I'm Ready to Stop Feeling Anxious About Food, so Now What?

 
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Dieting, lifestyle changes, meal plans, “eating clean,” detoxing, counting points, calories, or macros all have one thing in common: they provide external rules for you to follow. They take you away from making your own choices about what foods to eat when, from feeling and responding appropriately to your innate hunger and fullness cues, and usually from eating foods that you love. Eventually they can erode your trust in yourself around food.

Diets may work for a little while until they just don't anymore.

Despite these types of plans not working long term (80-95% of dieters regain the weight they lost within 2-5 years and 1/3 to 2/3 of those people gain even more weight than they started with)1 , many people are stuck in a cycle of seeking out diet after new diet, each one more restrictive than the last, as if it'll work this time around if you just try harder. Paradoxically, the more restrictive diet, the more out of control you eventually feel around food.

So now what? Giving up dieting without a clear plan can leave a void. After years or maybe decades of following someone else's rules about food, how are you even supposed to know how to eat anymore? You have all this so-called evidence that you can't trust yourself to eat what you want because you'll just keep eating forever. A mishmash of diet rules and self-judgment can cloud your thoughts. Food has become the enemy instead of a source of nourishment and pleasure.

It can feel really scary to step outside of diet rules and give up the control diets promise with food and your weight, but you can rebuild your relationship with food and experience the joy of eating again!

Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based behavioral model developed by the Registered Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch that helps people get away from dieting and disordered eating patterns and develop a healthy relationship with food and body. To date, there are over 100 studies on intuitive eating showing many benefits, including

  • higher self-esteem

  • body appreciation and acceptance

  • more variety of foods eaten

  • lower rates of disordered eating and eating disorders

  • more satisfaction with life

Intuitive eating is a process of unlearning old thinking and rules about eating and then learning new, more helpful strategies for eating in a way that supports your physical and mental health. Although there are ten principles of intuitive eating, there are no rules! Intuitive eating puts you back in charge of what you eat when. You can learn more about intuitive eating from my post here.

Where can you start?

If you're ready to dive into learning more about intuitive eating, a good place to start is by reading the book Intuitive Eating 3rd edition by Tribole and Resch. Many people find they want more one-on-one support through the process, in which case working with a registered dietitian or therapist with training in intuitive eating counseling can be extremely helpful.

Are you ready to to leave dieting behind and work on developing a more peaceful relationship to food? I would love to help guide you! I offer virtual one-on-one intuitive eating counseling. You can learn more about how it works here.

Optimizing Nutrition for Vegans: Vitamin B12

 
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Disclaimer: I can’t make personalized supplement recommendations without completing an assessment and knowing your health background. This blog post is for informational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for recommendations from your doctor or dietitian.

Okay, are you ready to nerd out with me a bit and learn more about nutrients necessary to be a happy, healthy vegan? In this series, we’ll examine some important nutrients crucial to good health, how to get them in your diet, as well as some tips on cultivating a healthy relationship with food.

We’ll begin with Vitamin B12 as it’s the one supplement that all vegans absolutely should be taking regularly!

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin produced by bacteria and found in animal products. B12 is involved in the formation of red blood cells, the creation of DNA, is necessary for the normal function of the brain and nervous system, and used in cell metabolism.

WHo should supplement?

B12 deficiency is found in 1.5-15% of the general population. Various studies have shown that anywhere between 11-90% of vegans tested were deficient in B12. Deficiency can be caused by malabsorption issues, autoimmune conditions, and dietary insufficiency. Malabsorption can be due to a number of things, including intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease, certain medications, and reduced stomach acid. In many cases, the cause of deficiency is unknown. I think it’s safe to say that most vegans who are deficient are simply not getting enough B12 from fortified foods or supplements.

People over 50 years old are also more likely to have B12 malabsorption issues and should have their levels tested and take a sublingual supplement if necessary. Those who are unable to absorb sufficient B12 from food or supplements may need B12 injections.

