So you want to be a nutrition student?

Today I’m about to get up close and personal with you. I’m going to tell you future nutrition students some things you might not want to hear. Some of the things I say may make you question yourself. But let me make myself 100% clear: despite everything I say today, I couldn’t be happier with my choice to become an RD. So yes, even when I lay out all my frustrations with this field, know that I am content with my choice because it feels 110% right.

Regardless, if you’re thinking about majoring in nutrition in college, considering becoming an RD, or if you’re already in nutrition and debating switching majors, this list might be something for you to take a peek at.

Ten Things You Should Know Before Becoming a Nutrition Student:

  1. Everybody else thinks you’re “just studying food so how hard can that be?”
  2. If you think you’ll “just be studying food” you might want to reconsider.
  3. Justifying that nutrition is science is a daily occurrence.
  4. It’s expensive. And I don’t mean just tuition expensive, I mean be prepared to dole out a lot of money between memberships to professional organizations, your internship, and random things your professors want you to have.
  5. Oh yeah, that internship. 1200+ hours working for free and slowly dying for 10 months? Sounds fun.
  6. Ooh did I mention how competitive this field is? The internship only matches about 50% of its applicants. Good luck! (<– Not sarcasm, I know a lot of you have submitted DICAS recently and I know you’re waiting on pins and needles, so really, good luck!)
  7. If you’re becoming an RD (which you should if you want to do anything nutrition-related) get ready to sit for a tough credentialing exam after your internship.
  8. All your friends will suddenly stop wanting to eat around you (possibly). Or, they will constantly be looking at your plate and dissecting what you’re eating. You’re a nutrition student and you’re having a cookie? *gasp*
  9. This field is so vast it’s so hard to pick what direction you want to go in (which isn’t totally bad).
  10. You will doubt yourself and your desire to follow this path. Stay strong because it will be worth it in the end, I promise.

I’m making nutrition sound like a pile of poo, but I promise it’s not. And maybe these don’t apply to every nutrition student out there, and maybe they won’t apply to you, but throughout my time these are some of the things I’ve encountered. Nutrition is a fascinating subject and it opens the doors to being able to help so many people. I don’t regret my choice for a second, but I do wish that I came into it more prepared than I was. Hopefully armed with this short list of sarcastic quips you feel a little bit more prepared for the journey you’re about to embark upon.

Have a wonderful week ya’ll.

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Happy Birthday ForksandNature!

Guess what everyone? Forksandnature is officially 1 year old [insert sound-maker noises and confetti which I won’t have to clean up here]! I just wanted to celebrate this milestone a little bit, and tell you that despite my hiccup over the last two months, the blog has garnered some attention over the past year. While it still remains small, I’m forever grateful for all of you who have read posts, commented, liked, and enjoyed forksandnature over the past year 🙂 So thank you!

 

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Over the course of 2016 I’d like to make the blog even better, and I can’t do it without your help! This blog, aside from being enjoyable to me, is something for you too. If there are any topics you’d like covered in the new year, or anything you’d like me to branch out and try, feel free to make suggestions. I’m beginning to plan 2016, and one of my goals is to ensure that I post regularly throughout my next semester even as things get a little crazy.

In other exciting news, I’d like to share with you all that I was officially accepted into a dietetic internship program! My school offers early admission to students currently in their program who have a high GPA and display excellence in many other categories, and I’m so happy and relieved to say that I will definitely be a dietetic intern next year. And, bonus, it also means I don’t have to go through DICAS and Match Day (but don’t worry everyone, I’ll be cheering you all on come April)!

Once again, thank you all for your support this year, I can’t tell you how much it means to me. Now, just to clarify, I’m not going to be able to post daily, but expect them weekly again. I’m looking forward to another year with you all 🙂

What do Dietitians Do?

It’s a lot more than just working in a hospital.

Hello again! I hope everyone’s Monday is going great. It’s already the last week of February – can you believe it?! I know I can’t, but I’m happy to see it go. One less month of winter! Those in the northeast US know what I’m talking about.

Anyways, in today’s post I wanted to branch into the dietetics profession because some of you may be curious as to what RD’s or RDN’s do for jobs. Even today I’m still finding new avenues I could potentially walk as my career blooms. So let’s talk a little bit about what working in the profession is like.

When someone thinks of a dietitian they often picture somebody in a white coat walking through a hospital, creating diet plans for patients, and generally being responsible for overseeing anything to do with the hospital’s food. Yes, you can go this route, and yes you will find plenty of dietitians filling these clinical shoes. A rather large chunk of your dietetic intern hours will be spent in clinical as well. It’s a fantastic jumping off point for a plethora of other opportunities that are available in the field, but most importantly going into clinical is not something you have to do.

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New Year’s Resolutions

What kinds of resolutions does a nutrition student even make?

Hello again! I know that making those New Year’s resolutions seems a bit out of place now that 2015 is almost a month in. But, I’ve had a couple of other topics I wanted to talk about to kick my blog off and give you guys a good picture of who I am, and why I might even have a little bit of credibility to talk to you about things nutrition or fitness related.

