"It’s not all about weight" and other Dietetic bugbears

by Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Posted on Jul 17, 12:31 PM in . No comments.

I love being a Dietitian. Really I do. I can honestly say I’ve never regretted my career choice or hankered for another in the whole time I’ve been practising. Sure, there have been some good days and bad but I’d always stick to my choice to be a Dietitian.
But is it all a bed of roses? (Pull your socks up if you are thinking of the chocolates now, tut tut). Not always, there are some frustrations that Dietitians encounter most days as in any profession. If I had to list the great things about being a Dietitian, it would be a pretty long list. There are only a few bugbears about living as a Dietitian , thank goodness, and I thought I’d note them down.

Here are my top 3 bugbears

1. People thinking “its all about weight”.

I sometimes find that point when people ask me what I do, a little uncomfortable. Firstly, I am, as mentioned before, a Dietitian on the heavy side so I get a combination of a quizzical look at me followed by a quick “Oh you could tell me how to get rid of this belly”, or something to that effect. There are always comments about weight loss diets but not much about many of the other conditions Dietitians treat with diet. I do see people for weight management and always have but, in fact, some Dietitians don’t even see many clients for weight reduction given the resources and time they need to have to manage weight well. That or they actually specialise in something entirely different. So what else do we do? You name it and there is probably a dietary treatment for it.

You may be speaking to a specialist in any of the following areas when you chat to a Dietitian:

Autism, lipid lowering, diabetes, stroke, renal/kidney disease, allergies, paediatrics, tube feeding and Intensive Care treatment, antenatal care, geriatric medicine, eating disorders, gastrointestinal complaints like crohn’s disease, IBS and ulcerative colitis, mental health, sports and performance nutrition, oncology, women’s health and surgery. Or you could be speaking to a generalist who advises on healthy eating and general well-being nutrition who will give information on fertility, skin, meal planning, recipes…the list goes on.

So please, whenever you meet one of us, remember – it’s not all about weight. We are a pretty interesting and varied bunch.

2. People thinking we are the food police or follow restrictive diets ourselves.

I was out to dinner at a pizza restaurant with a group of people once, and we decided to order a variety of shared pizzas. One of the group said “I’ll share with Anne and get the vegetarian one with her”. I was quite amused that she assumed I was a vegetarian because I am a Dietitian. I love vegetarian food and often do tend to choose vegetarian items on menus as they look good but am just a plain old ordinary omnivore . I’ve also been asked if I avoid dairy, wheat and sugar. Nope, just a good old “easy to please” eater. Most Dietitians have fairly well rounded attitudes to the foods they eat.
As for the food police, it actually makes me a bit sad that some people think Dietitians are judging what they eat in a social context and are generally negative about food. I think the main prerequisites for being a Dietitian are probably – loves people and loves food – so watching people enjoy their food and stay healthy is a pleasure. Food is about health but also about being social, celebrations, pleasure and culture and as Dietitians we have a pretty good understanding about the things that can drive people to make different food choices, good or bad. If we meet you in the supermarket or have a meal with you, don’t worry, we probably haven’t even registered what you have in your trolley or on the plate (unless you are a client and you have bought way off plan!).
Oh and we usually don’t mind our kids having a few sweets and a piece if cake at a party either…and no, junior doesnt only eat organic.

3. People believing everyone but us, despite our qualifications

This one is the craziest. Despite being well qualified and with many years of experience, I will still get people telling me all about a book they have read or a diet they have found as though it’s some great scientific revelation that Dietitians need to be told about. Mind you, I do love finding out which are the latest fad diets and ideas in the mix but what I don’t understand is why people believe wacky and way out suggestions over what they are told by Dietitians. Oh wait, but I do understand really, it’s because we offer common-sense, evidence based advice and not the magic bullet. Ok that’s boring but I’m sorry I’d rather not lie to you just to sell something or make myself look good.
Dietitians are quite well qualified, with a minimum of a 4 year degree and many (including myself) with postgraduate qualifications in nutrition/dietetics. We cover nutrition, biochemistry, physiology, medicine and disease, health promotion, research, microbiology, genetics, metabolism, dietary therapies and much more in our training. We don’t just learn Dietetics cutting out clippings from women’s magazines. Our profession is registered, regulated and audited; which means we have to prove our competence to practice and keep up to date. And yes, we can get “struck off” if we don’t comply with professional standards and codes of conduct and ethics.
So please forgive us when we get frustrated when people believe that they shouldn’t eat carbs after 3 because they read it in a magazine or that they believe Joe Bloggs, who is an ex accountant who wrote a book about “the greatest diet in town” rather than what we have to say.
Its not just from a selfish point of view, the confusion that the public have to deal with due to conflicting messages is dreadful. For your sake and ours I’d say ask a few questions when deciding who to trust

  • are they qualified?
  • are they selling anything?
  • does this advice leave out whole food groups, is it restrictive?
  • is it a rehash of old stuff?
  • who do they answer to?

Of course, these are just three bugbears that come to mind straight away and I’m sure other Dietitians could think of a million more (feel free to add some ). And then there are the bugbears to do with nutrition, diet myths, food, labelling and industry but that’s another post………

Tags: Dietitian, Quacks, Regulation, Weight Management

About the author

Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Anne is a Health Professions Council (HPC) registered dietitian (RD), an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD- Australia), a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), a member of the British Dietetic Association, The Nutrition Society and of The Dietetics Association of Australia.

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