Something I have found, especially in social situations, is that the minute you tell people you are studying nutrition and dietetics or are a dietitian an onslaught of assumptions and embarrassment ensues…especially when food and drink are present. In fact I worked as a waitress for a while whilst studying, and really tried hard to avoid getting into the awkward conversation with chatty customers of what I am studying, not because I would care what they ordered as their meal, but because I could see they really thought I would be judging them!
Typical responses include “Oh I won’t tell you what I had for dinner then!”, “Don’t look!”, “I usually eat better than this”, “You’d have a field day with me!”, “Is this ok to eat?” or “I’ll have whatever you’re having as it must be healthy”.
Come on! We are people just like anyone else, we don’t eat perfectly all the time, we don’t stick to the advice all the time. We love fatty foods, sugary foods, takeaways, alcohol and comfort eating as much as anyone else. And we wont judge you for doing the same!
After all, we love food, or we wouldn’t be in the field of dietetics! We have to talk about food allllll day, and that would make the most healthy eater want to turn to a piece of cake! (or two)
So here are the top ten myths I have come across in my short but varied career:
1. Dietitians only know about weight loss
A common assumption is that dietitians only help people lose weight, and I find the degree is sometimes thought of as not being that hard for that reason. In fact we know soooo much more about many medical conditions, and the degree is really hard! We have to know how to recognise anomalies in blood results and what that might mean, know much medical terminology, know many different biological pathways and systems, know different drugs and their uses, have a good grasp of maths and different calculations, be able to psychologically assess and counsel patients…and the list goes on!!
2. Dietitians are the same as nutritionists
Nope! As covered in a post a few days back there are many things which set us apart from nutritionists. We hold the only legally recognised graduate qualification in nutrition and dietetics in the UK, and must be on the Health and Care Professions Council register to be able to practice. Our training includes three separate clinical placements, and therefore we learn much about the medical use of nutrition.
3. Dietitians only eat super healthy foods and never eat junk food
Completely wrong! When I started my degree I was so worried that I would be surrounded by peers only eating salad for lunch and constantly obsessing about food, and my ‘normal’ eating habits of a bit of whatever I fancied would be looked down upon. However I was very happy to find, in fact on my first day at uni after sitting with some of the girls and one ordering cheesy garlic bread for her lunch, that this was not that case! We are a completely normal bunch and love both bad and good foods 🙂
4. Dietitians are scary and judgemental to your diet
See above! We are completely normal, and accept everyone else is too. We all have weaknesses around food, and all go through stages where we may emotionally eat more than we should. This is normal, and we will not judge, after all if you are seeking help with us then it is our job to help – and well done you for asking for help!
5. Dietitians know the big secret to weight loss
There is no big secret I’m afraid. We don’t all get whisked away to a remote building where we are told the secret which is kept under lock and key. It is purely eating less and doing more. What we can do however is to make this realistic and achievable to you and your lifestyle, provide solutions and answers, and assess and help you along the way.
6. Dietitians are all skinny
Nope, like with any profession there are all sorts of shapes and sizes. And isn’t is more reassuring to see a normal sized dietitian than a scarily thin one!
7. Dietitians think nutrition is the answer to everything
Wouldn’t that be lovely, but unfortunately it is not true. It can help you lower your risk of certain diseases, but cannot completely prevent them, and in most cases it cannot stand in the way of conventional medicine. It can however set you up for a healthy immune system and hopefully a happier, more energetic life, where if you are faced with disease or illness you are in a far better situation to deal with it.
8. Dietitians will assess your plate
We are too busy with ours and enjoying our food…we will not judge!
9. Dietitians know the calorie, macro- and micro-nutrient content of all foods
We are not memory magicians! Across the board some of us will know more about the contents of foods just through individual lifestyle, but this is not something drummed into us at university. We will know a general estimation of the different foods, but our brains our filled with so much more useful information we can look some of the finer things up.
10. Dietitians’ will just make you eat more fruit and vegetables
As much as we would love everyone to meet that 5-a-day recommendation, this is not our main priority for a lot of people. Especially when it comes to people wanting advice on coeliac disease, allergies, intolerances or disease for example, our main priority would be managing the condition, not worrying about you not eating your vegetables! As said before, we will not judge you whatever your eating habit may be.
The above myths are obviously from my experiences, and may not to be to everyone’s opinion! Let me know if you think of anything else or don’t agree 🙂