The Informed Appetite

I’m starting a blog. A food and nutrition blog. Yes, another one.

I am a registered dietitian, born and raised in Philadelphia, calling Pittsburgh my second hometown after living there for 10 years, and now living in Atlanta, GA. I’m single, I have a beagle named Crosby, love to cook and bake, and run 5 days a week. This is starting to sound like my online dating profile, so let’s move on.

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(my beagle answers to Crosby or Beans)

I’m 31, which puts me in that special subset of the population that has gotten through a good chunk of their years without the internet and social media. I remember the advent of America Online and Instant Messenger when I was in middle and high school. But I also remember telephones. With cords. I remember calling someone for directions to their house (“take a right at the 7-11, go through three lights, if you hit the Sizzler you’ve gone too far”). In high school we passed notes (imagine having to wait till seventh period to find out what your BFF was wearing to the party Saturday). I didn’t have a cell phone until I was a freshman in college and didn’t hear the word “text” used as a verb until I studied abroad in London my senior year.

Years ago, when blogs started becoming a thing, I considered them online journals where wanna-be writers poured their hearts out and unburdened their deepest, darkest secrets for the whole of the internet to see. And I wanted no part of that.

Of course, now, blogging is so much more than that. It’s a way for the world’s population to connect with each other, our daily lives strung together in the collective experience of humanity. Bloggers are inspiring people to cook and bake things they’ve never tried, to be savvy shoppers, build furniture or repurpose old pieces, find new ways to communicate with their spouses and kids.  Sharing little tidbits of the regular human experience with the masses somehow makes it more complex, rich, and important. As someone with a writing background, I should have been in front of this trend. But truthfully, I wasn’t sure I had anything to say that people would want to read.

So I’ve decided, a little belatedly, to jump into the blogosphere because I have a passion for nutrition and a (somewhat long-lost) passion for writing. I know, there are tons of nutrition and food bloggers out there. While I tip my hat to my fellow RD bloggers, disseminating evidence-based nutrition information to the masses, and the talented home-cooks sharing delicious and innovative ways to create healthy recipes that taste great, I am wary of the folks (well-intentioned, I’m sure) doling out nutrition advice with no training or education in nutrition, metabolism, physiology, or food science.  Everybody eats, everybody has an anecdotal tale of how they transformed their lives with a new diet, but not everybody has the right to advise others on their health. This is where it gets dicey.

As a registered and licensed dietitian, I do have that right – although I view it more as a privilege.  I decided to become a dietitian because I wanted to combine my fascination with nutrition with my responsibility to help. I knew I would never be personally fulfilled in a career that wasn’t somehow helping others. But I also knew I needed to be an expert in the field before I could confidently and ethically provide advice to people about improving their health through diet. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a writing degree, I spent two years in a non-degree track completing all the fun science-y courses I avoided like the plague in undergrad. (They weren’t that bad! I even got As!). My journey was complicated and somewhat drawn out, but I made my way to graduate school at Drexel University in Philadelphia and got my master’s in Human Nutrition. From there, I traveled way down to Atlanta for my dietetic internship at Emory Healthcare.

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(That’s me, with Gram and sis, graduating from graduate school)

The dietetic internship. This 1200-hour (9 months, full time, unpaid) supervised practice program is where the real magic happens. This is where soon-to-be RDs get hands on experience with real patients and clients, in a variety of settings ranging from hospitals, to school kitchens, to community clinics, working as part of real medical or community teams to provide individualized nutrition therapy to a variety of populations. The internship is often described as a full time job and full time school in one. When you’re not at “work” (remember, unpaid), you’re working on papers, projects, and presentations. You’re reading research articles. You’re volunteering at health fairs or other nutrition-related events. You’re building your professional network. It can be grueling, especially if you’re like me and needed to work a part time job (shout out to Starbucks!) on the side for extra cash.  But the experiences gained and lessons learned are priceless.  We come out of the internship ready to sit for the Dietitian Registration exam, which tests you on everything you’ve learned from basic metabolism, to food systems management, to calculating formulas for patients fed formulas through a tube. Passing that exam is an experience I can’t really put into words. It’s the biggest sigh of relief, the culmination of everything you’ve poured your heart into for years. Look Ma, I have letters after my name!

Now that you have a glimpse of where I came from and how I got to the place at which I’m proud to be today, perhaps you can understand why I (like many RDs) get a little territorial when it comes to giving out nutrition advice.  We really are the experts.  I spent five years in school and training to become a dietitian (not including my 4 years of undergrad).  I welcome an open dialogue about new diets and products, but I have been trained to look for the research behind the claim. If I can’t find it, I can’t buy in and I won’t advise you to, either.

So here we are. You, getting bored by my story, me, trying to convince you to come back and read the future posts of yet another food and nutrition blogger. Why, you ask, should I add this blog to my food and nutrition repetoire?  I started The Informed Appetite to satisfy your craving for knowledge about food, nutrition, and health with reliable, trustworthy information from a nutrition expert with nothing to sell you. I have a responsibility to my profession, one that I take very seriously. This isn’t just a job for me, it’s my life (why do you think I’m still single?). The information I put on this blog will always be carefully scrutinized and backed by scientific, peer-reviewed research (you’ll see references at the bottom of every post). But I also have a responsibility to be real. I’m a regular gal, with a job, a budget, a busy schedule, emotions, and the understanding that eating food is about more than just acquiring energy and nutrients to sustain the body’s processes. Humanity’s complex relationship with food is my area of expertise. There is no one perfect way we should all be eating for optimum health.  I am not here to demonize new trends.  But I AM here to explore those trends with YOU in mind. To explore the truths, the myths, and the questions we still just don’t have answers to.

So as they say down here in the South, come back and visit, y’all!

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