I’ll preface this by saying that these goals of mine are in no way some sort of perfect recipe for achieving ultimate health. They are very specific to what I am trying to achieve over the course of the new year in terms of creating healthier habits. There are things that I need to work on – as we know, nobody’s perfect. Not even a nutrition student when it comes to eating healthy!

I believe in making small changes that really can add up over time. There are very few people in this world that can start off with great, sweeping resolutions and hold them not just for the full year, but for life. I’m not saying that it’s impossible, but if you truly want your resolutions to be sustainable it’s been shown time and time again that gradual and small is the way to go.

And I mean, let’s think about it. How many times have you heard someone say they’re completely cutting out sweets this year and a few weeks in they cave and consume all of the sweets in the house? I’ve definitely been there, but moving on…

My changes are small. I’m slightly tweaking lifestyle habits to perpetuate the healthy life I promote, but don’t always achieve. It is a tough balancing act, being a graduate student on a limited budget with limited time trying to incorporate healthy eating (while keeping it quick and cheap) and regular fitness (hour gym sessions just don’t cut it). Here are some of my health-related resolutions this year that I hope to not only keep in 2015, but even beyond that.

1. Drink more water. Yes, everyone says it. Yes, it’s not all uncommon. But the value of drinking water is just too incredible not to mindfully include it on this list. Towards the end of last semester I started a water challenge with my flatmates. We agreed to drink 1 gallon of water each day, but during my semester break I fell off that bandwagon and need to get back on.

2. Not eating any sweet snacks (like cookies, of which I am oh so fond) after 8pm. I know this may seem a little arbitrary, but since most of my activity is done earlier in the day I don’t want to pack on extra calories late into the evening. Now this doesn’t mean a. I won’t ever eat sweet snacks because I do enjoy indulging, or b. I can’t eat anything after 8pm even if I’m starving – healthy snacks are totally fine.

3. Lead a more active lifestyle. I do a lot of sitting. I sit in class. I sit on the computer. I sit in the library. It just kind of happens. Because I watch a decent amount of TV shows (most nights of the week if I’m honest), I made a decision last semester to stand and watch TV instead of sitting. This helps eliminate some hours where I’d usually be sitting, and towards the end of the semester I utilized the time to work out as well when I was busy and couldn’t get my workout in for the day. So I’d like to continue doing that and add in walking around campus during my breaks instead of holing up in the library as I’m wont to do during this incredibly cold weather.

4. Try – try – to work out in the morning. Let’s face it: when I’ve got class at 8 or 9:30 in the morning it’s not gonna happen. But when I’ve got class late or on weekends I’d like to try and get up early enough to work out to get it out of the way. This is more specifically for the summer when I’m home, as I’m apt to work out in the evening. It really doesn’t matter when you do, as long as you get up and move. Sometimes I just want to get it out of the way for the day.

5. Stretch most nights before bed. I’ve already been doing this one since the new year started and I can say it is a really great way of calming down before bed. I’ve also been sleeping better since I’ve started, and I just really love stretching and working out the kinks in my body (I’m getting older and I swear once you hit your twenties your body just starts hating you a little bit).

And that’s it! As you can see, I haven’t overwhelmed myself with resolutions, and they’re all relatively small changes I can make to existing habits to ensure that I’m always trying to live a healthy lifestyle. I do, of course, have additional things I’d like to work on in my personal/academic life as well, but I thought I’d keep it to just these for the sake of this blog.

I hope your year has started off with a bang and proves to be even better than you’re hoping for!

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Question of the week: what sorts of New Year’s Resolutions did you make (if you made any) this year?

Changing Your Mind More than Halfway through the Game

It will be alright, trust me.

Hello there! As promised, today’s post is dedicated to how you can enter the field of dietetics at any stage of life, no matter what you’re area of expertise may be. It’s not an easy path, and it will be costly, but in the end if it’s truly what you want to do – well, then go for it!

If there’s one thing this transition has taught me, it’s that things do work out eventually. Even if it takes a little bit longer than expected. As long as you’re confident about the choices you’ve made, and are determined to do what you want to do, you’ll make it.

Don’t mind me over here. Sometimes I have to give myself pep talks.

In my running theme of honesty, being a grad student has been one of the scariest, most insecure times of my life. That’s your twenties for ya (am I right fellow twenty-somethings?). So when I came to the end of my time as a student in biology and realized that nothing in the field really interested me, I panicked. Briefly. It was half way through my senior year when I determined I really wanted to go into nutrition. After years of bouncing through different career options, this was when I finally found a path that I felt I would fall in love with.

That’s when I realized just how much work you had to do to even become a dietitian. How the heck was I supposed to do this?

Great question.

Because I already had a bachelor’s degree I was not particularly keen on going back to school for a second bachelor’s. After a bit of hard researching I was able to find a program that would allow me to achieve a master’s of science in nutrition, as well as the dietitian certification. My program allows me to complete the track I mentioned in last week’s post (here) in three years (four in my case since I want a master’s). Two years will be spent completing the DPD program (only a year and a half left at the moment!), after which I will apply to an internship (and hopefully get in!), complete my internship in another year, and take my test (becoming a certified dietitian!). After that, I will complete my master’s in nutrition in another year because this program is set up where the internship and master’s flow together, and only an additional year is needed.

