So this interview is a day late (due to unco-operative Indonesian wifi, sorry about that!) but here’s my last RD interview for Dietitian’s Week! Today I’m chatting to the lovely Sian Riley who fell pregnant with her first baby while studying for her Masters in Nutrition & Dietetics. After a few years working in the NHS, Sian recently took the plunge and left her job working as an IBS Specialist to set up on her own as a freelance dietitian.
Here’s what she has to say about the working world of the RD……
1. Why did you decide to become a Registered Dietitian?
I originally started my career in pharmaceutical research, as a biologist in the area of diabetes and obesity. I loved taking a step back from the cells and enzymes and looking at the bigger picture, which usually meant seeing the people that the cells and enzymes make up. So, I began searching for a medical career that gave me the opportunity to meet and help real people. I faint at the site of blood, so that ruled out training to be a doctor or nurse. However training to be a dietitian ticked all the boxes, and incorporated my greatest love – FOOD! So my new career began.
2. What’s your current role & what does it involve?
I’ve recently taken the decision to throw myself fully into a freelance career, via my website ‘The Internet Dietitian.com’. As a freelance dietitian, my job is so varied, which I love! I will see clients either face-to-face if they are local to Cheshire (UK), or via e-mail consultations. The needs of the clients I see vary hugely from allergies and intolerances to IBS, heart health, diabetes, weight loss and many more. The variety keeps me on my toes! A typical day might involve seeing clients, replying to e-mails, researching for particular client needs or blog writing. And around all that, doing a load of washing or two or three!
3. What is your favourite part of your job?
I love meeting people, whether over e-mail or face-to-face. I’ve also surprised myself by developing a love for writing. Never would my old English teacher have predicted that one! I love the variety of my job, it means I’m constantly learning and growing as a dietitian, never a dull moment!
4. What are the challenges or the most difficult parts?
Business and computer skills are currently my biggest challenge. I went into dietetics as I wanted to work with people. Having a business mind-set has been such a challenge. But, I’m getting there! As for computers, I think they will be a steep, career long learning curve. Bring it on!
5. Do you think you need any particular traits or skills to work as an RD?
Definitely! Communication skills and being a ‘people’s person’ is the main trait required, but also good research and a keen eye for detail is so important. You also need to have a ‘thick skin’, there is so much nutritional nonsense out there, and so many people who are trying to undermine your message. Confidence in my profession, constantly going back to the available research, whilst being open to new ideas and concepts is my recipe for success!
6. What is the most common assumption people have made about you because you are a dietitian? Was it right?!
That my diet must be perfect! They most definitely are very wrong! There is so much behind our food choices; psychology, sociology, illness, cost, availability. With all that ‘choice’, there is always room for improvement. My strapline is ‘Food to live, food for life’ and I really stand by that. Food needs to fit into your life to give you life! Food should be enjoyed!
7. If you could give just one piece of nutrition advice to the public, what would it be?
Learn to menu plan and get in the kitchen and cook. It doesn’t have to be gourmet standard, start simply and enjoy! Menu planning is a great way of ensuring you eat healthily, whilst reducing your food bills and waste.
8. What’s the most annoying ‘nutrition myth’ or false claim you have seen out there in the public domain?
My biggest ‘bug bear’ is nutritional scare mongering. Hate it, hate it, hate it and there is so much of it about, particularly on the internet. These dramatic headlines can be so damaging. People are confused about what they can and can’t eat. So much of our jobs as dietitians is to wade through the nonsense and guide folk towards trusted and reliable information sources.
9. Do you have any advice for people hoping to pursue a career in Nutrition or Dietetics?
Go for it! It’s a great and varied career. Also, get as much experience as possible. In the kitchen or communicating with the public, no experience is wasted!
10. What food could you not live without?
I can’t possibly choose one food! Can I give you my top five foods? In no particular order;
Avocado, tinned sardines, marzipan (coated in chocolate), pistachio nuts and yoghurt
I could live without one, but please don’t take them all away from me!
I love meeting other dietitians (And aspiring RD’s) on social media and have found you all to be such a support. Please follow (@thenetdietitian) or link In with me (Sian Riley) or simply send me an e-mail to say “hi” at email@example.com.
Thanks Helen for celebrating our wonderful profession through these interviews.
Sian Riley RD MSc
Thanks Sian! If you have any questions to pose to the RD’s I’ve featured this week, be sure to leave them in the comments or ask them directly through their social media links found at the end of each post!