A Day in the Life of a Dietitian
Are you thinking of seeing a dietitian?
When I first became a dietitian, people would ask me, “What does a dietitian do? Don’t they send food to sick patients in the hospital?” Back then I would go into great detail to explain what we really do, but now, I just reply with, “We change lives.” I feel confident in stating this because dietitians make a positive difference in people’s lives every day and help people overcome what they perceive as barriers to healthier living. We empower individuals with the tools and skills they need to make long-lasting, positive lifestyle changes. We inspire people to become their better selves by being good listeners, coaches, and support systems. All this is managed while offering science-based nutrition advice that also encourages daily activity, adequate sleep, drinking water, life balance, and of course, eating well. If you are thinking this is a tall order, you are right. Clients come to us in vulnerable states, eager to find someone they can trust with their health and for guidance on how to feel better, lose weight, improve blood work results, alleviate symptoms, and improve outcomes, among many other reasons.
Most times a dietitian plays a dual role of nutrition expert and therapist of sorts. We look at the whole person and everything going on, not just one condition. Humans are complicated; we don’t just have diabetes or just cancer or just heart disease. People present to the office with a list of conditions and life dynamics, and I have to figure out the best approach to manage it all. In the end, the prescription a dietitian provides is one of evidence-based nutrition that uses the approach of lifestyle as medicine. There is not one condition that nutrition does not impact. Therefore food-as-medicine is what health professionals should promote as part of treatment.
So what happens in a typical day of a dietitian when seeing patients?
I may start my day with a woman who has been suffering from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) for years and I provide her with guidelines and a diet plan that will alleviate symptoms that have been affecting her quality of life for far too long.
After that I may get a pregnant woman expecting her first baby who just found out she has gestational diabetes (diabetes with pregnancy). On top of everything going on in her body and her life, she now has to learn to manage her blood sugars in order to ensure healthy baby and mother outcomes.
Client appointments could range from diabetes management to nutrition during cancer treatment, or just a mom wanting to know how to feed her family while juggling the demands of life. The range of conditions is wide, from heart health to eating disorders, but all require core concepts: behavioral modification, lifestyle changes, and a positive outlook and a commitment for long-term success.
The rest of the time in a dietitian’s day may be centered around nutrition counseling, keeping up with studies and research, and of course reading up on the latest fad or trend. It is our job to stay abreast of science as well as what social media is touting as the latest, greatest diet in order to best relate and help our clients sift through false claims and identify what is valid information.
So if you are thinking of seeing a dietitian, I strongly recommend it—even if you aren’t “sick.” Registered Dietitian Nutritionists possess a wealth of health and nutrition knowledge definitely worth tapping into. They will treat the whole person and provide you with realistic, achievable goals that you create together and work on step by step along the way.