The Naked Dietitian
Why? Some Background
As an experienced, radical dietitian, I choose change. I work to change shame and oppression. I recognise these as two root causes of eating distress, poor health and inequalities. I work with individuals struggling with eating issues so they can feel more relaxed around food, more at peace in their bodies and more at home with their own and others’ innate dignity.
Changing shame and oppression also requires we change how we think and speak everyday, everywhere, including health care.
I give myself the best chance of achieving this, and I give you the best of what I know, and am, when I do dietetics differently: welcome then, to The Naked Dietitian.
Mainstream public health messages aren’t helping to build a fairer, healthier, society. Instead, we are constantly bombarded with messages that link our moral value to the foods we consume or to our weight. These messages misrepresent the relative roles of lifestyle and disadvantage in determining health outcomes, and move us away from compassionate, body-aware living and towards judgmental, mechanical thinking. At a personal level the body becomes a battleground. At a social level, we oppress and marginalise.
I want something very different to this. I want to go out into the world as part of peace convoy, challenging the deep roots of violence, advancing justice and promoting wellbeing.
I am committed to speaking out. I believe we need dissenting perspectives, communicated in humanising and meaningful ways, if we are to build a fairer world. I am passionate about sharing what I have learnt around eating, respect, pleasure, poetry, health, healing, ideology and social justice because this knowledge gave me back my body and transformed my life.
Dietitian as Artist Photomontage from Exhibition in Montreal, Canada, 2010. © Cheryl McLean 2010
Expanding Dietetics through Performance and Poetry
There is an almost limitless number of reasons that resulted in the birth and ongoing growth of The Naked Dietitian performance, all of which are equally valid to me as a performer, and which also individually speak to my listeners on a number of different levels, and encourage their own experimentation and growth :
- A personal aim is to live congruently. It feels right to be integrating my passion for poetry with my passion for radical dietetics.
- The narrative contributes to the [feminist and truly humanist] ‘ethics of decentralising authorial power’ by having several speaking voices. It explicitly rejects the culturally prized goal of assuming a fixed, didactic, dominant position within power and truth.
- It highlights the dynamic relationship between medium and message.
- It challenges the historically unquestioned validity of science, (and written text) as the only sources of knowledge that matters.
- It draws attention to clear speaking and expectations of open debate as luxuries afforded to privileged people but consequently denied to subordinate people.
- It raises awareness of scriptocentrism and the power vested in this.
- It insists on a role for tacit, experiential knowledge and participatory understanding.
- It validates many dimensions of the human experience: the sensual, embodied, erotic, intellectual, spiritual, cultural, liminal etc.
- It insists on uncertainty and is situated rather than abstracted from context.
- It plants a seed to redress dietetics’ exaggerated reliance on dominant forms of knowledge creation. Click here for an example of poetry-informed dietetic scholarship.
- It expands dietetic performativity.
- Hearing a performance moves people emotionally and viscerally in a way that reading a text can’t.
- It conveys vital truths that I can’t capture in articles or chapters.
- I believe in the emancipatory power of sharing our stories.
- It inspires other people to start sharing their truths.
- It introduces some people to the beauty and power of words and poetry.
- It encourages some to start writing (and maybe performing!) poetry, or exploring other forms of creative expression that gives them a voice.
- It contributes to the burgeoning critical dietetics movement.
- It makes me feel unsilenced, relevant and alive. Join me.
And these reasons – which have grown and morphed over time – are why I have been publicly sharing poetry since 1997, and as a poet-dietitian since 2004.
You can read some text from The Naked Dietitian here.
”the decision to feed the world
is the real decision
no revolution has chosen it
for that choice requires that women shall be free”.
I subsequently sought out like-minded colleagues, and in 2009 I was invited to a game-changing seminar at Ryerson University in Toronto. Envisioned and organised by Canadian dietitian, Jacqui Gingras, this led to the Declaration of Critical Dietetics. This document sets the scene for arts-based practice and enquiry. A collaborative group revisited and expanded the founding document and you can read the update here. We are now planning our seventh annual critical dietetics conference.