Bipolar Food Parenting: A Retrospective Reflection to Choosing a Nutrition Career

IMG_3348Life began for me in an idyllic sort of way: on a farm in the countryside with a mom who fed me organic vegetables from her garden, all before I was even out of the womb.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of my mother’s daily routine. Everyday she would gather the fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden and then place them atop our kitchen table.

One day, when I was just an infant, she sat me at a high chair at the kitchen table. She had already gathered that day’s fresh garden produce, which was sitting in the center of the table. Moments later when she turned around from cooking, she spotted me kneeling on the table next to the vegetables: both hands clutching a luscious red tomato at my mouth while it’s juices ran down my tiny body. “Nothing had ever looked so tasty than that red tomato and it’s juices all over you,” she still says.

Looking back, I realize that growing up eating real whole foods and understanding food’s true origins led me to my present food passion and career choice.

However, there was another side to my food fairytale. My father’s food beliefs and habits did not parallel those of my mothers. He did not care much about food quality, nor did he tolerate wasting food, thus enforcing the “clean your plate” rule.

The dichotomy of values surrounding food became clear after my parents separated. My diet shifted from wholesome fresh foods one week to pizza and root beer floats the next. Considering my dad’s relationship with food, it was not a surprise when he was diagnosed with type II diabetes. He is still very overweight and manages his diabetes with medication rather than with diet.

This contrast gave me a unique opportunity to witness how food can be used to heal or to poison. For this reason, I chose to use food to prevent and heal disease, not promote it. Alas, whenever I face a health issue, I use food as the cure. From issues like teenage acne to GI issues, I have always turned to the health-promoting nature of whole foods to help restore my health, as modeled by my mother.

My nutrition education continued as I discovered my love of cooking, my fascination with food culture, and my interest in the psychology of eating during my undergraduate career at New York University. My experience now as a dietetic intern at Pepperdine University has offered me a new awareness into the reality of our society’s food systems. I have been immersed in nutrition’s role in community, clinical, and commercial settings.

Despite my realizations into the many facets of the world of food, my real faith in the power of food will always come from my roots as a little girl on that farm table, where I had pure and simple foods as they were meant to be eaten- perfectly ripe and without care of a mess!

This blog was co-written by Susan Dopart and RD intern Kristen Procter