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Clara, the Dishwasher

This morning I woke up thinking about a conversation I had with someone referred for weight loss awhile ago. I haven’t been able to get it off my mind, and while I don’t have the time to write the post – it’s a story that needs to be shared.

Clara was referred by her doctor to a dietitian because she needed to lose weight. weight loss from her doctor. Clara knew she needed to lose weight, but she reluctant to meet with this dietitian.

The dietitian tried to contact Clara three times. Wrong number. Busy. Left message. These were the notes written in her chart.

The dietitian was very busy and not too motivated to meet with Clara because up to this point, there had been no real interest or initiative from Clara. Finally, Clara called to set up her appointment with the dietitian. 

This dietitian was me.

What the dietitian discovered humbled her and reminded her why she became a dietitian in the first place.

The session taught her what no textbook ever could:  the power of a little bit of kindness and understanding to shift a person’s attitude toward their health and well-being. 

Clara was in her mid-sixties, had arthritis, knee surgery in August, and weighed almost 300 pounds.

Summary of Clara’s session: 

“Besides my physical therapy sessions 2x a week, I don’t exercise because I work all day and don’t have time.” 

“I can’t take a lunch break.” 

“I can’t eat or have snacks at work.” 

“I don’t eat a lot of fried foods and try to bake my foods.” 

“I eat a lot of cereal for breakfast and dinner.” 

“I try to limit my soda to no more than two a day.”

“I want to lose weight and feel better; I don’t like being this weight.” 

As we were talking, initially, the ignorant thought of “Everyone’s busy, we make time for what’s important to us.” popped in my head. But I could tell she wanted to feel better and I wanted to do my job the best I could.

As I continued to learn about Clara, her lifestyle, her struggles and barriers, I could hear that she was a little frustrated and ashamed because I’m sure she’s heard all of this before: 

“Exercise is important.” “Water instead of soda.” “You can’t skip meals; you need to make time to eat.” “Where can you add in more fruits and vegetables?” Blah, blah, blah 

Up to this point, all I could get her to share was that her shift was from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., she got home close to 4 or 5 p.m. She was on her feet all day and didn’t get a break. Finally, I asked. “Clara, what do you do for your job? Why can’t you take a break? I have a hard time believing you can’t eat lunch.” 

I could hear the hesitation in her voice as she shared:

“I’m a dishwasher at Denny’s.”

Suddenly it all made sense. 

Memories of my days waiting tables and the long hours on my feet and the exhaustion I felt after each shift and the dishwasher I made friends with and his big smile, all came flooding in my head. 

Clara was tired.

Clara’s job was hard, and at the end of the day, she was exhausted. By the time she got home, she was probably starving, but in the same sense too tired to make anything. Bowls of cereal brought her comfort, and they were effortless. 

Here I was telling her how to eat healthier, but I had a feeling it had been a while since Clara heard, “You have a had a hard job.”

“Clara, I bet you are exhausted when you get home? I remember my days waiting tables and knowing how exhausted I was after every shift.” 

“Yes, I am very tired.” 

“I understand now why eating during your shift might be challenging, could you take a break when work ends, before you go home, to nourish and refuel yourself?” 

“Yes, I could do that. I never thought about that before. That would be nice.” 

“I bet you drink those sodas because you are looking for the energy?” 

“Yes, I never thought of it like that before.” 

“Let’s see if we can explore some better alternatives.” 

“I’d like that.” 

I could hear the shift in Clara’s voice. 

I could tell she was no longer feel shamed and beaten down by one more “health professional” telling her what she “needed” to do. But instead, she was validated that her job was hard, and she was tired, and she deserved to honor that. 

I’m sharing this today because Clara reminded me about the gift of grace, understanding, and compassion.

It’s a gift we easily forget about, especially when the days are busy, stress is high, and we’re so engrossed in our world that we don’t see beyond our bubble.

But it’s one of the most important gifts we can give ourselves and others. 

I hope Clara’s story can open a window of understanding to the next person you meet who is too tired to take care of themselves. Maybe you can be the voice that lets them know you see them and how hard they are working. Perhaps the validation you share will give the permission they need to pause, refuel, and nourish their mind, body, and soul.

And maybe, just maybe, this is how we can start to change the health and well-being of the world around us. 








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