Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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What does a dietitian do?

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As a dietitian I feel like I’m constantly shouting into a void. I can repeat myself a hundred times and then a (white male) doctor says the same thing and suddenly it’s all over my twitter feed or the news. And while of course I’m always glad for people to be receiving credible nutrition information there’s a huge part of me that resents the fact that I feel like I don’t get any respect. Is it because dietetics is such a female dominated profession? Is it because people think that all we do is tell people what to eat and run around slapping hotdogs out of their hands? Is it because there is often a lack of consensus when it comes to nutrition and there’s a lot of vocal charlatans profiting from selling people extreme ideas and diets? Maybe all of these. I do know one thing and it’s that nearly everyone thinks that they know all about nutrition simply because they eat and they like to share that “expertise” with others (usually unsolicited) in person, on social media, or by lecturing dietitians in the comments on their blogs.

I would never be so presumptuous as to refer to myself as an expert. While I think that my four years of studying nutrition at university and the nearly seven years (where does the time go??) of self-study since then do give me an edge-up on the average individual, I know that there’s loads more that I don’t know and loads more to be discovered. Unfortunately, those who know the least tend to be the most vocal and the most certain. You only have to check-out any self-styled wellness guru to see this in full effect. There’s also the weird assumption that many people have that doctors (and scientists) are experts in all areas, including nutrition. Most doctors are not and those who are have become so in spite of their standard education, not because of it. Nutrition is not standard education for doctors. Scientists also  have fields of study and just because someone is an astrophysicist does not mean they know the first thing about human nutrition. Any doctor or scientist worth his or her salt will be aware of the limits to their own knowledge and adhere to their scope of practice, deferring to those in other areas of study as applicable.

If this lack of respect for dietitians comes from a lack of awareness of what we do, perhaps I can help with that. Even though the dominant view of dietitians is that we counsel people on food, nutrition, and diet, that’s only one of many different avenues that we can take. Also, those who work in clinical nutrition may focus on very different areas from pediatrics to diabetes to eating disorders to cardiac rehab, etc. Dietitians working in private practice also counsel people for a wide range of nutritional concerns and some may specialize in specific topics as well; for example, one dietitian might only work with athletes while another might only work with clients looking to manage their weight. Many dietitians work with the food industry in various roles ranging from spokespeople to product development and nutrient analysis. There are dietitians who work in grocery stores helping customers to make healthy choices, try new foods and recipes, and boosting store sales. There are also dietitians who work in various aspects of nutrition research. Others of us work in public health and in the government with the goal of improving the health of the population. Rather than working with individuals we try to improve health and nutrition through policy and large-scale initiatives. Many dietitians work in longterm care; some in administrative roles with food services and some in a clinical capacity helping residents meet their dietary needs (and wants). Some dietitians work in the community with organizations such as community health teams providing counselling and classes for clients. Some dietitians provide food skills education for clients through nutrition-focused cooking classes. Yet other dietitians work with sports teams to ensure optimal health and performance of all the athletes. And the list goes on. If you’re a dietitian reading this and I missed your area of employment please feel free to share in the comments!

My point being that we all have a strong knowledge of nutrition but we all do different things with that knowledge. We don’t just tell people what to eat (in fact, most of us don’t) and while we can tell you what’s “good for you” in spinach that’s not the real focus of what we do – unless you’re a dietitian with the spinach growers association ;) We are all trying to help people make healthier choices (directly or indirectly) in our own ways.

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Follow Friday: @Evergreen_RD

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Back on track with the RD Follow Fridays for the penultimate Friday in Nutrition Month. This week I’d like to suggest you follow the fabulous Marianne Bloudoff of BC. Like me, she took a meandering path to a career in dietetics. Unlike me, she had a cool career in fisheries management before heading back to uni to study dietetics in order to combine her love for both science and nutrition.

Much like me, again, she ended up moving away from the ocean to work in public health. She’s currently employed as a population health dietitian with the Northern Health Authority and is the regional lead for food security. The region being the entire northern half of the province. She’s a regular contributor to the Northern Health Matters blog.

I got to find out some other cool facts about Marianne when I told her I wanted to write a post on her. Like, did you know that she competed for Australia in synchronized skating at the world championships?? How cool is that?! On a less cool note, she’s one of those unfortunate souls who dislikes cilantro :(

You can find Marianne blogging at Evergreen Eats or follow her on various social medias… She’s on twitter as @Evergreen_RD where you can find her posting about nutrition, recipes, politics, and whatever else strikes her fancy. On Instagram as @Evergreen_RD where she primarily posts gorgeous food photos. On Facebook as (nope, she fooled you!) EvergreeneatsRD where she shares lots of food porn and recipes and I’m getting hungry writing this post. Last but not least, for the dog lovers out there, you can follow her French Bulldog Barley on Instagram too @barley_thefrenchie.

Do you know an amazing RD who should be featured in a future Follow Friday post? Get at me!


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Follow Friday: @fatnutritionist

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This week I’m telling you all that you should follow Michelle Allison (aka @fatnutritionist). That is, if you don’t already.

Michelle is a dietitian in Toronto who is a strong advocate for loving your body, no matter its size, and for being friends with food. She has the best twitter rants. I also really admire that she’s been using her platform on twitter to advocate for resistance in the US.

You can also find Michelle at thefatnutritionist.com.

Do you know a dietitian who I should feature in a future Follow Friday post? Let me know in the comments, via twitter, or email.


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Follow Friday: @EmKyleNutrition

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Nominated by last week’s Follow Friday, Deanna Segrave-Daly, this week’s RD to follow is Emily Kyle. Emily is a Holistic Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Don’t let the “holistic” fool you, she’s an RDN with a Master’s in science. Emily’s all about helping her clients get “healthy and happy without ever having to diet again”. A sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.

You can follow Emily on Twitter at @EmKyleNutrition where she shares loads of drool-worthy nutritious recipes. You can also find her at Emily Kyle Nutrition where she blogs about popular nutrition topics, shares recipes, and can be reached if you wish to work with her. You can also find her on Facebook at (you guessed it) EmilyKyleNutrition.

Do you know an RD you think should be featured in a Follow Friday post? Let me know in the comments below or via twitter or email.

 


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Follow Friday: @tspbasil

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This week’s RD to follow is Deanna Segrave-Daly, nominated by last week’s Mary Brighton. Deanna’s a dietitian in Philadelphia who loves bread, cheese, and Prosecco. In addition to cofounding Blog Brulee (an annual dietitian blogger conference) and Recipe Redux (a challenge whereby participating RDs give recipes makeovers to improve their nutritional profile while keeping them flavourful) she also blogs at Teaspoon of Spice with fellow dietitian Serena Ball.

When I asked Deanna what she’d like me to share with you, she asked that I tell you about their Healthy Kitchen Hack series. In this series, they feature tips to help you “save time, be more confident with your cooking and make your meals more nutritious and delicious”. They share these tips regularly on their blog and you can also sign-up for extra kitchen hacks via email. A few topics they’ve covered in the past include the easiest way to remove seeds from a pomegranate, how to make homemade protein powder, and how to stop parchment paper from curling-up.

You can follow Deanna on twitter at @tspbasil for lots of great recipes and cooking tips.

If you know a dietitian who I should feature on the blog, please send me a nomination!