One Dietetics student’s journey from diet culture to food freedom

This is a guest post from my dietetic practicum student, Caroline Jones. Caroline is studying dietetics at the University of Georgia.

Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story, Caroline.

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Hi everyone! My name is Caroline Jones, and I’m a fourth-year student at the University of Georgia studying dietetics and Spanish.

Vickery Wellness Dietitian Nutritionist Athens GA

This semester, I am completing a practicum at Vickery Wellness learning the ins and outs of private practice dietetics, nutrition counseling, and the journey to Intuitive Eating. I will be writing posts for Ms. Vickery’s blog over the course of the semester, so today I wanted to share a little bit about who I am and why I decided to pursue dietetics.

Why am I pursuing a career in dietetics?

I started my undergraduate career as a public health major, even though I had known for years that I wanted to study nutrition. At 18, I was daunted by the prospect of organic chemistry and microbiology, so I decided on a major that I thought better matched my skillset – one with less science and more reading and writing. I learned valuable information about community wellness and health education in my introductory public health courses, but I knew that my dream job was in nutrition. I joined the dietetics cohort at the end of my freshman year with a newfound confidence in my ability to succeed as a nutrition student.

I decided to study dietetics for many reasons, but one of the most important ones is my personal nutrition journey. Like many of my peers in dietetics, I became aware of nutrition and the relationship between food and the body at a young age. Growing up, the manifestations of diet culture were everywhere. As I watched my mom’s friends prepare for their weekly WeightWatchers meetings and saw enough Atkins Diet commercials to recite them from memory, I started to question if I, too, needed to change my body.

My story

I started counting calories when I was 11. At the time, I was playing three sports and thought if I could just lose weight, I would be faster, healthier, and happier. Instead, this marked the beginning of a decade of obsessing over what I ate and how I looked. First, it was counting calories on MyFitnessPal. Then I cut out several food groups. Then it was processed foods – anything in a box, bag, or package became off-limits. I missed dinners with friends and declined birthday cake at parties to maintain this warped picture of health I had created for myself.

In high school, I began to re-incorporate some of these foods. I became invested in learning more about nutrition and recognized that I could not achieve my best athletic performance if I was under-eating. I began to have more energy during the day and perform better in sports, but I could not escape the plaguing thoughts that come with chronic dieting and negative body image.

A few months into college, I fell into a cycle of restriction and binge eating that left me feeling guilty, embarrassed, and alone. As counterintuitive as it may seem, my dietetics classes (along with medication and therapy) helped me begin to undo the disordered habits I had accumulated over nearly 10 years.

What I have learned during my studies

I not only learned more about the physiological effects of nutrients (and that someone my age needs WAY more food than MyFitnessPal ever told me), but I was also introduced to concepts like Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size. This knowledge empowered me to reframe the way I view food and exercise and helped me see how I could combat diet culture in the future as a dietitian.

My hopes for the future

As an RDN, my goal is to work in clinical pediatrics providing medical nutrition therapy to children in inpatient care. The way that children are introduced to nutrition has such an impact on their lifelong relationship with food, and I hope to incorporate the principles of Intuitive Eating into my practice to encourage the development of sustainable healthy habits despite medical restrictions. I am so excited to be working with Ms. Vickery this semester and look forward to sharing more through this blog!

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