I’ve been a supporter of Dietitians for Professional Integrity since the group was formed earlier this year.  This organization provides a platform to challenge the corporate sponsorship of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the professional organization for Registered Dietitians/ Registered Dietitian Nutritionists.  (Dietitians may use the designations RD or RDN interchangeably, confusing, I know!) I submitted a Statement of Concern and am sharing my story below as well.

Dietitians for Professional Integrity * Statement of Concern

I’ve always loved food and, although my path to dietetics has been unconventional, I am proud of it.  In college, I studied environmental studies and became increasingly depressed as to the state of the environment and the large-scale destruction caused by industry, including industrial agriculture.  The dark cloud lifted when I discovered sustainable agriculture and learned about organics, permaculture and biodynamic methods of food production.  I interned on an urban community farm and learned to grow food in a way that actually improves the health of the earth, supports the community and produces delicious, nutritious food.  That experience led many years working on farms and I became a passionate advocate for local food systems.

When I decided to go back to school, nutrition was the clear field to pursue.  I wanted to use food to heal, food as medicine and teach people about the benefits of supporting sustainable agriculture.  Luckily, I found a Master’s program that was in line with my beliefs and dove in, discovering a love for all facets of nutrition – from biochemistry to counseling.

One struggle I faced was whether or not to become a dietitian.  I knew some amazing RDs in the field and knew there would be many benefits to registration. However, the public stance of AND (then ADA) was something I felt very uncomfortable with.  I did not support the corporate sponsorship of AND and I did not see AND presenting public statements that I agreed with.  I felt that corporate interests, and not public or environmental health, influenced how AND responded to nutrition inquiries.  I was awarded a small ADA scholarship during graduate school and received a check directly from ConAgra.  Was I supposed to suddenly overlook ConAgra’s history of environmental destruction, workers rights violations and food safety issues to become an advocate for Reddi-Wip and Egg Beaters?  It was at that moment I decided not to become an RD.

After practicing nutrition for several years and facing the barriers to practice and employment that many non-RDs face, I decided to complete my internship and become an RD, and to be honest, it was a decision that I continued to struggle with during my internship. I remember one specific webinar I attended on weight loss that was clearly corporate propaganda disguised as “evidence-based” science.  I came to find out the webinar was developed by ConAgra.

Through my internship, I was encouraged by the Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Practice Group, Dietitians for Professional Integrity and an informal group of RDs advocating real food that I met through the wonders of technology.  (We’ve started a public group here: www.realfooddietitians.com.)

The current nutrition standards are not working to prevent disease.  It’s time to reevaluate and promote what does work: real food.  With corporate sponsorship in place as it is now, there is no way AND can move forward and be taken seriously as an organization that promotes health.

I believe in the value of a science-based nutrition education and I worry that those smart, passionate women and men interested in nutrition will pursue other paths because of ANDs current reputation.  I almost did.

I used to think I needed to rebel against the status quo; now I want to be a part of the change.

I’m proud of my education and experience and thankful for the doors that have opened in my career because I am an RD.  I want to feel proud of my professional organization as well.

Sincerely,

Ryah Nabielski, MS, RDN