Meet Registered Dietitian, Retha Booyens

ADSA_Meet the Dietitian_Retha BooyensWe 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.

 

To find a registered dietitian in your area, please visit: http://www.adsa.org.za/Public/FindARegisteredDietitian.aspx


“We should be as kind to ourselves as we are to others”

This week we chat to Tabitha Hume, a registered clinical dietitian in private practice, to find out why she became a dietitian, what she enjoys most about the work she does and what the challenges are:

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

I danced very seriously when I was at high school (ballet) and fell prey to the eating disorder monster. When I went to UCT, I started out studying BSc with an aim to genetic engineering, but then someone mentioned that dietetics was offered as a post-grad honours degree and my interest was piqued. I changed my BSc subjects to physiology and psychology and then was equipped for dietetics. I had a very strong interest in the physiological development of metabolic problems and so when I started my honours thesis on the hyper-metabolic response of paediatric burns patients, I was in heaven! Then after honours, my huge thirst for knowledge blessed me with a research and lecturing post at Wits Physiology Department, doing my thesis on carbohydrate and insulin metabolism, which was incredible. I knew I was in the right career when I started private practice and saw how rewarding it was, helping people with disordered eating and eating disorders completely lose their fear and anxiety of carbohydrates and remain skinny whilst eating a LOT.

So, it was really an evolution into dietetics, but a perfect fit!

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

I love interacting with people. I see myself as a bit of a teacher. Watching as the penny drops with people is very rewarding. Seeing previously restrictive people turning into satisfied eaters with a genuine passion for eating, and losing weight or stabilising muscle mass makes me feel like I’ve helped both body and mind, and made a positive difference. My most satisfying moments are probably seeing my past anorexic and bulimic patients enjoy food, socialising, eating with their families, and moving on to inspire other eating disorder sufferers with lecturing, blogging and mentoring. That’s paying it forward and I feel blessed that I am able to be part of that journey.

What has been your career highlight?

I think this answer has two parts: The first was the success of my first three books. Then, the second highlight has been slow: working my way back up from complete financial and emotional ruin after being accused of malpractice in 2001. However, the exoneration and my ongoing passion for helping people recover has put me back in the practice seat and made me stronger in the process. I’m proud of that.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

There are 3 main challenges, which hit me every day.

  • The fact that everyone and anyone dishes out conflicting and pseudoscientific dietetic advice and that the public is not protected against this. More disease and death is being caused by confusion, yo-yo dieting, eating disorders and orthorexia arising directly from ‘diet gurus’ who have little or no physiological or medical background. Because the public sees these ‘diet gurus’ and registered dietitians as equal authorities and equally qualified to dispense dietetic advice, I sometimes feel angered that I am forced to highlight the vast difference in qualifications there are. It’s crazy that we are forced to ‘convince’ patients that we are the experts. After all, someone with a rotator-cuff injury would not question a physiotherapist on what advice she received from her personal trainer!
  • Apropos the above: I also find it very challenging that medical aids still don’t see the massive value in dietetic therapy. This hinders the patient from obtaining the full scope of care that they actually need from a dietitian, and this incomplete process leaves the full lifestyle change open to failure, further exacerbating lost faith in dietetics.
  • With the plethora of rubbish advice available to people, much of the limited time in consultation is spent trying to teach complicated physiological concepts so that they can understand and thus ‘trust’ the advice we give, because it is often so contrasting to what is fashionable and the latest fear-mongering fad. Patients so often say, “I need to spend a whole day listening and understanding because only with understanding it ALL can my enormous fear of food be undone.” We, as dietitians, shouldn’t have to do this. We should be able to guide, direct and heal. Not have to spend patients’ valuable time convincing them that eating normal food is OK.

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

I speak to myself kindly, as I would to a child who made mistakes. We all do things for a reason, and I show myself WHY I made those mistakes, and rapidly make small adjustments to address that problem for the future. As soon as I let guilt in, my tendencies to be mean to myself start, and this simply starts a complicated restrict/defiance pattern in my eating which is not healthy. We should be as kind to ourselves as we are to others.

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

  • “Are you sure? Everyone else seems to be saying that blah blah blah (insert pseudoscientific rubbish)”.
  • “I know what I should be doing I just can’t seem to have the discipline”. …..Um, no! If you don’t have the discipline, it’s probably because you are doing it wrong!
  • I won’t need much time with you… just give me a diet sheet of what I can and can’t eat”.

