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How my disability inspires my work and how nutrition can be more accessible.


Vitamin Dina, British Arabic nutritionist in Hackney Wick, East London. Sitting cross legged with a visible ankle orthotic, talking about accessible nutrition.

I’m a British-Iraqi nutritionist, living in Hackney Wick, east London with my partner and our very energetic toddler. I have a spinal condition from birth, which affects my mobility and balance.


I have always had a natural interest in health and the human body, due to life long experience of navigating my condition and the healthcare system. So it made sense that I’d end up doing something health-related, but I actually started my career in design.

A combination of mysterious symptoms and a positive midlife crisis led me to retrain as a nutritionist. I was working long hours as a designer, with stressful deadlines and exhausting commutes, which left me consistently run down, with one illness after the next and just trying to get through each day, fuelled by snacks.

When I sought out nutritional support, I struggled to find resources that catered for people like me. Much of the mainstream advice was just not achievable, from cooking every meal from scratch to walking 10,000 steps a day, I was shamed into feeling lazy if I couldn’t achieve those things. I found myself delving deep into nutrition and tailoring advice to my abilities, which eventually led to the creation of Vitamin Dina.

What is your mission with Vitamin Dina?

When I first qualified as a nutritionist, it felt like I was gatecrashing the industry.

I didn’t know any wellness practitioners with disabilities and I questioned whether I could advise people on their health if I didn’t ‘look’ healthy. After a few words with myself, and others, I soon realised that my difference was my strength and this was an opportunity to support diverse communities that are wildly underrepresented in the wellness space.

I know firsthand the barriers that minorities face in the ‘exclusive’ wellness industry, so I aimed to create an inclusive space that acknowledges and celebrates the uniqueness of each individual, with accessible and achievable nutrition advice, and without the pressures to look a certain way or strive for perfection.

It’s about maximising nutrition with minimal effort, using healthy shortcuts and practical solutions, while considering ability, lifestyle and cultural background.

It is more than possible to feel healthy with a disability. Nutrition advice can be tailored to work with our abilities so we can thrive with our condition. The disability itself does not need ‘fixing’, it is what makes us who we are and part of the richness of human diversity.

Why is accessibility and inclusion important in nutrition?

If people don’t see themselves represented, they can only assume it is not for them.

Nutrition is often marketed to a narrow and privileged demographic, which alienates and discourages many people of different abilities, backgrounds, shapes and sizes from seeking out wellness services.

Everyone deserves to eat well and nourish their bodies and minds. Appropriate advice and representation makes people feel understood and empowered, and experience better health outcomes.

According to The Global Wellness Institute’s Future of Wellness 2022 Trends Report, consumers are tired of wellness as elitist hyper-consumerism, highlighting the need for more accessible, affordable and inclusive wellness that finally addresses underserved populations.

Around 17% of the UK population are disabled, and it is a minority group that anyone can join at any time. Accessible nutrition benefits all. Including knackered parents, elderly people and anyone that is simply busy and tired.


Read the full article for Disability Pride Month at Yogamatters.com.

 

Dina is a registered Nutritionist (mBANT CNHC) and founder of Vitamin Dina, which provides inclusive nutritional support for diverse bodies. As a working mum with a disability, Dina aims to make nutrition accessible to those with additional challenges, such as limited time, energy and mobility, and creates free resources, including her signature 5-Minute Meals e-book to help simplify mealtimes.


To learn more about Vitamin Dina, visit her website or check her out on social media:

Website: vitamindina.com

Instagram: vitamin.dina

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