The best thing about my work is that I am always learning more and exploring new territory in the company of the people I work with – both clients and professionally. Experience and skill takes time to develop but luckily never ends and there are many great dietitians on this journey at all levels that I admire and happily refer people to.
I worry though about the current rise of media based ‘expert’ information and clever marketing. I have seen a number of people recently who have developed an eating disorder due to well meant but prescriptive therapeutic diets from health professionals of all types who are unaware of the risks or who are caught up in their own ideas without really understanding the broader issues.
A dietitians training is only the beginning, to work in areas that involve change in peoples lives or emotional or mental health concerns you need both post graduate training and a commitment to ongoing self reflective practice. Recently the culture of professional supervision has begun to be accepted by dietitians which is a great step forward. This ensures that we firstly do no harm and secondly are aware of our own boundaries and skilled in defining these.
The job of a dietitian is to translate science into change that fits with the people seen and their individual culture and lifestyle. All dietitians, including me, have their own interests and style of work and sometimes can reflect the wider communities confusion about food, body and weight. The meaning of ‘evidence based’ that defines a dietitian is no longer as clear as it seems.
Finding one that is the ‘right fit’ can take some detective work and there may be limited choice for a number of reasons. If you can, check that the values held by the dietitian are client centered, thoughtful and avoid being prescriptive in a way that perpetuates the good/bad/healthy/unhealthy or ‘special/miracle’ myths about food, nutrients and bodies. Also avoid the lure of expensive tests and diagnostic scans and equipment unless your GP has a medical reason for prescribing these.
So look past the clever website, gimmicks or media presence. Look for someone who will talk to you about what they do and don’t do, who is interested in what you are actually seeking and who is happy to refer you to someone who is more suitable if that is better. Then trust your own reactions and instinct. If it doesn’t feel right – see someone else for another opinion. Dietitians have a lot to offer, but it is like anything else, check it out first.