The Truth About Dietitians
I feel grateful everyday to have found a career path that I truly love, that challenges me daily, and where I feel like I can make a real difference in the lives of others. After having had a wide array of experiences in this field, interfacing with dietitians across both the country and the spectrum of specialties out there, I feel like there is a common theme that most people don’t know about us. Now, of course, this is only my experience and I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but overall I feel that this theme holds true.
Here’s the thing: most dietitians are the farthest thing from extreme when it comes to the food we eat and yet the expectation is that we’re here to impose a strict set of rules. In reality, this is often the quite the opposite. We eat a wide variety, we love food, and we don’t judge what others are doing. We usually get into this field because food, nutrition, and the body fascinate us. We want to help others learn how to love food too, in all of its glory, for all that it can offer us. It’s pretty rare in my experience that you will find a dietitian who has unnecessary and extreme food rules (for themselves or others), who is unwilling to listen to people’s own needs and experiences, or who won’t meet someone where they are in their journey with food. I think we get a bad rap sometimes because people feel like we are “behind the times” or “married to big food.” I get that. Sometimes those feelings are warranted. There are many dietitians who don’t agree with some of the policies of our primary practice group, and there are many who don’t always agree with governmental nutrition policy. I think it’s a good thing that we don’t always agree; that is how positive discourse and change become a reality. However, we all have strong science backgrounds, are well-versed in reading and interpreting research, and we do our best to provide accurate, timely, evidence-based information to the public about nutrition science.
The problem is that the evidence-based nutrition science is constantly evolving, is usually slow to provide the full picture, and honestly, just isn’t headline worthy most of the time. There are a lot of nutrition “experts” out there who will gladly tell you why you should NEVER eat certain foods, why their method is the only way to heal your body, and basically get you to buy into their plan because of the fear of what might happen if you don’t. They will promise a quick fix and mindless, easy solution, and who doesn’t want that?
Most dietitians will not do those things. They won’t tell you that they can solve all of your problems for you, they won’t give you a quick fix, and they will probably debunk some bogus things you heard, which might be disappointing. They will tell you that the changes you want to see are going to require work on your part. They will probably tell you the process is going to be more of the “slow-and-steady” type. But, they won’t lie to you. They won’t judge you. They won’t give you false hope. They will meet you where you are at, and help you improve your nutrition from there. They will provide guidance, expertise, and knowledge that you can take with you and apply in your own life every day. They will likely tell you what you CAN eat, not what you can’t. They will want you to be excited about food, eating, and finding a way to apply nutrition in your life that is right for you. They will set you up for a lifetime of having an easier relationship to food, hopefully leading to a good quality of life for years to come.
We want our patients and clients to be successful, because we know how refreshing it is to be able to eat without fear. We want people to learn how to take care of their minds and bodies forever by finding out how to eat in a way that supports their own personal needs. It might not be too sexy, but I can promise that it is worth it.