what is a dietitian

What is a Dietitian?

My name is Jennifer Rogers and I am a Registered Dietitian at Copeman Healthcare. I went to school for 7 yearscompleted a bachelors, a masters, and a practicum program, and I have written several national exams to be able to do what I do each day. I love what I do and I am proud of what I do, but when people ask me what I do for work, often I simply respond, “I work in healthcare”.

Why you might ask?

Well, I have a confession: sometimes my profession just doesn’t stay in the office – and that’s because there is a whole lot of confusion surrounding what a dietitian is, and what it is that we really do.

What is a dietitian?

Dietitians are often stereotyped as the food police. In fact, if I had a dollar for every time I entered a lunchroom or a friend’s house and heard “don’t judge me for what I’m eating,” I would have a nice little nest egg.

The reality is, dietitians do a whole lot more than just look at what you eat. Healthcare delivery is continuously evolving and most of us in primary or chronic disease settings only want to help people, not make them feel worse about their diets when they leave the office. As dietitians, what we really do is work with individuals one-on-one and find a nutrition plan that works with their lifestyle.

How is a dietitian different than a nutritionist?

Unfortunately there is a plethora of unsubstantiated nutrition claims and information out there provided by non-registered professionals. For example, the title “nutritionist” is not a protected title in BC, and the education requirements for this position are unregulated.  This can leave many vulnerable people with confusing and contradictory information.

In addition to being accredited, as dietitians we go beyond simply being the food police. Rather than prescribing a diet change based on a standard rubric, we work with you to look at your behaviour and examine the deeper cause behind your less healthy habits. It is our job to engage in a more meaningful way with clients and find a plan that works for them.

So a dietitian won’t force me to follow a specific diet?

The short answer is no. My role as a dietitian is to empower people to gain knowledge and confidence to choose health each day. Almost every single client I have ever seen can tell me what they think they are doing wrong and what they should do. We now live in a world where most things are one touch away and media suggests a magical cure to almost any ailment. There are biased documentaries popping up everywhere, often with some very valid evidence. But this evidence is presented in a fear mongering way. Believe it or not, evidence shows that fear does not drive us to change for very long.

To me, being a dietitian means meeting a client at their stage of readiness, and providing a non-judgmental and comfortable environment. It means having a holistic approach and acknowledging that things could always improve with regards to nutrition, but just like most of us could save more money, be more active, go to bed earlier, do more self-care, work less, it doesn’t mean this is always priority in someone’s life. Planning, purchasing, preparing, and packaging your food takes time, which most of us seem to have less and less of. And a good dietitian will meet you halfway.

What if I do just want someone to tell me what to do?

Many clients actually come to appointments and say “just tell me what to do” or “give me a meal plan to follow”. This can leave a dietitian in a bit of an awkward position. Do we give them what they want or do we persuade them to make a realistic goal or come back when they are ready to sincerely engage?

Food is often one thing that many clients know they have control over. However as a dietitian, me telling you what to do is easy. The hard part is the follow through. If you already know what you need to do, then the real issue is not what but how.

How can I get started working on a nutrition plan or with a dietitian?

My advice? Don’t “should” on yourself, and keep an open mind – especially when meeting with a dietitian. We are not here to criticize, guilt or command you to change but rather guide, support, and see you as a whole. Having early exposure to a dietitian can help manage behaviours before they become more difficult or challenging to change. By just talking to someone and starting with prevention, you might be able to change your life (and eat your cake too)!

To get started or book an appointment with a registered dietitian, simply fill out the following form.