Friday Faces! So excited to share a bit about Kathleen today. She's the first RD in our series (yay!!) and she's such a light, voice and support in the online nutrition community as @theRDNutritionist. Kathleen is changing the way we think about health by helping others shift away from diet culture to live fuller, more enjoyable lives.
SO let’s start off with introductions, tell us a little about yourself!
Hello! SO grateful to be here :) A bit about me… I grew up in a small town in Vermont that’s best known for it’s skiing. I am so grateful to be from such a special, beautiful place and as a result I have a massive appreciation for family, community, the great outdoors, a love of food and spring skiing. I moved to Boston for college, where I actually started off as an english major. Long story short, I transferred to nutrition after I needed to see an RD for help after major jaw surgery. I quickly realized that nutrition was the helping profession I was looking for to help me find a fulfilling career.
How did you get started? What was the inspiration behind TheRDNutritionist?
I went on to get a bachelors and a masters degree from Boston University. My first job after my internship was at a hospital as a clinician dietitian. I enjoyed the clinical elements of working in a hospital, but I felt like working at the bedside with patients (who were understandably more interested in the present moment) wasn’t for me. Soon after, I jumped at the opportunity to start working at the Sargent Choice Nutrition Center at BU for one of my mentors. In 2015, I moved to Dallas, TX with my fiancé and now we live in Houston. I work for a corporate wellness company, and it’s been both rewarding and challenging to be a non-diet voice in a field that isn’t quick to change. Thankfully I work with some fabulous RDs who are on the exact same page I am! We are the squeaky wheels.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started @theRDnutritionist. I admit, I felt a bit of pressure to have some social media presence. I already respected a bunch of RDs in the field, so I wasn’t sure how or if I could differentiate. I am stunned and flattered by the feedback I’ve received from the account, and so grateful for the community, as well as the vulnerability of some of my followers.
You describe yourself as an “anit-diet dietitian” can you briefly explain what that means?
As a non-diet dietitian, I simply want to promote health while also honoring the tradition of satisfying and pleasurable food. I’ve learned a lot about the body's ability to regulate weight, and as a result, my own philosophy has shifted to follow the science. Now that I know what I know, my practice has been focused on nurturing habits and behaviors to enhance wellbeing rather than the pursuit of weight loss, which is likely unsustainable and can often encourage disordered behavior.
What’s the the most challenging part about being an anit-diet dietitian? What’s the most rewarding?
I am so passionate about this paradigm shift! I admit to sometimes feeling frustrated by other health professionals who have yet to recognize how they contribute to a harmful diet culture. I recognize they likely believe they are doing no harm, and simply want to help people. The hard reality is, they too are stewing in this diet culture. However, there is a certain degree of ethical responsibility to evaluate biases and what the research truly encourages.
What is so rewarding? I love helping people recognize diet culture and shift away from it. Frankly put, intuitive eating and HAES principles can truly help people live fuller and more enjoyable lives.
When someone finds out you are an RD, what’s the most common question you get asked and how do you answer it?
When people find out I am an RD in social settings, people often assume I am going to judge their behavior, food choices, or body size. I get a lot of comments that relate to morality around food, or shame about certain behaviors. I usually try to lighten the mood or avoid reinforcing these comments off by saying something like, “oh don’t worry about me, I am a cool dietitian! It’s ok to eat foods you enjoy.” And then I usually change the subject :)
What’s been the biggest learning curve with growing your brand and sharing your life online?
Making it up as I go. I don’t have a lot of experience with marketing/social media, and I know there are a lot of ‘rules.’ I don’t hold myself to those rules, and that’s ok. I think the fact that this instagram account is fueled by my passion is evident. I post when I am inspired to do so, and this is both freeing AND effective. More importantly, I am aware of the influence I may have on people as an ‘expert’ in the field of nutrition, so I try to be thoughtful about the messages I send. I don’t want people to feel like they have to eat exactly like me or look like me to be healthy. I am also aware of some of the critiques around ‘food porn’ on social media, so I try to show a wide variety of foods and remind folks that this account is to celebrate food, not to be prescriptive.
What do you hope someone takes away after visiting your Instagram or having a counseling session with you?
At the very least, I want to plant a seed and make people think. My hope is that people recognize that they can in fact trust their bodies, and they don’t need diets or extremes to be healthy. I want people to consider how their values align with some of the tenets of diet culture - this can be incredibly eye opening. At the end of the day, I want to help people feel like they can honor their cravings and know that healthy eating doesn’t mean following strict rules, portion sizes or calorie counts. You can enjoy eating roasted veggies AND cheeseburgers. Nutrition and food should serve you, and allow you to have energy to live a fulfilled and pleasurable life.
What’s your dream job?
It’s important for me to continue to learn, so having the support/supervision from likeminded RDs and other health professionals matters a lot to me. Of course, I hope to keep working in the non-diet paradigm. I want to work one on one with clients, but also in a grander scale to get these messages out to the masses. I am also quite passionate about food insecurity, so my ideal job would also include helping make sure people have consistent access to food that helps them to feel well.
Take us through a typical (or not-so-typical) day!
Usually, I wake up after 8 hours of sleep - I am always protecting my sleep! I wake up hungry, so most mornings start with a big breakfast and coffee. Some mornings I will get in a run or some strength training with my partner. I love starting the day off with movement - it usually gives me a burst of energy and puts me in a good mood. Other mornings, my bed is far too cozy. I work from home, so my commute to my day job is quick. I work with clients all day and am grateful for technology to connect me with my RD colleagues when cases are tough. After work, I try to fit in some of my private practice work or write up some ranty instagram post. I usually throw together a quick dinner while listening to a podcast or some mindless TV in the background. Dinner varies, and sometimes I’ve thought ahead, other times it is by the seat of my pants. I like to end the day watching a show with my guy or reading my book in the bath.
What’s your biggest goal as of now? (personal or brand-related)
My biggest goal professional would be to be able to be successful in private practice with the flexibility to be quite vocal about the non-diet, weight-inclusive approach. I’m working on it! My short term personal goal is to maintain a mandatory amount of self care as I gear up for the next few months.. life is fabulous and busy, with a house purchase and a move, a cross-country wedding and the early days of my private practice!
What’s something you’re currently obsessed with? (people, things, products, habits, places - can be anything!)
Something I am obsessed with? Vermont, and my family’s 12 year old black lab. I am writing this in a big green yard eating local cheese, watching her run around like she’s a puppy. To say this is pleasant is an understatement.
What does “health” mean to you?
Health is nuanced, and individual. What is healthy for one person may not be accessible or healthful for another. I always want to hear how my clients define healthy - I need to know how THEY view health, given their own story and experiences.
How do you see (or hope to see) our perception of health and nutrition changing in the near future?
I hope we move toward what is truly patient centered care, focusing on the individual wants and needs of a person. We need a whole person perspective that includes both mental and physical wellbeing, whatever that looks like for each person. Our culture currently encourages the pursuit of physical health over mental health, and this is futile and ironically unhealthy. You cannot expect a person to make changes that are truly sustainable and healthful if we don’t look at the big picture. As providers, we need to consider our biases and review the current and emerging literature on how stigma affects health. And lastly, we cannot have this conversation without considering social determinants of health. For true and effective change, we cannot place the entire burden on the individual.