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.


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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