Unsolicited Advice

After reading the blog entry entitled “Grease on Top of Grease,” Allan’s friend Mark surmised “I for one am not convinced Allan wished he was eating tomato paste on crust pizza, but will refrain from commenting on the blog as to my suspicions.” Mark insinuated that I wanted Allan to eat something other than what Allan wanted to eat. Assessing the situation from Mark’s point of view, I understand why he presumed that a dietitian who adheres to her own set of dietary guidelines would want her significant other to adhere to those guidelines.

Unfortunately, Mark is not familiar with my role as a dietitian. Rather than prescribe a one-size-fits-all diet, I present my clients with nutrition information, based on sound scientific research, and empower them to make their own decisions. Because each individual is unique, the most effective “diet” is the food plan he/she chooses for him/herself. Only he/she can determine which foods are most satisfying, which foods create gastrointestinal discomfort, and when he/she experiences hunger and fullness.

When determining which foods to choose, I, personally, consider many factors: how hungry I am feeling, my preference for particular flavors and textures, the way my body responds to particular foods, the nutrition knowledge I have acquired, and my schedule with regard to when I last ate or when I will eat next. With so much to think about, I rarely pay attention to what my friends and family are choosing.

Months ago, at the restaurant with Allan, I was feeling very hungry while our food was being prepared. When my pizza arrived, I was elated and entirely focused on the plate in front of me. Allan drew my attention to the plate in front of him and he suggested I blog about his experience ordering and receiving his pizza. Fearful that I would put words in Allan’s mouth or misconstrue his experience, I insisted that he read and edit the entry before it was posted. Although Allan is very fond of cheese, he also enjoys a colorful, well-seasoned, chunky tomato sauce!

I’d like to thank Mark for sharing his suspicion with me because considering someone else's point of view always proves to be a great learning experience. I understand why people might assume that a dietitian is overly concerned with what his or her friends and family are eating. Having studied the science of nutrition and understanding the role that saturated fat plays in contributing to heart disease, I should be concerned with the saturated fat intake of my friends and family. However, very early in my career, I learned that providing unsolicited advice or information is not very productive.

As a dietetic intern, in a New York City hospital, I was responsible for recommending special diets to patients with various ailments. I’ll never forget the day that I entered the room of an 85-year-old patient with hypertension (high blood pressure). Armed with several handouts on sodium and hypertension, I was prepared to explain the benefits of a low sodium diet. Smiling, he listened to my entire spiel. When I asked if he had any questions, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “I am 85-years-old. I have been adding salt to my food since I can remember. I’m sorry, sweetie, but that is not going to change.” He was a very kind man and his honest words were so effective. I learned a very important lesson that day. Some people are interested to make dietary changes and some people are not. I thanked him for his time, I wished him well, and I walked out of his room. At that moment, I made a conscious decision about my future as a dietitian. After completing my hospital internship, I would choose to work with people who are genuinely interested in making positive lifestyle changes and I would refrain from offering unsolicited advice!