Signs/symptoms of deficiency include megoblastic anemia, fatigue, weakness, pale skin, heart palpitations, a smooth tongue, numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, difficulty walking, vision loss, dementia, and depression. Nerve damage and other effects of deficiency can be permanent, so getting sufficient B12 is extremely important. Unfortunately it’s something I sometimes see vegan advocates downplaying. Not cool!

Supplement Guidelines 

The RDA for adults is 2.4 mcg (micrograms) per day (2.6 mcg if pregnant & 2.8 mcg if breastfeeding). Vegans/vegetarians who consume few animal products will want to supplement vitamin B12 and/or consume fortified foods. When getting your B12 from fortified foods, aim for three servings per day, with at least 2 mcg per serving. Foods that may be fortified include dry cereals, plant-based milks and yogurt (soy, almond, cashew, etc.), meat substitutes, and some brands of nutritional yeast (such as Red Star or Bragg). It’s important to check the nutrition label on foods to ensure they are fortified with B12 before relying on them as a sole source!

Most supplements are well over 2.4 mcg and that’s okay! You can take 25-100 mcg daily or 1000 mcg twice per week. Our bodies can only absorb so much B12 at one time and will excrete any excess. Needs will be higher to correct a deficiency.

B12 supplements are found as cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin (the active form). Cyanocobalamin is easily converted into the active form in our bodies unless you have kidney disease or smoke cigarettes. Due to cyanocobalamin being more widely researched, supplement dosages are based on this form. Some research suggests a higher amount of methylcobalamin is needed (1500 mcg per day) due to its instability in this form so if you choose to take methylcobalamin keep this in mind.

There seems to be some confusion/debate about certain foods like seaweeds, mushrooms, unwashed organic produce, and fermented foods containing B12. They may contain an analogue form of B12 that does not have the same vitamin activity. These are NOT reliable sources.

If in doubt, ask your doctor to check your levels! More on lab tests to determine B12 status here. B12 supplements are widely available and it isn’t worth the risk to your health to miss out on this critical vitamin.

A few fun ways to get more vitamin B12 through fortified foods (make sure you’re using a fortified nutritional yeast in recipes):

Vegan queso from Cookie and Kate

Vegan broccoli and cheese soup from Oh She Glows

14 Vegan Foods and Drinks Fortified With B12

Summary

  • Vitamin B12 is important for vegans or those with certain autoimmune or malabsorption issues to regularly supplement.

  • Supplement recommendations for adults: 25-100 mcg daily or 1000 mcg twice per week.

  • If relying on fortified foods: 3 servings per day of at least 2 mcg B12 per serving.

For more detailed info on B12 check out Vegan Health’s article.

References

Langan RC, Goodbred AJ. Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Recognition and Management. Am Fam Physician. 2017 Sep 15;96(6):384-389. PubMed PMID: 28925645

NIH Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B12 Fact Sheet for Health Professionals

Ankar A, Bhimji SS. Vitamin B12 Deficiency (Cobalamin) [Updated 2018 Oct 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2018 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441923/

Vegan Health: Methylcobalamin and Adenosylcobalamin

The Vegan RD: Vitamin B12: A Vegan Nutrition Primer

Tell me in the comments: are you making sure you meet your B12 needs? Do you have any questions about vitamin B12? 

Veganism and a Non-Diet Approach to Nutrition

 
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You can honor your ethics and values around food and still be anti-diet.

Some of you have asked how veganism and intuitive eating/a non-diet approach can work together? This is an excellent question that I’m happy to address. 

I see how it can be totally confusing—veganism is sometimes viewed as restrictive by people working in non-diet spaces. I see people lumping veganism with keto, paleo, and other weight loss diets in memes and posts frequently. There are also endless influencers/health coaches/bloggers misappropriating veganism as a weight loss diet, which adds to the confusion. Diet culture strikes again!

As with most things in life, intention and nuance matter.

Why is the person vegan (or desiring to go vegan)? Is it ethics/values-based or because they are trying to manipulate their body size? How is their relationship with food and their body? Are they also cutting out multiple vegan foods because they’re “processed,” “fattening,” or “bad?” These are things I feel are helpful to explore with my vegan clients. 

