The holidays are a time for family, so today’s interview is with my cousin Emily! Emily is a registered dietitian nutritionist and her advice has really helped improve a lot of my symptoms from both endometriosis and IBS.
We go way back.
Now, I know it’s the holidays and you’re probably thinking “don’t give me the “eat right” spiel now, I’m already in the middle of a Starbucks holiday drink and these gingerbread men are literally hot out of the oven, just let me live!” I feel you. The good news is that this isn’t a post that’s going to make you feel guilty or that’s going to insist you make kale gingerbread men this year or anything like that.
This post is about dietitians, a medical professional that you may not have thought to seek out. My doctors will often tell me to “focus on eating healthy meals” or “try less dairy” or “you need more protein,” but they’ve never referred me to a dietitian. I have no idea why! Chatting with Emily gave me specifics on what to eat and why. She gave me tools to use instead of blanket statements like “eat right.” We all know what food is “healthy” and what food isn’t, but most of us don’t know what foods do what for our systems.
But enough about what a dietitian has done for me. What can a dietitian do for you?
Emily, what exactly is a dietitian/nutritionist?
Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN) are food and nutrition experts who help navigate and apply the science of nutrition into practical practices for a healthy lifestyle. To become an RDN, one must complete a 4-year Bachelor Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics or Master’s program from an accredited University followed by or joined with an extensive 1,200+ hour dietetic internship. Once this education is complete, we sit for the registration examination. Passing this allows us to obtain the credentials, RDN.
*Quick side note: It is important to note that “nutritionist” and “dietitian” are not always interchangeable. If the above requirements have not been met, one cannot label themselves a dietitian. When choosing a healthcare provider, it is important to identify background education and credentials to ensure you receive adequate, science-based information.
What made you decide to become one?
When I began college, I really started to get into cooking, physical activity, health, etc. As I explored various career options I learned about registered dietitians and what the job entailed. I realized I could make a living doing something I love and help others!
Since then, I have truly come to appreciate the practicality of nutrition and health. It applies to every living being! I love helping individuals and families navigate the sometimes confusing world of food and nutrition, and making the best choices for their lifestyle!
Who can benefit from working with a dietitian?
Anyone who consumes food can benefit from working with a dietitian! But in all seriousness, whether it is a mom who wants to make sure she is providing balanced meals for her family, an individual with weight loss goals, or maybe even someone who is on a tube feeding or experiencing gastrointestinal issues, a dietitian can be a huge benefit!
How can someone find a dietitian? (Do you need referrals, insurance, etc?)
A great resource for finding an RDN in your area is to visit: http://www.eatright.org/find-an-expert
All practices may be different, at Lemond Nutrition we receive a large number of referrals from doctors, however, it is not required. Individuals may contact us on their own and we will have an appointment set up. In regards to insurance, again, all practices are different. At Lemond Nutrition, we do accept insurance. It is best to contact the dietitian/company you plan to work with and ask what their set-up and requirements are.
How can a dietitian help someone with a chronic illness that isn’t digestive-system-based?
As I am sure anyone with a chronic illness or certain disease state can attest to, there is not usually a “one-size-fits-all” treatment or diet that will magically work across the spectrum. Meeting with an RDN allows individuals to discuss their lifestyle and eating habits, letting the dietitian make adjustments or additions as they see fit for that particular person in lines with the most current science-based practices. Dietitians can assess macro and micronutrient intake to ensure all nutritional requirements are met, eliminating any nutritional shortfalls.
What kind of difference can diet make that medication can’t? Can diet replace other treatments in some cases?
Food is powerful! Just as an example- let’s look at those with high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels. While some are more prone to these conditions genetically, nutrition therapy put into practice has shown that consistent modifications in diet and lifestyle can lower cholesterol and blood pressure and the impending risks that come with those conditions. While medication absolutely has a role in treating certain illnesses and conditions, it is important to not underestimate the value and importance of taking care of our bodies with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Is a dietitian just for extreme diets, like gluten-free, sugar-free, paleo, etc?
That is a great question! Short answer- absolutely not! Dietitians can assist those wanting to increase vegetable intake or help a child who is a picky eater, all the way to those with extreme food allergies or rare/specific nutritional needs.
How has being a dietitian impacted your own life/diet?
As a dietitian, I constantly think about food- which is a good and a bad thing! I strive to practice what I preach. Most recently, being a dietitian has impacted the way I feed my son, Denton, who is one and a half. He is a toddler, so naturally he has occasional picky eating tendencies or prefers the sweeter, less nourishing options. Rather than focusing on one certain food or food group, I make efforts to provide balanced and nourishing meals daily. I follow the MyPlate meal set up at each meal, exposing him to fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. Anything we miss at meals, we incorporate into snacks.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Without a doubt, my favorite part of being a dietitian is working with clients from all walks of life. No client is ever the same as the next, so it is always exciting and challenging to individualize nutrition therapy to that particular person. I love hearing their stories and joining in on their journey to the healthiest version of themselves- physically/nutritionally, spiritually, emotionally!
What do you wish more people knew about your job?
For me personally, I wish more people understood the thought process and the importance of science-based nutrition therapy for every part of the life cycle. I think there is sometimes a fear associated with food and worry that a dietitian is going to restrict food or limit food groups.
As a dietitian, my goal is to show people what they CAN eat, rather than focusing on what they CANNOT eat, no matter the circumstance! I want people to enjoy food and enjoy life to their fullest potential.
Emily works with Lemond Nutrition (lemondnutrition.com) – be sure to check out their website and blog for tons of useful info on diet and nutrition!