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Why I Would Not Become a Registered Dietitian Again

If you had asked me at 17 years old, when I started college, why I wanted to become a registered dietitian, I would have told you because I was into “health”. Which would have been false. In reality, my eating disorder was just getting started and the enticement of learning more about nutrition was an unconscious effort to fuel my own disorder. The cacophony of being a gymnast for the entirety of my young life and exposure to a new pressure-filled, competitive environment was enough to plant the seed of disordered eating. With the addition of a never-ending supply of delicious nutrition information at my hungry fingertips, this disordered eating quickly developed into a full blown eating disorder. 

Unfortunately, like so many young dietetic students, the more I learned about nutrition, the more gnarly my eating disorder became. While, deep down somewhere, I will always love my alma mater, my undergraduate experience consisted mostly of learning diets for chronic illnesses. There was one expedited nutrition class offered on eating disorders, in the summer; which I avoided for obvious reasons. This was the only professor that would have seen right through my bullshit and, like many in the beginning stages of their disorders, I was protecting my behaviors at all costs. There were no classes offered on Health at Every Size, weight-inclusive care, intuitive eating, or entrepreneurship in the nutrition space. I did not leave my first college experience, diploma in hand, feeling particularly excited about any one area of nutrition. Needless to say, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my soon-to-be “career” when I set off to Virginia for my dietetic internship.  

During my internship, my eating disorder developed into a new beast entirely, which would stay with me for the next several years. There was a lot of diet culture, competitiveness, and comparison in the internship. I vividly remember a day standing at the grocery store contemplating buying doughnuts or cookies to binge on, when I heard a voice behind me say “don’t do it.”  I turned to find my internship director standing there, with a smile on her face, winking at me.  My face, flaming at that point, must have looked horrified, because she said “I just thought you needed encouragement to not buy “that junk.”  

If you asked me today, 20 years later, why I became a registered dietitian, I would tell you so many things:

  • I was floundering

  • I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to do with my life 

  • I was trying to find my space in the world

  • I had a debilitating illness that affected my ability to make good decisions for myself 

  • I was 17 and had NO clue about the world 

  • I had been exposed to so few career options

I have worked in so many areas of nutrition, finally landing in sports nutrition and eating disorders. These are the only areas of nutrition I will work in. Not because of my love of nutrition, but because of my infatuation with the human brain and body, my fascination with the intensity of people’s life stories, and my willingness to help others overcome similar struggles that I’ve had in my own life. I am so grateful to have found the weight-inclusive space through my own lengthy recovery process. Unfortunately, I still find so many areas of nutrition to be toxic and filled with diet culture and shame. If I had a second chance at 17, I would not choose dietetics. There are many hurdles to overcome and so much gatekeeping to stumble through in the industry. My passion does not lie in nutrition, but in helping others overcome, move forward, and excel; whether that’s on the court, at the table, or in their own career. 

At Untamed Nutrition Therapy, we will continue to serve our community through eating disorder care and sports nutrition counseling for individuals and families. In addition, we are starting a consulting group, called Untamed Nutrition Consulting Group (UNCG).  Our mission is to help other providers, specifically in the eating disorder or sports nutrition field, excel at their careers. We are taking a special interest in those that are struggling with their own relationship with food and/or bodies. More to come! For any questions, please reach out to Allison directly. 

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