March is National Nutrition Month
Wednesday, March 11, 2015 is National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day.
Yes—we have our own day! I love being an RDN.
In 1998 I obtained the credential registered dietitian (RD). In 2013 the addition of nutritionist was formally added to it—registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). Our profession has the choice to use RD or RDN and I quickly adopted RDN because:
- Few people know what an RD is, unfortunately.
- People seem to have a better understanding of the word nutritionist. But do people realize in most states anyone can call themselves a nutritionist? No certification or credentialing required. None. Zero. Zip.
- All registered dietitians are nutritionists but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.
How hard can nutrition be?
Having been an adjunct professor for over 17 years teaching Principles of Nutrition, I’ve had numerous students sign up for my class, thinking it might be an easy A or a blow off. How wrong they are. And how quickly they find out. Nutrition is a science. S.C.I.E.N.C.E. It’s not an opinion.
Like many in my field, my interest in nutrition started very long ago. Because of where I was in life and the route I chose in a different career, it took me time to find this path. After a successful 10-year business career, I decided on a life-altering change and went back to school to get my Masters of Science in Exercise and Sports Nutrition—best decision ever!
My coursework the first semester back to school was:
- Anatomy & Physiology (with lab)
- Inorganic Chemistry (with lab)
- Microbiology (with lab)
- and Principles of Nutrition
Nutrition is biochemistry
That was just the beginning. That much science? Yes. Nutrition is biochemistry—the study of the chemistry of life. Do you ever think of what happens when you take a bite of food? Nutrition is about that bite of food—the protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals—and the digestion, absorption, transport, and metabolism of the nutrients. Pretty cool stuff. To me anyway—but, I’m a nutrition nerd and it’s my life.
Everything in our body was once something that we consumed or made within—the bones, the muscle, the fat, the hormones, enzymes, antibodies. The human body is amazing. People just don’t give the body enough credit. It does miraculous things—all on its own.
Detoxing and cleansing have gained in popularity but seriously, do you need a good detox or cleanse to get the sludge and the toxic material out of your body? No. Because in a healthy body there is no sludge that just sits inside your colon needing to be removed. Why do you think we poop?
And toxins? The liver is a primary detoxifier in the body and it does a really amazing job at doing just that. If you insist on a detox, this is what I recommend—a diet of whole fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans/legumes, lean protein, lots of water and no highly manufactured food-like substances. Let your body detoxify itself and let it do what it is naturally designed to do.
Unfortunately there is so much pseudo-science in the field of nutrition. People that do not have an understanding of the physiology of the body can so easily be manipulated into believing whatever they read or hear despite the lack of quality research.
Everyone is an expert
It’s amazing how many self-prescribed experts there are in the world of nutrition. Just because someone has lost weight and has a great story or became a fanatic about a particular way of eating does not make them an expert. Worse is when the so-called expert preach that their way is the best and only way. Ridiculous. Everyone is an individual and needs to be treated as one. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Although I follow a plant-based diet for the most part (a flexitarian to be more specific), I love low fat and nonfat dairy, like milk and Greek yogurt. I also enjoy an occasional burger or steak. But I would never criticize anyone following a vegan lifestyle because they would not consume those foods.
I’ve watched webinars, and read articles, blogs, etc. on how to be a better speaker. I even go to a Meet-Up Speaker’s Academy meeting every other Monday to learn and practice more. Does that make me qualified to teach workshops on speaking? No.
I’ve done some remodeling on my house—heck I was even a core volunteer for years working every Saturday for Habitat for Humanity—but does that make me qualified to build a house? No.
I love animals and foster Great Danes. I’ve taken care of 38 of them over the past 11 years. Does that make me qualified to be a vet? No.
So why is it that someone reads a book or tries a program that all of a sudden they’re an expert?
I teach Principles of Nutrition as adjunct (part-time) faculty at Richland College and also University of Dallas. My students ask me questions—lots of questions. Should I do this? Or eat this? Or not eat that? Because everyone is an individual, there is not always an easy answer. The diet, the person, their health, genetics, lifestyle, etc. need to be looked at in its entirety. Nutrition is not so black and white.
There is one area that I feel strongly about and will always tell people—until I am presented science to disprove the benefits—to eat more vegetables and fruits. That I am extremely confident about! Despite the myriad of studies and research over the last 50 years on many nutrition topics, one thing has not changed—eat more veggies and fruits.
I’ve no doubt people mean well. But what is the basis of their recommendations? Have they studied the body and do they have an understanding of the anatomy and physiology? What I may say might seem simple and basic but that is only because I understand the science behind what I say. My education has given me that. I spent over eight semesters back in school to learn my field, completed an internship, and passed a credentialing exam. Do I know everything? Of course not. I’m always learning and will forever be.
A final thought, if someone begins a conversation, “Well, they say…” Stop them right there. Ask who “they” are and what are their credentials?
From the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website (accessed March 10, 2015):
Qualifications of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Registered Dietitians (RDs) are food and nutrition experts who have met the following criteria to earn the RD credential:
- Completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree at a US regionally accredited university or college and course work accredited or approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Completed an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program at a health-care facility, community agency, or a foodservice corporation or combined with undergraduate or graduate studies. Typically, a practice program will run six to 12 months in length.
- Passed a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). For more information regarding the examination, refer to CDR’s website at www.cdrnet.org.
- Completed continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.
Some RDs hold additional certifications in specialized areas of practice. These are awarded through CDR, the credentialing agency for the Academy, and/or other medical and nutrition organizations and are recognized within the profession, but are not required. Some of the certifications include pediatric or renal nutrition, sports dietetics, nutrition support and diabetes education.
In addition to RD credentialing, many states have regulatory laws for dietitians and nutrition practitioners. Frequently these state requirements are met through the same education and training required to become an RD.
Jennifer Neily is proud to be a registered dietitian nutritionist and has no regret spending thousands of dollars to achieve the goal not to mention several years back in school. It’s rather frustrating as you might imagine to see a Groupon coupon for an online nutrition diploma for $39. Seriously?!