Did you know dietitians have their own day? Yes, I know, everyone has their own day these days. But truth be told, I don’t really want my own day! In fact, sometimes when I’m meeting a new person for the first time, I hesitate to even disclose that I’m a dietitian–I hate that I’m known as the food police!
Do you work in a profession that slaps a pre-conceived, metaphorical “label” on you the minute someone hears what it is? (Share it in the comments!) But seriously, which other profession does this as much as one that involves food??? I think it’s because everybody eats, am I right?
Don’t get me wrong…I’m not at all embarrassed to be a dietitian. I worked very hard to become an RD. An RD (or RDN which is the same thing) is more qualified than a “nutritionist”. Here’s what I did to become an RD, if you’re interested:
- First, you get a 4-year college degree at an accredited university.
- Then you apply and get accepted and matched to a year-long, unpaid internship program. (Thanks mom and dad for the support!)
- Then you study like crazy and pass a national exam on all areas of dietetics, even if you’ll just be specializing in one. (No, I don’t wear a hairnet and don’t ask me about cooking meals in a hospital!)
- In my case, I chose to also complete a Master’s in Nutrition Communication, to specialize in evidenced-based writing, and food and nutrition marketing.
- And finally, I also chose to specialize in diabetes by training with patients for 1,000 hours, and then taking a difficult certification exam to be a Certified Diabetes Educator (which I maintain every 5 years by retaking the exam AND completing 75 hours of continuing education credits in the field of diabetes).
No wonder I feel old sometimes! But I love the wandering path my career has taken! I just don’t like to disclose that I’m an RD first thing because it opens up a can of worms when I bring it up in a casual, cursory conversation.
For example, during summer camp drop-off, I felt I had to share with my kids’ camp director that I am a dietitian. In the two minutes it takes to drop off your child in the morning, you may be wondering how it could possibly have come up.
Well, I sent my two kids to camp with one small cooler half-filled with cold packs so that their healthy foods could stay cold. He teased them about their 10-pound lunch and said he was sitting next to them. So, in defense of my kids, I felt the need to explain with a laugh, that I am a dietitian as I started to walk away…
But do you think I could just walk away? I should’ve known I couldn’t just walk away…
He stepped towards me and fired a few loaded nutrition questions one after the other, expecting a short answer to each. “What’s the deal with gluten? What about those flat pretzels? My wife and I really feel better eating those…”
My first thought escaped as a stammer: “Uhhhhh….”
Where to begin!? Do I even want to begin right now??
What I Mean By “Uhhhh…”
- I hesitate because nutrition science is so complicated.
- I hesitate because I don’t have time right now, in the spur of the moment…and frankly, I figure you probably don’t either.
- I hesitate because I need more information from you.
- I hesitate because I wonder how much you know about the topic already, especially if you think I can answer your complicated questions in passing.
- I hesitate because I wonder if you are really ready to know the long answer to your question.
- I hesitate because I don’t want to burst your bubble or bruise your ego.
- I hesitate to squash myths with evidence before we have a rapport because you don’t yet know you can trust me as a reliable source of information.
- The fact is, I hesitate mostly because I’m thinking about you –it’s really all about you, and I mean that in the best possible way!
Don’t Worry, I am NOT the Food Police
My focus really has to be all about you because my experience with food is irrelevant to your journey. I can relate to you without sharing the exact same food struggles, because we are human and we all eat! We are all different and working on different things in our lives, and that’s okay! I don’t think I need to tell you I’m not perfect. It can be assumed–and it might be the only correct assumption you can ever safely make about a person.
Therefore, please do not feel like I’m judging you. I really do not care what you are eating, especially if you don’t ask me for help. Even if you ask me for help and share what you are eating, I’m still not judging you. Sometimes I make choices that are less than ideal and not the healthiest. Everyone does it. It’s called living. And it’s why dieting doesn’t work. There’s no place for guilt or shame in building healthy eating habits. And there’s no place for judgment either.
Sometimes it’s frustrating, but what works for one person may not work for another. I prefer to think that’s positive and even liberating–we don’t have to conform to one way of eating! So, as always, please share your comments and ask your questions here! I’m passionate about helping people know what and how to eat for better health and I’m always happy to respond when I can focus 100% on YOU!
I love the point about nutrition science being complicated. It really is. It’s easy to look for a quick answer or a quick fix but there is typically much more going on.