Heather Deranja, RDN, LD, MA
NUTRITION PROGRAM COORDINATOR,
for something nutrishus
Like a few other dietitians that we've heard from, Heather got into the field based on a personal health experience. She is passionate about helping others to overcome barriers and create sustainable habits. We're also pleased to celebrate with her, as she recently published a cookbook!
Why did you become a RD?
When I was 18 years old, I was diagnosed with a kidney disease. At the time of diagnosis, I was not a full-time student and had lost my health insurance. I became pregnant a year later and became very ill; this was very frightening and I came to the conclusion that I needed to figure out what this disease was and how I could prevent it from getting worse. This is when my passion for research began which lead me along the path to become an RD. I started implementing diet and lifestyle changes that significantly improved my health, and more importantly my quality of life, and I was excited to share my passion for nutrition with others.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I work as a nutrition program coordinator/registered dietitian at a large corporate health and fitness club. I also have a private consulting and coaching business, and I am happy to announce that I am now a published author. I use an unconventional approach when it comes to nutrition because I do not practice the USDA MyPlate recommendations and guidelines.
How would you explain what you do?
As a nutrition program coordinator, I conduct seminars, group nutrition classes, and fitness events for members at the club. As a nutrition coach, I develop creative and effective action plans to assist clients in overcoming barriers associated with nutrition and lifestyle behaviors to improve their health and body composition.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
I have administrative tasks such as running product and service sales reports, evaluating team member performance, facilitating weekly education meeting for my staff of 48 personal trainers and nutrition coaches, conducting weekly grocery store tours, hosting nutrition seminars, conducting blood work laboratory interpretations, and one-on-one nutrition consultations. In addition, I also have to prospect for new clients, stay on top of social media posts and blogs, etc. to grow my business.
What has been your career path?
I started as a registered dietitian with my current employer and got promoted to my current position 2 years ago. I started my private consulting business in the last year and recently released my first cookbook.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
I have a Master of Arts in multidisciplinary health communications specializing in behavioral theory.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
Consumers are becoming more aware of the role nutrition plays in preventing or reversing some health conditions. I believe that more opportunities will open for dietitians in preventive and wellness areas that include community organizations like health clubs and grocery stores.
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
RDs do more than just meal plans and we aren’t food Nazis who take away all of your favorite foods, and I’m not judging you for what you put on your plate.
What would you like people to know about RDs?
RDs have a high level of education, with most RDs holding advanced degrees and certifications in specialty areas. RDs are the qualified nutrition professionals who deliver evidence based nutrition recommendations to support health and wellness.
What are challenges you encounter as a RD?
Misinformation is a huge challenge. There is an abundance of so called “nutrition experts” giving out advice who don’t have the appropriate training to make nutrition recommendations. I get aggravated that people will trust and do anything someone says if they have lost more than 10 lbs. in their lifetime. The metabolism is a fragile thing and it can be quickly damaged if appropriate measures aren’t taken into consideration when changing nutrition habits.
What do people think that you do for a living?
People think that I only write meals plans and tell them what foods they can and cannot eat. Most people are very surprised when I immediately start asking them challenging questions to get at the root of the cause when it comes to making nutrition and lifestyle changes. I often hear from my clients “Wow that was like an intense therapy session” however they are always pleased to establish what the barriers are that are standing in the way of them making changes to support their health.
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
I focus my practice on creating realistic action plans to overcome barriers that keep individuals from obtaining sustainable nutrition habits. I address stress, digestive health, detoxification, and hormone balance to attain an optimal functioning metabolism that will support a healthy body composition.
What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals?
We have a high level of education and training to support recommendations on changing nutrition behaviors through evidence based practices.
What is your favorite meal?
Spaghetti squash lasagna (from my cookbook)
What tip(s) would you give to our readers?
Nutrition is a personalized experience with a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration and it cannot be approached with a one-size fits all attitude.
More about Heather:
Facebook: Heather NutritionVixen
Pinterest: Nutrition Vixen
LinkedIn: Heather Deranja
Cookbook: Getting Intimate In The Kitchen