I find that a lot of people who step into my office for the first time either aren't quite sure what to expect from a visit to the dietitian or they are surprised at how a visit actually goes. There are a lot of misconceptions about what a dietitian does, so I thought I'd give you a better idea! Granted, there are a lot of different types of dietitians who specialize in different things, but this will be true of many dietitians, particularly those who don't utilize diets.
1. We are not the food police. Many people think that coming to a dietitian will equate to an hour-long shaming lecture on everything they're doing wrong with food. I can't promise you won't run into that somewhere, but not here. At the end of the day, there are no "good" or "bad" foods. Food is just food and no one meal or day or even week of eating has the power to make or break your health. Maybe you (or your budget) feel better when you don't have fast food for every meal, but your schedule is tight and quick stops at Chick Fil A have been getting you by. While we're happy to help you figure out ways to build in more home cooked meals or fruits and veggies if that's what your goal is, there will be no shaming for doing what you need to do to meet your body's most basic requirement for food.
2. We don't have a "magic pill" or "secret answer". There isn't some miracle fruit or vegetable that will cure all of your ills. You probably already know the basics of nutritious foods - fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, lean meats. No surprises here! It really isn't rocket science. As such, you won't walk out of our office with a list of the "5 Top Foods for Your Best Health", mainly because there is no sound research to suggest there is such a thing. Similar to what I suggested in the first point, nutrition is about the big picture of your general habits over time. What we can do is help you sort through all the noise that you find on the internet or in the media when it comes to nutrition. We'll help you decipher the information that is true, figure out what works best for your life, schedule, preferences, and goals, and then help you put that into action. Much better than a "one-size-fits-all" magic pill, don't you think?
3. We don't (generally) provide meal plans. If I had a dollar for every time someone said "just tell me what to eat"....well, I'd have a lot of money! While this may seem like an incredibly helpful thing and like it would be the whole purpose of seeing a dietitian, it really isn't. For example, what happens if you want to go out to eat and that wasn't on the plan? Or what if you finish what is listed on the plan and are still hungry? Or if what is listed doesn't sound good? Even the best dietitian can't know what and how much your body needs at any given moment. Only you are the expert of you and a dietitian's role is to help you tap into that inner wisdom and learn how to use it. By learning to identify and honor your internal cues of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction (which is something we can help you do!), you gain access to the most personalized "meal plan" of all. The exception to this would be those recovering from an eating disorder or a history of chaotic eating. In this situation, a meal plan acts almost as a cast does when healing a broken bone. It provides some structure, ensures adequacy of intake for healing, and helps you re-learn hunger and fullness and what it looks like to regularly and adequately nourish your body throughout the day. Even in these situations, we take a collaborative approach and the end goal is the same: transition away from the meal plan and rely on internal cues to provide flexibility in meeting your body's varying needs.
While this may not seem as exciting as the headlines on magazines or the internet promising "Quick Results if You Eat This Secret Food", it is more realistic, more sustainable, and helps you move away from judging your self-worth based on what you eat 3+ times per day.