Why I became a dietitian & 5 things that really matter in nutrition

Hello everyone! Hope you had a great weekend! I spent mine going on walks in the snow (we got about 9 inches!), explored a bookstore, watched a couple movies and made some delicious meals. My boyfriend passed his Registered Dietitian (RD) exam, so now we are both RDs! Yay! I also recently accepted a full-time position, in lieu of two part-time jobs, so I am excited to have some more time in my life!

This week I wanted to share why I decided to become a dietitian, and how my past has shaped my food philosophy. There are 5 main things that I think really matter when choosing an eating pattern. So here we go!

My family has always been into food and health. I grew up eating lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains, and I understood how to build a balanced meal at a young age. We also had a garden, enjoyed going to farmers markets to find new goodies, and my dad still makes the best baked goods ever. My childhood relationship with food could be summed up as wholesome.

When I moved out for college, I realized whoa, I don’t eat like everyone else. So, like most teenagers, I started eating more fast food, cocoa puffs with chocolate milk for dinner, and Chinese takeout on the regular. Maybe a little food rebellion going on? Somewhere in there, I realized that I had less energy for practice and games if I only ate chicken patty sandwiches and cocoa puffs, so I started putting more effort into cooking at my apartment, as least before games. I also became the one girl on the travel bus who would bring tuna fish and crackers and eat that before games, as opposed to fast-food like everyone else. Naturally, everyone wanted to sit next to me.

rose mattson - egg omlette, roasted potatoes brunch date with a friend
Brunch date with a friend

My sophomore year of college, my little sister was finally diagnosed with Celiac disease after experiencing many years of symptoms. When I came home from college over the summer, our kitchen had become a gluten-free zone. My parents experimented with different varieties of gluten-free products, used countless types of flours to try and achieve the texture of our beloved baked goods, and we learned a lot about eating out and the public’s perception of what it meant to be “gluten-free”.

Several years later, after experiencing months of diarrhea (TMI?) and generally feelings of crap, I did an elimination diet with a doctor on my college campus. Looking back, I should have been referred to a dietitian, but I didn’t know better at the time. I eliminated soy, then dairy, and eggs, and finally gluten. I immediately felt better and I have eaten gluten-free ever since.

Between the time my sister got diagnosed, and when I started eating gluten-free, I realized hey – what we eat plays a role in how we feel AND can help manage diseases! I started to entertain the thought of going to graduate school to become a dietitian. I interned several places, immersed myself in dietitian private practice blogs, and finalized a plan to go back to school.

At the time, I was living in Santa Monica California. In case you haven’t heard, Cali is like wellness culture on steroids. Juice bars at every corner? Yup. Fancy spin studios? Yep. Whole Foods down the street, yoga studios everywhere, thin blonde women in yoga pants sipping $9 smoothies? Yep yep and yep. I ate it all up and believed that “health” really was eating all the farmers market veggies, drinking the green juice, making “healthier” desserts, wearing Lululemon athleisure, and having a rigorous workout and yoga routine. (Note: not what I think now)

Going to grad school was a long blur of papers, exams, and running place to place. We learned about calories and specific medical diets for a variety of conditions. I loved that you could manipulate food in some way to help people. Because that’s really why I went to school, to help others.

As I entered my internships, I found that I didn’t enjoy giving people calorie recommendations, calculating tube feeds, or seeing someone once for an education session, never to see them again. I wanted to form relationships with people. I started to talk more about how to balance meals and less about calories.

rose mattson - indian food shot from overhead
Celebrating passing the RD exam with Indian food

After graduating, I realized I do not know everything. Shocker right? I knew this as a student, but being so busy, I didn’t put much thought into it. I started reading things I actually really cared about, listened to tons of podcasts, and I practiced as a real-life dietitian.

I quickly realized that people know they need to eat more veggies. That reading a food label totally sucks. I realized that it feels wrong to ask someone to get on a scale, to track anything ever, or to give out meal plans.

I realized that people are really freaking confused.

Fear-mongering in this health-obsessed world has become as common as brushing your teeth. (Hoping you do this daily, anyways). There is constantly a new study or fact thrown around that the media latches onto and tries to scare people with big exciting headlines. One day ___ is a superfood and the next day it causes some horrible health problem. This causes mass confusion, worry, and doubt about something we do multiple times a day.

Nutrition is complex because it is always changing. Research is constant, thus we always have new data and information. This is exciting for us nutrition nerds, but can also be extremely complicated in how that information is chosen to be relayed.

When people dive into nutrition, or find it fascinating, it is often because they are trying to find the “cure-all” or pattern of eating that will provide optimal health. I’ll let you in on a little secret though – there is no diet or food that will magically solve everything. And – there is no such thing as a perfect diet, nor should there be.

Basically, this post is a long winded story to say – it’s ok to eat cookies, to eat bread, to eat ice cream or whatever the hell you want. It is all ok. And please don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Food is not simply fuel. It is something that humans for centuries have gathered around and celebrated. It is meant to give you satisfaction and pleasure. That is why ice cream was created! Deriving pleasure from food is one of the best parts of life.

rose mattson - sunday breakfast
Sunday breakfast at our house – pancakes with berries + scrambled eggs + bacon!

Here are some things that do actually matter when you are considering nutrition or altering your way of eating.

5 aspects of my food philosophy: 

  • flexibility – can you be flexible within your eating pattern?
  • energy levels – do you have the energy to do the things you want and need to do?
  • satisfaction – do you enjoy what you are eating?
  • stress – does your eating pattern cause you stress?
  • variety – does your eating pattern offer a wide variety of food groups?

These are the things that matter. Flexibility, energy, satisfaction, stress, and variety. These aren’t fancy, or quality click-bait, but they are more important to your overall health.

Remember – food is not good or bad, it is neutral. And it is really the big picture that matters when it comes to nutrition. Not a single nutrient, not one meal (or even 10).

I know that all the nutrition information that you receive daily can be stressful, intimidating, and downright exhausting. Please remember it is ok to have cookies, or a salad, or whatever you really truly want to eat.

If you ever have any nutrition questions, please feel free to reach out to me on Facebook or by emailing me! I would love to hear from you.

Have a great week!

xoxoxoxo,

Rose


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