What Even Is A Dietitian?!

Updated: May 23

Senior year of high school, I decided to do the Whole30 diet with my mom, which is basically a paleo diet. I have always struggled with acne, digestive issues, headaches-all the things. The internet convinced me that the foods I was eating caused everything. The Whole30 diet is intended to be an elimination diet to see what foods trigger your issues, although some people make it a lifestyle. A “lifestyle” which eliminates gluten, processed sugar, dairy, and some legumes and nuts. Obviously, several important food groups are missing. Before going to college, I was one of the many people fooled by the internet and convinced that this was the ultimate “healthy” way to eat. I completed the diet and even introduced new foods as suggested, and I had no significant reactions to certain foods. Therefore, there was nothing for me to pinpoint as a trigger food. Freshman year of college, I am a first year nutrition student, priding myself on the fact that I knew how to eat and take care of myself- simply because of one fad diet and lots of Google searches. News flash: I knew absolutely nothing. I kept trying to eat paleo in fear of gaining the freshman 15 and losing my “healthy lifestyle”. This only resulted in me eating an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s every night in one sitting. I was depriving myself of the food I wanted so much that I would down this ice cream so quick you’d think I didn’t eat in days. Fast forward through 4 years of undergrad education and half of my dietetic internship completed, and there is still SO much to learn. I’ve learned that it truly is about balance. Maybe there isn’t one true food that makes my stomach upset or gives me headaches, however eating a pint of ice cream everyday may cause some discomfort. Now, I eat what I crave while making a conscious effort to include nutrient dense foods in my meals. I know this isn’t the magical answer everyone wants to hear, and for some this may not be a luxury due to certain diseases or conditions, but for the general public it honestly is all about choosing your foods in moderation. When people ask what I am going to school for, their brain is trained to instantly make the following comments: “I could use you in the future, I need to lose weight”, or “oh boy you’d probably be upset with the meal I just had”, or “I need a meal plan!”. Don’t get me wrong, weight loss and meal planning is definitely something a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help you with.

And for goodness sake’s, please rely on someone with the credentials “RDN” to help you out and NOT a “nutritionist”. Dietitians are trained to understand the science behind food, how to keep people alive after experiencing a traumatic accident, we can help manage diseases through diet, make sure athletes are maintaining proper vitamin and mineral intake, helping patients who had a stroke regain mobility, increasing infertility in women who struggle to get pregnant, and so much more. The moral of the story is one lifestyle or diet or exercise routine does not fit all. Registered Dietitians are trained to look at the big picture and use all factors to help clients or patients achieve a goal, ultimately benefiting their health. In just a matter of months I will hopefully be licensed to practice and provide medical nutrition therapy to my own patients. But until then, I am always, always learning! This field is constantly doing research and making adjustments to dietary guidelines. There is constant change and that might just be the most exciting part of it all.

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