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Spotlight:The Year of the Dietitian?

I am a dietitian, therefore I believe in dietitians.  I do not think all dietitians are created equally.  I do not think all dietitians are necessarily great at what they do, but I do believe if you work with the right dietitian you can get results that affect your overall health in a very positive way.  What I don’t know how to do is convince the public at large that a dietitian is the professional to seek out when looking for assistance with weight loss, food allergies, high blood cholesterol, uncontrolled blood pressure, Diabetes, Eating Disorders, and much more.  It seems like a no brainer to me; simply a written order from a physician to schedule an appointment with a dietitian along with medication prescriptions.  But this doesn’t happen as easily as it sounds.
I’m still boggled after answering questions like what’s the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist. Now I’m starting to also be asked what a health coach is.  Personally, I think a lot needs to be done to better educate the medical practice and overall community about what a dietitian does and how they should be used as a resource for patients but until then I’ll give you some “food for thought.”

As I read through ads and new business ideas for 2012 I see a lot of advertisements for health coaches and nutritionists.  What exactly is a nutritionist or a health coach?  It seems to me that there is a wide variety of job descriptions such as the lawyer down the way who decided to stop practicing law and study up on nutrition and preach at the local gym or the health coach that had a defining moment in his or her life which initiated a second career.  But what are their qualifications?  Just because this individual may have been successful at transforming their life with weight loss and exercise, do you think they have the experience to tell you what will work within your life?  And  then even if the experience can be translated to yours, do you feel deep down that they have the experience to deal with your weight gain that has developed into insulin resistance in conjunction with high cholesterol? 
Yes dietitians are very experienced at menu planning and working in food service and some still choose to do so, but only a dietitian has the experience with ‘medical nutrition therapy’ or recommending the best nutrition for not only the general public, but also those with co-morbidities, food allergies, etc.  My wish for 2012 is that more practitioners embrace working in conjunction with dietitians, that the public seeks out the help of a dietitian as they strive to get healthy, and that those of us in the field can help our accrediting agency lobby and educate appropriately.  In the meantime, if you’ve worked with a dietitian and had a good experience, spread the word.  If you haven’t, maybe this is your year.

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