United We Stand, Divided We Fall as Dietitians

Just like the country is incredibly polarized on the topic of politics today, it appears that my profession is in a similar place.  And that’s too bad.

It used to be that as registered dietitians, our critical comments were reserved for non-credentialed, self-proclaimed “experts” who made unsubstantiated claims, distorted the science or sold questionable (and often dangerous) products.  And  I’ve done my fair share of correcting myths and warning about these individuals here on Nutrition Unplugged — from Jillian Michaels and Gwyneth Paltrow to online healthy eating gurus who started the “eat like me, look like me” trend. Now I feel like we’re turning on ourselves.


It’s a strange time.  The science of nutrition is rapidly evolving and dietitians have entered into some exciting new practice areas — expanding their offerings and serving clients in entirely new ways.  In fact, I’ll be addressing this topic at our upcoming Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in October during a session entitled Second Century Communication Tools for Dietitians.   So that’s all great.

But what’s not great is our public squabbles.  It’s more common than I ever realized to see some dietitians publicly shame or bully other dietitians on social media because they disagree with their message.  Dietitians are getting attacked because they recommend organic foods to their clients, have taken a stance against GMO, or recommend specific dietary supplements and eating styles.  Or other RDs are being accused of fear-mongering for encouraging and congratulating food companies for removing artificial ingredients.

I’ve often quoted Daniel Patrick Moynihan who famously said “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”  That’s so true.  You can’t come up with your own facts.  However, there’s room for opinions — and we need to respect that.  There are some shades of grey in nutrition, which I’ve written about before here.  As professionals, we can hold different food philosophies and points of view on food issues. Choosing to eat primarily local, organically-grown or GMO-free foods — or even opting to avoid all animal products — is a personal decision.  And if a dietitian holds those beliefs and wants to encourage the clients he or she counsels to do the same, they shouldn’t be attacked for it — especially by a colleague.

When nutrition professionals fight among themselves, the public gets even more confused.  That was the motivation behind the creation of the True Health Initiative.  I love the mission of this movement to show how health professionals agree on more than they disagree on.  Let’s celebrate what we agree on and elevate the evidence-based truths.  We’re not as far apart as the public may think.

My wish is that the fighting among dietitians will stop.  We may disagree with a message, but let’s don’t condemn the messenger.   We may have a different point of view than a colleague, but there’s no room for bullying in our profession.  We are better than that.

Let’s agree to disagree on certain topics.  Let’s be respectful.

We all stand for science.  And united we should stand.

Photo credits:  United We Stand by Twn on Flickr; Daniel Moynihan quote by Josephine Stenudd on Flickr 

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11 Comments

  • mary purdy

    Thank you for this much needed article. I really appreciate your putting this out there. Respecting each other and not making disparaging comments is critical.

  • mary purdy

    Thank you for this much needed article. I really appreciate your putting this out there. Respecting each other and not making disparaging comments is critical.

  • Catherine Brown

    Thank you for this Janet!

  • Katie

    GREAT post, Janet. And so needed. As I tell my children, “You don’t have to agree with me, but you do have to be polite about it.”

  • Cara Harbstreet

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece, Janet, I found myself agreeing with much of what you’ve written here. I hope in the future we see our profession recognize and address this and find more unity in our similar passions, rather than letting our differences drive a wedge. Thanks for sharing!

  • like so many professions where science is a key foundation, there are few absolutes and nutrition science is evolving. In efforts to best “help people” sometimes this is forgotten since it’s natural to want to give answers or solutions w/o caveats. We have to continue to respect that true science isn’t about opinions and isn’t absolute.

  • like so many professions where science is a key foundation, there are few absolutes and nutrition science is evolving. In efforts to best “help people” sometimes this is forgotten since it’s natural to want to give answers or solutions w/o caveats. We have to continue to respect that true science isn’t about opinions and isn’t absolute.

  • Mary Alice Gettings

    Excellent article. Thank you Janet.

  • Rebecca Bitzer & Associates

    Well said. We are an amazing group of professionals. I hope that we can unite to be stronger.

  • Thanks everyone for your comments. It’s amazing how much this topic has hit a nerve…I’m not sure when I’ve seen so many comments that originated from a Facebook post. I think this is definitely something that has been on the minds of a lot of us…and now it’s out in the open. Hope that means we’ll be closer to a resolution.

  • I was sad that even dietitians are fighting for what is the best of the best. I mean different strokes with different folks. It might work for me but not for my wife or anybody else. We all want to live healthy regardless how you do it.

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