What is a dietitian?
No, we are not mythical creatures of perfection (cue the laughter!!!!) we are the ONLY QUALIFIED health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems. And these are big boots to fill.
There’s a vast amount of different dietary and nutritional advice out there – its like the Wild West! Dieticians are here to dissect the fact from fiction. We translate the science of nutrition into practical, evidence based advice. We are the experts!
In the U.K. the undergraduate degree takes 4 years to complete so we tend to be a very commited lot! We do the following:
➔ Help to promote nutritional well being, treat diseases and prevent nutrition related problems
➔ Provide practical, safe advice based on current evidence
➔ Hold the ONLY LEGALLY recognised graduate qualification in nutrition and dietetics in the U.K.
➔ Treat a range of medical conditions with diet therapy, specially tailored to each individual
➔ Advise on healthy eating for all ages, races, cultures and social groups
➔ Conduct research relating to diet and disease / health
➔ Advise industry, government and education
➔ Teach and lecture
➔ Work in the media
➔ Work in public health
Over the years there has been confusion surrounding the profession of dietetics. I often come across people who don’t really know what we do – we don’t just help people lose weight and write ‘diet plans’! Far from it in fact! We have a vast knowledge of how food & lifestyles affect and treat disease. We provide information so that people can make informed choices. Dietitians believe in a patient centred approach, we put people first and advise on an individual basis – one size certainly does not fit all!
I often get asked what the difference is between dietitians / dieticians and nutritionists. For years dietitians have been trying to separate the two professions as they are so different. This is mainly due to the level of education required to be a dietitian and the legality. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist but, dietitian is a protected term. Having a legally protected title is essential – people create new, impressive sounding titles by the week – nutritionist, nutrition consultant, diet consultant – the list is endless. Qualified nutritionists usually work in industry with food manufacturers, research, education and journalism.
Dietitians are professionally accountable to the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) and we are governed by the British Dietetic Association (BDA). You can find links to both these on my ‘links’ page. Being registered means that we are regulated by the law and adhere to an ethical code to ensure that we always work to the highest standard. We have to demonstrate continuous professional development (CPD) as a part of our registration to prove that we keep updated with the most up to date advice, guidelines and research.
Some dietitians – me included – practice motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioural therapy. We know that if someone tells you to do something you’re likely to do the opposite, but, if you work on what’s important to you, you’re more likely to commit and succeed. It takes years of practice to master cognitive behavioural therapy and to be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of people.
What type of conditions do we work with?
❖ Pre-diabetes (impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose)
❖ Weight management
❖ Nutrition support – being underweight
❖ Heart health – raised blood pressure, cholesterol
❖ Gastroenterology – IBS, irritable bowel disease, crohns and coeliac disease
❖ Food intolerances and allergies
❖ Kidney problems
❖ Oncology (cancer)
❖ HIV / AIDS
❖ Eating disorders
❖ Sports nutrition
❖ Bariatric (obesity) surgery
❖ Maternal health
❖ Children and babies
❖ Nursing home residents
We don’t just advise on food and disease, we advise on so much more – portion control, blood test results, medication, cooking, shopping, budgeting, physical activity, motivation, meal ideas & meal planning and a whole lot more!
So, remember: all registered dietitians are nutritionists but the majority of nutritionists are not registered dietitians.