I Respectfully Disagree: Some of Us Dietitians Are Sexy, And That’s Okay.
Recently a dietitian who I respect published a blog post about how dietitians aren’t sexy. It was retweeted a lot, and each time I saw it, I cringed. So now, I’m writing a rebuttal.
She described dietitians as not ‘sexy, or fun, or exciting’. Sort of like the frumpy girl friend of the hot guy who is there for him when the cheerleader dumps him. As compared to the ‘sexy’ cheerleader of the diet world, who I suppose are those people selling nutrition with gimmicks and promises.
You see, I think this is precisely the problem with a lot of dietitians. We are not taught the value of being sexy. This is a huge mistake.
Nutrition started as home economics and gradually became a more science-based program. For years, dietitians were equated with someone who wore a hairnet and who hospital patients complained to because they hated their meal trays or wanted chocolate Ensure instead of vanilla. Okay, I agree. Not sexy. Are you still following me?
In the past (and unfortunately now as well but not to that degree) Dietitians weren’t considered a valuable part of the healthcare team in so many places, so we were taught to fight for that respect. When I did my internship and even into my practice in hospitals, dietitians were treated to lengthy lectures by preceptors and educators about how to prove our worth and how to garner respect from those doctors and other professionals who never referred their patients to us. It was driven into us: your credibility hinged on making people believe that you were valued.
As a result, dietitians got used to being very serious. Very very serious, because being ‘sexy, fun, and exciting’ meant that you weren’t credible and people wouldn’t take you seriously. Lab coats, pulled back hair, and a prissy demeanor were the order of the day. Whipping out statistics and studies to prove you were right when a doctor challenged your need to feed a patient within a few days post-op. Everything had to be per the guidelines, and we pushed pushed pushed to document every bit of minutia according to how we were taught.
Unfortunately, I think dietitians went a bit too far with the serious stuff, because now we find ourselves in a rather large conundrum. A lot of it is because social media has changed the landscape on us. A smaller number of dietitians now work in hospitals. Nutrition is all around, being delivered by all sorts of people, and the public has a wide choice of who to listen to for that information. And as a result, all those other non-RD health professions who we scorned for years for being ‘not credible’ sources of nutrition information are suddenly catching up to us. They’re everywhere – writing books, on TV, in magazines. They are now very real competition for us, and suddenly we don’t like it. But those professions aren’t afraid to think outside the nutrition box. Actually, they’ve had to, because it was their only mode of survival against us. And now they’re in the spotlight, because no one, and trust me on this one, NO ONE wants to talk about Canada’s Food Guide anymore. No your clients, not anyone. It’s antiquated, it’s boring, and frankly, it sucks. People want real solutions, not ancient guidelines and well-used education materials that they’re just going to throw out when they leave your office.
Still, many dietitians sit and pout about how we are the only experts on nutrition who matter. But they don’t realize that many in the general public don’t care anymore. They want to be engaged with along with given credible information. Science is changing. Dietitians who stick solely to guidelines like they’re written in stone are finding themselves outpaced by even other RDs who are more liberal and relaxed in their recommendations.
And now I come to my own personal credo:
You can be sexy and still be smart. You can be funny and engaging and still be credible. You don’t compromise professional integrity by being those things, only by delivering unreliable or untrue nutrition information.
It’s the way I’ve always felt, and the way I will always feel. Just because I’m a dietitian doesn’t mean I can’t deliver boring information in a fun, exciting way. It also doesn’t mean that I need to drill my worth into other people, because if 10 people don’t want to listen to me, there are 100 people who do.
So dietitians, it’s okay to be sexy. People will still respect you. They’ll listen to you. Be funny. Be exciting. Don’t be afraid to be these things. You don’t have to use gimmicks or resort to crazy nutrition advice to be interesting. You just need to let go.