Do you know the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist? What about a health coach?!
This episode was inspired by a painfully incorrect infographic about the difference between dietitians, nutritionists, and health coaches that floated around Instagram last week. The girls of Wellness Myths realized that they’re always telling you to trust an expert and to trust a dietitian but have never truly explained why!
Expect to hear about the girls’ academic tears, the dangers of misinformation, and learn once and for all what it means to be a dietitian.
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Hey ma'am. So today's topic was sparked by a really interesting infographic that we saw on Instagram. Yeah. And a lot of our dietician friends reached out to us regarding this. So we figured we needed to do an episode. Cause obviously there's a lot of confusion out. Yeah, this topic is definitely widely debated. And I realized too, it's like, we're always saying trust the experts and, you know, get your information from a good source. But besides from us saying like we're dietitians and we're trustworthy, we never really explained to everyone like why we have all this knowledge. And I think a lot of people still don't really know. What it takes to be a dietician and maintain that credential and all the other different types of nutrition, credentials, or lack thereof there is out there. So I'm really excited to discuss today. Yeah. So let's just stag it right into it. So today we wanted to do an episode talking about registered dieticians versus nutritionists and what all that means. And we're not doing this because we're trying to say we're the best and nutritionists are horrible, but we just want to make sure everyone understands the differences. Yeah, definitely. It kind of brings me back to yogurt. Yogurt makes another for me. I mean, you might. I just want you to be informed about what's going on and if you're seeking care from any of these types of professionals, you should just know going into it. What the background is and all the information. Right. And we're not here to say that health coaches or nutritionists are horrible. But it's a situation where we just want to make sure everyone. Staying in their lane. And as we know, people tend to swerve out of their lanes pretty often. And I think nutrition is a field where people tend to think that's not such a big deal. But it is a big deal and it can have pretty detrimental impacts to a client. And this is not to say to you mobile, get into it more, some health coaches and nutritionists are way more qualified than others, and some are, have little to no qualifications at all. So, it's just really important to be careful. So, do you want to start, should we start with like what an RD is and kind of what all that. Yeah, I think we should like establish. Yeah, I think that's like a good place to start. Okay, so just to get started so a registered dietician or registered dietician nutritionist. So that's the RD or RDN credential. The nutritionist got added actually recently. So the registered dietician nutritionist. RD and RDN mean the same thing. Basically. They just added that extra nutritionist to relay the point of all dieticians are nutritionists. But important to remember, not all nutritionists are dieticians. Yeah. I feel like it was like an effort to really take back the title. But at the same time, I feel like it makes it a little bit more confusing at times. So sometimes like if I'm talking to someone who doesn't know what a dietician is, and I fear that they don't know that I'll call myself a dietician nutritionist. So they're like, oh yeah, yeah, I get it. But it's complex. So hopefully now we've cleared it up. So, to be a dietician we do have to complete a bachelor's degree and that in involves several courses like food and nutrition, sciences, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, anatomy, chemistry, food, service systems, business, pharmacology, culinary arts behavioral, social sciences, like psychology and communication. We also have to go through courses that talk about foodborne illnesses and we study all of those bacteria and viruses really closely. So it's pretty extensive. All of us who've cried. After, after completing a bachelor's degree You have to compete to get an internship. So you're entered into a pool with other dietetic students and you apply to different internships that are usually run by universities throughout the U S and so this is 1200 hours of supervised practice. Again, that is unpaid and again, lots of crying usually happens during that. Way more crying, than the undergrad years, for Honestly. Yeah, it's, it's really tough. Like any dietician will tell you it's hard because when you talk to dietetic interns, you want to be positive and be like, you know, you're going to get through this, but you kind of also have to be real with them. Like this year of your life is just kind of gonna suck. Sorry about it. Totally. There's like the one person that I remember that was so nice to me, but I said, do you remember his name? Yeah, I do. Veyron Veyron was like the man, like he literally, he was so chill. He taught me so much, but didn't make me like, stay till 10:00 PM. It was fabulous. But like, yeah, besides Byron, my experience was terrible. Yeah. Yeah. I honestly have never met a dietician that has told me that they didn't cry during their internship year. Yeah, Like specifically about what they were doing. So it's, it's a tough year. And then after you complete your internship program, you have to pass a registration exam. So that is by the commission on dietetic registration. Also a pretty difficult exam. You spend a lot of time studying for it. Once you pass that. You may be able to start practicing in your state right away. But if you are in a licensure state and there's 13 states that have licensure, you also have to gain licensure before you practice. And then once you get all that done, you have to submit your continuing education every year. So you need 75 continuing education education credits every five years. Something that also makes me want to cry from time to time. Just because people get audited sometimes with their continuing education. So if you don't keep a tight record you would have to retake the registration exam. If you know that. Deemed you not having enough continuing education