If she can’t help herself, I can’t trust her to help me

Me to my patients: slow down and take the time to eat. Chew your food well, savour it, experience it. Spend some quality time with your meal and engage with your body and the process of eating.

Me at home: (consumes entire plate of dinner within 5 minutes, may not have chewed every bite).

Me to my patients: sit with your children, eat together. You are as entitled to regular meals as they are. By sitting with them, you nourish yourself and you model healthy and nourishing behaviours for them.

Me at home: Thinking, with each hand occupied feeding the children and no hands available to feed myself, “why do I bother trying to eat with them, again?”.

The above may not be a fair representation of every day, or every meal in my life, but to claim it doesn’t happen at all would be dishonest. I may be a dietitian, and counselling on healthy eating habits may be a big part of my job, but I am not immune to the pressures and strains of life, particularly now that I have kids (plural). With both children now eating meals with us, the barriers to following my own advice are larger. This does not mean that I do not try my best, nor that I am forgoing the principles and planning needed for happy, successful, and mindful eating. I am fallible, I have limits to my time, energy, and patience like every other parent and human. I am a better practitioner for it. I can better empathize and help my patients develop plans that will  work for them. I can be supportive if or when their efforts still aren’t producing desired results. I can assure them that challenges are universal; I can build rapport and avoid putting myself on a golden pedestal.

Health care providers, particularly the sort who are paid to engage in behaviour modification advice and education, are often held to a higher standard for the success of the same interventions in their personal lives. Anything less than perfection is failure and all credibility is denied. Our culture’s edited, filtered, snapshot view of what life should look like builds an impossible standard for ourselves and care providers. It reduces complex, interacting, and evolving factors to simple yes or no judgements; it completely denies that success is most often a fluid state that is different for each individual.

Choosing whom to trust with one’s health is not a contest of who has the best testimonial. Credibility is built on evidence-based training, recognized experience in the field, the ability to follow scientific principles and use quality clinical judgement, among other things. Credibility is not the illusion of perfection.




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