Terrified of Seeing the Dietitian? What to Expect….
If I had a dime for every time a patient said “I didn’t want to come here” or “I was a little scared to come see you” or “Oh, that wasn’t bad at all!” well, I’d have a lot of dimes. Truth be told, I love hearing patients say things like this because it means I’ve done my job. It means I made them feel comfortable enough to talk about their situation with me and that they learned some tips and tools to help live longer, healthier lives. Over the past eight years as a registered dietitian, I’ve learned people often loathe and fear us even before meeting us personally. This keeps some people from seeing a registered dietitian and working on improving their health. So I wanted to take the time to explain what a registered dietitian is and what to expect when you sit down across from one of us.
The first thing to know is that a nutritionist and a registered dietitian nutritionist are not the same. Our credential changed in 2013 from Registered Dietitian (RD) to Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) to try and clear up this confusion. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Anyone. A RDN must have completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, completed 1200 hours in a supervised practice program in a healthcare setting and passed a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). Some of us have other letters of the alphabet behind our names which indicates we did further training in a specialty area. For example, CDE stands for a Certified Diabetes Educator and CSO is a Certified Specialist in Oncology. As RDNs, we have to keep up with new research and changing guidelines and are required to have 75 units of continuing education credits every five years to remain credentialed as a RDN. Note some dietitians have opted to keep the RD credential instead of RDN. They still have the same schooling and requirements. Therefore, if you go to someone for nutrition information who does not have the RD or RDN credential, you are not getting advice from the true expert in food and nutrition and are really doing yourself a disservice.
What to expect at a visit:
We want to get to know you! We don’t just look over your chart and begin lecturing you about your diet. We typically receive a referral from your doctor and a diagnosis. Sometimes we get your last clinic visit note from your doctor. So we really don’t know much about you. The RDN will spend some time gathering information about you such as why you were referred or chose to see us, what you’d like to learn, what your health and wellness goals are and general health info such as your height, weight, recent weight changes, health history, medications you take, etc. We will likely do a “diet recall” where we ask you to describe a typical meal, snack, beverage, etc. We want to know what you usually eat and what you like to eat.
We want you to be honest. We aren’t here to judge what or how much you eat. All of us entered this profession because we want to help people. Being honest with us lets us help you. I can’t speak for all dietitians but I’m not appalled if you say you eat ice cream and cookies every night. I like ice cream and cookies too. Together, we’ll figure out how ice cream and cookies could still fit in your life and how to still meet your health and wellness goals. One of my philosophies is we have to find behavioral changes you feel like you can sustain for a lifetime. We aren’t in the business of quick fixes and we’ll be here to support you along the way as you make these changes.
After the assessment, we work with you to make a plan. We provide education regarding weight loss, diabetes, heart disease, food allergies or whatever it is you came to see us for. We will help you set specific, achievable goals. We can work with your doctor if we feel more lab tests need to be done or if we think a different medication might work better for you. Then we will schedule follow up visits to monitor your progress in meeting your health and wellness goals. Sometimes we work with you for a short time period. Other times we work with you for years. This all depends on your health and wellness goals.
In conclusion, we are not the food police. We are here to help you make the changes you want to make. Your agenda is our agenda and not vice versa. You are the most important person on your healthcare team and we are honored if you choose us to join your team. Come see us!
Denver Wellness and Nutrition Registered Dietitians provide useful blog post about health and tips for success. Our RD's are committed to greatness at every step towards your optimal health.