March is National Nutrition Month® and March 14 is Registered Dietitian Day. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The number of registered dietitians has grown five fold since 1969, and there are now 100,000 registered dietitian nutritionists! About half of those hold advanced degrees, and many specialize.
Registered Dietitian Nutritionists are the food and nutrition experts who can translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living.
Confusion in the Nutrition Space
As an RDN it can be frustrating to hear non-nutrition professionals spout nonsense about diet, food and and nutrition. Unlike popular pseudoscience-pushing personalities such as the Food Babe or Dr. Mercola, RDNs have to adhere to ethics standards. We can’t just “say anything” or make empty promises.
RDNs complete a standardized education and training, that include formal education in the science of food, nutrition, and human physiology (RDNs minimally have a Bachelor’s Degree, undertake a supervised practice internship, and have to pass a rigorous nutrition certification exam). These experiences makes them a dependable resource for nutrition information.
So I beg you, stop sharing random diet or nutrition posts on Facebook by uneducated personalities. You are just funding their vacations.
Let’s Get Real
I love what I do, but there are times when I get annoyed with both the lack of understanding for what a dietitian is trained to do, and also how easily consumers believe everything they hear about food from non-credentialed nutritionists, or really, just about anyone.
Often the public views all dietitians as someone who wants to “put you on a diet”. In addition, those seeking lifestyles that focus on looks, and a sexy body (not health) bash dietitians as being clueless or claiming their advice doesn’t work. People who only seek advice from their gym, their pal, or someone on the Internet telling them what they want to hear (or that it’s going to be easy) most likely will relapse with weight loss. Worse, they are missing out on science-based information about medical conditions that can benefit from a particular diet therapy.
RDN’s come at it with a “big picture” philosophy. Our advice works for the long haul, it’s not a quick fix. We help people personalize their diet and make positive lifestyle changes. We are honest, because frankly, it’s going to be difficult to maintain healthy habits for a lifetime. We don’t offer empty promises such as, “this is easy, lose 10 pounds this week, have great abs by Sunday”.
We are for real. And real takes effort on your part. Long-term effort. But it works, can improve your health, doesn’t backfire, and it’s safe.
You May Be a Dietitian If…
In celebrating Dietitian Day, I thought I’d add some of my pet peeves about common misconceptions about dietitians.
Just because I’m a dietitian doesn’t mean…
- I am constantly screening your meals, what you have in your grocery cart, or what you choose at a party buffet.
- I am judging you when you eat French fries or a candy bar.
- I eat kale every day (and BTW, I really don’t like smoothies much).
- I wear a white lab coat.
- I work in a hospital. This is a common misnomer. I did work in a hospital setting early on in my 30 year career, and some dietitians are employed by hospitals. But, I’ve been a consultant now (work-for-hire, freelance writing, adjunct teaching, nutrition communications, advisor) for over 20 years, yet people in my town still come up to me and swear I must have worked at the hospital here. Nope.
- I don’t get food cravings, struggle to maintain a reasonable weight, or am challenged to keep up my exercise routine.
- I can’t enjoy a cocktail or a sweet whenever I want (but yeah, moderation).
- I need you to proclaim to me that you eat “real food”. (Potato chips are made from real potatoes, real oil and real salt). Please stop with the food fad words.
And, yeah, if you’re still wondering, we “went to school for that”.
Registered Dietitian Nutritionists have degrees in nutrition, dietetics, public health or a related field from well-respected, accredited colleges and universities, completed an internship and passed an examination.
Happy RDN Day!
I’d love to hear from other RDNs. Leave your pet peeve in the comments.