RD Real Talk is a podcast for dietitians who want to keep it real. Heather chats with fellow RDs around the country to cover nutrition news, to bust nutrition myths, and to answer listener questions. Topics focus on Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size [HAES], eating disorder recovery, sports nutrition, and the latest nutrition trends. Heather and her guests share real talk moments, dietetic career details, and their unfiltered opinions on the media’s health messages.
We’re so excited to learn about Heather’s experience as a nutrition entrepreneur and see what advice she has to share… and then head over to her podcast to hear Healthie’s Amanda Foti, MS, RDN, CDN discuss how telehealth is influencing the field of nutrition!
Tell us about yourself and your journey to becoming a dietitian.
Heather: Well, first I wanted to be an architect. I didn’t have a knack for calculus, or abstract architectural thinking, but I did well in my Nutrition 101 class. To be honest, at the time I was in the thick of an eating disorder, so I used my new nutrition knowledge as a toolkit to reduce calories and control what I ate. It was also a shield to hide behind, claiming I ate “healthy.” Years later I would recognize this as a mix of anorexia and orthorexia, neither of which I was ever officially diagnosed with because I never sought professional treatment. Throughout my earlier years in nutrition and dietetics, I recovered and came to think of nutrition very differently. I became a distance runner (by hobby) and was fascinated by how food fuels, nourishes, and rebuilds the body. That saved me, and probably my career.
What led you to specialize in sports nutrition and intuitive eating?
Heather: Sports nutrition is one of the first ways nutrition fascinated me, beyond diet rules or guidelines. I started to train for longer running distances and respected the hell out of the role food plays in that process. I’ve never had a formal “job” in sports nutrition, but have taken on education opportunities, clients, and personal experiments to learn the ropes. It’s been a side passion while my career took me to different places.
I found Intuitive Eating (IE) through my most recent job (before I started my private practice), as I designed online nutrition classes and worked with other dietitians to do so. Our most popular course was “Mindful Eating,” which was based on the principles of IE. I was intrigued by the content, but it would be another year before I really explored it for myself as a learner and a dietitian. Now, it forms the foundation of my nutrition philosophy and guides how I work with clients. I can’t imagine ever going back to stripping nutrition down to just calories, grams, and percentages. Our health is about a lot more than those numbers!
I’m so inspired by the young dietitians who are learning about IE on their own or through their progressive dietetic programs. Throughout my education and internship I wasn’t ready to think outside the “norm,” but they are! I love it. It’s refreshing and offering a new breath of life to some outdated science and beliefs. I love that there is so much more research being done around IE and how to use it in different dietetic settings (including eating disorder recovery and sports nutrition). It’s keeping me engaged and interested. This profession will always make you feel like a student—there is always more to learn.
Tell us about what inspired your podcast: RD Real Talk?
Heather: It’s a lot of fun to produce. And I say “produce” lightly because it’s a one-woman show behind the scenes, though it wouldn’t be even half of what it is without the dietitians I chat with on the show. Before starting my private practice, I worked for a health and fitness content startup. We started a podcast there, so I generally knew how to plan for the show, what services were available (at a low cost) to record and produce it, and how to put it out to the world, i.e. iTunes and Soundcloud. I’m still learning a LOT. (See above note: always a student.) But that’s the fun part.
I wanted to start the podcast because while I love writing and do a ton of it (or try to), we as a culture are always shifting our internet preferences. First we loved blogs, then mini blogs or just tweets, then video, now podcasts! (Maybe not in that order for all of us, but generally.) I’ve had a blog since college; it’s still fun, but not quite as exciting. I listen to a long list of podcasts every week (or try to), so the idea of starting my own felt fun and exciting. It is still both of those things, and has connected me to students, dietetic interns, dietitians, and even some new clients!
How do you think technology is changing the landscape of dietetics?
Heather: For starters, my career wouldn’t be what it is without technology. I think I realized that might be the case really early on, which is why I wanted to be part of the University of Maryland College Park internship. At the time (way back in 2008), it was the only internship that offered “technology” training. That meant we spent a few weeks learning HTML code, and the whole semester working on our online portfolio (using said code, and Dreamweaver). The internet makes it almost too easy to spread nutrition information to clients and consumers, new software helps us keep medical and dietetic records straight (hi, Healthie!), databases help us have food nutrition knowledge in seconds, databases give us new research and guidelines literally every week.
"Technology has made our profession more accessible and approachable, it helps us all keep up with emerging research, and it connects us to each other so we can follow and support dietitians we’re inspired by."
We’re even seeing programs like WIC using technology to expand their services. It’s everywhere! I wouldn’t have my business, or career experiences, without it.
What do you wish you knew as a student/dietetic intern?
Heather: That the textbooks can’t tell you everything. I wish I had been able to recognize my disordered eating, instead of justifying them with the information I was learning. I wish that I had been exposed to different career paths, outside of just clinical, food service, and community health while I was in undergrad. I would have explored them much sooner out of my internship. I also wish I had known, or at least thought with more confidence, that almost everyone feels like they’re flailing about right after undergrad and the internship. You hardly ever feel 100 percent ready for what’s next! But, you’ll figure it out.
What’s next for the RD Real Talk podcast?
Heather: I think I’ll be narrowing down my focus a bit more, and talking more to my audience. I started the show with intent to clear up the mixed nutrition media messages, helping consumers sift through what’s worth reading and what’s not. I also wanted, and still do try, to make clear that it’s important to look at the research, not just the published story. As the show has grown, I’m realizing how much of my audience is filled with nutrition students, interns, and fellow dietitians trying to keep up with nutrition news and connect to like-minded people. I love that! So I’m shifting to what I’m focusing on in my own career, answering career questions and offering guidance where I/we can, and spreading the good IE messages. I’m also working on a few partnerships, because this is a side hustle and I want to be able to fuel it well!
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