Advice for Dietetic Interns: 4 Nuggets of Advice from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Over the past 4 years, I’ve learned a few things, here are my top nuggets of advice for dietetic interns, dietetic students, and anyone else interested in nutrition.
Hey! I had a great weekend, full of adventuring, nature, and excitement. My dSLR camera…… not so much. Sometime between playing with little kids in my family, hiking, and getting in & out of cars, a big chunk of my dSLR camera body got removed. I didn’t even take a picture of the damage. Danggit!
I have zero clue how it cracked so bad, but it interfered with the flash & essentially burned something each time I pulled the trigger. Ugh. Just a couple hundred dollars, a few weeks, and a lot of patience, I will be back to posting recipes.
In the meantime (5 weeks, guys), I’ll be posting more about nutrition & what a healthy lifestyle looks like & how you can incorporate these tips into your own life.
How was yours? better than my camera’s I hope
Any topics you’d like to learn about in the mean time? Leave a comment or email me, I’d love to help you live a healthier & happier life.
Anyways, back to the point, 4 years and one day ago, I took the registration exam to become a full fledged registered dietitian. It was kind of a crazy time getting there, maybe I’ll write about all my set backs and rejections, but that would be a whole other topic for a whole other day. I will say that I had quite the adventure getting to the testing center to take my test though, and I can talk about this.
You see, my RD exam was planned at the same testing facility I’d already taken the GRE just a year before, I remember where it was, the exact street and everything. I woke up and left with plenty of time to navigate traffic and get there 30 minutes early, as is recommended you know. Things were going great… until I pulled into the parking lot I thought it was at. No sign of a testing center. I had been there before, it was a unique building. I drove around aimlessly, frustrated as *#(%. Of course, Google maps wasn’t really a thing (or at least in my mind), I called my mom about 100x, she never picked up, and even worse, there was no phone number listed for the testing center. What the what???! I ended up stopping at a gas station and frantically asking some guy if he knew where this place was. He said about a mile up the road. I about burst into tears, this happened just 10 minutes away from my test starting.
Fast forward to test taking, I made it to the center about 5 minutes before my test was scheduled to start. As far as nuggets of advice goes, I would not give this advice for dietetic interns. No way!
There was a Polynesian woman at the desk, at the moment I burst into the door, she was looking over about 10 textbooks that another test-taker had brought for his test. What I’ve noticed about Polynesians was that they’re generally really chill. This realization immediately put me at ease. It was just the weirdest & most welcome feeling.
In retrospect, this story is super irritating- Utah streets are weird. There are so many cities here, and most streets are numbered on a N/E/S/W grid, so an address could be 110 South 1150 East. This particular street was one city on the west side, and another on the east side-I didn’t realize this was where the city limits fell. The numbered streets start over for each city (at least where this dang testing center was). So, I had the right address (or so I thought), just the wrong city, it was farther along the same road as where I thought it was. ahhhh
So I’m really grateful I made it to the testing center in to take my test, and miraculously had my anxiety (from getting lost at least) swept from my soul. I took the test pretty quickly, and was on my way. It wasn’t particularly easy, but it was doable. Good thing, because my internship had a 100% pass rate for the past few years. That’s a rough streak to end.
Fast forward 4 years (and one day), I’ve had a number of jobs as a dietitian, I’ve learned a lot, and I have a few tips of advice for dietetic interns & students to share based on my experiences. So if you’re wondering what it’s like being a dietitian, what it would be like working with a dietitian like me, or if you’re a dietetic student or dietetic intern at least one of these tips should help you!