Veganism is an ethical stance that seeks to avoid harming and exploiting animals as much as possible, not a diet. What you eat is one part of practicing ethical veganism but not the whole picture. People who eschew animal foods in the name of health or weight loss, not ethics, are typically said to be following a plant-based diet. Not all plant-based eaters are dieting though. Some choose it as an eating pattern that best supports their health and feels good to them. Not everyone who eats outside of a mainstream omnivore diet is doing it for disordered reasons. Again, intention and nuance!

People of all body shapes and sizes are vegan. There are vegan versions of pretty much every food these days including donuts, burgers, and ice cream, as well as numerous recipes for vegan comfort foods and decadent baked goods, so there’s no reason being vegan = restriction or deprivation. Including pleasurable and fun foods can provide more flexibility and satisfaction with eating. Of course, these foods are harder to access for some people depending on where they live and if they fit in their budget, which can make it more tricky. I’m not saying veganism never feels restrictive for everyone.

A non-diet approach is so needed in the vegan community because no one is immune from food and body shaming messages and sadly there is plenty of that in vegan/plant-based spaces! I wish more people were talking about sizeism, healthism, and other forms of oppression in the vegan community because they’re all connected. A small number of people are and hopefully that grows. I know I can do better with this.

Intuitive eating/a non-diet approach can certainly take into account values, ethics, culture, health conditions, and personal food preferences.

The chapter on gentle nutrition in The Intuitive Eating Workbook goes into this if you’d like to read the authors’ take on this topic. The book Heath at Every Size also discusses many of the issues with our food system and marketing of foods. You don’t have to eat everything under the sun to ditch the dieting mentality. This applies to non-vegans as well. You get to decide what feels right to you based on your inner attunement + health values (described as “authentic health” in the IE book).

Some may disagree with this, but these are my thoughts based on my current personal and professional understanding. My intention with writing this is to reach vegans interested in intuitive eating, but not sure how it fits with their ethical stance, as well as non-diet practitioners who aren’t quite sure how to proceed when clients are vegan. I could write so much more on this topic but for now I hope this is helpful!

If you’re considering going vegan I encourage you to work with a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in vegan nutrition + Intuitive Eating!

There are so many myths and misconceptions out there, so seeking professional guidance can help navigate through it all. A healthy relationship with food and your body is critical before making major changes to how you eat. You can schedule a free introductory call with me if you’d like to work together.

Further reading regarding intuitive eating and veganism:

Veganism is not a Diet

Reconciling Veganism with Intuitive Eating

How to Practice Intuitive Eating as a Vegan

Body Shaming in the Vegan Community

Other RDN accounts to follow on Instagram if you’re interested in a non-diet approach to veganism:

@taylorwolframrd

@ginnymessina

@prairie.sprout.angela

@amyrgood

@amytaylorgrimm

Do you know others? Share in the comments!

An Intro to Intuitive Eating

 
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Have you heard about Intuitive Eating but aren’t quite sure what it means?

Intuitive Eating (IE) is a flexible, non-diet approach to eating and exercise that considers physical, mental, and emotional health. The IE framework was developed by registered dietitian nutritionists Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch after many years of working with nutrition clients and witnessing their struggles with dieting, weight loss (and regain), and body image.

From the cover of the Intuitive Eating book by Tribole and Resch, IE helps people “make peace with food, free yourself from chronic dieting forever, and rediscover the pleasures of eating.” Learning and practicing the principles of IE helps people to tune out external messages about what and how much they should eat and tune into their personal hunger, fullness, and feelings of satisfaction with food.

We are born natural intuitive eaters until we learn and internalize food rules set by our (usually well-meaning) parents and later, diet gurus and weight loss companies, media, advertising, and peers. For many people this causes distrust and distress with their bodies and food. Practicing IE helps people get back into attunement with their bodies so they can stop stressing about food and focus on other things that give them meaning and satisfaction in life.

There are ten principles of Intuitive Eating that guide people to relearn trust in their bodies and the joy of eating.

