I've advised others on what to eat for more than 20 years. There may be a few insights I've learned that might help someone just like YOU.
Let’s pretend next month you and I meet for the first time at a local party. When I mention that I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, do you:
A) Confess to me that you really should be trying to lose weight
B) Ask me what I think of the Nutri-bullet
C) Screech “Don’t look at what I’m eating!” OR “I don’t normally eat this!”
I'd like to share some silly observations we often hear about our profession.
No, we are not the food police. We will not yell at you for what you’re choosing to eat. Sometimes when I’m done with a medical nutrition therapy appointment with a new client they’ll state, “Wow! This was really helpful!” OR “This wasn’t what I expected.” Although some people feel like they need a drill sergeant verbally criticizing them for each and every bite, that’s not a pleasant nor long-lasting method to change your eating habits. What you eat doesn’t affect me. I will help you learn about better nutrition, but my work day would certainly be a complete downer if I had to criticize everyone!
Dietitians love all types of food. Most of us entered our profession because we love to eat and whip up a great meal, but we also want to make the right choices to stay healthy and fit as long as possible. Dietitians come in all different shapes and sizes, but we are typically mindful eaters who avoid overindulging MOST of the time. We are forever sharing food to spread the love (and the calories!). We’re certainly not perfect eaters though and we’re tempted to eat chocolate and other goodies just as often as you are. When we do make dietary mistakes we don’t pour on the guilt though. Every bite is just a choice. Life’s short and there are many ways to have a healthy diet.
We actually practice what we preach. New friends are often shocked when they find out that I’ve always struggled with my weight. I can clearly remember sitting in the grass on a sunny day planning out a healthy menu from a health class text book… when I was in 4th grade! Many of us maintain an appropriate weight and health status by doing exactly what we recommend to our clients: practice moderation, get regular physical activity, limit added sugar, and consistently meet your minimum vegetable and fruit servings. There is no magic diet or pill or we would be the first to tell you about it!
We start where you are. I once had a student with me who was surprised I didn’t talk to one client about high fructose corn syrup. The man had not eaten a single vegetable in two weeks, he drank no water, and every meal contained an item fried in oil. He wasn’t at the point that he was meeting even the basic intake of whole foods needed for health.
While I can talk about organic, antioxidant filled, locally grown, gluten-free options for my clients, I also can also help a person who eats every meal at a fast food location. Unlike some individuals who latch onto the latest diet, praising it’s benefits, and touting that everyone will feel best on this plan, RDNs are able to adapt recommendations to what our clients want and desire for their own personal health goals, despite our private opinions and beliefs. As licensed healthcare providers, we can assess and educate on how individuals can improve their diet in large or small steps that they are willing to take to achieve better health.
We actually talk more often to people who aren’t interested in eating healthy than those that enjoy our passion for beneficial food. Clinical dietitians who work in a hospital visit patient after patient with every type of illness and tailor the offered counseling to an individual’s personal medical issues. BUT, we really wish that you would change your eating & exercise habits BEFORE getting a major medical condition. Every meal is a chance to try to do your best.
And last, but not least, if we are on our free time we are NOT checking out your weight or looking at what you’re eating! So, when you see me at the party or the gym I probably will be the one wearing the t-shirt with the joking headline that says “Food Police.”
As a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, you can find me on social media providing fun ways to stay healthy!
I am one of the managers behind the #EatrightPA blog of the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. You can check our great message here:
STEFANSKI NUTRITION SERVICES is located in lovely York, PA