How prepackaged diets put you in a box

prepackaged diets By Dr. Leigh Wagner, formerly of Integrative Medicine at The University of Kansas Health System
February 8, 2017

You know how it goes when you meet someone at a bridal or baby shower (you can tell what stage of life I’m in, huh?) or a dinner party: The default question “So, what do you do?” enters conversation within the first 10 seconds.

I have a love-hate relationship with that question. On the one hand, I love knowing what lights the fire of people I’m meeting for the first time. What is their spark? Their passion? On the other hand, I appreciate the bias we have as a culture, that our career defines our existence. What box can I put her in?

This is one of the various reasons I really can’t believe I'm a nutritionist. I hate being put in a box. Or maybe I just love surprising people: Most of the time, I don’t fit so neatly in the boxes they might put me in. Gap tees, jeans, straight brown hair, drive a Honda … plain-ish Jane. Have you put me in a box, yet? Fine with me. :)

Actually, you are more than what you eat

Just as we do socially, we also put people in boxes in the healthcare world. We often want to treat all diabetics with the same calorie-counting diet, give all cardiovascular patients the same “heart-healthy” oatmeal/avocado/almond/olive oil diet, and encourage all patients with cancer to just “eat as many calories as you can, no matter what they are.” But when it comes to our nutrition, one size does not fit all.

Individualized or personalized nutrition care is about looking at the whole person:
  • From a biochemical perspective (What level of vitamin D does she have? What might her cholesterol labs tell me?)
  • From a lifestyle perspective (How many hours during the day is she sedentary? Does she have support from family and friends?)
  • From a dietary history perspective (How has she been eating throughout her life up to this point? What might be missing that could contribute to her health status?)
  • From a stress and sleep perspective (What stressors could affect her health and nutrition choices?)
  • And from a genetic perspective (What is her family history? Can her genetics help tailor our nutrition plan?)
The above are all questions I regularly ask myself as I’m assessing someone in our Integrative Medicine clinic. The answers come together to form a holistic picture of what that person might need, nutritionally. You are more than what you eat: You are what you can absorb, you are what you prefer, you are what your parents passed down to you, and you are what your favorite (and least favorite) foods are.

You are … you.

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