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

I think this is a very difficult one to answer, seeing as most dietitians have equal qualifications. I’d say that because patients usually require a lifestyle change (and that is a fairly personal process), finding a dietitian with whom the patient ‘clicks’ on a personality level is very important to motivation and trust.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

Undoubtedly a hot lentil curry with chutney and tons of fresh coriander!

My favourite treat food would be warm apple pie! (Vegan of course!)


“I believe in moderation, not deprivation”

Meet registered dietitian Abby Courtenay, who is serving on the current ADSA executive committee and looks after the PR portfolio. We chatted to her about why she loves being a dietitian, what the challenges are and what people should consider when deciding which dietitian to consult:

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

From a young age I had an interest on the effects of nutrition on the human body. I vividly remember reading the ‘How my body works’ books and being fascinated by the complexity of the digestive system. By the time I was in standard 9 (or grade 11), I knew I definitely wanted to become a dietitian. Strangely though, in Matric I changed my mind and pursued a degree in architecture. After 1 year I realized that architecture was not my passion and so I started my BSc degree and subsequently was accepted for dietetics at the University of Pretoria in 2007. People often ask if I regret my round about journey to dietetics, but I made some amazing friends along the way and learned a great deal about myself in that time. I don’t think I would be the dietitian I am today, had it not been for my experiences.

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

I have been in private practice for almost 3 years, and I still feel a great sense of pride and joy when I receive feedback from my patients telling me how amazing they feel. I think that many people feel pretty terrible on a daily basis, but with correct diet and adequate lifestyle changes they can truly reach their full potential. I strive to incorporate a strong message of moderation and I do not believe in deprivation.

What has been your career highlight?

I will be attending FNCE conference in Chicago (coming up in October 2017), so for me I feel like all my hard work and dedication to my career and dietetics  has culminated to this point and I am beyond excited to represent South African dietitians at an international conference.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Trying to correct nutrition misconceptions. People unfortunately get their nutrition information from un-credible sources (usually on the internet) and it can be challenging to correct these perceptions. I believe that for dietitians, knowledge is power and the more you arm yourself with current, up-to-date nutrition information to more you can educate the population.

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

To be honest I don’t ever feel as if my day has been nutritionally disastrous. When you give yourself permission to eat all foods you remove the guilt from eating and thus stop the diet cycle (binge, guilt, deprivation and repeat).

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

  • Do you ever eat *insert indulgent food here*? Of course we do, we are only human and can eat anything in moderation!
  • Don’t judge what I am eating/ buying! This will often happen at a braai or when I see someone at the shopping mall, and I can promise you that I never judge and don’t give my professional opinion unless it is asked for!
  • Can you print me/ email me a diet? All the plans I do are individualized, it is not a “mik-and-druk” process. In order to be successful (with regards to dietary change), you will need to see a dietitian for a one-on-one consultation. She needs to get to know your medical history, lifestyle, likes and dislikes, level of nutrition education and current diet history before she can even think of creating a plan for you!

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

If you have a specific medical problem, ask the dietitian if this is her special interest. If it is not, ask if she can refer you to a dietitian who is more knowledgeable in your problem area and the dietitian should also be conveniently situated, so that it is convenient for you to see her regularly .

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

I like to experiment in the kitchen and try to update my recipe folder on a regular basis, so don’t ever have a ‘favourite dish’ but rather a favourite dish of the week. At the moment I am trying out a homemade tuna and butterbean fishcake.

My favourite treat food is without a doubt baked cheesecake!

To find a dietitian in your area, visit the ADSA website.

More about Abby
Abby Courtenay RD (SA) is an associate dietitian at the Nutritional Solutions Grayston and Melrose. She graduated with a Bachelor of Dietetics at University of Pretoria and also holds a Masters’ degree in Nutrition from the University of Stellenbosch.
She is registered with the HPCSA and is the current ADSA Executive Public Relations portfolio holder and previously served as the Public Sector portfolio and Communications portfolio the ADSA Gauteng South branch.
Abby has a special interest in: maternal, infant and child nutrition; renal and oncology nutrition. In addition to that, she also has extensive experience working with adults within the realm of weight loss and treatment/ prevention of lifestyle-related conditions.
Abby is a regular guest writer for Living and Loving, ChildMag and Clicks magazine, and also contributes as a nutrition expert to medical newsletters both to the public and healthcare professionals through Ann Lake Publishing. Abby is a regular contributor to various radio stations including Radio Cape Hope and Radio 702 and has appeared on television in relation to various nutritional matters.

