I’m going to level with you…
The truth is that I’ve become somewhat resentful about becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN).
“Why?”, you ask? I’ll get to that, but first let me explain why and how I began this journey in the first place…
The reality is that I decided to become an RDN because of my own personal health struggles and the benefits that I experienced from making lifestyle changes, particularly around food.
At 18 years old I was diagnosed with a chronic kidney disease, IGA nephropathy. I was your typical teenager living off Mountain Dew, Sprees, Cheetos and whatever junk food I could score from whatever fast food place I was working at.
I felt like crap every day and I had NO energy…
Hence the Big Gulp fountain Mountain Dew first thing every morning along with some Sprees to hijack my metabolism and get me through the day.
I got pregnant shortly after being diagnosed with IGA nephropathy and became extremely ill (yes, I was only 18 years old and did I mention I didn’t have health insurance? Oh yeah, that part!).
I lost a lot of weight early on in my pregnancy and at 118 pounds I didn’t really have any weight to spare. I was dependent on IV support to supply my baby and body the nutrition it needed for the first half of my pregnancy.
Needless to say, it was a very frightening experience. It became even more terrifying when shortly after the birth of my healthy 8.6-pound baby girl, my nephrologist informed me that dialysis or a kidney transplant would be in my near future and advised me that I shouldn’t have any more children to ensure my long-term health.
I knew that none of those options were going to work for me (especially since I didn’t have health insurance), and I knew I had to figure this shit out, and quick.
This is where my LONG journey to become a dietitian started…
I began going to the library (yes, I didn’t have the luxury of Google at the time, which was probably a blessing and a curse!) I was desperate to discover the magic potion to feel better and change my current fate.
To make a long story short, as I started researching and attempting the things I was learning in my everyday life, I started feeling better…and as I felt better, I was inspired to learn more, so I did!
I decided to pursue an education in dietetics so that I could legally practice medical nutritional therapy and help people who were just like me. I was required to get my Bachelor of Science in Dietetics (this means I had to take a crapload of science classes, I will spare you the long list of prerequisites)
**Umm side note…did I mention that my cumulative GPA in high school was a 1.7?? So yeah, that meant I had to spend a TON of time studying and being tutored to ensure I could withstand the competitive academic environment that I had thrown myself into. Why did I do this to myself? Oh, yes, because I was passionate and believed in the evidence-based principles and strategies I was learning to live a healthy lifestyle, so it was totally worth all the sacrifice! Or so I thought…
I finally completed my grueling and extremely competitive undergraduate degree and graduated with high honors and Suma Cum Laude with a 3.97 GPA (this is where I take a bow of recognition, thank you).
Not only did I complete the program, but I also took it a step further!
In the following eighteen months, I achieved a Master of Art in Multidisciplinary Health Communications (fancy way of saying “I study behavior”) and successfully completed 1400+ hours of supervised practice to finally move to the final phase, which was qualifying to take my registered dietitian board exam.
In all honesty, by the time it came to take my boards exam I was completely run down, tired, exhausted and physically ill from trying to be superwoman over the last seven years. When it came time to study I would just fall asleep no matter how hard I tried to stay awake.
I mean in my defense it wasn’t like I didn’t want to finish, but being a single mom, working a fulltime job nights and weekends while completing my master’s program and doing my supervised practice hours, it basically came down to sleep or studying…my intentions were in the right place, but my body needed sleep.
So, the dreaded day came to take my boards and I had not successfully completed one study session, but I still had to face my fate. I took the test (without proper preparation might I add) and I passed…OMG I passed!!! It was over, I had finally achieved what I set out to do so many years earlier, I f*cking did it!
I honestly can’t express to you the emotions that overcame me in this glorifying moment…it was accompanied with what looked like convulsions but was my version of a “happy dance” all the way to my car with tears of joy streaming from my eyes.
So, NOW ask me why I have resentment for even deciding to become a Dietitian?!
Well in short, it took me 7 years of nonstop commitment and sacrifice to jump through all the academic obstacles required to legally practice medical nutrition therapy. I’m currently $82,000 in student loan debt and the sad part is that most of my undergraduate expenses were paid for with academic scholarships.
I had to work 1400+ hours of service in different settings without being compensated financially (Yes, your math is correct, that was 40 hours a week for 35 weeks or basically 9 months of my life, for free, while still having to pay my bills and take care of my girls). I sacrificed going to social events, opting to study instead of dating or having any kind of balanced life.
I couldn’t spend quality time with my family over the course of seven years to ensure that I was academically competitive, this was a real challenge for me and required a lot of personal sacrifice and left me with an immense amount of guilt. This is just a glimpse, the agonizing details that unfolded over this seven-year journey can truly only be felt by someone going through the process…it’s intense.
But the truth is, it’s not the money, or the hours spent working, or the sacrifices I made that make me resent being a dietitian…what makes me resent it is this:
I flip through the pages of Inc. 500 magazine and scroll through my Instagram feed and I cannot even begin to tell you how frustrated it makes me to see these so-called “health gurus” grossing millions of dollars for their health and wellness websites, and they don’t have any formal training when it comes to nutrition. However, people are buying up their products and services without any question!
There are countless likes on every social media platform and hooves of people flocking to these unqualified practitioners in hopes of their health and wellness problems being resolved. It pisses me off that people will believe all the hype surrounding fad diets but question the practical evidenced-based advice that dietitians have to offer.
It infuriates me that a close friend or family member will take to heart what “Body Building Bob” says they need to do to lose body fat because his biceps are bulging, but they will argue all day and night with me about my suggestions when it comes to losing fat the healthy way.
I feel that it’s often an endless battle trying to “prove” that we dietitians are the real experts when it comes to metabolism, and don’t even get me started on financial compensation for our expertise…
The health and wellness sector is a multibillion dollar industry and people don’t think twice about throwing money at the next “miracle” supplement or a so called “health guru’s” quick fix plan, but somehow they won’t invest in themselves by working with a qualified registered dietitian to get them where they need to go to ensure healthy behavior change!
Not to mention, they watch themselves and others fail over and over and over again with “diets” and “cleanses” and “juices”, but yet they continue to buy into whatever fad is coming around the corner instead of stopping and asking themselves what the real problem is…seriously?!
I see so many people out there who are desperate just like I was to be healthy, but the difference between me and them is that I took the time, energy, effort and resources required to obtain an education that focused on evidence-based practices that support a healthy lifestyle to get where I am today, and for that I’m extremely proud.
I don’t resent taking the time and energy to successfully pursue this career, what I resent is the lack of respect and understanding for what it is that we do, and how much we really know and can help. What I resent is that after all I went through, there are millions of people out there who are PAINFULLY mistaken when they think that nutrition and health can be solved by a “quick fix”.
If quick fixes worked, they wouldn’t put dietitians through 7-10 years of schooling to teach us how to help you.
Nutrition is NOT a 3-week certification you found online…
It’s not listening to someone who has toned muscles and a nice booty just because they look good…
It’s not eating more and exercising less…
And it’s certainly not a quick and easy fix.
What it is, is honest-to-god hard work…but the good news is that I’ve done most of it for you.
I pursed this career because I know what’s it’s like to be where you are…desperately seeking information and wanting to feel better but you just don’t know where to turn. I spent years, countless hours, and thousands of dollars to figure it out, all so that YOU don’t have to.
So, when you are done trying out all the latest fad diets, miracle pills, and quick fixes… I will be patiently waiting over here until you’re ready for the real nutrition expert to guide you back to a healthy lifestyle that works for you.