We chatted to registered dietitian Lisanne du Plessis who is a senior lecturer and the Head of Community Nutrition at Stellenbosch University, to find out why she became a dietitian, what she loves the most about the work she does and what she wishes people would stop saying when they meet a dietitian.
Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?
While I was in high school, I was randomly selected to take part in the MRC’s Coronary Risk Factor Study (CORIS). I was fascinated by the information provided to us about the ways in which nutrition could prevent and treat diseases. Two dietitians (Edelweiss Wentzel-Viljoen and Marjanne Senekal) were part of the research team who visited my hometown, Robertson, for this project and I was inspired by the prospects of the profession. I went on to study BSc Dietetics at Stellenbosch University and it was a very proud moment for me when I could write “RD/SA”, and for some time now, also “NT/SA” behind my name.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?
I am a senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University in the Division of Human Nutrition. I enjoy teaching, experiencing students who engage with nutrition theory in a positive way, watching them translate the theory into practice, seeing them graduate with big smiles and when they say: “Mam, you have instilled a passion in us for infant and young child nutrition” – those are golden moments for me.
What has been your career highlight?
I am fortunate that there have been many. I was exposed to wonderful, humble and sincere people in my very first job as a community dietitian. I have treasured the life lessons I learnt from them during my career. I was honoured to serve the profession on the ADSA Western Cape branch and the ADSA Executive committee in my early career and I also served as ADSA President (2002-2004). I have met amazing mentors and colleagues who have become friends and partners in flying the flag for nutrition; I have seen interesting and beautiful places and have had the opportunity to listen and speak to diverse nutrition audiences. Obtaining my PhD and surviving to tell the tale is the latest on the list of career highlights!
What are the most challenging aspects of your career?
Juggling life (husband, children, home, family, friends) with an intense and diverse workload.
How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?
Sigh…and try to do better the following day. I enjoy exercise – so that helps!
What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?
- Please don’t look in my shopping trolley/plate!
- I usually eat healthily.
- Can you work out a diet for me?
What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?
They should always feel that the dietitian carries their best interest at heart.
They should be able to build a trust-relationship with a dietitian fairly quickly.
They should be convinced that the dietitian is truthful when he/she says: “we practice evidence-based nutrition.”
What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?
I love many different kinds of food and especially enjoy tapas-style meals. I am well-known for my love of chocolate and bubbly!
To find a dietitian in your area, please visit http://www.adsa.org.za