I never thought I would work in nutrition. I didn’t even know what a dietitian was until 2019. Now, I’m planning a career change. And that new career path? Dietetics.
This post is about how I went from scoffing the nutrition field to becoming a dietitian.
Let’s get started.
Why I Never Wanted to Be a Nutritionist
This is the second time I chose a career I thought I never wanted. In university (the first time), I studied International and Global Studies. I planned to become a policy analyst. Eventually, I realised that was not what I wanted, so I pursued an MA TESOL. Then, I started teaching English as a second and foreign language.
I loved this field. I still do. What I don’t love is that the ESL industry is full of people who don’t want to be teachers. They “fell into” teaching. I also didn’t love how people undervalue ESL education and ESL teachers.
A lot of English teachers teach so they can afford to pursue their “true passions”. Nutrition, health and fitness are some of those true passions.
There isn’t anything wrong with this. But I’ve met several people who think passion is a credential. When it comes to health and wellness, I am old-fashioned. I am skeptical of advice from influencers unless they have a board-certified qualification.
I love and trust my doctor because she spent YEARS studying biology, anatomy, chemistry and medicine. All so she can provide me with reliable and evidence-based information.
All of the nutritionists I had met had not spent years in school. They had certificates or degrees that sounded dubious. Yet, they were taking money from people, giving out “advice” and shaming people’s food and lifestyle choices.
Some people feel licensed to hand out unwanted nutrition advice and shame other diets just because they don’t agree with them while preaching acceptance, wellness, and self-love.
There is nothing loving or accepting about shaming someone’s dietary choices or lifestyle.
Needless to say, I had a jaded opinion of nutritionists. So, I never wanted to be one.
Nutrition is Crowded With Bad Advice. I Didn’t Want to Be Part of It.
Open up any search engine. Type in something about nutrition. You find information overload.
And a lot of that information is conflicting. Just look at the great carb debate. Carbs are either amazing or the terror of our modern society. How do you even know?
And the quality is hit or miss. There is everything from medically-reviewed websites like Healthline to sketchy anecdotal blogs.
Sure, influencers have great stories about how today’s fad diet has worked for them. But look closer. Is there any real, replicable evidence to back it up? The term “Skinny fat” comes to mind. Someone may “look or feel fine”, but are they actually healthy?
Jessica Isaacs RD had a great personal post on LinkedIn about her own experience with her diet. She talks about how she looked like “the poster child” for healthy living, but she was struggling with an eating disorder.
One thing I’ve learned as a nutrition student–a lot of people have disordered eating patterns and unhealthy relationships with food.
Looks are deceiving, so I stayed far away from the field.
My Limited Understanding Of Nutrition
Like most people, I understood the basics of nutrition. And I thought it was enough. Agriculture is a huge part of human history, but nutrition is still a fairly new field.
We all remember the food pyramid, advice on how we need to eat our fruit and veggies.
- Junk food
- Sugary drinks
- Saturated fats
I imagine much of my generation grew up thinking about food in this way. So, I thought my diet was fine. Chips and pretzels are the only junk foods I overindulge in and I don’t like soda. I also thought if I avoided processed foods, my saturated fat levels were fine.
I skimmed nutrition labels pretending like I knew what they meant. I could recognize a few key words here and there, but my understanding of the entire piece was non-existent. I also didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.
Since nutrition wasn’t an interest or concern, I never thought about working in nutrition.
How I Developed an Interest in Nutrition
I joined a gym with my friend in November of 2019. They had a 2-week free trial. Now, I am no morning person, but I went to the 6:15am class (why, right?).
One morning, I came home after class and I was possessed with a hunger so severe, I ate the first thing I found.
A chicken leg and thigh with cabbage. At 7am. And 3 hours later, I had the same. Clearly, I wasn’t eating enough calories to meet my needs. That was when I took nutrition seriously.
Why I Chose To Become a Dietitian
Like I said before, I didn’t love that ESL is an undervalued field. So, I had already started thinking about changing careers. Science and math were never subjects I was good at. So, why am I in a field based in science and math? (I still ask myself this as I study chemistry.)
Someone suggested nutrition to me. I scoffed at the idea and cited all of the “nutritionists” I knew. But, then I thought about it and did some research. I found out there are real nutrition professionals (like dietitians).
And I believe that health information should be accessible, reliable and based in research. Dietetics supports all of that. Every dietitian and “rd2be” is on a mission: Help people live healthier lives with evidence-based information. That is a value I can get behind.
Dietitians can also do most jobs in the nutrition field. So becoming a dietitian seemed like the best role to pursue.
I spent 3 months doing research before applying to a program. I wanted an online program because I did not want to live the broke student life. To my surprise, there were 7 accredited programs listed on The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ website.
I was worried about:
- Being a student again
- Balancing my work-school-and social life
- Getting into a science-based field
Going back to school is unappealing. Going back to be an undergraduate (again) feels worse. And I enjoy having a social life. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to give up my free time.
On top of that, I was about to go into a field filled with science. I thought I sucked at science. Chemistry and I are not friends (and we never will be).
I’m not a perfectionist…but I hate when I don’t excel. Going into a science degree meant I would need to adjust my expectations. Easier said than done.
Eventually, I took the plunge and submitted an application to one school. If I didn’t get in, I planned to take that as a sign to abandon this plan.
I chose the Univeristy of Arizona because:
- They have an fully online program
- They had a dietetic track
- They are a good school according to their rankings on U.S.News.
And I got in!
My Plans Now
There you have it. That’s how I went from scoffing nutritionists to becoming a dietitian. I’m a career-changing rd2be.
That means 4 years of online school, a dietetic internship and the RD exam are in my future. Hooray!
I didn’t expect my first year as a student again to be during a pandemic, but so it goes. Life in the time of Covid is full of surprises, right?