Is a Career as a Dietitian for You?

Dietetics, the field of nutrition, health and the application of science-based nutrition knowledge offers a variety of distinctive career opportunities that goes beyond the usual view of the dietitian as someone who simply helps others lose weight. If you have interests in health, food, healthy lifestyle and science, you may well find your niche in this growing profession.

“A dietitian is a registered healthcare professional who is qualified to assess, diagnose and treat nutritional problems, as well as to advise on preventative nutritional strategies,” says Maryke Gallagher, registered dietitian and President of ADSA, the Association for Dietetics in South Africa. In South Africa, the minimum qualification for a dietitian is a four-year BSc degree and one-year of community service. To practice dietetics in the country, one must be registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). A registered dietitian is, therefore, a recognised expert in evidenced-based nutrition. This scientific expertise is vital in today’s world where there is an abundance of unscientific health and nutrition information, as well as a plethora of fad diets and nutrition gimmicks.

While dietitians are certainly the ‘go-to’ people for those battling with overweight and obesity, there is a lot more to the career than just sharing weight reduction and management expertise. What we eat has significant impacts on many other diseases and health conditions. Whether therapeutic nutrition or preventative nutrition, dietitians promote good health and wellbeing for all. There is much scope to tailor a career in dietetics to your personal passions. You may be interested in focusing on children’s health, maternal health, food allergies or eating disorders, or on some of the many medical conditions that require a dietitian’s management such as diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS and intestinal disorders. In addition, when it comes to sports, nutrition also impacts on performance, and dietitians may often play integral roles on the teams managing high performance sportspeople.

Without doubt, there is a high need for registered dietitians in South Africa. While infectious disease such as HIV/AIDS and TB continue to be prevalent in South Africa, non-communicable diseases like heart disease, strokes, cancers and diabetes are actually the main causes of deaths (1). Yet up to 80% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes and over a third of cancers could be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle, such as eating a healthy diet, keeping physically active and avoiding tobacco products (2).   South Africa is ranked the most obese country in sub-Saharan Africa(3). Alarmingly, two out of three women and almost one in three men are overweight or obese, and almost 1 in 4 children aged 2-14 years are overweight or obese in South Africa(4). On the opposite side of the coin, chronic under-nutrition is also prevalent with 1 in 4 children aged 0-3 years suffering from stunting, a condition where a child grows to be small for their age due to poor nutrition(4). There is also a high incidence of micronutrient deficiencies, particularly vitamin A and iron, in South African children and women of reproductive age(4). South Africa has high levels of food insecurity with around 1 in 4 food-insecure South Africans experiencing hunger and a further 1 in 4 at risk of hunger(4).

Dietitians may work in a variety of settings with different areas of focus:

Private practice – like other health professionals, dietitians can set themselves up to consult privately with patients who need advice on nutrition therapy and support to make healthy eating a lifestyle change.

Hospitals – known as clinical dietitians, these practitioners primarily work in hospitals consulting with patients who are referred to them by doctors or other healthcare professionals. Their role in a patient care team is to assess and individualise nutrition therapy (whether an appropriate special diet, tube feed or intravenous feed) as an integral part of recovery or palliative care.

Community – these dietitians may be employed in the public sector, or by NGOs or community-based organisations. Their focus is generally on the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding; growth monitoring and the prevention of malnutrition; nutrition promotion and education; promotion of healthy lifestyles to address non- communicable diseases; prevention and treatment of vitamin and mineral deficiencies; and addressing food insecurity issues.

Institution-based – dietitians also work in food service management providing healthy and specialised diets to people living in institutions such as senior homes, school hostels, welfare care centres, prisons and health care facilities. Their work includes planning, costing and developing menus; controlling implementing, evaluating and overseeing food service systems; and managing special dietary requirements.

Industry/Corporate – there are varied roles for dietitians in the food, retail, healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. They may advise on current food labelling legislation, nutrition regulations and the nutritional analysis of food items; be involved in product development; share latest developments and trends in nutrition; participate in nutrition-related marketing activities; lead corporate wellness programmes and conduct literature reviews.