 
 

I plan to write more about each principle and how you can start applying them in future posts!

Why I adopted this approach

Learning more about IE and a weight-neutral approach to health has changed the way I practice nutrition for the better.

My education and training in dietetics and nutrition didn’t really prepare me for all of the shame and guilt so many people have about food and their bodies. No amount of meal plans, calorie tracking, or education on portion sizes can fix that, even if that’s what people ask for. In fact, it just makes most people feel worse when they can’t follow a plan and reinforces a restrictive mindset about food. People tend to start thinking they’re the problem--they’re just not trying hard enough or something is wrong with them. I became a dietitian to help people reach optimal health--however that looks for them--while enjoying food and this wasn’t the way.

I needed and sought out more knowledge and training in navigating the complex emotions that come up in nutrition counseling. This is when I learned about the concept of Intuitive Eating and immediately bought the book. After reading the book I also delved into courses, podcasts, weight science research, eating psychology, and numerous blog posts from other dietitians and therapists on IE and weight-neutral approaches to health.

I learned that attempts to lose weight tend not to produce long-term results for most people. Intentional weight loss attempts can also lead to biological and psychological stress and disordered eating. Yo-yo dieting (weight loss and regain over and over) has been linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, inflammation, increased blood pressure, and a return to a higher weight than baseline.

On the other hand, studies on intuitive eaters have shown several benefits.

 
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You can learn more about the research on the Intuitive Eating website.

Considering the harm diets and restrictive eating can cause and the benefits that Intuitive Eating has, adopting this approach to helping people in my practice and in my own life was a no-brainer.

Now I have the tools help my clients move away from the mindset that health = losing weight and adopt more sustainable practices to achieving their health goals.

If you’re tired of trying diet after diet and would like one-on-one guidance to a better relationship with food and your body, I’d love to help you get started!

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I'm really excited to start the conversation on Intuitive Eating by sharing this guest post from the talented Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN! Taylor is a fellow vegan dietitian who also coaches clients in Intuitive Eating, as well as working a day job in nutrition communications. 

If you've ever wondered how meal planning fits in with Intuitive Eating, Taylor's post is a great introduction!

Interested in intuitive eating?

This non-diet approach to eating was developed by two registered dietitians in the 1990s and continues to gain in popularity. Research shows intuitive eating can improve mental and physical health without stressing about food or focusing on body weight.

The great thing about intuitive eating is there are no rules! The 10 principles of intuitive eating help you reject diet mentality and instill trust back in your body to tell you when, what and how much to eat.

 

While intuitive eating is a journey and there’s really no such thing as “failing” at it, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success. In order to honor your hunger, you need to have access to tasty, nourishing food that you enjoy. This is where a little planning and prepping go a long way!

Intimidated by the thought of meal planning and prepping? I get it. Contrary to what you might see on social media, it doesn’t require you to spend all day in the kitchen or plan out every morsel of food you’re going to eat for the week ahead. In fact, just a little extra effort can make a huge difference and help you stress less about food.

3 Food Strategies for Intuitive Eating Success

Buy Your Favorites

This is the planning piece. Keeping a variety of food in the house is key to moving past restrictive eating and fulfilling your hunger and cravings. Think through the building blocks for satisfying meals and snacks, including grains, veggies, fruits, protein foods, calcium-rich foods and fun foods. When you’re writing your grocery list, jot down items in each category or food group that you know you enjoy and that can be mixed and matched in different meals and snacks.

Batch Cook

This is where the prepping comes in. If you know you enjoy rice and quinoa as the base to meals, cook batches of these grains and refrigerate or freeze so you can quickly create meals without having to wait for them to cook. The same goes for your favorite beans, veggies, etc. If it seems like you’re always short on time, this can really help prevent time from being an excuse as to why you aren’t able to feed your body what it wants.

