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How Our Definition of Healthy Fails Black Women

What I’ve learned in my years as a dietitian.

My waiting room and office space communicate everything I want patients to know: that my work centers those too often overlooked by my fellow dietitians — Black women, femmes, and queer folks. The bookshelves display covers that address body politics and queerness; the walls are hung with life-size paintings of Black bodies, unapologetic in their abundance. My favorite greets me in the waiting room every time I walk out of my office. The figure in the painting has dark skin with gold highlights around their nose and eyes. Naked from the shoulders up, the figure’s face framed by blue-black, kinky hair falling around the shoulders. The strong gaze strikes me as empathetic and calm, a welcome presence in an office that holds many emotions.

Mia is in the waiting room, perched on the edge of my couch wearing a pressed navy pencil skirt and a pink silk blouse with pearl buttons. I glance up at the painting as I exit my office and greet her. Knee bouncing, Mia’s black spiral-bound notebook is moving up and down on her lap. She has relaxed hair that reaches past her shoulders. It is nine a.m. on a Saturday and, though many of my clients would arrive in casual attire, Mia is dressed to be taken seriously.

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