Would you trust a Dietitian?
It seems pretty straight forward right:
Plumbing issues - call a plumber
Car issues - call a mechanic
Tooth issues - call a dentist
But diet issues…..
Call a friend, a parent, a magazine, a naturopath, a GP, a personal trainer, a wellness coach, a health coach, an ayurvedic healer, a yogi, a vegan on instagram, a celebrity…….oh and then maybe, just maybe, a dietitian.
How come dietitian's are not the go-to when it comes to dealings with diet? I am seriously asking your opinion here.
Now, no disrespect to the professions mentioned above, I do my best not to be biased or judgemental, and this post comes purely out of curiosity rather than defensiveness. If you've seen someone other than a dietitian to change your diet or received advice and it has worked for you and hasn't caused you any harm, than that's totally cool. The more healthy people on this planet, the better.
However, Accredited Practising Dietitian's complete a minimum of 4 years at university. They learn about chemistry, biology, physiology, food science, food sociology, human nutrition, biomedical science, nutrients, disease, exercise physiology, health on a national scale, health on an individual scale, health for general wellness, and clinical treatments to keep you alive when disease has hit hard e.g. cancer and stroke. Some may even dabble in psychology.
Sounds like we know our stuff, right?
So why would you choose someone else over seeing one of us?
Is it because we aren't as exciting as the more alternative ways to get nutrition information?
Is it because it's embarrassing talking about our eating habits to someone who we don't know, and feel might be judging us as a "bad" human?
It can't be because we are too expensive - lord knows those less qualified are charging just as much, if not more.
Is it because we seem to clinical? Too out of touch of what's happening in the real world?
Is it because we spend our days inside GP clinics, hospitals, food companies, and government public health offices that we seem unapproachable?
Why is it that a nutritionist who, by law, can actually have no qualifications to call themselves one, be seen as the expert, and a lot of people not even know what a dietitian does?
Do not enough of us look like we practise what we preach?
Is there a concern that what we learnt at uni is outdated and we need to get with the times?
Full disclosure here - If you are on this blog, you are probably aware that I am an Accredited Practising Dietitian. If not, now you know. I did the four years, and I have had experience in clinical, community, research and food industry areas of Dietetics.
I am however, a little different to the average dietitian, I consume a whole food diet 95% of the time with minimal grains, am open to paleo and primal diets, and I have first-hand experience with an irritable bowel, food intolerance and the symptoms faced when you eat 'healthy' but still get no relief.
Like many of you, I've tested the boundaries of a healthy diet, and some not so healthy dieting practices; I've tried expensive supplements, tonics and prayed that symptoms would just disappear on its own.
I know the awkwardness when you are desperate for a bathroom, and it's close to where everyone is hanging out, or it's a filthy public toilet and you simply have no choice! I know having a few tops on hand that are nice and loose for the days where you stomach refuses to look anything flatter than 6 months pregnant; and the days where you wish you could lay in bed all day because even the thought of rolling out of bed requires too much energy.
The standard prescribed Australian Healthy Eating guidelines doesn't work for every body. Of course other dietitians know this too, it's a guideline. If we wrote a guide for all the different people and diets and circumstances in the world, we would run out of paper pretty quick! That's why there are so many of us working to help you individually to find the best kind of diet to suit your very own body. There is no one diet fits all approach.
I feel maybe this is where people get confused. We have guidelines and ethics to follow that are publicly promoted to the general population making it sound like we all just say the same thing over and over. That's because in order for us to safely practice, we must first do no harm and always rely on strong scientific evidence. Hence why many of us sound repetitive when it comes to what we promote as a whole: a diet containing all the food groups, good variety, plenty of vegetables and fruit, adequate protein and moderate fat. Treats in moderation and minimal alcohol. Let's be honest. Sounds kinda boring.
But that's where the similarity of what we preach ends. Many dietitian's specialise in a field. They are experts in sports nutrition, paediatric (child) nutrition, heart disease, liver disease, cancer, diabetes, eating disorders, food allergy, food intolerance, vegetarian and vegan diets, and so on… Typically these dietitians have a strong linkage to these topics - they have first hand experience, or are simply fascinated by it. Whatever it is, you'd be crazy not to trust them in their ability to help you to manage your diet. You just have to find the right one that relates to you.
I'll let you in on a secret - even dietitians sometimes don't agree with each other and what they believe or promote. Different opinions, experiences, lifestyles, research and beliefs all play a role in determining dietary beliefs. This is no different for a dietitian. We are still human, live in the same places as you do, and have the same daily tasks and interruptions that make eating healthy a challenge. But there is one thing we all can agree on. Food is truly natures preventative medicine. It is powerful beyond our understanding, and ensuring we are providing nutrition information to individuals that is going to benefit and enhance their life, according to their personal goals and circumstances, is what we live to do.
So tell me please,
would you trust a Dietitian?