credits. I have so many at this point because I'm so scared of that happening to me. I think it's going to be fine, but you know, just another thing to cry about. I feel like I'm making it sound really horrible, becoming a dietician, which it is not. But you know, there's some tears along. Yeah, definitely. And I think it's good too. Explain the amount of sheer determination and intense studying and all of the work that goes along with it because we do work really hard to get here. So sometimes when dieticians are like, No, we're the nutrition professional it's because it takes so much work to be able to call yourself that that, that's why I think people get kind of frustrated when people take like a six month chorus and are like, oh, well, I'm a nutritionist too. Like I do the same thing that you do, which. Untrue. And also to the internship usually comes with like some sort of master's coursework, whether in the past it was mandatory to finish your master's or not, but by 2024, you will also have to have a mandatory master's to be a dietician as well. So just add that onto the list. Yeah. So, yeah, like Emily said, it's a long road and we don't say that to try to like step on other people's toes or be like, we're more educated than you. Cause there might be some. I feel like we are, we're Well, okay. Yeah, I know. I'm just saying, we're not saying that to like brag, like we're way more educated. than you, but we're telling you this. So you know that when you see our D behind someone's name, that all of that stuff is guaranteed. You know, they had to go through all of that rigorous coursework. Plus supervised practice plus that exam to put those letters behind their name. So it means something Yeah, definitely. And there is one additional nutrition certification that you can get that is. From an academic setting and that is a CNS. You can be a certified nutrition specialist. They have to have a master of science in, or a doctoral degree in nutrition or related fields. They have to have 35 hours of relevant coursework related to personal nutrition and a thousand hours of supervised practice experience. So these people also have a deep background in nutrition. And definitely can work in a clinical setting or do a lot of the similar things that a dietician would be. And so the reason we get upset sometimes with, you know, nutritionist or health coach, is that it doesn't really mean anything. There's no standard for what that is. You know, somewhat, technically someone could just like nutrition and read a couple books and say, I'm a nutritionist. There's nothing, it's not. Protected title or anything like that, unless you add registered dietician to the front of it. So people can kind of do whatever they want. And that's when it gets really sticky. And I feel like people immediately just like, get so defensive. Like I'm a nutritionist. I know what I'm talking about too. And although that could be true, like, for example, if you did the CNS. You know, certification. But you also could have done a two week course. And I don't know from just hearing that you're a nutrition. And really the whole back to the infographic that really started this whole thing it was completely false and this post had like thousands of likes and there's like a lot of followers on this particular page and it was just basically. Delineating out what a nutritionist can do, what a health coach can do and what a dietitian can do. And there's really, it was just so wrong. And they claim that dieticians don't counsel people don't encourage healthy lifestyle changes, all this other stuff that's just totally wrong. And so that's when it gets frustrating because we're like, no, we're very much qualified to do all of these things. For sure. And kind of the funny thing too, is in this post under nutritionist they had creates meal plans based on client's specific needs and creating meal plans is actually something that nutritionists are not legally allowed to do or to prescribe. That's something only a registered dietician or a licensed physician can do. So that was just blatantly wrong. And this pulse to. A lot of our dietician friends were commenting on it. Pretty respectfully saying like, this is just untrue information. I actually reported it for false information. And then I made Matt do the same thing. I was like, get your phone out, report it. But, and then they were deleting comments from you know, people that were just letting them know and you know what, it's fine to make a mistake. Maybe whoever made this post just really doesn't know. Clearly they don't. But the post is still up. Like, you can still find it. And they were deleting comments. So how is that a trustworthy institution? Ms. Shirley. No. So I wanted to talk about this too, because I found this really interesting and I, I, I typed this into Google just because I was really interested in what was going to come up. So I Google searched how to become a dietician without. A degree. And as we know, that's not possible. But of course, lots and lots of nutrition certifications popped up in the first one was I N My favorite one yes. And I know I'm Lee has some stuff to say about them. So this is the Institute of integrative nutrition. yes. Institute for integrative nutrition. Okay. Yeah, So that was the first one that popped up. And I thought it was funny cause I know that Emily wanted to talk about them. So, I thought that was. Yeah, this one is my favorite because I've had personal experience with this. I actually knew someone that went here and. It was a little bit alarming sometimes when she would share things like she would tell me that they told her all dietitians were paid by Monsanto and like big pesticide companies. And that dieticians just work for Monsanto. Like all of them, like, we're all getting like monthly stipends, I guess, to like, pedal conventionally grown food, which fine. Got lost in the mail. That's for sure. I Yeah, mine too. But yeah, she would say that the teachers used to say that, but anyways, that's a little bit of an aside. But basically this program can be a year long. They make it really flexible for you to be able to partake in it. And it is, you know, just like a set of classes that you take online. It really concerns me that when the Institute for integrative nutrition. Made this post. They don't really even seem to be aware of what their own