As some of you may know, September 21-25 is Weight Stigma Awareness Week. Since weight stigma, weight bias and fat shaming are subjects I share about often, it only made sense for me to contribute to this week. I particularly wanted to share how dietitians can be greatly affected by weight bias.
I will always remember the first time I realized a dietitian's abilities were judged by their weight. I had finished my first year as a nutrition student and was so excited and passionate about the field of study I had chosen. I could already imagine myself helping people choose foods that fuelled them, helping them decipher nutrition information and motivating them to find joy in food. I would tell anyone and everyone who would listen how passionate I was about this mission.
One day, I was telling someone at work how excited I was about my future career. I will never forget them saying: “I saw a dietitian once, but she was fat. I’m not sure she follows her own advice.”
I. WAS. SPEECHLESS.
Until that very moment, I hadn’t even considered my weight to be a deciding factor in how credible I would be as a dietitian. I had body image struggles, but I never thought how they would affect my role as a dietitian. Because dietitians are experts in food in nutrition, they are expected to have certain weight.
I remember how helpless and discouraged I felt after hearing this. Of course, I knew that expectation was flawed because weight isn’t solely the outcome of eating habits. I also knew my weight had NOTHING to do with how knowledgeable I was, but how could I make others understand that?
This experience was part of the reason I eventually ended up with disordered eating patterns. It pushed me to think the number on the scale determined my worth. It completely screwed up my relationship with food, filling it with guilt, shame and restrictions. It furthered my fear of weight gain.
Thankfully, it’s also one of the reasons that I now promote Health At Every Size, body acceptance and self-love.
I have made it part of my mission to educate others on weight bias, disordered eating and body image. I have changed my approach to nutrition to be weight neutral. I have decided to focus on HOW we eat instead of WHAT we eat.
Of course dietitians can be fat.
The same way they can be tall, short, have short, long, red, blonde, black or blue hair. These characteristics have nothing to do with how skilled they are.
Has your worth ever been questioned because of how you look or how much you weigh? I would love to hear your story!