So, without further ado, here are my top nuggets of advice for dietetic interns, dietetic students, and anyone else wondering what it’s like to be a dietitian:
- Throw out your focus on weight management. This is probably my biggest piece of advice for dietetic interns & students. Traditional nutrition programs focus on weight loss, weight management, and micro-aspects of nutrients. It took me 3 years of working in a hospital, working on my thesis on body image, and an interesting experience with a large scale weight loss challenge (oops guess this is what I’ll be writing about next week) to realize that focusing on weight loss just totally sucks and actually does not improve health. If you want more info-check out concepts of Health at Every Size. Basically, weight isn’t a good measure of health, it can be affected by so many things that aren’t associated with your health habits (for example: you can gain 1 lb by drinking 16 oz of water, that’s generally a positive health habit but isn’t reflected that way on the scale), and finally our society promotes a healthy or desirable weight that’s way too narrowly defined. What I’m getting at, is that it’s your health habits that predict your health, not your weight.
- Don’t think for one second that you HAVE to get excellent grades to be a successful dietitian. I was no stellar student, my dietetic program director even sat me down (she did it with everyone, so it’s all good) and encouraged me to apply for middle of the road internships, my grades were fine but they weren’t on par with the rest of my class. I mean you have to have the grades to stay in your program/get an internship, but doing well in school doesn’t necessarily translate to success in your profession. I had to apply to my dietetics program 2x, and internships 3x. Luckily an internship position at my college had opened up late in the summer & I was selected to fill it. I’d instead think it has more to do with finding an area of nutrition/health promotion that ignites your passion & allows you to utilize your strengths. For me, I’d long thought I didn’t quite fit into traditional nutritionist personalities and roles, I have a pretty unrestrictive attitude toward eating, and it’s served me well after finding my spot in the non-dieting sphere, but didn’t do me so well in clinical and other positions. Long story short, there’s hope when you focus on learning and expanding your horizons.
- Success comes from a transition from the role of authority to the role of support system. This is another really hard mindset to change. Although dietitians are experts in nutrition, we as individuals are the experts of our own lifestyle, needs, and our priorities. Through motivational interviewing and behavior change classes, I’ve come to realize the power of autonomy when it comes to changing behaviors. We need to be in control of our own behaviors in order to be able to change them & stick to them. If I had a dollar from each client I’d met with who had been told by a medical provider or nutritionist what they need to do, but never did it…. well I may not be writing this 😉 jk. I’d just be living in my dream container house and playing in the river every day before I meet with clients. If we (or our clients) can make goals that align with our priorities in life, our constrains, and our preferences, we’re in a much better place to make the changes that actually improve our lives… you know, and stick to them.
- Be nicer to yourself & model that for your clients. Remember, I studied body image as a grad student. A negative body image and poor health habits go hand in hand and misery in your healthy lifestyle does not actually promote a healthy lifestyle. In general we get beat down from so much in life, and especially by dieting (ok this is tip #5-quit promoting diets). Under it all, diets are meant to fail, they’re short term solutions for health habits that extend throughout our lives. The worst part about the vicious dieting cycle is the fact that we as people tend to blame ourselves for diets not working. I’m not dedicated enough, I don’t have enough willpower. That’s wrong, you deserve better. Your lifestyle should be enjoyable and allow you to spend time doing the things that bring you joy and fulfillment. Dieting and focusing on eating or hating your body detracts from that in a really abusive and horrible way. Be kind to yourself, let yourself learn from mistakes, and know that eating ‘perfectly’ is boring and can easily teeter into disordered eating. You, and all of us deserve to be happy, and unfortunately a diet or amount of weight loss won’t actually do that for us.
So, that’s my 2 cents. My experiences and education since becoming a dietitian have shaped my views and enriched my life along with the lives of my clients. This work is empowering and exciting and most of all enjoyable.
Sign up for my free workbook to feel comfortable in your skin WITHOUT dieting, because of all of ^^^^^^^^^
PS are you interested in becoming a dietitian? Check out the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics’ website to see what it takes to become an RD.
sooo, let’s get chatty:
-Are you interested in becoming a dietitian? What questions do you have?
-If you are an RD, what have you learned about being a dietitian? and… how long have you been a dietitian?
-If you’re an RD, what would you share as far as advice for dietetic interns & students?