I've always known I wanted a career where I could help people. I've always understood that helping others is a great way of helping yourself, plus making people smile and feel happy is my jam.
I considered many career choices, mostly within healthcare. I knew I wanted human interaction. I wasn't afraid of doing many years of university. I loved cooking and baking. When my mom was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I saw the impact a dietitian could have in helping others navigate food to best fit their health conditions and lifestyle.
The minute I truly considered nutrition as a career, it felt right. I had found my calling. It all made sense: I could combine my love of people, health and food.
Everything went perfectly. I applied to university programs and was accepted in my first choice (an honours bachelors degree with an integrated internship program). My sister was accepted at the same university for her Master's degree. We both packed up and moved the nation's capitol.
I immediately loved my classmates, my professors and my campus. The courses were challenging, but interesting. As I learned more about nutrition and it's (now questioned) role in weight management, I couldn't wait to apply my knowledge and become a dietitian.
From healthy eating to disordered eating
My first patient was myself. Somewhere around second year, I started drastically changing my eating habits. Although my first goal was to support my health, I also kept an eye on the scale. With such a nourishing diet and a consistant exercise plan, I would surely lose weight, right? At first, it felt so wonderful. It felt like I had more energy, more confidence and most importantly: more control. However, what was once healthy eating soon became disordered eating.
I carried on with those habits for quite some time (you can read more about my journey here). Thankfully, at one point I was lucky enough to come across an eating disorder screening questionnaire and realize I was at risk. For some time, I was in denial, but I couldn't get those results out of my head. Completing that questionnaire was the beginning of my recovery.
My journey to recovery opened my eyes to so many communities and movements: body positivity, fat activism, intuitive and mindful eating and Health At Every Size. The more I learned about these movements which are filled with love, acceptance and hope, I realized how incompatible they were with what I was learning in school.
A new approach
In school, I learned food groups and nutrients, appropriate portion sizes, how to calculate calorie needs, how to help clients with weight management to fight the obesity crisis, how to weigh clients, how to measure body composition...
Within my recovery, I learned about listening to our hunger cues to determine portion sizes, embracing our body, the importance of having a positive relationship with food, the danger of identifying foods as "good" and "bad", the negative impacts of fatphobia and body shaming, the complete lack of evidence that diets or "lifestyle changes" promotes long-term weight loss, the increasing evidence that people can be healthy at all sizes through positive health behaviours...
This is where the questioning started. What am I doing? Am I actually joining a profession that promotes food fear? That encourages people to change their body? That tells people to "eat this, not that"? That shares low-fat, low-carb, low-this, low-that recipes? Am I actually going to play a part in making people feel ashamed, guilty and inadequate?
I can't do that. Knowing what I know now, I can't support this!
I was in panic mode. The last thing I wanted to do was encourage others to go down the path I went. I would NEVER wish that on anyone. EVER.
I was discouraged. My dream to help others smile and be happy was squashed. But I continued. I kept completing weight focussed exams and hearing about how obesity was wrong. I completed an internship with dietitians who promoted weight loss and food rules.
And throughout all this, I grew acceptance.
Becoming a NON-DIET dietitian
With time, I realized I was EXACTLY where I needed to be. How would this profession ever change if it didn't have people promoting change? I knew I needed to go through with this.
I knew I was going against the tide and I would probably be met with a lot of adversity (and I was OH SO RIGHT). But I also knew that I had an undying passion for a weight-neutral, non-diet approach.
Now don't get me wrong - There are absolutely WONDERFUL dietitians out there. I truly do believe dietitians are critical to healthcare and wellness. There are many dietitians who inspire me on a regular basis. Most RDs are caring, compassionate individuals who do their absolute best to help others. The goal of this post is definitely not to put down dietitians!
Today, I am extremely honoured to work with a wide range of patients. I am happy and thrilled to be a dietitian, because that means I get to work in a setting where I can spread my body positive, non-diet messages beyond social media. I get to help real-life people reconsider their weight loss goals. I get to encourage them to embrace every inch of their body. I get to guide them in finding the joy and pleasure in eating. I get to help them let go of diets and really listen to their body. I get to help them choose nourishing foods that work with their lifestyle.
I get to help people. I get to make them smile. I get human interaction. I get to share my love of food and cooking. Everything I initially wanted out of my career, I have.
Looking back, I never regret becoming an RD. Without my journey, I wouldn't have learned from my disordered eating. I wouldn't have discovered body positivity.
I never would have found my TRUE calling.
Being a non-diet dietitian rocks my world. ♥