Be Nice to Dietitians


What would you do if someone watched everything you ate? When you grocery shopped, people looked in your shopping cart and eyed your groceries, evaluating your choices? They see you in a restaurant, or “worse” a bakery and they casually come by to see what you are eating? You are at a meeting at work, a potluck or a social gathering and there is someone watching what you are eating – and determining whether it is “healthy.”  Oh, yes – and if it isn’t healthy (based on this person’s opinion) they feel it is necessary to gasp and say something.

But am I talking about myself as a dietitian looking at you? Evaluating what you are eating and or what is in your grocery cart? Looking at your restaurant choice or that breakfast pastry at the staff meeting? Thinking “you shouldn’t eat chocolate”? Nope. Unless you specifically ask and pay me to check your food selections, I am not doing that. And I never tell someone they shouldn’t eat chocolate. What kind of person would be so cruel? (Though, I may tell you to eat less…)

However, this happens to me pretty often. Yes, this is me and many other dietitians I know. People look at us and judge us. Most of the time we go about our business, grocery shopping, eating dinner out with our family, friends and co-workers and eating like the humans we are. We eat cake and ice cream, pizza, chocolate and even alcohol.

But for some reason people feel it is okay to make comment about what we eat, or should eat. Here are some examples of what people have found acceptable to say to me:

  • I, along with others at the table, reach for a piece of chocolate on the table at the party, “OMG, Shelley! You eat chocolate?” Me, confused: “Yes, why wouldn’t I?”
  • “We have pizza and ice cream for our event – oh, yes and fruit for you.”
  • Someone is looking at my fruit and yogurt I brought from home to eat during a morning meeting, “Of course you would eat something like that.”

However, if in the same situations I did the following:

  • If I, as a dietitian, had questioned anyone at the table about eating chocolate or even glanced at someone questioningly it would be inappropriate – I don’t do that (I’m sure people think I am doing it and don’t look at me). But certain people find it acceptable to question me doing something that others do without question.
  • If I told a group of people who were obviously unhealthy, “I have pizza and ice cream for me and my healthy friends, but we have fruit for you,” wouldn’t that be…rude? Why isn’t it when people do it to me?
  • I look at the breakfast sandwich from the fast food restaurant that the apparently unhealthy person next to is about to eat and I tell this person, “Of course you would eat something like that.” I have never done this, but I have really, really wanted to in response to it being said to me. But I didn’t.

While it may not seem like it, I do have thick skin. It is normal to have people turn away as a reflex so I can’t see their plate when I answer the question, “so what do you do?” But it seems more frequent and acceptable these days to be uncivil towards others. One would think after all of these years, I would be used to it, but it is hurtful for people to say such things they think it is okay. At least that is how it seems. Being a dietitian isn’t just my job, it is my profession. It isn’t just what I do, it is what I am. I leave my current job, I will still be a dietitian.

While this post seems like it is all about me, it isn’t. It is about my friends, colleagues and co-workers who also bear the brunt of these comments too. Please – think before you speak and be nice to everyone.

Disclaimer: the examples used are compilations of several situations over the years and is not a specific person or people. If you think it is you – maybe it is, and you should feel bad and apologize with a gift (most restaurant gift cards are acceptable); however, it is unlikely I was thinking of you specifically when I wrote this. But you can still send me gift cards. Thanks for reading and I feel better. Be nice to the dietitians in your life – they may take care of you one day and you really want to have treated them with respect.


9 thoughts on “Be Nice to Dietitians

  1. Kristen says:

    Thank you for this post – it’s so true!
    My favourite moment is eating out with people for the first time. They all wait to see whether I’ll order the fries before they choose fries or salad. Now I just jump in and order first…so they all know that yes, I’ll have the fries!

    • Shelley Rael, MS RD LD says:

      Oh yes! Fries rule – and we do have to make the first move don’t we? Thanks for the comment Kristen.

  2. Elysia says:

    Oh so true! I’m not a full dietitian yet but I will be once I’m done with my current lot of placements! It’s like a slap in the face when you walk in a room of happily chatting and eating people and suddenly the whole room becomes really quiet and some people actually snatched their (so called unhealthy) food away from my line of sight. Sigh.

    • Shelley Rael, MS RD LD says:

      Sad. I almost feel embarrassed for them when people do that. Good luck as you finish out to becoming a full RD Elysia.

    • Shelley Rael, MS RD LD says:

      Katie – We could post these all the time…but I think it will always happen. Sigh. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Ayla Withee, RD, LDN says:

    Shelley, I had to check out this post after our call tonight 🙂 It is refreshing to hear a fellow RD express the daily challenges that we face and you express it perfectly. There is an enormous amount of pressure on dietitians. Imagine a job where you lose credibility by gaining a few pounds?! It’s tough, but still, as you said, this isn’t just a profession for me, this is who I am.

    Will definitely continue to follow your blog. I’m excited to be in the group with you!

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