How I got into Dietetics and Why It isn’t what I Thought It Would Be

Hi, my name is Chelsea Torres and I’d like to tell you how I got into dietetics and why it isn’t quite what I thought it would be. I first became interested in nutrition my senior year in high school when I started training for a marathon.  My goal was pretty simple, all I wanted to do was finish the race, but as my training schedule picked up speed, I felt that my weight and stereotypical “high schooler diet” was slowing me down.

I thought,

“There must be a dieting secret that will fix all my problems.”

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I was desperate to find the truth, but I had no idea where to turn or who to ask. I experimented with advice from some trusted individuals, but their recommendations only made me feel worse. One well-intentioned recommendation from my personal trainer led me to nearly pass out in the middle of a 10-mile trail run.

Long story short, I never found that secret nutrition solution. I was frustrated because I felt like there was something that I should have known but no one was telling me. This frustration led me to pursue a degree in dietetics.

That was in 2012.

Fast forward 7 years and I am about to graduate with my Master’s in Nutrition. I’ve been thinking about the “high school me” and what I would have told her as she struggled to discover THE nutrition secret, not just for running but for a healthy life.

“Eat your fruits and vegetables.”

“Eat reasonable portion sizes.”

“Stop eating when you are full.”

Aren’t those things that I already knew? What more was I looking for? Did I really learn anything in the past 7 years?

Most people generally know what a healthy diet looks like. But, if it is so simple, why is there so much diet confusion? What I’ve learned during the past seven years studying nutrition is that there is simply too much information out there. Too much information that (a) is not true (b) doesn’t really matter or (c) has no clear application or plan of execution.

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a. It is nearly impossible to know who is right and who is wrong. Any person can publish books, blogs, or podcasts promoting their personal philosophy on nutrition. No degree, credentials or formal training is required and the information isn’t vetted for accuracy. On the flip side, so many “credible” sources (degrees, credentials and training) also publish contradictory information. Who is the public supposed to believe?

b. So much nutrition research focuses on minute details that probably would not affect the average person. In isolation, would we really expect there to be a difference in your health when drinking 1% versus 2% milk or eating 50 grams of carbs versus 100 grams?  No disrespect to nutrition research but I think we’re all getting too caught up in the trees and missing the forest.

c. Finally, no one clearly tells you how these minute details translate into an actual diet plan. Each research study that dramatizes a single nutrient(s) shows that you need to eat more of that thing. I remember asking myself a long string of questions:

How do I get more of that thing that is so important?
How do I avoid those things that they say are so bad for me?
What about all the other things that people are saying are so important? How do I get those things too?

It is not practical or feasible to keep all these tiny details straight in your head let alone incorporate them into your everyday diet. How many people really have the time or patience for that?

Before I started studying nutrition I thought that I was setting out to unweave the tangle of information I was confronted with and expose the secrets to diet success. I believe that I did learn those secrets, but not in the way I expected.

I learned that the only supplement I needed to take was a giant chill-pill. It does no good to get stressed out about whether you are doing exactly the “right” thing. A healthy diet is about choosing foods that make you feel good, improve your health in the long term, and power the activities you do that make your life worth living.

Dietetics isn’t what I thought it would be when I chose to go into this field but I’m still really happy I chose this profession.  I’ve learned so much over the past seven years and will continue learning for years to come. I want to conclude my story by telling you that now it is my turn to be that trusted representative of sound nutrition information (for real though) for those who are searching for answers, just like I was seven years ago.  I’ll be your guide to decipher what information is right and wrong, help you focus on the forest rather than the trees, and help you execute a sound nutrition plan. I’ve found out that the perfect diet doesn’t exist but that doesn’t mean that I can’t help you find the best diet there is for you. I’m so excited to be your dietitian.  

Chelsea Torres