Research/Academia – dietitians employed by educational institutions are involved in continuously providing new evidence-based nutrition information through on-going research and teaching and are responsible for the training of new nutrition professionals. 

Media/Publishing – in the Information Age, there is opportunity for dietitians, who have important knowledge to share, to generate expert content providing nutrition advice, latest evidenced-based nutrition news and views, commentary on nutrition issues and inspiration for healthy eating.

Do you have what it takes?

Maryke advises that a career in dietetics will suit those who:

  • are interested in food and health
  • enjoy and have a flair for Science
  • would be fulfilled by a caring, helping profession
  • are lifelong learners who are attentive to the on-going developments in Science
  • are able to translate scientific knowledge into practical advice
  • are comfortable in the role of the expert and like sharing knowledge with others
  • have strong inter- and intrapersonal skills
  • have a positive attitude and the ability to motivate others
  • have empathy, understanding and tact

 

 

References
  1. Mortality and causes of death in South Africa, 2014: Findings from death notification / Statistics South Africa. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa, 2015
  2. Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2010. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2011
  3. World Health Organisation. 2015. Global Health Observatory Data Repository. Accessed June 2015. http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.
  4. Shisana O, Labadarios D, Rehle T, Simbayi L, Zuma K, Dhansay A, et al. South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES-1). Cape Town: Health Sciences Research Council, 2013.

 ABOUT ADSA

ADSA, the Association for Dietetics in South Africa is one of the country’s professional organisations for registered dietitians.  It is a registered non-profit organisation served by qualified volunteers. The Association represents, and plays a vital role in developing the dietetic profession so as to contribute towards the goal of achieving optimal nutrition for all South Africans.  Through its network of ten branches ADSA provides dietitians with the opportunity to meet and network with other professionals in their provinces. Through its comprehensive Continuing Professional Development (CPD) system, ADSA supports dietitians in meeting their mandatory on-going learning, which is essential to maintain their registration status with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). Visit: http://www.adsa.org.za

 


“I love the versatility our profession”

Monique_1We chatted to Registered Dietitian, Monique Piderit who works mostly in the corporate wellness space, to find out why she became a dietitian, what she loves about her work and what the challenges are:

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

I heard about dietetics for the first time when I was in 2nd year at Wits doing a BSc. I soon realised that all my subject choices where right in line with the types of subjects done in dietetics. It was one of those “aha” moments where I realised I have just fallen in love with my future profession.

If you ask my mother this question, she will tell you I was born to be a dietitian. From an early age, it was natural and easy for me to choose the healthier foods. I disliked fatty meats, chicken skin, and creamy-based foods, and processed meats like polony made me ill. I was quite happy to have milk with my meals, never went overboard on sweets and chocolates, and there was never a struggle as a toddler to eat veggies. It really is just something that is instinctive for me to be healthy and thus it’s easy to lead by example.

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

I love the versatility our profession. People think dietitians just help with weight loss diets. The truth is almost every medical concern, disease or condition can be managed, treated, or even prevented with good food choices.

Also, I enjoy how impactful our profession can be. I work mostly in the corporate wellness space. Employees spend 1/3 of their time at work, making the workplace the ideal opportunity to promote and encourage healthy nutrition. I am involved in onsite nutrition consultations, canteen audits, nutrition workshops and article writing for corporates, all impactful yet undervalued ways to address nutrition.

What has been your career highlight?

There are many dietitians that I look up to and admire in our profession, and when these dietitians express acknowledgement in the work that I do, it is hugely fulfilling. It is gratifying and rewarding when your mentors, dietitians who love and protect profession as much as you do, recognise and compliment you on your contribution to the profession.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Everyone eats, so everyone thinks they’re an expert in nutrition. The truth is nutrition is far more complex than calories and not as simple as just being about food. On a daily basis, dietitians, the nutrition experts who study for years to practice, are confronted by people who (unknowingly) cannot discern evidence-based nutrition from sensationalist ‘fact’ found on the internet. It has been a personal challenge to learn how best to address the controversial questions in a friendly manner, remaining true to the science. Regardless, my immense pride to be a dietitian always helps me keep my head high.

