We caught up with registered dietitian Retha Booyens, who is passionate about nutrition and dietetics, to find out what drives her, why she chose dietetics as a career and how she is making a difference through her work:
Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?
Contrary to what people believe, dietitians are actually foodies and love experimenting. I can remember that from a young age I loved food and eating, but also loved health and being active (athletics, acrobatics, hockey, netball etc). It seemed like an obvious decision to become a dietitian, but I need a bit more convincing. I took a gap year and did shadowing in dietetic lectures, at clinical dietitians and outpatient consultations. And after that there was no turning back.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?
The pleasure is in the small things, like a client progressing to solids after a long battle on IV nutrition and tube feeds or helping someone reach personalised goals (such as athletes).
Knowing that I can be an instrument in the saving of a person’s life is a tremendously satisfying feeling. I have a huge passion for critical care and renal dietetics and love to see how I can not only save someone’s life but also improve quality of life.
What has been your career highlight?
Becoming an ADSA spokesperson and being able to share my passion on a larger scale (in print, radio, etc).
Very close second was hosting a radio talk show (Bite for Life with Retha Booyens) on a local radio station in North West before relocating.
What are the most challenging aspects of your career?
Having to make peace with the fact that I cannot help everyone.
Knowing the vast amount of misinformation that is available, that is not only unsustainable but also damaging to people’s health. That is why I’m passionate about my Facebook page and Instagram account, just another platform where I can share evidence-based nutrition guidelines.
How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?
I always try to remind myself (and my clients) that it is a lifestyle and not a diet. Therefore there are bound to be weddings, parties and other occasions where over-indulging will happen.
What I do after a day where I didn’t make all the right choices is just to get back on the wagon the next day and get back into my usual healthier routine.
What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?
- Then you shouldn’t look what I have on my plate now.
- Can you give me a sample meal plan?
- You probably never eat unhealthy foods.
What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?
Choose someone that you feel comfortable with and can relate to. Someone who will be able to support you on an emotional level as well.
The relationship between a dietitian and client/patient is far more than just ‘what you eat’ and therefore you need someone that will be able to assist with the other aspects besides the food.
What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?
The dish I love making is any type of interesting salad – I love to invite people over and them saying ‘I didn’t know that healthy food can be this tasty.
On the other hand, when I treat myself I love to have anything Italian – so pastas and pizzas are right at the top of my list.