Updated: Dec 22, 2022
On December 16, 2022, I celebrated my first year anniversary as a Registered Dietitian! I passed my exam and don't ever plan on taking it again! I've had both great success and failure so far. I'm grateful for it all! Here are the top 5 lessons learned in my first year:
FORGE MY PATH
Masculinity has been under attack for a while now. I’ve seen the media demonize men for demonstrating physical, mental, and emotional strength. I’ve seen men in society get chastised for taking extreme measures to fight for their families. I've observed men get criticized for methods taken to discipline and raise their children as responsible contributors to society. I also see the impact that fatherlessness and a man’s lack of presence has on his family and community. Unfortunately, I encounter men who place their physical and mental health on the back burner because they “do not have time” for their health. I’ve seen men reject the need to take care of themselves because of their "manhood."
Here is when it became real for me. I did a google search of women’s health dietitians. The search result: a laundry list of women dietitians providing amazing services and community for women who battle various health conditions. This included but was not limited to fertility, PCOS, hyperemesis gravidarum, gestational diabetes, and more. I did a google search of men’s health dietitians. The search result: NOTHING. When I take facts like the CDC reporting that almost 1 in every 4 men died of heart disease in 2020 and match it up with the statistic that only roughly 8% of ALL practicing dietitians are men, something is wrong here. Prostate cancer, penile cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and MORE plague men & their families all over the U.S. All of these either affect a man specifically or kill a man faster than it kills a woman. Most health issues that men face are impacted by food choices and nutrition practices. It is powerful when a man can empower another man to care about his health and provide tools to help him with his nutrition. THIS IS WHY men’s health is my path. Men’s Health Dietitians are needed. I have A LOT to learn, but all I know is this world needs strong and responsible men in society to continue to build, lead, & do what we were called to do. Nutrition is my tool.
After a Dietetic intern passes his/her exam and officially earns the title Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), the automatic assumption is that he/she will start off working as a Clinical RD. The funny part about me is that I started my dietetic internship KNOWING for a fact that I WOULD NOT BECOME A CLINICAL DIETITIAN. I told my internship director, classmates, and everyone I spoke to. I remember even getting side-eyed by a preceptor. After she asked me what my goals were, I responded “I’m here to work & learn what I need to learn to pass this rotation, but I have no intention of becoming a clinical RD in the future.” No knock on my clinical RDs. The work is valuable. The work is impactful. The work is meaningful. But as for me and my career, it just isn’t my work.
I started my business right after I graduated with my undergrad degree and 5 years before I passed the Dietitian exam. This set the stage for me to learn the ins and outs of nutrition entrepreneurship. They told me starting a business was risky. They told me I’m supposed to make $45,000-50,000 in my first few years as a Dietitian. I said “Nah.” They laughed. I said, “Okay, Watch me.” Although I didn’t hit my original goal of $100,000 in my first year as a dietitian, I blew past the status-quo expectations and acquired some gold along the way. Here are a few stats I was able to secure:
3 paid speaking engagements
A Full-time job
2 business contracts providing education & medical nutrition therapy (MNT)
17 state licenses acquired (LD)
Insurance contracts (Cigna, United, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna) are on the way
Content creation & more to come for 2023.
I love learning from others. I am connecting with so many dietitians doing amazing things. I made it my personal goal to seek people doing things that I am interested in to ask questions and build relationships. THIS IS HOW I LEARN. Doing this, I see that there are so many creatives in the nutrition space who took risks building their brands, services, and organizations. ALL OF THEM say that they wish they would’ve started earlier instead of delaying their dreams just to take the safe route.
Taking risks doesn’t always mean starting your own business. It can apply to risks taken at your 9-5 job. Ask yourself:
Doing things differently can require a level of risk. Now I will say this:
If it's broken, don't fix it. But if it is broken, what are you doing about it?
Just as I have reached out to older and more seasoned dietitians, I never miss an opportunity to speak to less-seasoned, soon-to-be RDs at all stages of the education journey. I enjoy sharing my journey of both failure and success with many students and encouraging them to stay on the course. If I can do it, you can too.
For some reason, there is some type of pressure for new dietitians to shut up and put up. Meaning: don’t vocalize your displeasure or lack of desire to accept/commit to something that you know won’t serve your goals. It’s like we must accept what is offered to us. The “entry-level RD” treatment is real! Bottom-of-the-barrel pay, undermining comments towards us, presumed lack of credibility just because we’re “young,” etc. I have walked away from many opportunities that low-balled me. Simply put: I am not a low-ball talent. My bare minimum has been many jobs’ maximum. I’ve walked away unharmed and with opportunities that were better suited for me in the long run.
There was this ONE time, however, that I felt like I pushed a negotiation too hard. It was a paid speaking engagement for men’s health. The organization did not want to negotiate what I asked for, so I said no. The negotiation fell short by $100. Looking back at it, I made a mistake. I missed out on an opportunity to speak to men about their health, which is what I’m most passionate about. I did learn a valuable lesson that day. I learned that in negotiation, you must weigh your costs. Do I: Say no and miss out on an opportunity to build rapport and network with a demographic I’m passionate about just because we couldn’t come to an agreement on money OR do I swallow my pride, accept less for the sake of building a relationship, community, and credibility with a group of people I’m interested in feeding. That one speaking engagement I missed out on could have turned into multiple. Instead, that organization has not called me since, and their program is still going on to this day.
My faith fuels me. My salvation in Jesus Christ gives me the ultimate joy & freedom to express myself in the way I see the best fit. I seek solutions to problems that need to be fixed. I find my way to reach untapped markets and niches. Even in moments of feeling imposter syndrome, self-doubt, self-sabotage, lack of confidence, & more, I can honestly say that I AM GROUNDED. One fundamental conviction I carry is that we are all made in God’s likeness. “How can I make an impact on whom I reach today?” We all cry, bleed, hurt, worry, & stress. I am a human in need of God’s grace and mercy every day! This comes first. He has given me a specialty in nutrition where I am able to provide nutrition & health services. That comes next. In everything, I am committed to excellence.
I don’t talk about my faith in my professional work, however. The focus is always on the client. I have had appointments with people who would want nothing to do with me if they knew where I stood on faith and a lot of other social topics. I probably don’t agree with a lot of my patients’ lifestyles, behaviors, etc. But when it comes down to it, this doesn’t matter. My job is to let my light shine so that when people see me, they see the one who lives in me, Jesus Christ. I’m just a messenger with a nutrition degree providing medical nutrition therapy. Many of my patients and clients express their satisfaction and gratefulness for my role in their life. And I’ll always respond, “To God be the Glory.” Some of the most remembered reviews that I have received from clients this year include:
“Greg, thank you for explaining things to me like this. You don’t understand how much you’ve changed my life.”
“I have never met a nutrition professional that looks like you. I feel comfortable talking to you and trust what you are saying.”
“You don’t know what you are doing, but you are changing lives. Keep doing what you are doing. You are going to save many lives in your career.”
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”
Gregory Lafortune, MS, RDN, LD