Meet the Dietitian: Michelle Zietsman

Michelle Zietsman serves on the ADSA Executive Committee 2021 – 2023 in the Representation portfolio (and she serves as chair of our ADSA Pretoria branch). We thought it well to meet up with her and get to know her a bit better.

Tell us a bit more of yourself?

My name is Michelle Zietsman and I am 27 years young.  I live in Pretoria with my amazing husband Mauritz, who is a Youth Pastor at Every Nation Hennopspark.  We have two fur babies (pugs), Britney and Bruno.  Bruno was named after my husband’s favourite Manchester United soccer player, Bruno Fernandez.  I have one older sister who is an engineer and always helps me with my excel spreadsheets as I just cannot get the hang of it.  My sister and I are extremely close, although she is moving to the Netherlands at the end of the year so I will miss her dearly.  But luckily, we will get to visit them and get to explore the beautiful country.  We are a very close family.  My parents live in Cape Town so we try to visit them as often as we can.   

I have been a Registered Dietitian for almost 6 years now and I still feel like I am just scratching the surface of all the amazing things we can do and be as dietitians.  I love growing in the dietetic field and as a person, and I love how being a dietitian has contributed to shaping and molding me into the person I am today. 

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

I have known without a doubt since I was 15 that I wanted to be a dietitian.  I developed an interest in nutrition and I was so intrigued with how food choices can affect our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being in either a positive or not-so-positive way.   

What would you have wanted to do if not Dietetics?

This is a tough question for me because it has always been dietetics.  But I think I would still choose to be a health care professional, maybe a nurse, speech therapist or occupational therapist?  And if not a healthcare professional, then definitely a chef with a restaurant that provided unique culinary experiences!  

Where did you study (degree and/ or postgrad)

I obtained my BSc Degree in Dietetics at the North-West University.  I also completed a Higher Certificate in Christian Counselling at the South Africa Theological Seminary and I am currently studying towards becoming a South African Certified Lactation consultant.   

Where do you work and what does your job entail?

I work at En Bonne Santé Dieticians, which is a dietetic private practice.  En Bonne Santé is French for “In Good Health”.  I provide nutrition counselling, support and guidance for individuals to achieve their lifestyle goals, no matter where you are in your health journey.  I have a special interest in women’s health and nutritional intervention for chronic diseases.  I also consult with those who wish to follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, or those interested in eating more plant-based.  I aim to promote eating patterns that emphasize whole plant foods not only for health and well-being but also for sustainable and compassionate living. 

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

I love when my clients rediscover that even though food is about health, it is also about culture, fun, family and relationship.  And when they break free from the restrict-binge cycle. 

What has been your career highlight?

That is still a work in progress 😉

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

At the moment, I feel like the biggest challenge for me is that many well-meaning individuals, without a degree in Dietetics, are claiming to be nutrition experts and are promoting extreme diets or they want to sell weight-loss products.  In most cases, people’s beliefs regarding health and weight are affected negatively and this can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food.  These restrictive health beliefs are challenging for clients to release.  But as I mentioned earlier, the most satisfying moments are when people break free from restrictive diets and realize that a real healthy lifestyle is much more abundant.

What is something that people don’t know about you?

I follow a Vegan lifestyle 😊

What are your favourite foods?

I love tropical fruits OR Mexican style dishes with beans, guacamole and salsa OR a Curry.

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

“Please don’t look at the food I dish up” OR “oh you must put me/my spouse on a diet” when you are at a Braai OR “what do you think about the Blood Group diet?”