Keep a Snack Stash

Whether it’s at the office, in your car or wherever else you spend your time, it’s important to ensure you’re able to eat when hunger strikes. Non-perishable snacks such as nuts, dried fruit and snack bars are great to toss in your bag and carry around with you. If you have access to a fridge or can keep perishable food cold with a cold pack in an insulated bag, dips and veggies and cut fruit are tasty choices. Whatever your favorite snacks, make sure you’ve got a reliable stock at all times!

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Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN

Taylor uses a non-diet approach to health and wellness and provides virtual lifestyle coaching to help clients prioritize self-care, ditch dieting and make peace with food and their bodies.

Learn more about Taylor and follow her here:
www.wholegreenwellness.
www.twitter.com/taylorwolframrd
www.instagram.com/taylorwolframrd
www.facebook.com/wholegreenwellness

Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

Last Saturday, May 12th, was the 20th annual Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. In true me fashion, I’m a couple of days late but wanted to acknowledge the day with a short post.

The main thing that I personally would like people to be aware of, and I think many people with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) would agree, is that FMS is a REAL medical condition, not a “wastebasket” diagnosis or all in your head as some people (doctors included) suggest.

Yes, FMS is an invisible illness without a specific lab marker to confirm it (yet), so I understand that people without personal experience of chronic illness may have a difficult time wrapping their head around its existence. However, FMS does have diagnostic criteria and physicians use this in conjunction with ruling out other diseases with overlapping symptoms to make a diagnosis.

There have also been multiple observed differences in biological function is people with FMS, although they are not currently being used as diagnostics for the condition. Using fMRI, researchers have found differences in brain activity in response to pain. Higher levels of substance P, a peptide involved in increased pain sensation, has also been detected in the cerebrospinal fluid of people with FMS.

You don’t have to fully understand something in order to practice compassion toward a loved one or coworker dealing with this diagnosis. Sometimes just asking what their experience with FMS is like and what helps them feel better can go a long way in showing someone that you support them. For the person with FMS, not having to struggle to convince the people in their lives that it’s a real and chronic condition makes life a bit easier. Dealing with a chronic illness is tough enough on its own. 

What's one thing you'd like people to know about living with fibromyalgia?

If you’d like to learn more about fibromyalgia I’d suggest checking out these links:

Fibromyalgia-- Harvard Medical School

Common misconceptions about fibromyalgia

Chronic Pain - Is it All in Their Head? - Daniel J. Clauw M.D

The Hidden Reality of a Fibro Warrior

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It’s not news that eating more fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods is good for our health, but many of us are still not eating close to the recommended daily servings (5-9 servings a day of fruit and vegetables). Besides personal health, a plant-based dietary pattern can save you money on groceries and help protect the planet and animals used for food. Getting started doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t have to overwhelm yourself and change everything overnight (unless that’s how you do things. In that case, go for it!). Here are some of my best tips for getting more plant-based meals into your weekly rotation.

Make a Plan

I’m sure you’ve probably heard the saying “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It definitely applies to changing your eating habits! Planning ahead will ensure that when meal time comes around and you’re getting hungry, you’ll know what you're making and have your ingredients at the ready. Planning your meals at least a couple of days ahead of time will prevent you from grabbing take-out or eating chips and salsa for dinner because that’s what’s in your kitchen (guilty).

Meal planning can be as simple as writing out what you’ll have on your calendar or notepad and then making a grocery list of the ingredients you need from there. Or you could print out meal planning sheets or use an app to keep track of everything.

If you're just starting out with plant-based meals, pick one meal a day or one day a week to eat plant-based and increase from there once you've accomplished that goal. Meatless Mondays are a popular way of helping people eat plant-based at least one day a week. 

There are also several plant-based meal planning services, some paid and some free. Lighter, Forks Over Knives, EatLove, and Plant-based on a Budget are just a few. Explore them and find what works best for you.