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

I never let it get to a point of an entire day of poor choices, but rather a cheat window where I allow myself to relax the nutrition strings, thoroughly savouring and enjoying the less healthy choice. It’s so vital to change how you think about food. Food nourishes the body and is not a sentence to a life of unhappiness. There will be meals where you overeat or eat incorrectly. But the power resides in you that at the next meal or even in the very next bite you decide you are in control. Be kind to yourself. No one is perfect (not even your dietitian).

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

  • Are you really going to eat that? Dietitians are humans and have taste buds and emotions like everyone else. When you’ve eaten well most of the time, your body can certainly tolerate a little cheat here and there, so yes, I’m not only going to eat that but delight in every bite along the way.
  • So tell me, what’s your opinion on Banting? The answer is I don’t have an opinion, I have a position, a position that, like other health care professionals guided by science, is based on scientifically-sound, evidence-based, high quality research.
  • Can you make me a meal plan quickly? Meal plans take time and effort and require an understanding of your needs, likes, dislikes, medical history, budget, lifestyle, etc. If meal plans were the ultimate answer, then one could simply download one of the thousands on the internet and be healthy, happy, skinny, and fit. A meal plan is a guide to healthy eating, not the ultimate answer.

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

Our relationship with food is so very intimate and personal that you need to be comfortable to open up and share that with your dietitian. You need to find a person that you trust in and can connect with. It’s also important to remember that dietitians are the leading experts in nutrition and you should note red flags when the person favours a certain diet, pushes sales of a product that you “have to have”, or “prescribing” weight loss medication. Chances are this person is not a dietitian.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

My family is Portuguese and I am the first generation to be born in SA. The culture, language, and of course, food, is still a large part of who I am. A freshly baked, hot bread roll with butter or perfectly plump roast potatoes are an all-time comfort and favourite. I am also not inclined to part with my beloved red wine (red grapes count as a serving of fruit, surely?

Monique is a registered dietitian with a background in corporate wellness and Masters degree in Dietetics in sports nutrition. Guided by evidence-based nutrition, Monique believes in an integrated approach to wellness where the key to being healthy is to adopt small yet sustainable changes to your lifestyle. Monique is a member of the ADSA (Association of Dietetics of South Africa) Gauteng South branch and registered with the HPCSA (Health Professionals Council of South Africa). She is also a Discovery Wellness Network dietitian and DNAlysis accredited practitioner.

 

 


ADSA represents registered dietitians working in various spheres of nutrition and dietetics in South Africa

The Association for Dietetics is the professional organisation for registered dietitians in South Africa. The activities of the organisation are centred around representing and developing the dietetic profession to contribute to optimal nutrition for all South Africans.

Registered Dietitians are qualified health professionals registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) who have a minimum qualification of a four year scientific degree with training in all aspects and fields of nutrition and dietetics. Whether they consult privately to one client, work within a community or as part of the food supply chain, they have to adhere to best practice guidelines delivering sound dietary advice based on the latest scientific evidence.

ADSA members nominate and vote for members to serve on branch committees regionally or on the ADSA executive committee nationally, once every two years. These elected members serve on a voluntary basis, in their own time, without remuneration.

All committee members are registered dietitians working in different areas within nutrition and dietetics. The current executive committee has representatives from private practice, academia, government and the food industry.

As an association working in South Africa, we know South Africans eat a wide variety of foods from the entire food supply. We can’t ignore entire sections of the food industry, because they’re part of the daily diet of many South Africans.

We agree that while there are lot of nutritious, high quality foods on the market in South Africa, there’s a lot that can and needs to be improved when it comes to nutritional value and quality of some of foods sold in both the informal and formal food supply.

It’s therefore important that there are registered dietitians working in various sectors within the food industry, to influence changes that will benefit all South Africans.

Furthermore, registered dietitians working within the food industry have numerous important roles such as ensuring that foods are labelled correctly, as well as for ensuring compliance to various nutrition-related regulations, which provides the consumer with the information they require to make informed food purchasing decisions. They are also involved in managing nutrition-related queries about products, including ingredient queries, and can also be involved in corporate wellness programmes within the respective organisations, to name a few of their roles.

ADSA will continue to represent registered dietitians working in various spheres of nutrition and dietetics in South Africa, at all levels of the association, to ensure that the association is able to effectively represent and develop the dietetic profession to contribute to optimal nutrition for all South Africans.