I had originally planned a post today about my thoughts on diet soda, but I’m going to hold off on that until next week because I’m still recovering from surgery. In the meantime, I have an awesome guest post for you from my friend, Felicia!
Felicia and I completed our dietetic internships together through Utah State University’s DI program. I have loved keeping in touch with everyone as we experienced the excitement of graduating from our internship, passing our exams and beginning our careers as registered dietitians. Felicia has a blog, a YouTube channel and many awesome things going on professionally! I did a Q&A with her and she has some great info about her career and becoming an RD!
S: Describe your path to becoming a registered dietitian.
F: Back in high school, I really wanted to become a judge so took I Mock Trial class and hated it! In the midst of all of this thinking, I dropped about 40 pounds, through diet and exercise. Unfortunately, I was not doing it in a safe way. I soon found myself at an unhealthy weight with family and friends questioning my eating habits.
Through lots of reading, trial and error, and dedication, I finally found a happy medium. I also had been working as a part-time food and nutrition aide at a hospital and I was even more intrigued about nutrition. After going through this, I decided I should just go for nutrition in college, since it was already my passion.
After taking my first nutrition class as a freshman, I knew I was in the right field. I went to West Chester University and graduated with a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2013. I started my internship right after college with Utah State University, a distance dietetic internship program, and passed my registration exam in 2014.
S: What has been your career path since becoming an RD? Is your current job role always where you saw yourself practicing?
F: I had worked at my local YMCA for 10.5 years (since 2005). During that time, I moved from being a preschool movement instructor (gymnastics for kids ages 6 and under) to the on-site dietitian. While in college, I started running seminars, nutrition classes, and lesson plans for kids ages 3 and up at the Y. Once I became a registered dietitian, I focused more on the 1-on-1 counseling.
In August of 2014, I started as a part-time retail dietitian at my local ShopRite. I became full-time in November and haven’t stopped since! I also started taking on clients in my private practice as PorrazzaNutrition in August of 2015.
When I first got into nutrition, I knew I did not want to be in a clinical setting. I love developing programs and lessons, counseling and really getting to know and work with clients long term. I was initially thinking that I wanted to work mainly with kids since I had worked with so many children at the Y, and was really comfortable doing so. Once I started working with adults, I found that I could be even more effective in my role as a dietitian than ever before!
I really never thought of myself working in a supermarket; however, my current job is so flexible and has so many different facets that I am constantly on my toes. It is a great place for someone who is creative, organized with juggling so many tasks at once, and loves being in the community. Ultimately, I want to build my practice up to a full-time role and be able to work for myself; however, I still have lots of time before that happens!
S: Describe a typical day at work for you.
F: My days are never really “typical” I would say for starters. My hours range from 1030am-7pm to 8am-4pm. It really just depends on the event I have planned. My role as a retail dietitian varies from teaching in the community, running or attending health fairs, writing newsletters/newspaper articles, cooking demos, classes, seminars, counseling, and more. Every day, I come in check emails and do paperwork. I typically have 1 or 2 appointments scheduled.
For instance, on Mondays, I normally have 2 counseling sessions, event plan for about 2 weeks out, and run my weight management support group at night. I plan and execute all my events in my supermarket, so it definitely takes a lot of organization! Usually, I get around 10-15 customers or employees that walk by and ask me questions about certain products to eat or their diet and weight-loss.
I will get tons of emails daily from other retail dietitians about handouts, lessons, or customer questions. I usually have at least 1 community partner contact me about setting up an event for things like girl scout troop store tours or for me to go out to a school and teach a nutrition lesson. I am also currently running an associate weight-loss challenge, so I tend to get a lot of questions from people in the program on a daily basis.
S: What are your favorite parts about your job?
F: My favorite part is hands down my weight management support group. I started it last year with 7 people and it has since grown to 25 participants! I feel so natural being in this type of setting. I typically have the participants weigh-in before class starts. Then, I do a round table of “how was your week.” Each class I have a different topic and relating handout.
The support group is very much based on discussion and I am more of a moderator for it all. I have some people who have followed me to the support group from my previous job at the Y. It is so fulfilling to be able to follow clients through their weight-loss journey!
S: What are some of your challenges?
F: One of the most challenging parts of being a retail dietitian is balancing everything! I run at least 16 events per month. It takes a lot of time to plan the set events for starters; then, throw in the various counseling appointments and random questions I get. I also have a desk on the floor of the store, with no walls or door, so people are constantly stopping by to look at my handouts, ask me questions, ask who I am, or ask where random things are in the store.
There are some days where I have a block of 3 hours set aside for event planning and before I know it, 5 people had come by my desk with nutrition questions and I am left with only 1 hour to event plan. It is definitely beneficial to be on top of your work or you end up being so far behind!
S: Do you have any advice to students who are either thinking about becoming a dietitian or are currently pursuing that career path?
F: One big piece of advice I would give is to volunteer or get a part-time job in the nutrition field. Experience is everything! Not only will this help with getting an internship; however, it also helps with discovering what your passion is. Also, having connections in nutrition is great for a possible partnership later on down the road.
My secondary advice is to always, always use evidence-based research. If you don’t know about something, know that it is okay to say, “I haven’t read much on that topic, but I can and will get back to you on it.” Everything you do either adds or takes away from your credibility. If people don’t trust you, they won’t come to you for diet advice. Lastly, I’ll say to be open-minded about different career paths as a dietitian. I never thought I would be working in a supermarket; however, I am and I love it!
Thanks so much to Felicia for guest posting today! Go check out her YouTube channel!!
Felicia Porrazza is a Registered Dietitian Nutrititionist that is licensed in Pennsylvania. She has experience in both 1-on-1 and group counseling, nutrition presentations, worksite wellness, family nutrition, disease management, nutrition education, weight-loss support groups, walking groups, and much more! She has worked in both a community and retail dietitian position. She uses only evidence-based practices when helping clients manage their nutrition. She doesn’t believe in dieting or quick fixes. She finds her clients lead happier and healthier lives when they use the “all foods fit” approach.