It was not the easiest feat to find a program, but I do promise they are out there! Google became my best friend for awhile (who am I kidding, Google is always my best friend). Another really great resource was the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. They have a master list of all the accredited programs in the nation. A particularly helpful bonus was the ability to narrow down the list based on location, type of degree granted, and type of program (online or on-campus). Some have a coordinated master’s and DPD approach – which does take less time – and I applied to those schools as well, but the one I chose worked out better for me in the end.

The most interesting part about it is that I’m not really a traditional student anymore. And all of us “post-baccs” are in such unique and different situations that it’s been really fantastic meeting everyone and learning from their different life experiences. In a way I’m glad that I didn’t decide to go into nutrition five or six years ago (I still can’t believe it’s been that long). Despite the extra cost and stress, I think in the end I’ll get more from my experience now than I would have if I was a traditional student. It’s a richer learning environment, which I’m starting to appreciate as I get older.

So if you’re working your way through a bachelor’s in any field and you’ve found that nutrition is actually the path you wish to take, don’t fret! I’m finding now that having a bachelor’s in biology has been exceptionally helpful. Not only do you have to take several science-based courses throughout any nutrition program, but the support courses are all science (biology, anatomy, biochemistry, etc.). With all the science background I have, I’m feeling confident in plenty of my courses. Here are some helpful tips from my own experiences:

  • Start looking at accredited nutrition programs and find out what classes you would be required to take, especially the supporting science courses, stats, etc.
  • Take these courses, if you can, at your undergraduate college.
  • Finding programs that have some sort of combination really helps minimize the extra time you’ll have to be in school to achieve that RD credential.
  • To really determine if nutrition is right for you, think about doing some volunteer work in a variety of settings – I’ll talk more about this later, but it really does help.

I hope this helps those of you who may be facing a similar struggle to mine. In the end it works out, so just remember that as long as you’re determined you will achieve it!

And now for a little added humor…

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Question of the week: what do you think the impact of truthfully labeling food products would be on the average consumer?

How Do You Become a Dietitian?

It’s going to take a lot, if you’re up for the challenge.

Hi again! I hope you’ve all been having a great week. In this post I wanted to talk a little bit more about the path to become a dietitian because it can get quite complicated. My particular path is slightly more complex than what I’m going to detail today, but don’t worry. We’ll get into that in my next post.

And without further ado, let’s talk about what it takes to become a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN).

First thing to do: enroll in a nutrition program that has been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). If you check out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) website you can find accredited programs across the nation that fit your specific criteria for college. They are handily found under the “Become an RD/DTR” tab.

It’s imperative that you enroll in an accredited program. There are a number of core competencies and fundamentals that must be met through the various nutrition courses and supporting science courses you will take. This is otherwise known as the didactic program in dietetics (DPD – there sure are a lot of acronyms aren’t there?).

Once you’ve toiled away through your program, the DPD director will issue you a verification statement. This is necessary to participate in the dietetic internship (DI); the practical experience portion of your dietetic path that culminates to 1200 hours or more. You have to apply to various programs that best suit your specifications and perhaps what you’re interested in practicing as a dietitian. Again, the Academy’s website has a whole list of accredited programs you can access. I’ve heard that application time is one of the most stressful times on this path (not to mention the wait to hear back from the programs you’ve applied to). While it will be challenging, it will also be rewarding. There’s only so much you can gain from the classroom; practical experience shapes you in such a way that you’ll feel completely confident about becoming a licensed dietitian. That’s me throwing a bone, but I can only imagine it to be true.

Ok, you’ve gotten accepted to your internship program (yes!), you complete your program (even better!), now you’re finally (finally!) ready to sit and take your exam. With luck on your side and a bit (or a lot) of studying – you’re a dietitian!

Some of you may be wondering what the difference is between a nutritionist and a dietitian – the answer is simply what I’ve explained. A dietitian is credentialed (look for the RD or RDN after their name). They’ve gone through this rigorous program to achieve their end goal. And, even after the years of college and training, they have to stay up to date and maintain continuing education credits. They never stop learning about the best ways to help others live healthy lives. This is one of the reasons I love the field.

I’m not bad-mouthing nutritionists, but there are more than a few who call themselves such and have absolutely no training to back up what they claim. You’ll find what irritates most dietitians is that for every credentialed individual giving advice and trying to help others become healthy through diet and exercise, there’s dozens who are quacks touting miracle products and unhealthy diets. That being said, not every nutritionist is a quack. In fact, some dietitians choose to call themselves nutritionists because it’s a term recognized by the public. Something a recent professor told me:

“Every dietitian is a nutritionist, but not every nutritionist is a dietitian.”

Basically, if you’re looking for sound nutrition advice, ask the individual about their credentials.

Because I don’t want to make this post too long, look for next week’s where I’m going to talk about how the path of becoming an RD can happen at any phase of life. There are ways to do it. So if you, like me, decided late in the game that you wanted to become a dietitian, I’ll tell you all about how it will be alright.

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Question of the week: when you think of a dietitian, what are the first thoughts that come to mind?