Nutrition Mindset: Lessons from my Dad

My dad doesn’t know this, but I tell stories about him in diabetes class.

Charlie's Angels

I have several… but here are a few of my favorites…

  1. The day I realized my dad and I thought about food differently. I was visiting my dad one weekend when he asked me if I was hungry. I was hungry. I told him so. He asked me what I wanted to eat. As he was listing off my options out loud – “Do you want something sweet? Savory? Salty? Crunchy? Spicy?” I was doing my own listing inside my mind – “Have I had my vegetables? Healthy fat? Protein? Fruit?” I hadn’t realized we were both doing the same thing, but his list was based on pleasure sensations while mine was based on nutrients. I realized at that moment – my dad and I THINK differently when it comes to food. I think about what I NEED, while he thinks about what he WANTS. I had no idea that I was instinctively doing something that does not come naturally to most people.
  2. The day my dad ate a virtual Snickers. Being a dietitian, most people are eager to please me and show off their healthy eating skills when I’m around. I don’t know if it’s guilt or what, but it happens a lot. My dad will sometimes fit into this dietitian pleaser group. This story comes from one of those times. The story begins with my dad asking me if I wanted to go with him and my 4-year-old little sister to Outback Steakhouse. I agreed and noticed as we were sitting together at the table my dad seemed to be parroting my actions. If I ordered steak, he ordered steak. If I took a piece of bread, he took a piece of bread. If I stopped, he stopped. It seemed that he was using me as  marker for his behavior. I was amused by this, but said nothing of it – not wanting to discourage him from his improved behavior. By the end of the meal, my dad ate a lot less – an amount I would deem appropriate. He paid and then asked if I wanted to accompany them on an errand to Lowes to pick up some things. I agreed. Ten minutes later we were walking through Lowes when my sister spotted the candy. She stopped mid-stride and asked if she could have a candy bar. Exasperated with her unhealthy request, I looked to my dad to tell her no. Much to my surprise, my dad was ALSO transfixed on the candy bar display. As the only responsible person left, I quickly told my sister she didn’t need candy and then looked at my dad and told him, ” You don’t need candy either.” For good measure I added, “Besides, we just ate. Where are you going to put it? How are you planning on using the extra energy acquired from the candy bar? Hmm?” He pried his eyes from the candy display to look back at me with a sad look as he realized he didn’t, in fact, NEED a candy bar. But, then a spark lit up his eyes and I knew he had thought of something. With diplomacy he informed me, “Yeah, you’re probably right. Besides, I’ve had a snickers before. I remember what they taste like. I’ll just IMAGINE I’m eating the candy bar.” And what preceded was an embarrassing display of “Ooo’s and aah’s” as he imagined eating a candy bar in the middle of the aisle at Lowes. What could I do? He got me.

I tell my patients “dad stories” because my dad is a person who loves food. My patients find it easier to relate to my dad. He seems normal and a bit tortured for having a dietitian daughter. After all, the guy is just trying to enjoy his life, right? What’s so wrong with that?

It seems pretty simple, but this is the same man who taught me to be responsible. This is the man who told me I will NOT get everything I want, but he would get me the things I needed.

I pretty much do the same thing for him. :)

My patients think it’s funny and I’m grateful to have such a creative example to share.

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