Registered Dietitian or Fighter?? What am I?
Being a dietitian is hard work! Don't get me wrong...I love what I do but there are days where I feel like it's me against the world and that gets exhausting! This is going to be a long blog post but let me explain....
My clients are great and they are not the exhausting ones! They come wanting to develop a healthy relationship with food and truly understand why they don't currently have one. This to me is the best part of the work...helping others realize what they are capable of and who they are without their disordered eating habits.
The hard part is everyone else! It feels like a boxing match....in this corner we have the registered dietitian and in the other corner we have everyone else!!
As you know, we live in a society that praises diets, weight loss and unrealistic body standards. It is hard to be a minority against this type of pressure! Everyone claims to be a nutrition expert nowadays.......trainers, doctors, therapists, pharmacists, magazine readers, book readers, tv watchers, etc.... Here's a question: what makes them "experts"? There is always new information and studies coming out that even registered dietitians cannot know EVERYTHING!!! Let me tell you what I do know! I know that in order to be a registered dietitian, a person must have a bachelor or masters degree in nutritional sciences. This is a minimum of four years learning everything about the body, nutrients, biochemistry, organic chemistry, foodservice standards, nutrition and society, etc. Trust me when I tell you that this alone is not an easy thing and I have wrinkles and gray hair to prove it! Once a person has their degree, they than have to compete for an internship spot. This internship is a year of placements in hospitals, foodservice, community and industry to truly understand the different areas of nutrition. Once you have passed this, then you have to write a 6 hour standardized exam and pass to be able to call yourself a registered dietitian.
Are you seeing what I'm starting to get at yet? Why is it that I went through all of this to be able to be the "nutrition expert" and yet people would rather listen to those who do not have this background??!! Even most doctors don't take any nutrition courses in medical school! I have been finding lately that I spend most of my working hours undoing what others have done or said to my clients! This is not only confusing to the client but is also dangerous and not helpful! In addition to this, in the current medical system, a dietitian cannot undo what a doctor has prescribed! The doctor ultimately has the final word!
Don't get me wrong, there are some amazing doctors out there who are very well informed on nutrition and work so well as a team! There are others, however, that quote dangerous and weak studies and quite frankly can offer very unethical and flat out incorrect nutrition advice.
I feel that in my specialty of eating disorders, I see this the most! Society is so weight focused that they see it as a goal of treatment rather than a side effect! Health At Every Size (HAES) is not "just angry overweight people who don't want to diet". (yes, I have had people tell me this) HAES has many studies to back it up! I will talk more about this in another blog post but let's get something straight, telling someone to gain/lose weight is not the answer to any medical problem! All this does is perpetuates the person's damaged relationship with food and continue the vicious cycle of making them feel like a failure based on a number on a scale! It also continues the vicious ups and downs of a person's weight which studies show is even more damaging to a person's health!
It may take longer but teaching a person to have a better relationship with food is the answer. By focusing on this, a person's weight will get to their set point as a side effect, which is where the person will be at their healthiest!
I guess what I'm trying to say through all of this venting is that we healthcare professionals should be thinking of our clients first and work as a team, each contributing our own specialized knowledge. Writing articles about there being no place for a dietitian in obesity management or asking people to restrict and/or eliminate entire food groups is not only poor practice but also selfish! This is not a
competition.....the winner should always be the client!!!!