The Naked Dietitian is a one-woman spoken word piece which explores an unorthodox approach to health and dietetics, written and performed by fully qualified dietitian, Lucy Aphramor. It played Quaker Meeting House at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe throughout the month of August.
Lucy Aphramor is a radical dietitian. I know what you may be thinking. How radical can a dietitian really be? No, Lucy doesn’t advocate some bizarre fad diet of only eating netils, or fasting for days then stuffing your face the next. She is radical in that she posits ill-health outside the individual – at societal level with prejudice, trauma and inequality. She is a dietitian who says we cannot tackle ill-health without first acknowledging and tackling the root causes of discrimination.
Whilst this is not a show about disability per se, her fight against a ‘medical model’ of ill-health which disregards the socio-political context within which it occurs has deep parallels with the ongoing battle for disabled people’s civil rights. Unsurprisingly, this subversive approach has made her the bane of her profession. She is ostracised. She is ignored. But she will not be silenced.
The Naked Dietitian is a spoken word piece which takes you on a journey, from personal experiences of abuse, through solidarity with others facing prejudice and pointing to a more hopeful and healthy future, via Grenfell and the Black Lives Matter movement. All with lyrical abandon and astute acuity. The piece is also sprinkled with nuggets of advice gleaned from a lived experience of dealing with shit.
The mantra that ‘just because things are crap doesn’t mean you are’ is one that will resonate across groups marginalised by class, race, gender, body shape, sexuality or disability. Lucy suggests when things are completely overwhelming to just grab onto every breath (‘even if you don’t have a hand or fingers to grasp with’). This is coupled with the ethos of being present in every moment. There are moments like these in the show where it threatens to fall into new-age platitudes on wellness, but Lucy treads the line masterfully and it always feels sincere and never cliché.
She also teeters on the brink in other ways. ‘I’m tearing my heart out on stage for you because I know it regrows and I’m shit scared you don’t.’ In the most vulnerable sections where Lucy is laying her pain and experience of abuse bare she looks like she could genuinely break down at any minute. But she doesn’t. It keeps you gripped and also somehow makes you feel she is connecting to you directly.
At 45 minutes, with no props (save some train tickets), no music and no set of any kind, it runs a little on the long side for a spoken word piece. But Lucy holds your attention, breathlessly throughout. That is a real skill.
For Lucy, the dietetic profession is just an instrument of neoliberalism which places the blame for being overweight and other health problems on the individual with its relentless creed of ‘eat less, move more’; as she describes it, ‘a joyless treadmill’. It also disciplines and enforces a warped sense of ‘normality’ onto any form of bodily difference. Sound familiar? For disabled people, it should.
The performance weaves in vignettes on other experiences of oppression, from children made to question their bodies or sexuality, to a young black man who is constantly stopped on the tube to prove he has a valid ticket. Apparently, there is a direct link between increased rates of hypertension and being of non-majority ethnicity. Racism, not diet may be the primary cause. There’s also a nod to the disabled child who may feel invisible because they don’t see themselves represented in their toys or on screen.
Lucy’s self-care and social justice approach known as Well Now has been adopted by NHS Highland Public Health as their healthy weight policy, which shows real impact. But her art is just as powerful.
Lucy implores anyone to love their body, embrace and be comfortable in their fleshy contours. ‘You are enough. Ample, plenty’. Her message is one of pure compassion. Of emphatic empathy. There lies the path to a more healthy and happy world.