Questions Answered!

In celebration of my 100th follower (the lovely Frannie Dee), my wonderful dietician Rebecca Scritchfield has agreed to answer five question that hopefully will help you on your journey to becoming a healthier you!  She's helped me identify areas where I need to be more mindful and can improve.  I've lost 13 lbs since first meeting her!

So a hearty thanks to her on a personal level, but also for answering the questions below for all of my blog followers.  First, get to know a little about Rebecca!

Rebecca Scritchfield, RD is a registered dietitian specializing in healthy weight management and sports nutrition.  She is an expert on realistic behavior changes for life-long health and wellness without questionable dieting techniques.  She is a recreational athlete, competing in triathlons, marathons, and ultra endurance events.  

Rebecca is creator of Nurture PrinciplesTM motivational workshops, which she presents with Bernie Salazar, a “runner up” from NBC’s The Biggest Loser.  Rebecca serves as a knowledge expert to the media, with publications in Oxygen, Women’s Running, Rachel Ray and television appearances in the DC market. She has worked as a spokesperson for several companies, including Starbucks, Kashi, and Fruit2O

She is on the advisory board for Nutrition Blog Network – a collection of blogs written by dietitians [follow Rebecca's blog here].   Rebecca received a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and was recognized by American Dietetic Association in 2009 as “Young Dietitian of the Year.”

Question 1: 
Who should see a nutritionist/can you break down your patients into a few categories?
First, let me explain something about nutritionists. Technically, anyone can hang up a sign and call themselves a nutritionist because it is not a real health professional term. This is important because there are for-profit companies that offer weekend and online courses in nutrition and provide a "certification," but it's not actually anything that let's people legally provide nutrition services in Washington, DCt and many states.

I think anyone can benefit from a visit with a nutrition expert. Look for a registered dietitian (RD). These are health professionals who have completed the minimum criteria of graduating with a 4-year degree from an accredited college or university, an accredited dietetic internship, and passed national board examinations.

I specialize in healthy weight management and sports nutrition. I help people fuel with good food to meet their lifestyle needs whether they get 2 hours of exercise a week or 20.

[Rebecca has 3 main areas in her practice:  sports nutrition; weight management; and medical nutrition therapy.]
Question 2:
What insights might a nutritionist have that the average GP/internist might not?
First off, how many people actually see a general practitioner once a year? Most doctors will weigh their patients, but they fall short of talking to them about their weight, nutrition habits, and exercise schedule. In fact, a March 2010 survey of physicians showed that 72% of doctors said that nobody in their office is trained on dealing with weight management problems.
Enter the nutrition expert. That's our expertise. We have a nutrition care process for accurately assessing and diagnosing nutrition problems and working with clients on a plan for making behavior changes. We're also on top of the latest scientific evidence and research on weight management and we follow trends in the culinary and food industry worlds as well.
Question 3:
How does your own weight loss struggle inform your practice as a nutritionist?
I've been on and off diets since I was 12 years old and if there's one thing I learned it's that they are a total waste of time and energy. In fact, UCLA research has even shown that people who diet are worse off than people who don't.  They gain all the weight back -- and more! I don't diet anymore and I don't let my clients diet either. We talk a lot about healthy nutrition, hunger/fullness, and emotional eating. We also talk about exercise and stress management. It's much harder to commit to exploring the barriers to achieving a healthy weight, but the rewards are worth it.
Question 4:
Do you have a few quick & easy changes people can make to improve their diets?
"Quick and easy" depends on the person's perspective. For example, I can say "don't drink your calories, switch from soda to water or calorie free beverages", but some people may find that to be a hard change. Maybe they could try to cut their beverage calories in half to start.
The best thing I can suggest to everyone is don't do anything you can't keep up the rest of your life. That's why I tell people to pick a "small change" and commit to one week or even one day of trying it out. You may decide to eat two fresh fruits a day as a small change. After the first week, you're willing to try it again... and again... and before you know it, it's your behavior.
The second best thing I can suggest is eating 3-4 times a day and moderate portions. Many people eat only twice a day and it's just not possible to get the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and balance of nutrients in only 2 meals a day. They might meet your calorie needs, but it is not just calories that determine your health.
Question 5:
If someone isn't meeting their caloric targets, what's usually the suspect?  How should they meet their target in a healthy way?
When I do a nutrition assessment, I analyze their current usual eating habits and compare that to their estimated needs. I'll figure out the differences between where they are and where they should be to reach their goals. Calories are definitely involved, but I really try to make sure we're not spending our time in sessions talking "numbers" because it is behaviors that matter.

If someone is under their calorie needs it could be a lack of knowledge  -- people want to eat healthy, but they are being too restrictive. They're undereating and won't lose weight because the body is resistant. It could also be an eating disorder, which has a whole other set of signs besides inadequate calorie intake.

If the calorie intake is excessive, usually the biggest barrier is not enough of a balanced plate, where 1/3 to 1/2 the plate as fruits or veggies with the meals. Fruits and veggies are low in calories and full of nutrition. Usually people are going for quick grab-and-go foods they don't make and the calories from the prepared foods add up very quickly.

If people want to meet their nutrition needs, they should invest in themselves and have a nutrition assessment done with a registered dietitian. They will get custom and specific advice for eating healthy based on where they are at right now. It's information that can help them for the rest of their lives.

I highly suggest you follow Rebecca on Twitter -- as she always has some great information.  Til next time, my loves!


Thanks for sharing with us!!


Thanks for following my blog and my journey!


Aha! I never knew "nutritionist" was not a true health profession term. Thanks for the clarification!


Great post. This was very informative! And I also never knew "nutritionist" was not a true health profession. Thanks for the heads up.


Vinny, YY:

more info on the difference between a dietician and a nutritionist:

I too had been using them interchangeably.... not anymore


My cat is about to call himself a nutritionist and get a really classy van. :)
Good for you for finding someone qualified to give advice!


I think Nibbles the Nutritionist would be supremely qualified to talk about all issues of diet and health, after all he is a rather discerning feline.


I'm looking into this field. Very helpful interview.


Adrienne -- glad you liked the interview!


Sorry FG, I only just ahd a chance to read. Good sound information. I particularly like Rebecca's comment about GP's. I once went to a GP, when I was working out a lot, who told me my blood pressure was awesome and I'm a gym freak. He was old and overweight and proceeded to tell me that he knows he should do something about his weight but his work means lots of boozy lunches and networking functions...I didn't go back to him!


Awww Andrea, I still <3 you (see my other reply where I profess love for you).

My internist is fond of telling people they're fat but not providing any relief from said fatness. I mean, maybe provide a list of dietitians? Recommend a meal plan? Something??


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