How to become a dietetic intern.

“First, try to be something, anything, else.”
-Lorrie Moore, How to Become a Writer

First, decide on a wholly impractical career path at an early age, say, as a writer. Write and bind a book of construction paper and crayon when you’re six. Switch to pencil and start writing poetry at eight. Drag the idea behind you like a security blanket until you’re 18, when it falls apart during three college poetry courses. Decide, if you’re going to write, that you want something to write about.

Leave Portland, Oregon and immigrate to Canada to marry your Canadian boyfriend. Live in rural southern Ontario, among pumpkins and tobacco fields, while you file endless paperwork and photocopy your love letters for immigration officers. Try to sew. Severely undercook a pork roast. Eventually, you’ll go to university like your friends. For now, be a housewife.

Go on a diet. Do it “the right way.” Exercise a lot and pretend to love apples. Lose 30 pounds and realize that your relationship with food is completely bizarre, that you now feel worse about your body instead of better, and that you now have a curious tendency to get sick.

Try Googling nutrition. Search for some kind of truth, and instead, find an avalanche of frenzied, contradictory diet conspiracy theories that make no sense. One night, as you wander through a bookstore, pick up a book about the diet industry from the bargain bin, and smugly laugh at the title, successful dieter that you are. Read it anyway. You will realize you’ve been hurting yourself. Cry, eat chocolates, regain weight, and recover.

You will decide to like yourself anyway.

Think about this, and those Google results, and decide to become a dietitian.

Move from your tiny, rural hamlet to Toronto. Enroll in a university dietetics program. Promptly get sick. Then get sick again. And again. Cut back your classes to part-time, even take some semesters off, to get well.

Be poor. Survive on beans, peanut butter, oatmeal, the cheap fruits and vegetables. At least you know enough about nutrition that you won’t develop a deficiency. Develop a deficiency. Go sometimes without hot water, sometimes without heat, in the dead of winter. Boil water in the teakettle and bathe yourself in the sink. Heat the apartment with your oven. You’ll never take being warm for granted again.

Work nutrition jobs in hospitals for five years. Start in food service. Wake up very early and wear a hairnet. Switch to a clinical job in a diabetes education centre; you can take off your hairnet. Go on to cover inpatient areas like eating disorders, oncology, ICU, and general medicine.

You will miss your mom. You will love, starry-eyed, every dietitian you meet.

Go see a dietitian for yourself and learn to love apples, for real this time. Now you have something to write about, so start a blog about nutrition and write about Health at Every Size. Attend a workshop about eating competence and find yourself starry-eyed all over again.

Help people learn to love eating. Watch a woman taste pumpkin pie for the first time, her face transformed with delight.

Most people won’t understand what you do. Do it anyway.

When you finish your degree, it will have taken many years and innumerable trips to the doctor. For three years, you’ll put off applying for a dietetic internship. You will convince yourself you’ll never get in, that you’re too poor, too sick. Then you’ll find out you were misdiagnosed. When you stop being sick, you’ll immediately apply to everything. After many sleepless nights, you will be offered a spot in a master’s program and an internship. You miss hospitals, so take the internship.

You are finally a dietetic intern. Walk around with your head up. Write a little book about eating and hold a fundraiser to survive the next nine months.

The day you walk down University Avenue to your first rotation, it will be spring after a decade of winter. Wear sunglasses, smile mysteriously. You’ll never take being warm for granted again.

break50

I’m almost finished with my internship, and you all made it possible. Just one research project to go. Thank you!

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39 Comments

  1. Posted May 6, 2015 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Ahhhhhh I’m (still) so excited for you! Yay! *\o/*

    (I’m pretty starry-eyed over here myself!)

  2. Posted May 6, 2015 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Congratulations on being almost finished!

  3. Amanda
    Posted May 6, 2015 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    This is awesome & so inspiring. It’s never too late to go after the things you really want in life. I’m one year into nursing school, after a failed stint 18 years ago as an architecture major. Like writing for you, I managed to shoehorn it into my life anyway just not how I planned…and I have as many years of nursing education ahead of me as I can stomach. Will I make it to an advanced degree? I certainly hope so. The path is gonna be a long one but hearing this makes it seem not so far-fetched after all.

