I attended a virtual conference session this week, sponsored by General Mills Big G Cereals, but was not paid for this post. The thoughts and opinions voiced here are my own.
It’s really quite simple: Listen more. Talk less. Allow people to be heard.
This was the nugget I took away from an amazing conference session I attended this week. Jodi Pfarr spoke about communicating in a way that takes everyone’s circumstance into account. She asked us to “adjust our lens”, to listen, and notice people who aren’t normalized within our society. This includes the consideration of the millions of Americans who are food insecure.
I know, listening is HARD sometimes (I’m a self-proclaimed-talker & interruptor). However, better listening results in more effective communication. When we aren’t considering another’s “shoes”, we really can’t speak to their needs.
I love the notion of “adjusting your lens” because, to me, this implies adjusting your perspective so that you see a bigger picture more clearly. It doesn’t mean to change your identity or brand, or how you feel about a topic. It just means, listen to more people outside of your bubble, and go forward with more empathy. This can apply to any situation, any topic.
It’s more important than ever to be providing sound dietary advice that everyone can relate to and afford. Health practitioners should also keep in mind that sometimes a person’s stress over another basic need (shelter) outweighs a healthy food choice. Raising children, working two jobs, being unemployed, managing health problems without access to care – are just some examples of stress people are experiencing right now. This stress may lead to getting comfort from less nutritious foods. Nutritious food needs to be affordable and tasty.
Food for thought:
- A bowl of whole grain, fortified, cereal with milk provides fiber, folate, iron, zinc, vitamin A and several B vitamins.
- Kids who eat sweetened cereals do not have higher intakes of added sugar in their diet compared to kids who don’t eat cereal.
- At 50 cents per bowl, cereal with milk is an affordable way to improve diet quality in food-insecure children.
I’m not writing about cereal because I have a relationship with General Mills, nor “big food”. I absolutely believe that a bowl of cereal with milk may be the most nutrient-dense meal a child has on some days. I’ve seen this to be very true in my own community. (I also happen to eat cereal, and my family enjoys it too. We always have several boxes on the shelf.)
A Note to Dietitians and Health Practitioners
When you run into someone who opposes your perspective or views on things, common human reactions are anger, frustration, blame, or denial. We all do it. This is when we need to take a step back, and just listen or pause.
Over recent years, disagreements over food, ingredients or “diets” have become polarizing. As nutrition communicators, we need to at least listen to those who may not hold the same professional or diet philosophy. Case in point: Some practitioners will make blanket statements about food or food groups. This doesn’t take into regard anyone else who has a different eating style.
As leaders in nutrition, registered dietitians need to be sure they are open to listening. As a profession we need to be recognizing all of the individuals who need sound nutrition advice (for example, POC, people with disabilities, the impoverished). All health professionals need to craft messages that resonate, and build trust, with them.
Adjusting Your Lens
I implore all health care professionals to consider the many factors that impact how a person can apply the health or dietary advice you give to their actual situation. We have to work to change some of the negative dialogue. Reframe statements we often see that demonize budget-friendly, nutritious foods (like a simple bowl of cereal with milk).
I encourage you to check out Jodi’s book: The Urgency of Awareness, which I’ve added to my Amazon books page.
You can learn more about what General Mills is doing to address food insecurity here.