Ok everyone, that National Nutrition Month post is finally here! Each year during NNM you hear me babble about some topic that I think will resonate with others. While this post might be a little different, I still hope it give incite to some of the myths and misconceptions that come with being a dietitian. I have read a few other bloggers discuss similar topics, or talk about the evolution and change that is occurring with “food talk” or talk of nutrition on social media and other outlets. I think it’s time I give my opinion and let you in on some of my biggest struggles when it comes to being a dietitian.
My NNM topic this year is going to be on, well…. myself in a way. I say myself, because I’m a Registered Dietitian, but I hope that some of my other dietitian friends read this and get a giggle or two out of it. While we all have different ways of working, promoting and using our knowledge to help others, or getting involved in different things outside of daily work, I think its important to clear up some of the myths and misconceptions about being a dietitian.
1. Because I’m a dietitian, all I want to talk about is fruits and vegetables.
Yes, I love eating healthy. I love talking about food and creating healthy recipes; I love helping others, but food and nutrition does not rule my life. With that said, very rarely am I able to turn off the “dietitian” switch… and that isn’t by choice. We live in a world now where food and nutrition talk is everywhere. Flip through Pinterest, scroll through Facebook, or take a look at a few Snap or Instagram stories. Everyone is talking about what they are doing to get healthy, why they are qualified to talk about it, and what new diet they tried or want to try is. Recipes float through Facebook and Pinterest like water. Tips for weight loss can be found with one easy google search.
I can’t tell you how many times I get asked… “what do you think of this diet?” or “do you think this is healthy?”. While I appreciate the questions and am happy to help, I just wish sometimes I was able to have a conversation that was about something else…. really anything else. Imagine if you were an engineer and the second you got home and pulled up Facebook all you saw were blueprints for homes, articles about new lumber material, or design elements that people were trying on their own. It would be a little exhausting, don’t you think? Think about each time you went to a social gathering or party. What if as soon as you walked in the first conversation started with…”hey would you mind looking at this sketch I did, I’m thinking of designing a new shed for the backyard,” or “what do you think about that Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit, I’m sure you saw it right?” With all the chatter about “being healthy” sometimes it doesn’t surprise me that there is an actual eating disorder designated to being obsessed with eating healthy called orthorexia nervosa. While I love to share my journey with eating healthy and love to create and post recipes, I hope that I do it in a way that is positive and uplifting. I hope I show off my credentials as a dietitian in a way that inspires other to not deprive, but to have a good balance of healthy and happy in their life.
Also, shout out to hub — he definitely keeps me grounded and fully supports my need for a good ice cream sundae every once in a while!
2. Because I’m a dietitian, I’m judging everyone on the food they eat.
Let me start off by saying I absolutely love ice cream. My mouth waters when I see a donut inside of a cute little bakery. I almost always pressure my husband into getting dessert after dinner at least 2-3 times per week. I have a huge sweet tooth, and some days there moments when I couldn’t care less how many cups of vegetables I had that day.
It is very rare that I actually pay attention to what other people are eating. If you point out to me that you are eating something “unhealthy,” well then yes, I’m going to notice. Typically, I don’t walk around with my food sensers on looking for chips, fast food, or candy. There are moments when I have felt uncomfortable because others make a situation uncomfortable, not because I care what everyone is eating. I love french fries, but when someone points out “oh boy the dietitian is eating french fries!!” they become a little less appetizing and I can immediately feel my face flush!
3. All dietitians do is talk about weight loss.
Dietitians can talk about weight loss, but they can also talk about so many other things. Nutrition is probably one of the most versatile subjects to study, making our job field have even more variety and opportunity. In one day, I can talk about type 1 diabetes and the relationships between carb-counting and blood sugar control, the importance of nutrition during pregnancy, how to lower blood pressure through a low-sodium diet, a high protein/high fat diet to help a child whom is failure to thrive, and yes, I can talk about weight loss. I have friends who work in bariatric surgery, friends who work in intensive care, friends who don’t work with patients or clients at all and talk about infant formulas all day. Dietitians do not only talk about weight loss, and while we may know a thing or two about it, some don’t like talking about it at all. Here’s a little extra tidbit of information — I actually do enjoy talking about weight loss, so ya’ll are in luck!
Now… I’m sure maybe at this point you are thinking, “someone took a grumpy pill this morning.” NO!!! I promise I didn’t, and I LOVE my job. I am so, so, SO proud to be a Registered Dietitian, and I absolutely love working with people and helping others connect the food choices they make with certain elements of their body or their health. What I don’t love is the way our society has morphed nutrition into a fad. I don’t love how healthy eating is something that you SHOULD talk about if you are doing it. If you had a salad at lunch, you better shout it from the roof tops because you just found the next best way to prevent heart disease by eating a bowl full of vegetables! Nutrition is something that I studied for 5+ years and am still studying, did 1,200 hours of supervised practice on, and took a nationally recognized exam for. Nutrition is so much more than eating salads, and health is so much more than looking fit and showing off your abs for the world to see.
I hope that when people look at me, they see so much more than someone who talks about food. I hope I wear my title well, because the last thing I want to do is contribute to others feeling poorly about themselves. I am constantly trying to combat what society has made “healthy” and what I know to actually be “healthy”. Normalcy in eating and food choices is something that varies from person to person and what works for one may not work for another. Healthy eating is not restrictive; its not obsessive; and its not all that I think about. I the words of Ellyn Satter,
“…normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food, and your feelings. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but it keeps its place as only one important area of your life.”