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I received an email on Registered Dietitian Day, March 13th, with some surprising news – the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) had given RDs the option to use and alternative credential: RDN (registered dietitian nutritionist). Not having heard about it ahead of time, I was very surprised at the change; however, the new title has been growing on me. After all, I think most people feel more comfortable using the word “nutritionist” than “dietitian,” especially when one’s work revolves primarily around food rather than hospital halls. It’s also more comprehensive.
After reading the email, one of the first questions that popped into my head was, “What about my blog?!” Having gone through a few name changes over the years as its purpose evolved, from Raw Summer to Around the Mulberry Bush to Holistic RD, my site was positioned for another slight variation. But will anyone know what the heck RDN stands for? One of the goals of my site, and a mindful factor in my decision to call it Holistic RD, was to educate people on what qualifications RDs have and what we do in comparison to other food and nutrition professionals. I’d like to do the same with the new RDN credential. Here is an article from AND about the change and reasons for it.
Looking around the Internet, it seems nutrition professionals are very split on whether to embrace the new credential or not. Some say it’s just confusing the progress we’ve made toward being recognized as RDs, others are glad to have a more encompassing term. Heather Mangieri‘s statement resonates with me:
I am referred to as a nutritionist almost daily but I almost always add registered dietitian to that. Some Registered dietitians only refer to themselves as a nutritionist. I don’t blame them- not only does nutritionist have the word nutrition in it; it is also a name the public recognizes. Even though I have tried and tried to have media, reporters, journalists and consumers see me as a registered dietitian, they still want to call me a nutritionist.
There are tons of “certification” programs out there allowing anyone to become a “certified nutritionist.” Literally, someone can take a weekend course, be sent a piece of paper and start giving out nutrition information. And many people believe that is enough. It’s not. There are some great “nutritionists” out there. And there are plenty of “nutritional scientists” that are fantastic. But there are millions of people out there telling people what to eat and what not to eat based on who knows what.
So, I’m still proud to be a registered dietitian. But now I am also a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). Key word being REGISTERED!
Since the majority of my work is with food – growing it, preparing it, eating it, learning about it, telling others about it, I like the term nutritionist added to my national title. Even though with Florida licensure I’m still an LDN (licensed dietitian nutritionist). I will probably still feel the need to add the words “registered dietitian” when someone refers to me as a nutritionist, simply because, as Mangieri mentioned, there are so many nutritionist certification programs out there and I want people to know I am legitimate. But at least my clients can take comfort in knowing I am a nutritionist too (though I always was) and I won’t feel as mislabeled when I am referred to as a nutritionist.
It’s such a difficult topic to say what’s right and what’s not. There are tons of people out there giving nutrition advice, some good, some bad, some with formal education, some without, and it’s not always the ones with the formal education giving out the good advice. I just went to an awesome class on traditional nutrition given by a woman who was a biologist and completely self-educated in what she was teaching about nutrition. It drives home the point that I come back to over and over in pondering these quandaries – everyone has their own individual health and nutrition needs and they need to, before they listen to anyone else, listen to themselves. That’s why I counsel people on bio-individualistic and holistic nutrition. There are people who swear that a raw food diet will cure what ills ya, and there are people that will tell you the only way to nourish your body is through raw milk, eggs and bone broth. I just don’t buy either argument. Your body is a completely unique, completely wise, completely wonderful instrument to tool you around this Earth, and, if you listen, it will tell you what it needs. (Sometimes it says, “Chocolate.”) That’s one of the reasons I loved the traditional nutrition class. The instructor was not trying to sell me anything, was not trying to sway me one way, and emphasized the fact that the most important nutrition decision one can make is to learn to listen to your own body, because that’s where you’ll find the truth about what you should be putting in it.
As many have stated on the discussion forums related to the new RDN credential, future updates in the field should examine the possibility of different titles for different fields of nutrition. For example, an RDN like me who does food fermentation education, grows food, and teaches people preventive health goes through the same basic training and has the same credentials as someone who works in a hospital ICU unit doling out feeding tube recommendations. It doesn’t really make sense. With all of the need we have for nutrition help in our industrialized civilization, we need different education tracks and different credentials for these variations. I certainly wish I learned more about growing food, alternative healthcare and preparing delicious meals in my education than I did! I had to learn that stuff in the school of life.
Whether the option for the RDN credential ends up being a wise decision by AND overall is yet to be found; however, I’m going to go ahead and support it by changing my blog title to Holistic RDN. I decided I liked the new option when I found I had already begun adopting the new credential in emails and in talking to others without really making a conscious decision to do so. What are your thoughts on the name change? Do you find it more confusing or more encompassing?