“I don’t want to be a dietitian anymore”

I wasn’t looking for a job. I’m not the type to actually read LinkedIn messages. (I spend as little time as possible on that website. It needs ALL THE UX HALP.) But there was the message, on LinkedIn, and there I was, reading it. It arrived about one month after I went part-time at my corporate wellness job—one month into thinking maybe I could start a “real” side-hustle (not the fake kind I had for a few years). The message and job description caught my attention, at just the right time.

Real talk

I was one month into wondering if maybe, I don’t want to be a dietitian anymore.

Last week, my analytics told me the top Google search for this website (that day) read “I don’t want to be a dietitian anymore”. And I was like, “Yo, I’ve BEEN THERE.” Hear me out.

If you’re in job searching mode, looking for how to navigate that nontraditional RD career path, register to watch the RD Real Talk Round Table discussion on this topic!

I couldn’t talk to another client about their BMI and how it didn’t really indicate much, even though it alarmed them. I couldn’t keep spending my days on the phone, talking to people who weren’t very interested in talking to me. I couldn’t keep writing blog posts about recipes that weren’t that great, just because other RDs posted recipes (most of which are MUCH better). I couldn’t keep reading about how everyone clearly needs to lose weight and what a dire state we are in here in AMERICA. I couldn’t keep thinking and talking about food all the time. I couldn’t keep looking at humans through diet-focused glasses. None of it felt exciting or challenging or right or fun anymore.

I couldn’t stay in a profession that constantly reminded me of the disordered eating patterns I had spent years to work myself out of.

I couldn’t stand to be surrounded by the triggers and the diet messages and the constant weight obsession. I couldn’t see how I could thrive, as my healthier self, and coexist with this dietitian identity.

Then there was this message about this job.

There was this startup in San Francisco looking for a dietitian. Just one. Just me. Someone to write about nutrition, and design classes, and help people out. But, being the only dietitian, no one was there to give me rules about how to do it.

No one said, “Does the Academy approve this message?” No one asked if the Affordable Care Act regulations were going to come back to kick us in the ass. No one cared what I said, as long as it was fact-based and it resonated with their vibe. I certainly resonated with their vibe, so, it was a good fit.

So, I kept being a dietitian.

I even went to FNCE for the first time! And hosted an event! And got to stand in front of a table of fellow dietitians and say, “I think we should stop calling food “healthy” in our recipes and posts, so we don’t do that at this company.” I wasn’t shunned. I was learning a new language—one focused on our body’s intuition, how it knows what it needs, and how we have to learn how to listen to and respect this body of ours. This group of RDs at this breakfast at my first FNCE? They already got it. They were in. I found my people.

Real talk: This job, that I wasn’t looking for but couldn’t turn down? It’s why I’m still a dietitian.

Through that job I met and worked with dietitians who were into teaching mindful eating, and we gave them a platform to teach it. I learned about mindful eating through their courses, and it changed things for me.

I got to design my own nutrition course, with my own set of guidelines to teach people how to UN-complicate food. (One might call it “ditch the diet mentality” now that one knows a little more.) Through that job I worked with editors who challenged me to be opinionated, to improve my writing, and to stand behind my philosophies.

My business–this project I’ve now spent almost one year working on and nurturing–wouldn’t exist as it does without that job. The “RD” letters after my name might not exist anymore, either. But they’re still there. And I’m so damn proud of those letters, and the group they represent.

Don't want to be a dietitian

So, dear “I don’t want to be a dietitian anymore”,

I hope you hold that thought. Explore it. Think about why this profession (or any profession) isn’t feeling right to you. Think about what’s disagreeing with the core of what you need.

Related: Register to watch the Job Searching, Networking, and Navigating Your Nontraditional Nutrition Career Round Table Event webinar

If you decide to stick around, remember that there are PLENTY of nontraditional nutrition careers out there for you.

There are RDs with an MBA who help businesses or start them. There are RDs who specialize in marketing and PR, helping food companies and industries hone their message and get it RIGHT. There are RDs who work with low-income communities and food deserts. There are RDs who go full media and bring the world beautiful food photos to remind us that eating should be pleasurable and food should be appetizing. There are RDs who work in tech, policy, communications, and consulting. There are careers in hospitality, clinical, or even public health that may be more satisfying and challenging than you assume.

There are OPTIONS. And depending on what’s pulling at you, there are resources to help.

I’m all ears, if you have specific questions.

