So Friday was Dietitian’s day. One whole day dedicated to my fabulous profession. A day where social media feeds were over run with the hashtag #DieitiansDay2015, dietitian puns & just a whole bunch of praise for why we love what we do. I think that’s pretty cool.
This post was meant to be for our day, however plans quickly changed and I started my new job this week. So instead of writing this post, I spent my Dietitian’s day organising my new office, finding my dietitian stickers, redoing outpatient nutrition assessment forms and planning my first group education workshop (!!!).
I’ve definitely found my little niche in the world and I feel absolutely blessed to be part of such a wonderful profession. I have met some wonderful, inspirational people along the way. The ever-supportive lecturers and clinical teachers from Deakin. My various supervisors from placements, who were an absolute wealth of knowledge. Plus the big blogging players who have come in and out during my different endeavours. Emma Stirling, who has just celebrated FIVE (!!!) years of Scoop Nutrition and launched the fabulous new blog directory – Storehouse (check this one out!), the witty Tim Crowe, social media guru Teri Lictenstein and co-founder of the Moderation Movement, Zoe Nicholson. Then there are my fellow baby Dietitians Jenna, Ashley, and Jess.
I’m sorry if I have not mentioned you, but we probably have not actually spoken in actual I–could-reach-out-and-touch-your-face person. And, look we probably won’t for a while because you’ll be that dietitian from Instagram and I’ll be speechless. (Who would have thought?) However, I still think you are all pretty fabulous.
I love being a dietitian. We all love being Dietitians. But I’ll tell you what, sometimes it’s these things that can grind our nutritional gears.
“You are the food police”
A common myth, but no we don’t get a shiny silver badge.
Yes, there are some days where I do my best to hold a poker face when I walk through the supermarket. Some days I want to cringe when potatoes & onions are the only unprocessed products in a shopping trolley. But I would never approach someone and tell him or her about the contents of their trolley. It’s totally inappropriate. There are boundaries, and unless asked or it’s part of my job, then no. However even then, you won’t hear me telling you to never eat something.
“Please don’t judge me. I know I shouldn’t be eating this but…”
Why shouldn’t you? Because that food is ‘bad’?
First of all, no one single food is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Yes eating certain foods (aka processed, refined, full of sugar-fat-sodium, ingredient-list-longer-than-arm foods) on a regular basis is not great for you. But that one single chocolate chip cookie will not give you cancer. Food is not a moral issue, and all types of food can fit within a healthy diet. Balance, moderation and being mindful are what’s important.
Secondly, so you’ve decided to order the parma (note. not parmy) and chips for dinner. Do you do that every day? I don’t know. One meal or snack does not provide any information of the context of your overall diet. Besides, we’re out for dinner and celebrating something special – do I really care about what’s on your plate and what you are putting into your mouth.
“I guess you would be eating something ‘healthy’ then”
Because Dietitians don’t eat cake?
It’s debatable as to whether I should even mention this, but people just don’t seem to get it.
Yes, we are self-confessed nutrition nerds and forever praising the goodness of fruits and vegetables (and grains!) for our health. But we also love food, which considering we talk about it all the time, is probably a good thing. So yes, we do eat cake. You’ll see me enjoying a slice of homemade flourless chocolate cake or a scoop of Gelato Messina with friends. But you probably won’t see me sitting down every day to a slice of supermarket mud cake or scoop of homebrand ice-cream.
It’s important to remember that healthy eating isn’t just about the foods that go into your mouth or being 100% perfect all the time. It’s also about having a healthy relationship with food. Food plays such a large part in our lives – culture, love, celebrations, religion, sadness – and it’s important that we can participate in these fabulous times and enjoy the deliciousness without the guilt. Everything is okay in moderation. There’s that word again. It may not be fad-diet, tribe-like sexy, but a movement is happening and we’d love to have you on board.
“I need to lose weight. Can you please write me a meal plan”
Yeah no worries. So for breakfast, let’s have some Greek yoghurt, blueberries and some muesli. For lunch, a roast vegetable & quinoa salad, and for dinner steamed fish with half a cup of cooked brown rice & vegetables. Snack on another tub of yoghurt, one banana & 30g nuts. How does that sound?
In your head you’re thinking: ‘Greek yoghurt, ah yuck…what the heck is quinoa? How do I cook it?…But I don’t have time to roast vegetables’.
There is so much to consider when you ‘write a meal plan’. Do you like to cook? Wait, can you cook? Who do you cook for? Who cooks for you? What are your work hours? What facilities are available at work for you to use? What foods do you like? What’s your food budget like? Do you do the shopping? What are you currently eating? Do you have an oven?
I can’t just quickly ‘write you a meal plan’ and you can go on your merry way to a healthy, leaner lifestyle. You can, however, see a dietitian who will ask you these questions. Where you can work with them to identify small changes that are realistic, and individualised, and will over time help you become a healthier person. Small steps that don’t come with the overwhelming sense of having to start eating unflavoured Greek yoghurt for breakfast instead of your usual bacon & egg mcmuffin, and eat foods that you can’t even pronounce.
“Nutritionist, Dietitian – same thing”
No, there is a difference. And during a time where several social-media-famous nutrition ‘experts’ are causing their own individual ruckus, I think this is exceptionally important.
Anyone can call himself or herself a nutritionist, as there is no specific authority assessing the qualifications to use this title. The Nutrition Society of Australia, however, has developed a voluntary Register of Nutritionists where if you have received an approved level of training, you can join if you wish. This list acts as a source of information for those individuals who are seeking advice on nutrition.
But what about being a dietitian? The main difference is that in addition to qualifications in human nutrition, we have undertaken a course of study that included substantiated theory and supervised and assess professional practical in clinical nutrition, medical nutrition therapy and food service management. So for me that was 18 months which included 10 weeks managing patients in the acute and subacute hospital settings, 4 weeks surveying 160 patients to determine issues with the food service system that potentially impact on an individuals nutrition status, and seven weeks in community health completing a quality improvement project and delivering a nutrition education workshops to refugees.
I’m really proud to say that I have done the time, have the knowledge and can call myself a Dietitian.
Happy belated Dietitians day!
p.s. Oh, and btw, in Australia it’s dietitian, not dietician. (Or dietition).