Sunday, September 9, 2012

Your RDA of Snake Oil is Zero

I've had this post floating around in my head for several months, but haven't put it to words for a variety of reasons. First, I feel a bit guilty about working on blog stuff when the semester that I believe is known among senior FND majors at my school as "Hell semester" has begun, and I should be working on homework. Somehow, twitter and facebook do not elicit this same guilt.

Second, it's just a touchy subject, and I have to be very careful here, because it's a direct criticism of one of my colleagues/peers. While what I have to say is important, and - obviously, in my opinion - valid, it's equally important to say it respectfully, and I'd rather take my time with a post like this and do it right than ruffle feathers in the wrong way. I'm okay with a little ruffle, though - think of it as flair.

I happen to know this young woman, who has graduated and is currently working on her internship. She was (is, presumably) a great student, very active in the department and community, and was in demand. I have no doubt she was on numerous internships' top match lists. Though we've never been close friends, I follow her on facebook. I noticed a few months ago that a significant portion of her posts were, essentially, shilling for the diet shake program she's a part of. Recipes, links to join or team or whatever, comments about the great indulgent 47 calorie shake she had for breakfast, etc.

So never mind the fact that I probably outweigh her by 40 pounds or more (because, really, that is not the issue here), and never mind every "Hi, I'm a pyramid scheme!" red flag in the book. My real problem here is that I believe, in selling this program, she is doing a great disserve to herself, to the dietetics profession as a whole, and to our clients.

Listen, as much as we'd like to believe otherwise, eating a great diet is kind of hard. If it weren't, most of us would be out of a job, right? So it's important to acknowledge that to our clients. To help people through a challenge, it is absolutely vital that you agree with them that some challenge exists. But you have to balance that with a commitment to the path through the challenge. You have to show your clients, and the community as a whole, that while it does take some work to eat healthfully, it can be done, and it can be done with food. I believe a dietitian whose diet is significantly comprised of diet shakes is sending the message, essentially, that the only way to a healthy diet is cheating. As I've said before, by no means do I believe that dietitians should be required to set a flawless example with every bite they eat, but in the big picture, practice what you preach.

And whether this person is advising whole foods nutrition while her own diet is filled with low-cal shakes, or whether she is actually advertising this product as a dietitian (and not just as an independent person), she is wasting her intelligence and her skill, and not providing the service she has the capacity to do.

Please, please: do not be that dietitian. We can do better than this.

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