Make Plant-based Versions of Your Favorites

Plant-based food often has the stigma of being unsubstantial “rabbit food” or entirely different to what most people are eating but that isn’t the case. Anything omnivores eat, plant-based eaters can eat, too, with some simple substitutions. Are tacos your favorite? Swap lentils, veggie crumbles, seasoned tofu, or beans for the usual meat and top with cashew sour cream or guacamole.  Love Indian food, burgers, mac and cheese, or BBQ? Check out my links for delicious, plant-based versions of all of these. Think about your current favorite meals and how you can make satisfying meat- and dairy-free versions. Get creative on your own or use cookbooks or recipe sites for inspiration. Minimalist Baker, The Full Helping, Vegan Richa, and Hot for Food are some of my favorite recipe blogs.

Stock Your Fridge & Pantry

As you use up your current stock, buy plant-based versions of your usual staples, like plant-based milks, cheese, ice cream, mayo and other condiments, etc. Know that plant-based versions usually won't taste 100% the same as animal products (many taste even better) and give your taste buds time to adjust. Try different brands and flavors. For example, if you didn't like the provolone-style dairy-free cheese, you may love the pepper jack; if one type of veggie burger is too mushy, try another brand next time.  

Keeping convenient foods stocked will help you throw together quick meals. Convenient doesn't have to mean ultra-processed, either. Having pre-washed salad greens, canned beans, nuts, seeds, tortillas/wraps, your favorite condiments and dressings, and fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit can make whipping up plant-based meals fast and simple. 

Join a Meal Delivery Service

Meal delivery services seem to be springing up all over lately. If you can afford this option, it can be a great way to try new plant-based meals without the hassle of digging up recipes and grocery shopping yourself. Some services deliver premade meals that you just have to heat up when ready to eat and others deliver recipes and ingredients for you to cook. Two companies that offer plant-based meals are Purple Carrot and Hungry Root.

Find Recipe Sharing Communities

If you’re on Facebook, there are several groups and pages that share plant-based recipes. I searched “vegan recipes,” “plant-based recipes,” and “whole food plant-based recipes” and came up with dozens of groups! This can be helpful for finding tried and true recipes before you spend your hard earned cash on ingredients for a new recipe that may turn out to be not-so-great. 

Take a Vegan Cooking Course

In person or online, there’s no better way to learn than by hands on cooking. Check your local Whole Foods, culinary school, Sur la Table, and community ed classes for vegan cooking classes. Online options include Forks Over Knives, JL Fields, and if you’re really serious about mastering your culinary skills, you can get a professional certification in plant-based cooking through Rouxbe! (feel free to ask me questions—I completed this training in 2015). You can also find free cooking demos on YouTube.  

Find Restaurants That Have Plant-Based options

If cooking isn’t really your thing, or you just want to treat yourself, check out Happy Cow to see what restaurants in your area have vegetarian and vegan options. So many restaurants these days have at least one or two things on the menu plant-based eaters can choose from. Even better is to try fully vegan restaurants and be amazed (and sometimes overwhelmed) at all the choices!

Host a Plant-Based Potluck or Dinner Party

Having the support of friends and family can make healthy eating easier and so much more fun and open others to new foods, too. You could try having a theme like vegan BBQ, holiday foods, dishes inspired by a favorite movie or show, a regional cuisine, etc. There is no limit to your creativity with this!   

Whether you intend to eat 100% plant-based or simply up your plant food intake, I hope you found some helpful information to get started. Please post your questions and tips below or contact me. I'd love to help guide your way to satisfying, healthful plant-based eating! 

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On this last day of National Nutrition Month, I thought I’d write about what a Registered Dietitian/Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RD or RDN) is and what we do (and maybe a little about what we don’t do).

From some of the questions and responses I’ve gotten when asked what I do, I have a feeling many people are confused about our role if they even knew we existed in the first place! People have asked me to make them a meal plan (for free, of course), what trendy diet I think is best, to not look at what they’re eating because they think I’ll judge them, if eating x food is bad, and if they should buy x supplement or shake for weight loss. This tells me RDs have an image problem of being the food police or diet pushers and I want to help destroy those stereotypes!

This post doesn't encompass all possible areas of nutrition careers, but hopefully it gives you a better idea of what RDs who see people one-on-one do (and that it's so much more than telling people what to or what not to eat). 