(In fact, if you’re a newsletter subscriber, you’ll be the first to know about an upcoming coaching program that I’m opening to RDs (and non-RDs) just like you, who wonder, “Is intuitive eating, or a non-diet approach to food, really right for me? Does it actually work?”)

And if, at the end of the day, you really know you don’t want to be a dietitian (or insert-your-profession-of-current-choice) anymore, that’s OK too.

You know you best. Trust that.

Comments

  1. October 27, 2017

    I get it. Thanks for a refreshing blog post. I’ve been a RD for over 11 years and can relate. I work in education, so have a bit of flexibility and focus on pedagogy, assessment, and of course, education and topic matter. I definitely became frustrated with the BMI and such.

  2. October 27, 2017

    Yep. I’ve been there too and I’ve only been a RD for 4 years. I’m in an outpatient clinical setting but thankfully have a fair amount of flexibility in how I do my job (now…that wasn’t necessarily the case the first 2 years). I was really burned out on telling patients what they “should” do based on the traditional way that RDs “should” do things, until one day I decided to throw out all the “shoulds.” Now I approach each patient appointment as an opportunity to get to know someone new and help them live a healthier lifestyle – whatever that means to THEM and however it happens.

  3. October 28, 2017

    AWESOME post! I have been an RD for 27 years with a 10 year break to raise my kids…but many times have felt frustrated with being an RD and ready to abandon. I now work in an outpatient diabetes center where counting carbs and following ADA “rules” seems to dominate in the messages sent to patients-AHHH! But I now am using Michelle May’s “Eat What you Love with Diabetes”– a lot more in our curriculum which jives much more with my own philosophies and practices. I like to think RD stands for Reasonable Dietitian- we all need to be a little more reasonable in our approach- Real as you call it! A much happier approach to live and practice by!

  4. October 29, 2017

    Fantastic read, Heather. The letters after my name are different, but I’ve been in the exact same position. Glad you found your place & your people.

  5. October 30, 2017

    Really fascinating read! Thanks for sharing Heather

  6. October 30, 2017

    You have such a great POV! Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. October 30, 2017

    Heather,
    I am so glad you spoke up about something almost all of us think about. I have been an RD for 6 years now and I still wonder what my non-traditional path will be someday. It is an accomplishment to have RD after our names and to use that towards our passion. Thank you for the inspiration!

  8. October 30, 2017

    Hi Heather! I am a second-career RD. I spent the first 10 years of my professional career working as an advertising executive in NYC. It was a glamorous, well-paying job. But it was also stressful, long commute, longer work hours, and my health suffered so terribly as a result that one day I walked out the door and never came back. After some serious soul-searching, I decided to become an RD because I just really want to have a private practice. To be honest, I didn’t even know how many doors would be open to me with that dietitian credential. 3 years ago, I was able to proudly add RD after my name. Since that time, I have been able to purse the one major goal I set for myself when I left advertising: to never work for another boss ever again! Although my career path has changed over the years since becoming an RD, I have since learned to appreciate how many skills I possess from my previous life that I’ve found I can even create a new path for myself in this wonderful RD world. So yes, take time to explore all the incredible opportunities that can exist in this nutrition field. And the best part is, if you don’t like to jobs that are currently out there, create your own! This is an amazing community with a wealth of resources – there’s no shortage of helpful people in this profession who want to build up this profession together 🙂

  9. November 1, 2017

    I think probably my favorite thing about being a dietitian is that there are SO many avenues you can take your career. Thanks for being raw and real.

  10. November 2, 2017

    Really great post! I’m happy you found something that works for you.

  11. November 2, 2017

    Congrats on finding your calling and what works for you! I just got notice that I’ve been a dietitian for 25 years-wow! I’ve never really taken the traditional path, but have changed my “career” 3 times now. My interest right now is in integrative and functional medicine & I love that there’s still so much to learn. Best of luck with your new job!

  12. November 2, 2017

    This was a great post to read Heather! I’m a career changer (or more making a lateral extension) and still have two semesters to go before I graduate with my BS in dietetics and then on to an internship, so still a ways to go. I’m enjoying every step of the journey though… 😉

  13. November 3, 2017

    SO glad you shared this! I loved ready your story since so many RDs go through something very similar!

  14. November 8, 2017

    Thank you for this!! Was literally just thinking these thoughts this morning. Here’s to fighting to change the culture of nutrition!!!!

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