    • Posted May 6, 2015 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Best of luck with nursing! I was one of the few 35-year old dietetic interns in existence, and in many ways that made it great fun.

      • David Howell
        Posted May 6, 2015 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        I often wonder about the type of people who’ll commit to a career in nutrition early enough to pursue it in college.

        I suspect that explains a lot of the profession’s tendency towards fat-shaming – well, that and the societal tendency to, they reinforce each other.

        • Mich
          Posted May 9, 2015 at 12:32 am | Permalink

          That’s an interesting thought.

  4. Cory
    Posted May 6, 2015 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Woo hoo!! Well done!!

  5. Twistie
    Posted May 6, 2015 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    WHEEEEEEEEEEEE! We missed you, lady!

    Life has a way of sending us off in directions we never considered on our own. Embrace the ride.

    Congratulations on finding what you love and finding a way to make it happen. You’re spectacular.

  6. Posted May 6, 2015 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Oh my goodness what a journey you have taken and you have pretty much made it. So yes hold your head up high, you were already making a difference to people before you graduated and you will continue to make a difference after holding that piece of paper in your hands. I didn’t realise much of this story or your journey, it’s somewhat similar to my own journey without being good a writing, but the sickness, the poverty the poverty driven sickness and the delays, the doubts and the time it takes. I’m not far behind but still another year off maybe finishing. So proud and inspired by you
    cheers Kx

    • Posted May 6, 2015 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      What are you talking about, you are a good writer! And thank you so so so much for supporting me.

  7. Posted May 6, 2015 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Love it.
    Have missed your blog posts. Hope the internship was (is) fantastic.

    • Posted May 6, 2015 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      Thank you. It was, and is. I had my fears going into it, but in all honesty I had a really good time, and learned so much. Also my patients were 100% adorable, which always helps.

  8. Linda Strout
    Posted May 6, 2015 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    So it was easy-peasy!

    ;)

    I’ve just gone back to learn to be a Network Administrator. I am now grateful I don’t have sickness to contend with as well as everything else.

    Hope your career is as enjoyable as your internship. Congratulations!

  9. LauraL
    Posted May 6, 2015 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Way to go, Cuz! So proud of you!

  10. xtinA
    Posted May 6, 2015 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Congratulations! We’ve enjoyed following your educational journey. And you’re originally from Portland?! If you ever come back for a visit let us know; I doubt I’m your only fan here

  11. Julia
    Posted May 6, 2015 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    A little teary after reading this. You’re doing such important work and you’ve made such a difference to me. :)

  12. Posted May 6, 2015 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful story and fantastically written. Thanks for sharing your challenges and successes. And CONGRATULATIONS!!!

  13. Posted May 6, 2015 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Beautifully written! And what a journey. Congratulations – can’t wait to see what’s next.

  14. Monita
    Posted May 6, 2015 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations! I’m so proud of you! (And I’ve missed you)

  15. Amy
    Posted May 6, 2015 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Jeez. This made me cry. So glad you did this and so glad you shared it.

  16. Posted May 7, 2015 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    What a moving story. Me thinks it’s autobiographical. But I don’t come here to read fiction
    ;)

  17. Posted May 7, 2015 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    Congratulations, Michelle. What a captivating and inspiring story. I am so happy that you are achieving your dream!

    • Posted May 7, 2015 at 6:04 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Ellyn, and thank you for being a part of it.

  18. Amy Herskowitz
    Posted May 7, 2015 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    You’re amazing and I hope you enjoy every success that comes from all your hard work and perseverance. You are SO needed and I’m grateful that you’re both, local to me so I can see you in person, and available online to the scores of people who need your professional help. You are incredible at what you do because you truly get it; you get the science, you get the struggle, you get the fucked-up cultural context. You are a star. So thrilled for you.

  19. Jen
    Posted May 7, 2015 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know why, but this made me cry. And that’s fine! Congratulations on being amazing this whole time.

