Are you curious about working with a registered dietitian? Maybe you’re struggling with food and aren’t sure what kind of dietitian to reach out to. Here are 8 reasons why you may want to consider an “anti-diet” dietitian (and what that means)!
If you’re like most people, you’re probably wondering what in the world a dietitian even does. Do we just put people on diets? Do we only work in hospitals? Is everything we do centered around weight loss? Are we the food police?
The truth is that dietitians work in a wide variety of practice areas and settings, from private practice and outpatient counseling, to clinical work in hospitals, to food service in hospitals and schools, to recipe development and food photography, to corporate marketing and communications and beyond!
And just like not all doctors specialize in all diseases or medical concerns, neither do dietitians! Finding a dietitian whose experience, skills and approach are aligned with your needs and preferences is important to ensuring a good fit and that they can adequately help you with your food and nutrition concerns.
What Is a Dietitian?
In a nutshell, a dietitian (in the United States) is someone who has gained the registered dietitian credential (you may see RD for short, and also RDN, which stands for registered dietitian nutritionist – they mean the exact same thing, but some people like to include the term nutritionist since it resonates with the public).
Did you know that “nutritionist” isn’t a protected title and that literally anyone can call themselves one? This is why it’s so important to seek out someone with the RD credential if you’re looking for help with food and nutrition. This way you know they’re educated and trained and can legally practice nutrition!
What does it take to become an RD? First, you must obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university and complete required nutrition-related coursework (it’s a lot of biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and medical nutrition therapy classes). Starting in 2024, a master’s degree will also be required. Then you need to apply for and get matched to a dietetic internship, and go through at least 1200 hours of supervised practice. Then you have to pass the RD exam. And once you’re an RD, you have to complete ongoing continuing education to keep your credential active!
That may be too much detail for some, but I think it’s important to know what the RD credential actually means and why it’s so important to choose an RD when you’re looking for help with nutrition!
What is an Anti-Diet Dietitian?
The phrase “anti-diet dietitian” can be confusing, especially since the word “diet” is in the word “dietitian!” What anti-diet means is anti diet culture. Anti-diet dietitians don’t buy into the obsession with thinness, weight loss, or using food as a means to restrict. Many of us did in the past, because we too were socialized in this culture, but we learned and grew and now practice in a way we consider to be more ethical and evidence-based.
Anti-diet dietitians don’t believe there are “good” foods and “bad” foods, or “healthy” foods and “unhealthy” foods. We know that the reasons we choose certain foods can be complex and that there is more benefit to foods than just the nutrients they supply. Food can be emotional, social, cultural, political, personal, and so much more.
We understand that our culture’s rampant anti-fatness is rooted in white supremacy and patriarchy and is another form of oppression. We know that weight stigma is everywhere, including healthcare, and has myriad negative consequences. We know that pursuing weight loss isn’t actually associated with good health, and that there’s a lot more to health than what we eat.
We support our clients in finding ways to nourish themselves that feel connected, accessible, flexible, sustainable, and compassionate. We support our clients in their health goals, and do not help clients pursue intentional weight loss.
Read on to see if working with an anti-diet dietitian is a good fit for you!
You Want to be Seen as More than Your Weight
If you know your health and relationship with food and movement are much more complex than the number on the scale, you’ll want a healthcare provider who feels the same.
Anti-diet dietitians don’t make assumptions about you based on your weight. And, we probably won’t even ask you what your weight is! (Note: Weight is monitored in certain stages of eating disorder recovery). Instead, we’ll get to know you, your history, your concerns and what non-weight goals you have.
You Want to Say Goodbye to Diets
So many of our clients have been on every diet out there and know through personal experience that diets do not work. And not only do they not work, they actually contribute to worsening physical and mental health over time.
And yet, it can be really tough to hop off the dieting train for good because of how much pressure there is to be thin (spoiler alert: dieting doesn’t actually make people thin and keep them that way – otherwise people would only ever go on 1 diet!) and how normalized disordered eating is in our world.
