A blog post by Nutted Out Nutrition’s dietitian, Christie Bennett
Even though I am a dietitian, I am just like everyone when it comes to some of the challenges we can face with eating well in a busy lifestyle.
As a dietitian, I often get accused of ‘not living in the real world’, or have patient’s say to me that ‘I wouldn’t understand’ what they are going through.
I would like to challenge that belief. And I am pretty sure I am not the only one in the profession.
Here is my experience, which I feel many people may relate too.
Recently, due to many factors, I was working 12-14 hour a day, while also trying to maintain an 8 hour sleep schedule, eat healthy, work out regularly, have some sort of a social life and personal life, and stay productive at work… ugh makes me tired just thinking about it.
Unsurprisingly, I found somethings had to give.
Fortunately for me, I am what my partner calls an ‘Olympic sleeper’ – basically meaning I can sleep anywhere (regardless of the noise). So while sleep was a non-negotiable for me (if I wasn’t in my own bed then I would (and have) fallen asleep at around 12 am, regardless of the noise around me).
So that was sleep which was ok… However, exercise was a different story. Admittedly, exercise does not come easily to me. I really need to work at getting out on the pavement or to the gym. So during these times, trying to prepare healthy meals and work out is something I really struggled with. I have a ‘mode’ I switch to in trying times – my family calls it ‘survival mode’. It is much like the ‘low battery’ function on a phone, anything unnecessary to the primary function of the phone is switched off. What was implicitly clear to me during these ‘survival mode’ periods, was that the ‘healthy’ habits I have obtained over years are what protect me during these trying times.
What does this mean for you?
As a dietitian, I want you, my patients, to know that I understand the challenges when life gets busy. Things happen when we least expect it. This is exactly why, as dietitians, we don’t work to a strict meal plan. Being able to be flexible with your diet, is very important when trying to improve your health. I want you to find the habits that are going to get you through your ‘survival mode’ times.
When I work with my patients, I work on health behaviours. This is not because making a meal plan is hard or time consuming. In fact, to calculate your energy and nutrient requirements, and develop a meal plan would be a lot easier. But, I care about my patients, and how their habits effect their long term overall health. So I will spend a lot of time considering your individual and current situation, your dietary patterns, your likes and dislikes, and your overall lifestyle. Using this information I then work through these with you. In some cases, a meal plan may be a tool we use together to reach your goals, other times it might not be, or it might form part of our plan down the track for you.
Dietitians know life is not easy or linear, and we are here to support our patients through the great days and not so great days. In fact, I like to highlight this in the beginning of my first appointments with new patients, “I am not the food police and I am not here to judge you”. Do not feel you need to be ashamed or shy about what your diet currently consists of. What is important, is that we are honest with each other as that way I can provide you with the most effective advice. The second part of the statement, I think is the most important. I will be honest and authentic with you, and I hope you are with me. Because at the end of the day I am human and so are you. I recognise we are both trying to do the best we can – through both the hard and great times. The relationship you have with me, your dietitian, can sometimes be the difference between your healthy habits being short or long term.