Over the next couple of months we will be introducing you to some of the amazing dietitians we work with every day. We are going to find out why they became registered dietitians, what they love about their work, how they cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices, and what people should look out for when choosing a dietitian.
Meet Nathalie Mat, a clinical dietitian in private practice.
Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?
I grew up in a family that loves and celebrates food but is also concerned with health. What really drew me to becoming a dietitian is that dietetics is based in science but requires artful skill for successful implementation. People don’t eat nutrients, they eat food and it’s my job to help interpret ever-evolving nutrition research into real food that people can eat and enjoy.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?
My heart absolutely sings when someone walks into my office looking vibrant and healthy and tells me how much better they feel – and all we did was fine tune their eating. I love seeing people transform their health and their relationship with food. It is wonderful seeing people achieve their goals and it is a privilege to share the journey with them.
What has been your career highlight?
Presenting my thesis at an international congress and receiving my masters in nutrition was a definite highlight. I’ve also really enjoyed serving as the ADSA Gauteng South chair and being part of my profession.
What are the most challenging aspects of your career?
Because everyone eats food, almost everyone has a theory on nutrition that is their own and is unique to them. Helping people find their individual recipe for health is my job – but I have to fight a lot of misperceptions. Just because something worked for your aunt/friend/colleague does not mean it’s right for someone with your genetic background or lifestyle.
How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?
Firstly, if I am making a slightly less healthy choice, I really savour and enjoy it. I think food is meant to be enjoyed! I then make sure that I get back on the healthy bandwagon as soon as possible; I do not wait for Monday. Life is about balance. Your arms and legs won’t fall off if you eat a chocolate; just make sure that you’re choosing chocolate 10-20% of the time and making healthy, balanced choices the other 80-90% of the time.
What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?
Everyone always asks for a quick tip to losing weight – I don’t mind answering but people tend to ask a second time because they do not like my answer of “Eat more vegetables”. It makes me laugh.
If someone meets me for the first time and we’re having a meal, they often say “please don’t watch what I’m eating”. If it’s Saturday night or after hours, I’m not on the clock. I love answering nutrition questions but I am not secretly calculating everyone’s kilojoule intake.
“I have ; what should I eat for that”? I do my best work when I am in my office; if you’re keen on getting quality nutrition advice, go and see your dietitian for an appointment. Not only can a dietitian miss important points while you’re both eating dinner or having coffee, you are not likely to remember everything that was said over a meal.
What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?
I think the most important aspect of working with any health professional is that they should hear you. Finding the right dietitian is like finding the right psychologist – you need to be on the same page. You’ve found the right dietitian for you if he/she can create a way of eating that is sustainable in the long term; is manageable (in terms of money, time and effort); and is tasty.
What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?
I love everything. I really enjoy eating a wide variety of cuisines and styles so my favourite dish can change every time I’m asked. I am loving fragrant Indian curries at the moment. In terms of a favourite treat, my parents are both Belgian so I think chocolate will always be one of my favourites.
Nathalie Mat completed her Bachelors in Dietetics at the University of Pretoria where she is completing her Masters. Nathalie has experience in both State and Private hospitals and clinics. As a qualified personal trainer and avid cook, she is able to translate up-to-date scientific information into practical and achievable goals for her patients. Nathalie has been published across a variety of media and platforms including CPD activities, Oprah Magazine, Business Day and e-tv. She has worked as a guest lecturer and enjoys a variety corporate work. She’s the treasurer and chair for the ADSA Gauteng South branch.