Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

No, watching What the Health does not qualify you to provide nutrition counselling



I saw a couple of RDs I know tweeting about this article a couple of weeks ago and I just had to add my two cents. I honestly think that freedom of speech is being misconstrued in the US and this is not an issue of freedom of speech at all.

So the issue is there’s a “health coach” in Florida who’s mad because she was told that she’s not allowed to provide dietary advice to people because she doesn’t have a licence. She thinks that impinges on her freedom of speech. Her lawyer claims that “getting a licence is incredibly burdensome”. Well, no frigging shit. Getting a university degree in any field ain’t cheap and then having to complete internships, pay to write the national exam, and then paying annual fees to retain your licence is time consuming and costly. It totally sucks but does that mean we should tell people they can go ahead and practice dietetics without a licence? I think not.

What seems to be lost in this story is the reason why people become licenced dietitians in the first place. That licence is not there for our benefit. It’s there to protect the public, the people who pay to receive credible evidence-based nutrition counselling. It’s not a benefit to dietitians, it’s to protect the public from us. That licence tells anyone seeking counsel from a dietitian that we are qualified to provide that advice and if we screw-up they have legal means by which to hold us accountable.

As registered dietitians we acknowledge our scope of practice and the limitations of our expertise and work within those confines. This “health coach” may be quite knowledgable about nutrition but there’s no accountability. We don’t know what we don’t know and while she may believe that she’s well enough informed to provide nutrition counselling, she’s not in the position to be able to make that assertion. That’s why there are standardized examinations and competencies that must be met by dietitians, to ensure we all meet a certain level of expertise.

Licencing is common in many professions, from doctors to dentists to mechanics to pilots. The reason for that licencing is always the same, to protect the public from charlatans and ensure that these professionals meet a certain standard.

This is not a freedom of speech issue. No one is telling this woman that she can’t talk about nutrition to whomever she wishes. She can proselytize to fellow grocery shoppers in the cereal aisle. She can tweet about her beliefs. This is practicing dietetics/nutrition without a licence. This is making money by providing personalized nutrition advice to individuals without the appropriate qualifications. To allow her to do so would be the same as allowing me to perform bariatric surgery because I’ve read some books and researched it or allowing someone to fly a plane because they flew some in a video game once. To allow a health coach to practice as a dietitian without the appropriate credentials is putting the public at risk.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people see food and nutrition from a different perspective and understand that nutrition and health are not necessarily a result of personal choice.

14 thoughts on “No, watching What the Health does not qualify you to provide nutrition counselling

  1. Wait, do you mean it’s not a good idea to have someone who payed a doctor on a TV show perform brain surgery on you??? Wow, who woulda thunk it??? Freedom of speech doesn’t allow you to pretend to be something you’re not to the detriment of others, nor can you yell fire in a crowded theater,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cannot agree with you more. I have put myself in the hands of my dietitian to get me through my anorexia. She has helped me a lot. I will freely admit to reading and believing what personal trainers or health coaches wrote on various sites as i descended into my troubles. I am all for free speech but you have to careful………

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Slowly slowly. I have to battle “the voice” which puts up a fight daily. But i am getting there…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this so much Diana-As a student in dietetics, I always worry about hurting people’s feelings when this topic comes up. But you are exactly right, the license is there to protect the public, not to help us. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is great, I️ really like your stand point and as a Dieititan I️ agree whole heartedly!


  6. Pingback: Does protecting the public infringe on freedom of speech? |

  7. Pingback: Being thin is not a qualification for providing nutrition advice |

  8. My only comment is that I’d hope we KNOW what we don’t know…which is what makes us science based & reliable. We don’t pretend to have all the answers & are only providing the information that is verifiable. Thank you for a wonderful commentary.


  9. Thanks for this article… just one thing… check the sentence …”…think that” in 2nd paragraph – you meant “thinks” , right?


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