An anti-dietitian can support you in moving away from rules and restrictions and toward a more respectful and intuitive relationship with food and your body.
You Want to Support Your Health
This may seem like a given, but it’s important to say! Some folks mistakenly believe that if you don’t focus on weight loss then you don’t care about health. The opposite is true!
We know that actual health isn’t about how much you weigh. And that pursuing weight loss is usually associated with poorer health over time, not better. There are lots of factors, many of which are outside of our control, that impact our health. We empower you to make informed decisions about nutrition-related health concerns based on science and research (rather than a faulty assumption that losing weight will fix your problems).
Speaking of which, we know that healthism is super rampant in our culture too. We will never shame or judge you for any diseases or conditions you have, we will never criticize your choice to use medications, and we won’t pressure you to focus on your health any more than you want to.
You Want to Feel in Charge of Your Healthcare
Anti-diet dietitians know that you are the expert of your body. Just like we won’t make assumptions about you based on your size, we won’t presume to know what your experience is or dictate your care.
Our job is to be a support and a guide, with your consent. You are in the driver’s seat. Rather than giving you rules to follow, we ask before offering information and use counseling strategies to help you make decisions that feel right for you. (Note: Folks with acute eating disorders often require more prescriptive care.)
The goal isn’t for you to do exactly as we say, but for you to learn more about yourself and feel more confident in making your own food-related decisions.
While we may suggest certain recommendations and referrals, at the end of the day, you are in charge.
You Want to Work on Your Relationship with Food
Anti-diet dietitians don’t just look at what’s going on clinically, we care a whole heck of a lot about your relationship with food (probably more than what you’re actually eating!).
Most folks who were socialized in the Western world have some level of disordered thinking and/or behaviors with food. It’s a product of our thin-obsessed wellness culture and it isn’t your fault. Working with an anti-diet dietitian allows you to get curious about your past and present relationship with food and how it’s impacting you.
A lot of clients say this feels like food-focused therapy, and they’re right. While we are dietitians, not psychotherapists, we do a lot of work around your thoughts and feelings about food and body.
Speaking of, we often recommend our clients also work with a psychotherapist who is skilled at food and body issues and uses an anti-diet approach. Our relationship with food runs deep and it’s a great idea to dig into and process it in psychotherapy as well as with an anti-diet dietitian.
You Want to Learn How to Listen to Your Body
If you feel like you can’t trust your body to help guide your food decisions (which is super common especially for those who have dieted), it’s a good idea to see an anti-diet dietitian!
As it feels safe, we will help you connect with your body and explore the cues and signals it sends you. This can be a slow process, and therapy is often needed. And, it’s a beautiful and worthwhile endeavor!
You Want to Learn How to Work with Your Body
If you’re someone who feels like you’ve been working against your body as it pertains to weight, hunger, cravings, and nutrition-related conditions, an anti-dietitian can help.
Acceptance and self-compassion are core tenets of our work and an important part of cultivating an authentic and trusting relationship with your body.
It’s super rewarding to see clients discover, explore and trust their inner wisdom.
You Want to Improve Your Body Image
Do you feel like your body is never good enough? No matter how much dieting or weight loss, you’re still chasing something? That you’re always self-conscious about the way you look?
How we see and feel about our bodies is an incredible force, and many of us have a pretty negative body image, thanks again to our thin-obsessed beauty and diet cultures.
Here’s the thing: losing weight or manipulating your body does not “fix” negative body image. That’s an inside job to be done with the professional support of an anti-diet dietitian and psychotherapist. And you deserve to find peace with your body!
If you’ve gotten this far, bravo! Chances are you’re probably interested in working with an anti-diet dietitian. You’re in the right place! You can learn more about our dietitians here, and all about nutrition counseling here. Frequently asked questions are answered here.