Our Training

RDs have at least a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from an accredited university (a master’s degree will be required for entry-level RDs in a few years) + 1200 or more hours of supervised practice in clinical, community, and food service nutrition, and have to pass the national registration exam before being eligible to practice. We learn behavior change skills, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, nutrient metabolism, therapeutic nutrition for many conditions, traditional foods of various cultures, drug and nutrient interactions, food safety, nutrition policy, and SO MUCH more. This is what distinguishes our training from a “nutritionist” or "health/nutrition coach" which aren't regulated titles.

That means pretty much anyone, regardless if they have any training or a degree in nutrition science, can call themselves those things and start giving nutrition advice and selling supplements. Which is scary when you think about the harm it can cause giving someone with a health condition bad information (disclaimer: not saying every nutritionist or coach gives bad advice or every RD is perfect, so please don't be offended). Would you want someone who wasn't qualified advising your grandma with chronic kidney disease on nutrition and her ending up in the hospital from dangerous levels of potassium and phosphorus in her body? Likely not. Some RDs (including me) are now using the credential Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), which is equal to the RD credential, but sort of a reclaiming of the title “nutritionist.”

What RDs Do

Similar to doctors, we can be general practitioners, seeing people for a variety of nutrition concerns, or specialize in areas like pediatric, renal, oncology, cardiac rehab, digestive health, or diabetes. Some of us branch out from hospital or clinic jobs into private practice and create our own unique specialties, seeing clients in an office or virtually through secure video conferencing. Some of my RD colleagues in private practice specialize in skin care, food sensitivities, Intuitive Eating, eating disorder recovery, blenderized food for tube feedings, lactation consulting, and plant-based nutrition. Our jobs are as varied as there are nutrition needs!

During an appointment, we’ll look at your health history, labs, medication and supplements, what you typically eat, your food likes and dislikes, and other important info, ask you questions to clarify information and determine your goals, work with you to come up with a plan, provide resources and handouts if necessary, and support you through follow-up appointments. Most of all, a good RD will really listen to you. We have the benefit of longer appointment times so you're not rushed like it can feel at a doctor appointment. 

 Behind the scenes, we’re working on education materials, keeping up with the latest research, taking courses or attending seminars for continuing education, communicating with your doctor or other members of your healthcare team, and typing up notes.

With the word “diet” being a part of our title, I know it can be confusing, but our focus is less “dieting” to lose weight and more your diet as in overall pattern of what you eat and how that can affect your health and nutrition status. Some RDs absolutely work with people who want to lose weight, but that’s just a small part of our skill set. Many RDs don’t offer weight loss as a service at all and are pushing back against diet culture, weight stigma, and helping people recover from damage long-term dieting can cause. Food is only one piece of the health puzzle and focusing too much on weight and calories aren’t healthful behaviors. I’ve had many people be surprised that I actually helped them expand the amount and types of foods to eat instead of restricting all their favorite things like they were expecting.

Seeing an RD legitimately changes people's lives for the better! I might be biased, but from my own experiences and hearing about others, it's true. RDs have helped so many people deal with difficult and painful digestive issues, reduce or eliminate medications (under a physician's supervision), lower their cholesterol or blood pressure, find foods they could eat when they have food allergies or intolerances, feed picky kids, recover from an eating disorder, stay nourished through cancer treatment, and so many other scenarios. It's always my goal and I feel so fortunate to be in this field when someone tells me I helped them solve a problem.  

Should You See an RD?

If you want expert, individualized advice sorting out a health issue or just want to learn how to eat better, then absolutely! Many RDs offer a free consultation call so you can see if you're a good fit to work together. Seeing an RD one-on-one is usually so much more effective than reading a popular diet book or following a general plan that will probably not meet your individual needs. RDs can help you cut through the misinformation that is so common in the media and popular wellness culture, come up with an action plan to help you meet your health goals, and support and encourage you through it. 

So, Will I Make You a Meal Plan?

Possibly, if it fits your needs and you want help getting started with a new way of eating! I'd rather help you learn how to create healthy meals on your own, so you don't have to rely on a plan, though. And...you have to pay me. :)