This was the crux of my thinking during a deep three day dive, immersed deeply into the sea, learning and experiencing the principles of lifestyle medicine and as a curious early career dietitian absorbing, like a sponge the plethora of knowledge and expertise in the room.
The inaugural Lifestyle Medicine conference acknowledged it’s time for a change. Time to focus on how, we as clinicians can make a meaningful difference to our clients’ health and wellbeing. The common theme throughout the conference was how food and nutrition in all its components, is one of the foundational pillars for wellbeing.
The communities and environments in which we all work are so diverse. The needs and challenges are as unique as the individuals and organisations we work with. If we are going to make a change it will be within our own communities. I am a passionate advocate for local communities knowing their local health care providers. I am keen to do whatever I can within my local community to counterbalance the disease focused states and practitioner silos, with coordinated, compassionate, client orientated solutions. We need to be a friendly familiar face, not the nutrition police. We need to be caring and curious about what is going on in our clients lives, not assuming that education alone will help someone change their behaviour. This is where Lifestyle Medicine fits in.
One of the challenges we are facing as dietitians and the rise of the celebrity nutrition expert and the everyday nutrition expert. Amidst the growing interest in lifestyle medicine, how can dietitians ensure we are not left behind?
“A talent for following the ways of yesterday is not sufficient to improve the world of today” – King Wu-ling, 307 BC
Dr Caroline West, President, ACLM encouraged us all to step back and look at the realistic picture. Considering the person in front of us, in the context of their world, and their daily challenges. We are all on a life long journey with health living in challenging environments. We can continue to do what we have done and fight the tsunami of chronic conditions with pharmaceuticals or we can look towards lifestyle as medicine to prevent and reverse chronic disease.
I’ve never been to a conference quite like this and I’m sure I’ll never be to another one. The atmosphere was palpable, full of incredibly stimulating, thought leaders across science, policy and practice. Where standing ovations were the norm not the exception; a conference characterized by music, movement, dancing, singing, high fives, laughter and the delegate food selection was an absolute highlight!
On a more serious note, I’m preaching to the converted – in lifestyle medicine nutrition is key. My concern is if we as dietitians aren’t on board as early adopters, as a profession, we risk our voice as the experts and leaders and nutrition being lost and our clients seeking out alternative providers to guide them in food and nutrition. We can be ready, as the key hole seeking to unlock our clients understanding of their relationship with food, we can step up and see the opportunity to be the leaders in nutrition science and offer the training in lifestyle medicine nutrition or we can sit back and let can let other providers fill this space and leave us behind.
It is my hope many of you see the unique opportunity for Dietitians within Lifestyle Medicine and I hope to see many of you at the conference in Sydney next year!