students are qualified to do. And so I kind of dug a little bit deeper on that and was on their website and they kind of have a whole blog post about this. Like what a nutritionists do, what a dieticians do and what do health coaches do. And they straight up say that nutritionists create meal plans based on client's specific needs, which is illegal in many places. And to them, they talk about how nutritionists focus on health goals and how that can be reached through food and supplementation. And that they're trying to go for chronic disease reversal and that they use biomarkers like blood tests to basically interpret which that sounds a lot like medical nutrition therapy to me as well, which is something that also only dieticians are qualified to do. Like, I was not aware that they did that. I'm also very curious Like test centers are allowing a nutritionist to order anything. I know that all of the tests that I order, I have to upload my credentials for them to let me be a provider. In that it's not, I've never seen that credential as a valid one. Yeah. And even they talk about how nutritionists aid their clients and understanding how food and supplements are digested and assimilated in the body, which is why they're qualified to recommend foods. But the thing is, like Vanessa said, We go through so much, like we do so much biology and so much advanced nutrition coursework. And so that takes fully yours and you still leave being like what's that pathway again. So it's like, it's, it's really tough. So it's hard for me to think that, you know, people with zero science background can like cram this into just a year and be able to do that. and prescribing supplements is not something that. someone without a science background should be doing. It's extremely dangerous. It's really important to know exactly what's going on. If you're going to prescribe something to someone I feel like, you know, we've probably talked about this on other podcasts, but people will, you know, say supplements very cavalier and just be like, oh Yeah, take this. I take it. And I mean, you will not, there are very few supplements that, I mean, there's maybe. Three that Emily. And I would say you know, like most people can take this and it would be a good idea. And even with that, there's usually a cap. Yeah, totally. And we talked a lot about nutritionist as a title, but health coach is another term that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. And according to this specific program at Institute for integrative nutrition, they give them a holistic approach to health, exploring all of the areas of the client's life. Affect well-being which is just so confusing because it's difficult. Like if you're kind of like Jack of all trades master of none situation where you're like, well, I kind of know a little bit about this. I know a little bit about this and all those things, and maybe that might work for someone as a provider, someone who's just kind of struggling with the basics. And they do utilize goal setting and accountability based coaching strategies to help clients understand and address their health issues from a holistic perspective. And they talk about how their coaches provide information on different types of diets and supplement options to explore, but that they don't prescribe these types of protocols to clients, which I find really funny because all of the like influencers. People that I know that have been to this school do prescribe supplements and diet protocols like up the ass, like medical media is the number one Jesus Christ to these people. And he, his work is really peddled hard, but a lot of these folks, and it's a very strict diet protocol where they tell you, you can't eat, you know, whatever corn syrup, canola oil, blah, blah. Yeah, Well, you know what that verbiage being on their website sounds a lot. Like they're just trying to cover their own. they don't get in trouble as an institution. And I would like to remind everyone if you're unfamiliar with the medical medium, please go back and listen to our celery juice episode. If I do say so myself, I think It's a pretty good episode. It's one of our first ones. But we talk all about the medical medium and there is a lack of say about him. If you have not listened yet and you are unfamiliar, he does. Get his information from what is it? The others or It's like, they're basically ghost. Like he gets, yeah. He gets it from the ghosts that like reach out to them and are like, yo, she's got diabetes. Yeah, So like, he's literally asking ghosts to diagnose people and talking to them, Yeah, they just that's that's his credential. We should do like really a whole episode on him. To be honest, we I probably do a deep dive. No, not at all, not a whole episode. We're going to have to everyone's like, who's that, but, and then the people who know are like, oh yeah, that guy, I mean, it's crazy. People don't even realize that he has absolutely zero credential. Anyways, he can get airtime and other episodes. Yeah. Celery juice is fine. The medical medium, not so much. No. Yeah. Okay. Wait. And they also list that health coaches often work in tandem with other healthcare professionals, such as doctors. I don't know a doctor who will even open their mind to a dietician, like a quarter of the way. So I'm just, I really want to know whatever strategy these health coaches are employing to get their foot in the door with the physician. Please please share. That can be really hard to do for a lot of different reasons. So yeah, I feel like they're trying to make money. They're selling you a little bit of a bill of goods where they're trying to. Act as though these possibilities are endless. When in reality it can be difficult to do these things like how private practice and communicate with doctors and mental health providers, et cetera, even as a dietician with a credential that is backed in academia, like all of these other healthcare providers. So I think definitely they're doing a little bit of like gymnastics to say that these health coaches can be doing these. Yeah. for sure. And I think too, you know, something that was frustrating about their original infographic was they were acting as. All of these fields, like a health coach, nutritionist and dietician, we're all on the same playing field, like we're equals. And at the end of the day, we're just not I mean, there's