Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fun with Nutrition!

Something Dara O'Briain said in that hilarious rant I posted really made me think.  OK, truthfully just about all of it made me think which is why I love it so much.  But only one part made me consider a career change, the part where he talked about Nutritionists vs Dieticians.  He mentioned how, unlike Dietician, Nutritionist was not a protected term so pretty much anyone could become a Nutritionist and dispense nutritional advice.  Could it really be that easy though?  Could I be a nutritionist?  Well I did some research and it turns out the answer is yes and no.  But mostly yes.

First he was totally right about dieticians, that's not an easy course.  A good friend of mine married a dietician and they started dating while we were all students so I got to see a bit of what it takes to get that degree.  Believe me, it's no cakewalk.  It's years of study plus a lot of hours working long shifts at various hospitals and none of it looked fun or easy.

Unfortunately the thing about "nutritionist" not being a protected term wasn't totally true.  While in most parts of the world - including most US states, parts of Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom - the term "nutritionist" isn't subject to professional regulation it turns out that South Africa is the exception in this regard*.  How is that for irony?  If I lived in the first world, I could just advertise myself as a nutritionist with zero education or experience and no one would be able to call shenanigans.  However here in the third world I would actually need a qualification to do that!  What were the freaking odds?!

So how hard would it be for me to get that qualification?  I looked around a bit and it turns out that it wouldn't be that hard at all!  I found a whole bunch of courses offered by everyone from Hotel schools to Cosmetology Academies.  None of those looked particularly challenging either but unfortunately that website didn't give me all the syllabus and fee information I wanted and I was sure as hell not going to contact any of those places to ask.  Made that mistake once and I'm still getting spam and the occasional call...  However I did find two schools with all their info online and it turns out I could have a fully accredited diploma in nutrition in under 6 months.  For $650 and 5 months (or less) of my time I can get a diploma in nutrition from The Institute of Natural Healing.  Seems that I just need to hand in 15 assignments which sounds totally doable!  For £365 and a suggested 200 hours of study, I can get a diploma from Oxford college.  While that's not as prestigious as Oxford University I would still get a diploma with the word "Oxford" on it and that is bound to impress someone!  Plus I just have to pass an online multiple question test at the end to get it!  So then for around R5000 I could become a certified nutritionist - which is more than I'm willing to spend right but still pretty cheap considering that's for the entire course.  At an actual university you'd be lucky to spend that little per subject!

Now you may be wondering what I would do with such a qualification.  Well I guess I could try to offer sound advice on healthy eating hwqi'jsdfl'kajhl'ahhl'zzzzzzzz  Oh sorry, that sentence was so boring I passed out while typing it!  No, there will be none of that!  As I see it it would be good for two things:

I could go over to the dark side and make tons of money preying on people with low self esteem, bad body image and more money than sense.  I rake in the cash telling people to cut out gluten or carbs or rice crakers while selling my special brand of "Cayenne pepper and Anchovy Cleansing Shakes".  You will lose weight or die trying, guaranteed!  I will let my absolute favourite skeptical sketch artists Mitchell & Webb demonstrate:

Alternatively I could use my nutritional powers for good and spread some joy instead.  At my Super Happy Funtime Nutrition Academy, I will help you feel better about eating the things you like.  By starting sentences with "As a certified nutritionist..." I could help ease your troubled mind.  Allow me to demonstrate:

You:  "I really love banana cream pie but I feel so guilty everytime I eat it!  What should I do?"

Me:  "Well as a certified nutritionist, I can assure you that dessert is without a doubt the most important part of any meal.  There really is no reason for you to feel bad at all, trust me, I'm a nutritionist!  In fact the only thing ruining your life right now is all that unnecessary guilt!  Stop beating yourself up, you look fantastic!"

You: "I've never heard that before, could it be true?"

Me:  "Of course!  I'm not just making things up, I'm a certified nutritionist!  Here, have a look at this pamphlet I wrote about the health benefits of chocolate and remember, chocolate is twice as healthy when you enjoy it with a nice glass of red wine.  No go on out there and eat something delicious!"

See?  I would be awesome!  On a completely unrelated note, if you would like me to become your personal nutritionist, I am accepting cash donations!  Best part is that since nutritionists aren't technically dispensing medical advice, you can't actually sue me for malpractice!  Best part for me that is, not so much for you and your diabetes!

Look, I'm not trying to call all nutritionists quacks.  I'm sure a lot of them are really great at what they do and will give very sound advice.  But be honest, if you broke your arm who would you rather go to?  A medical doctor who spent years and university and countless hours in the ER or someone who did a 3 month online course on bonesetting?  Sure, the bonesetter may turn out to be fantastic at it but how can you know for sure?  If you have an actual problem, why not go to an actual professional?

Then again, an actual dietician will never make you feel as good about yourself as the Super Happy Funtime Nutrition Academy would, just sayin'...

*According to Wikipedia that is.  However the Institute of Natural Healing's FAQ page said the following regarding regulation in South Africa:
  "AHPCSA (The Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa) is a statutory health body, however there is no government control over nutritionists in South Africa.

The AHPCSA legislation governs all medical and mental professionals. The legislation is primarily intended to regulate doctors and dentists, but to be absolutely safe, it would be wise to give client’s a document pointing out that you are not going to treat any medical or mental conditions. "


Ali said...

Mitchell and Webb are the best!

I also think you would be the most amazing nutritionist if you used your powers for good! You can covertly challenge the beauty standard by tricking people into being happy with their appearance. Sneaky!

And I will very happily take any advice which includes instructions to eat lots of chocolate.

Eugene said...

Thanks! For the record, since you too are a fan of delicious flavour, the Super Happy Funtime Nutrition Academy would definitely hire you as a consultant if your schedule allows! Free chocolate for consultants!

I would love to be in a position to trick/help people into being happy with their appearance. Jokes aside, I take this pretty seriously since a family member I love very dearly almost died of an eating disorder.

Food is one of the great joys of life, people should enjoy it! Besides, what is more beautiful than someone comfortable in their own skin?

S.M. Elliott said...

I have to admit I hadn't given any thought to the differences between dieticians and nutritionists, so thanks! I should add that my doctor has an in-house nutritionist who seems to give very sound, sensible advice (I don't have wheat allergies yet, anyway; that's a good sign).