Happy Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day! As a new RDN, this day is HUGE for me. I want to shout it from the rooftops – “HI, HELLO, IT’S ME WORLD, I’M A REGISTERED DIETITIAN NUTRITIONIST!”. But it’s 6am and I fear that my neighbors might not like that. Regardless, this day is extra special to me and many of us in the nutrition world, and I want to tell you why.
Let me give you the spark notes version of the profession, as a whole. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. As a matter of fact, I was guilty of doing just that when I was in my undergraduate education. The title can be used loosely, it does not merit any specific training or education prior to use. You can be a mechanic nutritionist if you’d like and sign MN after your name, and that is okay. And don’t get me wrong, I am super jazzed when I hear people want to start making positive changes to their health! So if you want to be a mechanic nutritionist, you go with your bad self and do just that! I will not stand in your way. But if you start throwing around crazy diets on the internet and try to convince people that all yellow foods are the spawn of the devil and candy is a good source of protein, then I may kindly ask you to slow your role.
In order to earn the title of Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), at a minimum you must earn a bachelor’s degree, complete a supervised practice program (aka 9+ months of a dietetic internship which entails full-time labor [typically unpaid] + extensive curriculum, and you may not be eligible for student loans but are STILL expected to pay tuition for said program), and pass a very challenging registration examination that will make you question your entire career path during your preparation period. That being said, the moment you pass that exam, I kid you not, the birds sing a little louder and the seas part and your mom buys you a margarita and the world is right again, because after totally working your tail off, you FINALLY earned your credentials.
The two different titles and credentials (RD and RDN) are interchangeable. There used to be only one option – Registered Dietitian (RD). However, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (aka a dietitian’s mothership) decided to add the optional ‘N’ at the end. This was a strategic move based on the fact that the credentials ‘RD’ may portray the professional as a source for ‘dieting’ only or a weight loss solution, when in reality, RDs are a great source for all things nutrition. Thus, the RDN credential was born. Dietitian’s can use either credential, as they carry the same clout. Personally, I usually opt for RDN because I want as many letters as possible after my name because I feel like it makes me look official. And that’s legitimately my reasoning.
In the next decade, the field is going master’s prepared, meaning all new RD’s entering the field must first obtain a master’s degree. Those of us already practicing are grandfathered in so to speak, and are not required to obtain a master’s, but over 50% of RD’s currently have one anyway. That’s pretty stellar if you ask me! Not to toot my own horn, but RDs are recognized globally as nutrition experts, and I am so beyond proud to be part of those ranks. It’s no secret that America is in an obesity crisis, and RDs are making great strides to help curve the health of the population. RDs can be found in a variety of fields including acute care, long term care, food industry, corporate wellness, outpatient consulting, community nutrition outreach, research, and more.
I think people have a common misconception of dietitian’s, so let me set the record straight. I can only speak for myself here, but here’s my opinion, take it or leave it: we are human. Yes, we know a lot of in’s and out’s of nutrients, diets, and diseases. However, we forget things too. It may have been a while since we have had to recall the exact potassium content of tuesday night’s dinner, or the perfect ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. But we stand firm on the following: nutrition is a lifestyle. It is not about fad diets or the next hollywood fix to drop 10 pounds in a week. It is about choosing healthy, wholesome foods to nourish your body for a long-lasting, balanced life. And sometimes that means we eat cake. Believe it or not, we have cravings and a sweet tooth too, so don’t judge us when we reach for a cookie after our kale salads, okay? Sometimes we all just need a cookie in our lives because it’s monday and work is hard. Life is about balance, and nutrition is a huge part of fueling an active, healthy lifestyle (even with an occasional cookie).
So cheers, to the RDs and RDNs out there! This one is for you! I am so jazzed to be a part of a profession that I am so incredibly passionate about, and I can’t wait to see where the nutrition world is headed in the future.Y’all are KALEIN IT.