just not a lot of other ways to cut it. Other than that, it's not an equal situation, really. There's definitely a lot of privilege that you have to have to go to school to be a dietician, right? Like there's a whole movement to diversify dietetics, and that's amazing because we really need that. Like my parents paid for a lot of my undergraduate and I was fully supported by my husband dwell. I went to my graduate program. And really without that, like, unless you're taking just so many loans out and that's not always possible there's a lot of barriers to being a dietician. So there's definitely conversation right now. That's like, okay, you know, how can we diversify this field that has all of these hoops for you to jump through that you need? So much privileged to get through. So at that point, like, okay, people are saying, I want to be a health coach and this is kind of like how I'm going to get my way in or whatever. But that's not usually the people spreading all these crazy rumors. It's like Instagram influencers that went to Institute for integrative nutrition or any of the health coaching ones. This is just really popular. And you know, spreading all of this kind of misinformation and using it to. Promote products and get money or followers on Instagram. And it just becomes a really shady situation. And we're not saying that all health coaches are horrible or anything like that. It's just in our experience, we've found that we have to, it honestly adds a lot of workload of just trying to convince people. Sometimes people hear things and they just latch onto it and it's not true. And it takes a long, long time. To make them unclench their little fists from the information they're holding onto. That's not true. And sometimes that information can be damaging. You know, beyond even just like food and supplement recommendations that might not be the best. I mean, we're also trained pretty extensively on counseling clients. And that's a huge component. Just how you're talking about things with someone makes a huge difference. You know, and how they're going to receive that message. Yeah. And it's really. We're not measuring for harm there, which Lee, as you're saying is that a lot of this misinformation can get out. Sure. But you can have like a really damaging interaction with somebody like this, you know, like say if it's someone that is a health coach pursuing medical medium information, you know, it's really hard because Say someone who has disordered eating and you're telling them cut out all of these foods. Right. And this is just like generalized advice that you're giving on Instagram. Well, what if this person already has, you know, disordered eating patterns or even history of a true eating disorder? You know, or is even just at risk and this sort of like intense advice is really harmful to people. And so without any of that nuance or consideration for your individual health and that health coaches can't take into account because they don't have all of the knowledge. Right. So if they just apply this generalized stuff that they learned within their year of schooling you know, it's almost not there. Right. It's like really the system that's holding it. It's just like physicians. When physicians give poor nutrition advice, I'm like, yeah, I wish you wouldn't do that. But also, I, I do feel for them because this person is in their office and they don't know what to say, and they're just trying to do their best when they really don't have any sort of training, which they could just refer out. Which is what everyone else does. But, And Some of them. Do some of them are good about it. some of them do some of them do for sure. I think a lot of people go after this credential or lack of, of a health coach or a nutritionist because they really are passionate and they want to get involved in the field, but don't have the resources or the time or the mental space to take on becoming a dietician. And if only there was like a really easy way that you could be a surface level dietician So great. Just unfortunately you really end up lacking a lot of the knowledge and you're not able to counsel and assist people in the same way as. Yeah. I mean, you wouldn't want to have someone that, you know, goes to the dentist a couple times a year, start doing your fillings because they've had a filling before Right. And they're just really passionate about teeth, right? Like, no, you, you got to like spend some time. And I think that a lot of other professions get that sort of respect and nutrition just doesn't seemingly because of all of the misinformation, I think that's out there and all of the money in wellness. So big wellness myth. yes. So again, we are not here to try to, you know, step on other people's toes that are, you know, trying to get into the nutrition field. We just want to warn you and make sure you're aware of the differences. And we, at the end of the day, we just want you to get good care. And a lot of people are just out there not getting good care. Absolutely incentives can become misaligned. There's a lot of money involved whether it's at the hands of the program themselves. Some influencer that went to one of these and is now trying to sell you a hundred dollars moon juice supplements. It's a wild world out there. Why is that always influencers that are going to these. Doing these nutrition certifications. Why is it always like, just stick to influence and just do your thing? You don't need to do it Like. all that, you know. Right. Show us the clothes. Show us the trips you drinking out at some cool bars. Like that's what we're here to see. We're not here to see you like pedaling macho. That's just really, we're really not Like I want to watch you drink matcha, like somewhere. Right. And like a ceramic cup or Yeah, right, an art, like the lights coming in just right. Yeah. Like that's, it's just the ultimate. Just stay in your lane type of situation. So, Kind of what we want you to leave this episode with is if you see someone with a CNS, so that certified nutrition specialist or an RD, or RDN, those are just some letting you know, they have qualifications that are backed up with a lot of education. And a lot of time spent looking at nutrition and science and. Of the things, and there's probably a lot of crying involved. So you should trust that person. Cause they're Lots of tears. Lots of tears.