Growing up, I delighted in reading or working on anything that benefited my health. When in high school, I discovered that I did not have a passion for medicine, which marked the end of my childhood dream of being a doctor. Along the way, I realized that I found pleasure in learning more about the foods people consume. My ‘obsession’ for food and health left me pondering about the prospects of embarking on a career in nutrition and dietetics.
Fast forward, In 1999, I graduated with a degree in dietetics. I was later registered as a dietician in 2004 and started working at a local clinic before moving to a hospital. During my 14-year career as a dietician, I have been privileged to work with all types of patients; babies, seniors, obese, and even athletes. I believe I have learned pretty much everything that I could about nutrition. If you work in a hospital as a nutritionist or dietician, you must understand the relationship between eating habits and health. Here are some key takeaways that I have learned about health and nutrition.
I have been privileged to work with hundreds of people struggling with food addiction. Through these encounters, I have consistently observed those food problems rarely had anything to do with food. In most instances, chronic food addiction resulted from a set of circumstances or trauma that they did not have control over. This made me understand why it is unfair to or dismiss conditions such as obesity for irresponsible eating or poor lifestyle choices because of their outward appearances.
When I was working at the hospital, I encountered some patients fighting for their lives without knowing that their lifestyle had a hand in their predicaments. Some of them were relatively young, which made me feel like I would suffer the same fate. At that point, I realized that I had to take a completely different outlook on my eating habits. This did not mean that I had to be overly stingy with my eating, but I decided to eat right. After all, we all live once, which is enough. So my advice is that everyone needs to find a balance between enjoying the foods you love, albeit responsibly.
It easy to get carried away by fad diets, which come and go. Whether it is a weight loss diet that promises fast results, good health is all about getting the basics right. By basics, I mean that you only need to eat food like vegetables, meat, fruit, whole grains, some dairy, and some good fats. Some patients came reporting that they hand been sticking to low fat, low-carb, or low-protein diets. But I can boldly claim that falling for such foods means that you will be subjecting yourself to an unhealthy diet. It is not right to cut out an entire food group. It would help if you had all food groups, proteins, carbs, and fat, to ensure that your body gets all the nutrients it needs.
The amount of food you consume matters. When you hear people say that excess can be harmful, know that this applies to what you consume. When you listen to nutritionists talk about moderation, this is to say that you do not have to eliminate anything in your diet to get better. I am always alive because life is meant to be enjoyed, which means having the foods you want. As a tip, I would recommend the 10% rule. This means that only 10% of the food you eat should be a treat, and the remainder should cater to all food groups. So if you love fries, having one plate once a week is acceptable, in my opinion.
I might not share all the lessons that I have learned during the last decade working as a dietician here. What I can is that there is nothing like a one-size-fits-all diet. Therefore, it is up to you to establish what works for you. You do not have to beat yourself when you treat yourself occasionally or force yourself into a diet that is not enjoyable or sustainable.