An award-winning doctor will be busting health myths through powerful poetry and personal storytelling in her new show at The Greater Manchester Fringe.
Altrincham-born Dr Lucy Aphramor is the winner of an OSCA (Outstanding Service and Care Award) for her groundbreaking work as an NHS dietitian, but she decided to start debunking a few myths that surround our bodies, eating habits and personal appearance.
The result is The Naked Dietitian, a show which challenges health myths, self-diagnosis and oversimplified health campaigns, many of which leave us judging our bodies, often feeling fat and not good enough.
Described as ‘the literary lovechild of Jeanette Winterson and Allen Ginsberg’, Aphramor’s show is packed personal experiences from her schooldays in Altrincham and running for Sale Harriers to living as both Quaker and queer, and her work in the medical profession.
We spoke to her more about the upcoming show which she is taking to the Edinburgh Fringe.
Would you say that we live in an age of self-diagnosis – and what kind of social impact does this have?
I think we live in an age where we are encouraged to diagnose imperfection, as if there was some sort of problem with being human. This can lead to shame and shaming.
It means we end up judging our own and others’ moral worth according to all sorts of arbitrary criteria like size, health status, fitness level. I mean, what’s that about? Personally this translates into feeling unworthy, and we can experience our bodies as the enemy.
We no longer believe in our dignity as a birthright. We might turn to food to manage difficult emotions, or believe a strict clean eating regime is the solution, or focus on changing our weight. There can be temporary respite, which is great. It’s a very resourceful attempt to find a way through.
Ultimately though, the root cause of the distress that gets played out in food is the belief that we are not OK. The key to new, freeing perspectives on self, food and health lies in exploring this.
The social impact of judgement is more judgement, stereotype, violence. And the terrible burden and misery of body shame and dieting.
Is The Naked Dietitan an opportunity to have a laugh about health or is it more than that?
Humour is such a wonderful tool for getting through things isn’t it?! I’ve done stand-up comedy and poetry before, and while this show is packed with ironic lyrics, it’s not written to be laugh-out-loud. You’ll leave feeling the effects, but not holding your ribs.
What inspired you to take your work from profession to performance?
Passion! I am passionate about promoting body respect and telling the truth about bodies, health and justice.
Through performance poetry I get to match up the message with the medium, conveying emotion through the physicality of spoken word.
Doing dietetics differently like this I reach more people, and more conversations start. We need the truth on bodies, health and justice out there for all of us, not confined to academia or medicine. Poetry on stage is such a fabulous way of shaking things up and creating a vision of new possibilities.
Did someone say art? I already tried my hand with talking biscuits.
What does it mean for you to perform in Manchester?
I’m delighted to be performing in Manchester. It’s a return to my roots. I grew up in south Manchester and attended Loreto, Altrincham. And I ran for Sale Harriers before it became Sale Harriers Manchester. We were national cross-country champions and I was English Schools cross country champion too, though that was a long time ago.
I chose the Friends Meeting House also because I’m a Quaker. A core message of my work is ‘you are worthy of respect’, which reflects my Quaker values and beliefs on the innate dignity in all of us. Compassion is a cornerstone of my work. And I work to bring social justice into the picture too. I believe that non-violence starts with the self.
Helping people respect themselves and find peace with their bodies, with food, with emotions is connected with us respecting others, and the planet. Again, this is all very Quaker. As is my conscientious objection to going along with mainstream campaigns, such as weight correction, that diminish people’s humanity and seed oppression.
Why would you encourage people to come along?
If you are struggling to feel at home in your skin for whatever reason, come along. If you work in health around lifestyle and food in any way – maybe a dietitian, personal trainer, mental health nurse, counsellor, and have felt you’re missing something, come along. If you’re an activist or peace-builder, come along. If you want to inoculate your children against body shame, come along. If you’re looking for the truth on racism and blood pressure, come along.
If it’s vulnerability, impassioned risk, electric lyrics you’re seeking, see you there.
Catch The Naked Dietitian at Friends Meeting House Manchester on Friday 21st July at 7pm.