Someone recommends you see a dietitian but you tell yourself "I really don't want to stop eating foods I love!" It's completely normal and that's hy it's important that you learn more about the role of a dietitian and how she can really help you to achieve you health goals. Dietitians are far from being the food police!
So what is a Registered Dietitian?
We see so many titles: nutritionist, dietitian, nutrition coach, holistic nutritionist, nutrition expert... It's hard to know who to trust. So who are the qualified healthcare professionals? The answer, of course, is not that simple. In Canada, Registered Dietitian is a protected title in all provinces, you are sure that a dietitian has a done 4 year bachelors degree, 35-40 weeks of supervised internships and that she's part of a college that guides her practice to protect the public. However, nutritionist is not a protected title in all provinces. It is in Québec, Alberta and Nova Scotia. For example, a nutritionist and dietitian is the same person in Québec. In Ontario, a dietitian is member of a professional college, but a nutritionist could have any background from a 20 hour training she did on Internet or a full bachelors degree since this title is not regulated. You can always verify that the person you are working with is a regulated healthcare professional by looking on your province's register, this information is available to the public. Check out the College of Dietitians of Ontario 's website under "Find a Dietitian" or the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec under « Vérifier le droit d'exercice», you'll find my name in the list of professional since I am a member of both colleges. I always prefer to use the title dietitian in English since it's the only title that is protected in the whole country.
A dietitian can work in many areas. Of course, some help people in their weight loss journey which is the most common thing we think about what a dietitian does but it's far from the only help she can provide in your health. Dietitians can work in research, teaching, food service management, work for the government or in the food or biopharmaceutical industry!
Staying young and healthy
Nutrition is a science, and there is nothing magical or miraculous about the support a dietitian can provide. Based on science and solid studies, a dietitian will guide you through changes to your diet that will help you improve your health. However, she will never guarantee a specific result, since health depends on many factors, some we have control over like diet and some we don't, like genetics. Consulting a registered dietitian is certainly not going to make you immortal, but improving your lifestyle and your eating pattern will increase your chances to live a long and healthy life, maintaining your quality of life for as long as possible
How does a registered dietitian actually helps you to stay young and healthy? Of course, aging is normal and we can't change our chronological age, the years we count since birth. Have you ever heard about the concept of biological age though? Our "real" age, meaning our body's age based on our physical capacities and body changes associated with aging. It can be the same as our chronological age but could also be younger or older. Biological age depends on many factors, lifestyle and our diet are part of those. The prevention role of diet is crucial, since eating a balanced diet will help you to maintain health and decrease your risk of developing chronic disease.
We all met once someone who "didn't look his/her age". This can be a sign that this person's biological age might be younger than their chronological age. As mentioned, some factors like genetics are out of our control and can have an impact on our health status. However, for most people, lifestyle is the true secret to longevity and health. To be a non-smoker, doing regular physical activity and having a balanced diet are all key factors to maintain a young biological age.
Most people want to live a long life, but who wants to live until 90 to be sick? What we really want is to enjoy life for as long as possible, which means having a quality of life for as long as possible. To do so, it is important to maintain our health and physical capacities while avoiding to develop chronic disease that have a huge impact on lowering our quality of life. The loss of independence related to those conditions is what makes us scared of aging, and that's where a healthcare professional can help you. A dietitian will be able to guide you through prioritizing foods in your diet to help you prevent diabetes or to control your blood pressure for example. Notice the words used here: prioritizing foods. In fact, it's only on very rare occasions that a dietitian will tell you to eliminate completely a food or category of food such as cases of severe allergies or rare metabolic diseases. Otherwise, she will help you find how every food you enjoy fits in your own diet. No food rules or forbidden foods, isn't that exciting?
A dietitian can not only help you to improve your health by helping you understand how to adapt your diet but can also help you to maintain your quality of life, preventing chronic disease and improving your general health which will help you to slow down the aging process. All of this, using a healthy and balanced diet that will make sense to YOU. Allowing you to enjoy you favorite activities and foods for as long as possible will be her priority!
*Note : I use "she/her" here, since the majority of dietitians are still women but know that more and more men are choosing to become dietitians!