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By Dr. Kristen DiFilippo

Recently, I listened to a physician talk about various leadership roles health professionals take on. One portion of her talk, leadership within the community you live in, struck a chord with me. Through my training as a dietitian, I felt prepared to lead my patients, but navigating what it means to be a dietitian in my own personal life has been a journey of trial and error. Early on, I tried to give my dad unsolicited dietary advice. He gently yet firmly reminded me that I am his daughter, not his dietitian. In contrast, I’ve been asked for advice that I don’t feel comfortable giving without a full nutrition consult. I’ve also been told that people, who I have never discussed food with, are nervous to have me over for dinner because of my profession. As professionals, it can be complicated to draw the line between our professional expertise and our personal lives, especially when are the profession is so closely tied to something as personal as eating. This leads me to wonder, is there a difference between our personal and professional identities? Below are some of my thoughts on how to navigate the space between our personal and professional selves.

  • Avoid unsolicited advice. It can be hard when those we really care about are making lifestyle choices that aren’t optimal, but the key word here is choices. We can encourage, cheer, and answer questions when asked, but I’ve learned that preaching nutrition advice at an unwilling audience only leads to frustration from everybody.
  • Know your own boundaries. For me, this means that I don’t mind a general nutrition question in conversation or from a close friend, but I am not comfortable providing nutrition advice in social settings. It is ok to say when you don’t feel comfortable answering. One strategy I use is to recommend the person the name of a dietitian who is really good in that area.
  • Be gracious to those who have to cook and eat with you, and to yourself. I’ve had people ask me not to look at their plate, to which I usually respond that I won’t, as long as they don’t look at mine. Proper nutrition is important, but so is enjoying food. We can lead others by making healthy choices, but also by showing others that there is no such thing as perfection in nutrition.

What about you, how do you navigate the space between your personal and professional self?

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This blog was posted by Robin Allen, a member of OneOp (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the OneOp Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website on Facebookon Twitter, and LinkedIn.