Updated: Jun 16, 2019
When I tell people I'm a dietitian I usually hear something like...
"Oh lots of people need your help in this town... they love BBQ"
"Can you put me on a diet?"
"Oh yeah, my girlfriend is a nutritionist too. She posts, like, a bunch of stuff on Instagram and does fitness and stuff"
I've had all three of those responses in the last two weeks.
Also complete honesty...
I feel like none of it encapsulates what I do.
Its harmless small talk, so I never get into what I actually do. I find myself responding with a simple "yeah" and a sweet smile to these comments.
But today... I'm getting into it!
I'm very passionate about what I do and its very different than the experiences and specialties of other dietitians or health specialists.
Before diving in, let me be clear that all people who work in the health, wellness, and fitness field are important! We all have important jobs to do from motivating clients, educating clients, and monitoring clients. I am not trying to stand out as "better than" or "more important than" others... I'm just trying to differentiate. Because the clients I work with are specific to my skill set as a sports dietitian, whereas other clients will benefit from a health coach, others from a holistic nutritionist, and still others from a personal trainer. In fact, I turn down a lot of potential clients who are looking to eat healthier or lose weight, not because I don't care about their health and wellness, but because other professionals are better suited for their needs than I am. So there is no comparison... just differentiation.
So to reiterate... I am a sports dietitian.
Now, already, I'm afraid that when I said "sports dietitian" you heard "someone who likes food and fitness."
But no, that's not what I said ;)
Lets start with the profession of DIETITIAN:
A Registered Dietitian (RD) is a licensed medical professional.
As an RD, I work side by side with, and for, medical professionals including physicians, registered nurses, pediatricians, physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, and psychologists.
I took 6 years of formal education to obtain a Bachelor of SCIENCE and Masters of SCIENCE through courses including physiology, anatomy, cardio respiratory pulmonary, biology, microbiology, organic chemistry, medical nutrition therapy. My license requires continuing education every few years to maintain these credentials. So a Registered Dietitian is very much a medical profession focusing on the human body ....not just a field about how many calories are in a carrot.
An example of the extent to which I understand the human body....
In my career as an RD, I once read lab values on a patient that indicated cancer...and a few days later, he was diagnosed. I once heard all the signs and symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes, made a referral to an endocrinologist... and a few weeks later, he was diagnosed. I have many times helped people lessen their physical pains by referencing a few exercises and stretches enough to narrow down their problem and get them to a physical therapist. So ... can I treat somebody's cancer? No. Can I prescribe the right medication for Type 1 Diabetes? No. Can I heal somebody's physical pain? No. But I have a general understanding of it all enough to integrate with these medical fields, notice red flags, and get clients to the help they need.
I point this out because its important for your health care provider to have a general understanding of every medical field in order to refer you to a specialist if needed. I urge you to make sure your source for health information is indeed, a medical professional, not just a "fit-stagram" model or recipe curator.
Okay moving on to SPORTS:
Sports are organized activities of physical exertion and skill that involve an individual or team competing against each other. And I'm focusing on the words "organized" and "competing" because that differentiates sports from fitness. Yes, you can be competitive with yourself, try to better yourself, push yourself harder in the gym etc.... but the emphasis on a game, a match, a race... essentially, a display between top athletes or teams to see who is the best on any given day... THAT is what the spirit of competing is all about.
So as a Sports RD, I work side by side with, and for, all members of a sports team including the athletes, the coaches, the athletic trainers, the strength and conditioning coaches, and sports psychologists. My specialist certification of a CSSD (Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) was an additional year of direct training (...that's in addition to the 4 years of the BS, the 2 years of MS, and 1-year RD internship/clinical rotation). I worked full time under another CSSD in a sports environment, passing a board exam, and again, requiring specific continuing education for the sports realm to maintain these credentials. I am emphasizing the added training in a sports environment because working in athletics is a very challenging...