Dont judge a book by its cover

by Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Posted on Feb 3, 08:41 AM in . Comments [2].

Today I was reminded of some of the most important qualities a Dietitian needs to have in order to do his or her job well. The ability to withhold judgment, to value the client and to listen. If a Dietitian doesnt possess these, there is no point carrying on. If a client doesnt feel valued, the relationship fails.

Sadly, the reminder came in the form of me being in the shoes of the client and learning first hand how dreadful it feels to walk away from an interaction with a health professional feeling like I had been judged.

I have previously written about my son’s dental disaster in the form of a couple of teeth that need to be filled. Since discovering the problem, I have worked really hard to ensure that his diet is as best as we can get to avoid any problems in the future. There is no way Im letting him continue to have problems with his teeth.

My son is terrified of the dentist, (although our usual dentist is lovely), so through no fault; something that could have been dealt with and moved on from has become progressively worse. To see what could be done, we were referred to a specialist clinic who deal with children and are able to use sedation.

On our second visit today, the discussion came around to diet. I was advised to keep sweet things to meal times and to keep sweetened drinks to a minimum or to meal times.
I mentioned that he never has sweetened drinks.

This was met with “the look”.

Now I dont know if any of you know “the look”. I have seen this look plenty of times, a few times when I was child and seeing a Dietitian, (as a client), and a few times when supervising student Dietitians or shadowing clinics with other Dietitians and health professionals. I think if you had ever had “the look” , you would know what I mean. Its the “mmm, hmm riiiiiight, I dont believe you” look.

I continued the conversation, expressing that I was trying to make sure his diet was as good as I can get for avoiding problems with his teeth. I mentioned he was a “grazer” and this was difficult to control and that I give him cheese after meals, I dont give him sweets but occasionally give him things like scones.

This was met with an incredulous and rather abrupt : “What did you say?”. I repeated: “scones”. “Well those are just FULL of sugar” I was told. “Not the ones I bake”, I replied, knowing full well I use artificial or minimal sweeteners. “Well, they have sultanas in too and they are the worst things for them” I was told in a dismissive tone as though I obviously had no idea and was in the habit of feeding my son enormous amounts of sugar on a regular basis. (mine dont have sultanas by the way).

At this point I felt compelled to inform the therapist I am a Dietitian/Nutritionist. This was met with another look.

So why did I get “the look”? Partly because the problems are there for all to see in my son’s mouth and partly because I am a Dietitian on the heavier side (and working on reducing I might add!). I am well aware that generally, when the parent is on the heavy side, people will assume the diet of the child is likely to be poor. In fact, the fact I am heavier should not be seen as a reflection of what I feed my son. In fact, it makes me even more likely to make his diet better. As someone who grew up as an obese child, I would never let this happen to my son.

In that moment I felt upset, judged and disbelieved. This was probably made worse by being oversensitive with my feelings of upset and guilt that my son even has any problems with his teeth.

As I drove away, I began to think of all the clients I had ever seen in my weight loss clinics. Had I ever given anyone “the look”? Had I ever made anyone feel that way? It made me see even more just how important it is to avoid snap judgments and to treat every client with an understanding that I will never know the full story behind their lives or how they came to have problems with their weight or their health. It made even more determined to never ever assume, to leave judgments at the door, to listen and to never ever use “the look”.

Have you ever encountered “the look”? Let me know your experience and how you felt about it.

Tags: Dental Therapy, Dietitian, Health Professionals, Judgment

About the author

Anne Myers-Wright

Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Anne is a Health Professions Council (HPC) registered dietitian (RD), an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD- Australia), a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), a member of the British Dietetic Association, The Nutrition Society and of The Dietetics Association of Australia.


  1. Hi Anne,

    Great article! Isn’t it amazing how powerful body language can be. I once saw a doctor to have a pap smear and was almost pushed out the door before I was properly dressed. During the consult she smiled and nodded but didn’t actually LISTEN to me. I felt so unvalued.

    I think you’re so right that as dietitians we need to show our clients that we really do genuinely care about them and that we are here to listen and support them. Such a vital quality in our profession.

    Jem x

  2. Hi Anne,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article on “the look” and as a result would love to enlist your help and advice re altering my diet and approach to food knowing you will not judge me but offer a supportive and professional approach. It is such a relief to find someone who will LISTEN!! Thank you.

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