weight loss.” – Translation: I’ve forgotten how to eat”.

This is where I bring out the spiel (with permission of course) to help the client understand what sort of a dietitian I am and how I work. The ‘spiel’ looks different from client to client, as I tailor it to the client’s personal situation/circumstances and understanding of nutrition. I use the ‘spiel’ as a way of gaining consent for the non-dieting, intuitive eating and Health at Every Size approach, or whatever you like to call it, as opposed to the traditional weight management focused approach to health and well-being.

I do not feel comfortable with the traditional weight focused behaviours such as calorie counting and weighing ins as in most clinical situations these rituals are unhelpful, ineffective and damaging for the majority. I get that these approaches are tools in the dietitian’s toolbox, however, for me if I need to assist people with chronic health conditions around meeting requirements, I do all the traditional dietetic stuff without expecting you to become neurotic with keeping track of Kilojoules and grams of macronutrients or bringing your weight into focus.

“I don’t buy it (eg. ice-cream) as I can’t trust myself.” – Translation: “I have no confidence in my ability to take care of myself”.

Have you ever tried to trust yourself? Give yourself the challenge and you will be surprised at how resourceful you are. Seriously! But you need to ensure your house is stocked with a variety of food all the time to help with eliminating the all or nothing thinking and feeling of deprivation. Pairing up with a non-dieting, binge eating disorder skilled dietitian is very helpful here.

“This year I’m going to avoid pasta, as carbs are bad.” – Translation: “I want more control in my life and I can do that with food”.

This is another very black and white thinking alert. Stop right there, please! Do you really think one food is that powerful at doing what you claim it is going to do? What do you think carbs are going to do to you or your weight? I think you need to get back to the basics and read this article on nutrition basics and that article on food and nutrition myths, to help to reclaim your power around eating and self-care.


“I know what I need to be eating, it’s the how I struggle with.” – Translation: “I believe I know what I need to be eating as I’ve done it all my life, but it would be handy to get your opinion just for reassurance”.

Again the ‘spiel’ works its way out as the client becomes interested in knowing my approach to nutrition and health. Intuitive eating is the basics of healthy eating or the ‘how of eating’. When listened to, your body naturally gravitates to nutritious food at the times, and in the quantities needed for nourishment. Only after fully committing to this approach, clients will quickly see it for themselves.

“When’s the best time to eat. How much should I eat”. – Translation: “I really am confused about nutrition and I don’t want to have to think about what I am doing.”

Why hand over your control to someone that doesn’t really know you? Your body tells you constantly throughout the day when and how much to eat. Are you aware of this? Tell me how your body feels when you haven’t eaten for a while? Also, can you tell me how you feel when you have eaten a really big meal? It’s truly about practising tuning into what your body is saying and responding to how it feels.

“I  see food, I eat it. I don’t see food, I don’t eat it. – Translation: “Eating interferes with my day. I’m too busy to take care of myself.”

Tuning into the body cues hunger and fullness is often difficult to detect for people with a history of dieting, particularly for this client. He did not feel a strong desire to eat or stop eating. The practise of collecting attuned eating experiences will help you to identify and respond to your internal body signals.


“My doctor wants me to lose weight to help with managing my diabetes.“ -Translation: “I’m not very motivated to be here. I don’t understand the benefit of coming to see the Dietitian. I’m hearing that weight loss will make me (and my diabetes) healthier.”

Right, your doctor….Hmm what about you, what would you like help with? Do you have any concerns with your food, eating or relationship with food or body?

“I ate a meat pie without feeling guilty!” Yes it does feel amazing to lose that guilt!

“The permission granted to have sweets has resulted in a response to wishing to have sweets only occasionally, no longer a subject of worry over diet”. No surprises about your desires for sweets changing.

“My fear of sweets just went”. “I love how gentle this approach is – It’s not about discipline which I’m used to”.  This is the aim of the non-diet approach – to improve your confidence, self esteem and relationship with food and body, so you can self manage and grow in all aspects of your life. Great job!

“I think it’s psychological. It’s the mind telling me food is good or bad”. It’s just not a big drama anymore”. The non-diet approach is control without the control. “I’m really in control without controlling anything”. Some clients have said to me I’m like a psychologist. I do have a special interest in nutrition counselling as I believe a large proportion of our issues stem from our thinking. Mindset changes are something non-dieting dietitians can help you with.

These fantastic quotes above came from my client. This was the day I believed she truly understood the non-diet concepts. For her, it was five months in the making. This particular day she was full of inspiration, awareness and insight into herself, her progress with the non-diet approach (more than usual).

I enjoyed being part of her journey as she transformed from a lady who lacked confidence with food and nutrition because of all the food rules she lived by.

At the end of her treatment, she was happy, relaxed and confident with a no-nonsense ease from the skills and knowledge she had acquired to care for herself. I had goosebumps throughout this session at how her passion matched mine and as I understood she had graduated into the non-diet world. This is why I love what I do!!

The most amazing thing she said (like none of the above wasn’t already amazing enough!) at the end of the session was that “It took a long time to realise it’s OK to do whatever I can, the best I can. All this work has flowed onto other aspects of my life, and it’s all falling into place for me”. OMG! Yep, she’s got it 😉

This client is a true inspiration for other people struggling with their relationships with food and their body!?! If she can do it, anyone can.


Please share with your friends and family so they too can see the value of food.

If you are looking for a supportive community filled with like-minded people striving to improve their health in a compassionate way, come join us in the Nutrition Empowered Mums Facebook Group.


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