“Improving health through diet therapy” – Meet registered dietitian Astrid Wichmann

This week we chat to Astrid Wichmann, Chief Dietitian at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban.

Astrid completed her BSc Degree in Dietetics at the University of Stellenbosch, followed by one year community service in Barberton. She stayed in the public sector and her interests are mainly in the field of clinical dietetics. To date Astrid has one publication, one husband and one child.

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

My plan was to trek up Africa in an old Land Rover and help all the Kwashies. The outcome – I’m based in a clinical setting where I play a role in rehabilitating individuals, with all types of ailments, through nutrition therapy.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

Enjoy most: Playing a role in enhancing recovery of patients and improving health through diet therapy.

Most satisfying: Seeing the twinkle in patient’s eyes when they grasp a concept and are eager to learn more. Seeing a child grow well after diet therapy has been implemented.

What has been your career highlight?

Being given the opportunity to work in a flagship tertiary and quaternary hospital.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

  • Helping individuals attain a goal with limited resources in their poverty stricken setting.
  • Eloquently defending fact against sensationalistic fiction.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

By not going on a diet! (Or should I rather say: I do not see it as a disaster and recover by aiming for optimal nutrition)

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • Oh!….I need to speak to you about a diet, I need to lose weight!
  • Don’t look at what I’m eating.
  • You are not supposed to eat that if you’re a dietitian.

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

Look out for the field of interest the practitioner has and what client base he/she mainly serves. Generally you are likely to benefit more by seeing someone who specialises in the area you need assistance with, than someone who does not have much exposure to such cases e.g. allergies/diabetes/paediatrics/kidney diseases/ infertility etc.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

My “last supper” would be: moms roast chicken & potatoes with a mixed salad.

Treat food: ice-cream that contains icicles.

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