A Dietitian’s Perspective on Wellness
As a dietitian, I am in a specialized field of wellness. It is common as an expert in the field to emphasize nutrition as the priority. This bias is arguably necessary in order to help clients with food issues, just as other health professionals must view wellness through the lens of their respective specialties: mental health professionals, massage therapists, naturopaths, spiritual leaders, occupational therapists, etc., all have a slant. However, in my quest to counsel and educate clients in a holistic manner, it is imperative that I acknowledge and nurture all dimensions of wellness with my clients.
There are many different lists of the areas of wellness. I am partial to this list, put out by several universities: Seven Dimensions of Wellness
Nutrition falls clearly in the physical dimension. In order to become and remain well, one must maintain a healthy body by eating a balanced diet. Without physical wellbeing, it is difficult to achieve many of the other areas of wellness. It serves as a sort of baseline for wellbeing. It is important for me (and any nutrition professional) to remember that the edges are fuzzy around food issues. For example, where one shops for food is part of environmental stewardship and food choices are often motivated by emotional or social situations. This is why nutrition professionals must discuss each area of wellness with their clients. I have clients who seek dietary counsel to receive a prescription for wellness through food alone. “Just tell me what to eat to be healthy.” While I certainly could write out a meal plan that may improve physical health, if it does nothing to integrate the other areas of wellness, I have failed the client.
Fulfilling all dimensions of wellness is a personal and individualized journey to a balanced life. I know that I tend to neglect some areas. I fixate on physical wellness; if I am eating well, exercising and free from illness, then I am well. I forget that an important aspect of my spiritual wellness is having time alone in nature. A simple walk outside by myself nurtures my spiritual needs and is a practical step I can take each day.
Everybody has a unique way of honoring the areas of wellness. What is important is that they are identified and that active steps are taken to attain them. Achieving wellness is a process that relies on being aware and making choices that lead to a more balanced life.
What are the areas of wellness that need some attention in your life?