  20. Posted May 10, 2015 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Eee! How wonderful to hear from you again. Thanks for sharing your tenacious and bewildered journey to finding your ‘calling’, lovely to hear a success story that I can actually relate to. Can’t wait to see more of your work out there. :-)

  21. Posted May 11, 2015 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    What A wonderful sense of accomplishment you must be feeling. You have been on an interesting journey to get to this point. You ROCK

  22. Alex
    Posted May 11, 2015 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    As someone who was fortunate enough to have your help to seek out a more normal, comfortable relationship with eating – thank you so much! And I hope that the next journey in your career is yet more rewarding and empowering. You’re an inspiration!

  23. Posted May 13, 2015 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful, wonderful post – both from a diet point of view and a human journey and so well written – I want to see the movie and read the novel!!!!

  24. Michelle D
    Posted May 19, 2015 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Hi Michelle!

    I’ve loved reading your approaches to health, and nutrition and the honesty you use. I’ve just recently been accepted into a registered dietitian internship, and saw the campaign that you had started! I understand the HUGE financial burden that it places on people. I was hoping you wouldn’t mind me posting my go fund me campaign as I have to move about 14 hours away from my home, family and friends to do the unpaid internship. Any donations by anyone would be amazing as I’m stretching my financial resources already. (Note: If you want to remove this I 100% understand)
    http://www.gofundme.com/uzubps

    • Posted May 19, 2015 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      Hi Michelle – congratulations on your acceptance, and good luck with your campaign!

      • Michelle D
        Posted May 19, 2015 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

        You are wonderful, thank you:)

        • Noumenon72
          Posted May 30, 2015 at 2:15 am | Permalink

          I wish my name was Michelle too so I could get in on this love fest.

          • Posted May 30, 2015 at 4:51 am | Permalink

            Hi Michelle, you are now an honorary Michelle. Feel free to call yourself Michelle, but in order to Michelle properly, you have to become friends with at least one other Michelle.

  25. Maria
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    So. Funny story. I worked for 7 years toward getting a dietetic internship. Over those years, the more I learned, the more I loved nutrition, and the more cynical I got about the AND and RD programs. Finally got a match. Accepted the match. Spent the next several months fretting because omg maybe I don’t actually want this, maybe I can be just fine without an RD, etc etc. Wonder if I’ve gone batshit insane to consider declining a match. Today, with ten days left before tuition is due and i’m still freaking out and waffling, leaning toward declining, I remember “I read a great article years ago about a nutritionist who gave all sorts of good reasons for not being an RD! I should read that!” Google. Find your post on why you’re not a dietitian. Find out you’re now about to be a dietitian. Gahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I’m never going to fucking decide.

    In all seriousness, though, congratulations on your internship and your progress toward your goals :) you sound happy.

    • Posted June 4, 2015 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      Haha, thanks Maria! Not that you asked, but I think it’s probably better to do it (and maybe not end up using it) than to turn it down and then later decide you should have done it. But that’s only if it’s not a serious hardship to go through the 9 or 12 months your internship will take. Or if you don’t think you are a really high risk of dropping out partway through. I actually really loved my internship and learned a ton. After having done it, I think a certain amount of my cynicism was misplaced, although I can see why people become cynical if they have a bad experience during internship. Mine was not all roses, but it was definitely more good than bad. I tend to walk into things very optimistically, though, (although I’m sure people would find that surprising) so I don’t know how someone going into an internship without that optimism would fare.

  26. Emily
    Posted July 31, 2015 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Yesterday I spoke with the phone clerk at the dieticians’ office at Hospital Empire here in Big City, USA.

    Turns out, they don’t have forms/paperwork to fill out before seeing one of them.

    Is this good?

    Is this not so good?

    I would have thought dieticians would want information about what one does or doesn’t eat.

    Most wouldn’t guess it to look at me, but I am having trouble persuading myself to eat. This is a lasting adverse effect of Tramadol/Ultram.

    Do dieticians work with medically induced food aversion?

    • Posted July 31, 2015 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      Yes, dietitians works with medically-induced food aversion. I’ve done some of that myself, when working in cancer care.

      They may ask for a food record, or may not – I suppose it depends on how they practice and what your concerns are.

      Either way, good luck! I hope it goes well.

      • Emily
        Posted August 1, 2015 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        Thank you.

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