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  • Haley Schlechter, RD, LDN

Food is Medicine: Seek an Expert

You see, as a dietitian, I am not just saying food is medicine because it sounds nice. For centuries what people have been eating has aided in both hurting and healing disease. Take for example scurvy, which is simply a vitamin C deficiency. Or in modern day, look at two of the top killers in America; Heart Disease and Diabetes. Both of these conditions can be prevented and treated with- ding, ding, ding- you guessed it, diet. Both of these conditions are also related to obesity. Food effects everything from inflammation, blood sugar and energy levels to hormone levels. Every cell in your body has been created and is affected by what you eat (think about that). So yea, you really are what you eat. As more people realize this truth, more people are becoming interested in nutrition and diet. But who can you trust to educate you on nutrition and diet when everyone (your vegan aunt and every fit chick on Instagram) seems to be a self-proclaimed expert? This week we dive into what a true nutrition expert looks like.

If food can be so pivotal in your life, so important to longevity and avoiding and treating disease where can you go to ensure you are getting the most accurate information? Well, there are in fact experts in nutrition and they are called Registered Dietitians. Dietitians are the ONLY nutrition professionals held to a medical level of understanding in diet, disease and food interactions. They are your experts. Legally, only a dietitian can call themselves a dietitian. If someone refers to themselves as anything else, including a nutritionist, you have no guarantee of their education on the intricacies of diet and health. The only truly regulated nutrition profession title is Dietitian.

The truth is that people do not know the difference between a Registered Dietitian and all other unregulated nutrition coach titles used today (i.e. health coach, life coach, nutrition consultant, random meat head at gym). There are a TON of people and organizations I could point my finger at for doing a terrible job of promoting the difference, BUT as a dietitian, it is ultimately my responsibility to help people understand. So without further ado… some facts:

What you are guaranteed when you seek a dietitian:

A qualified medical professional who has gone to school for 5+ years for nutrition education. This includes intensive metabolism courses that explain, in depth (sometimes painfully in depth), how nutrients are metabolized at the cellular level (shout out to glycolysis). This is how I can assure you metabolically if and how that fad diet is bologna. Education also includes counseling and research on a multitude of different diets and diseases. One of these 5 years of education includes an accredited internship (only a 50% acceptance rate). This incorporates more hands-on supervised nutrition and counseling education across all stages of life and disease (a.k.a. a year of not much sleep). Finally, we take a comprehensive accredited exam to ensure we learned all the things we were supposed to learn over those 5+ years. This education is unique to just dietitians. We are the people who you can not only rely on to help you reach your nutrition goals but to ensure long-term sustained health. Because, ya know, losing weight is fun, but large-scale nutrient deficiencies are not (cough, cough banana diet).

What you are guaranteed when you seek nutritionists, health coaches, consultants, bloggers, Meathead at gym:

Someone who has an interest in nutrition, may or may not have any education on the topic, or at worst, is trying to just make money off of you. What I am saying here is that there are no guarantees. They might be highly educated but just lacking the credential OR they might just be avid Doctor Oz followers.

Exceptions to every rule: Food scientists, those with a PhD in metabolism/metabolomics, nutrition, food science/chemistry, and human biology may not have counseling education but they know what’s up on the science side of things! Doctors and general practitioners only have one, MAYBE two nutrition classes in all of their education and hopefully will agree that it is better for those with nutrition concerns to seek a dietitian.

Moral of story: The difference between me and a doctor? You don’t need a prescription to walk into my pharmacy. Your diet is 100% in your control, which can and should be SO empowering!! Unfortunately, this also means everyone thinks they’re an expert. This is also why some are profiting off making crazy ineffective diets (i.e. baby food diet). The people that create these types of diets are the people that drive myself and other dietitians insane. They are not experts. Food is medicine, so if you are sick of your nutrition problems talk to a dietitian to ensure you get the right prescription for your individual needs. We are here to help you succeed!

Grow Strong My Friends!

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