Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

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for something nutrishus

It would seem that Staci was always meant to be a dietitian and she's a very well educated one at that. She has great, honest responses below and I appreciate her transparency. Many dietitians can relate to being more of a counsellor with their clients and needing to listen whilst trying to help people sort through all the misinformation out there. She's just starting a new position and it sounds like a great fit, so I wish Staci all the best in this new endeavour.

Why did you become a RD?

I always knew I wanted to help people get healthy in some way. In college I was pre-med and attended graduate school for biology at NYU while I applied for medical school. Moving to a big city after attending a small private college was a huge change and was the first time I lived on my own away from home. This experience triggered depression, panic attacks, and a personal experience with disordered eating during this time. I struggled with body image, self-esteem, and was confused about what I wanted to do with my life since I had lost my passion for medicine. After being assigned to write a paper on obesity and diabetes for one of my classes, I soon realized that nutrition may be my true calling. I wrote my thesis on the relationship between insulin resistance and obesity, and soon after was accepted into a graduate program of human nutrition at Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition. It was through this intensive one-year program that I realized I wanted to become a dietitian. Thereafter, I applied and was accepted into Teacher’s College, Columbia University where I completed my requirements to apply to a dietetic internship and furthered my training in nutritional counseling. I attended my dietetic internship at Iowa State University in an intensive 6-month program.

What area of dietetics do you work in?

I have worked in long-term care, rehab, medical weight loss, and fitness centers where I provided one-on-one nutritional counseling, group sessions, and support groups. I also have experience teaching nutrition to nursing students and culinary students at the college level and have previously worked in nutrition research at the USDA before I officially became a dietitian. Through these experiences, I realized my true passion is for weight loss and weight management as well as therapeutic diet counseling for obesity-related conditions. I currently work part-time as a dietitian in a short-term psychiatric facility providing nutrition education to patients and will soon be starting training to provide remote nutritional counseling to patients via a secure web interface. I also work as a health writer and editor for Omnichannel Health Media’s site, and have a website and blog of my own that I hope to spread to a larger audience to share nutrition advice, recipes, and inspire others to get healthy in body and mind.

How would you explain what you do?

Although I primarily provide nutrition education and meal planning, I would say that before any of that can be implemented, I must be able to build rapport with my patients. Over the years, I have learned that more important than what I am going to say, I must be a good listener and allow the patient or client to address their questions or concerns. Without getting to know the patient, I will not be able to understand what their health goals are, what methods they have already tried to get healthy, what their medical background and schedule is like, and how they are currently feeling in regards to trying yet another diet regimen. This information will make a profound difference on not only meal planning and the particular nutrition advice I will provide, but on the proper approach in delivering such information. I think of myself as not only a dietitian, but as a counselor, motivator, and cheerleader to my patients.

What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?

Currently, I start my day posting on social media to promote my website. During the day, I work on my blog, email local wellness business owners inquiry letters in regards to my business, contact doctor’s offices and weight loss centers to advertise my remote counseling services, create meal plans requested by patients, and as needed, will travel to my current job to provide coverage to the short-term psychiatric center. I have not started my position there yet, so I am not quite sure what the job will specifically entail, but I am told I will be providing requested consults on diabetes education and Coumadin education as well as teach nutrition classes once a week or as needed.

What has been your career path?

I like to say I have taken the scenic route. Since I started out pre-med, I realized my love for nutrition at an age when many nutrition students were already starting their internships or first dietetics jobs. I do not regret a minute of the time I spent in my graduate school programs or in my vast array of jobs in nutrition research, teaching, personal training, and online health writing. Each experience has provided me with different skills that have helped me to become more creative, patient, and versatile, which are skills that I feel have made me a better dietitian for my clients.

What advanced education or special training do you have?

I have a Master of Science in Biology from New York University, a Master of Science in Human Nutrition from Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition, and a Master of Education in Nutrition and Education from Teacher’s College, Columbia University. I have experience as a personal trainer accredited by the American Council on Exercise, CPR and AED certification from the American Heart Association, and through my time as a long-term care dietitian have experience with therapeutic diets for a variety of chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDs, kidney disease, dementia, food allergies and intolerances, as well as various digestive disorders.

In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?

In an ideal world, all insurance companies would see nutrition counseling as a preventative measure in health care and dietitian’s visits would therefore be fully covered for all of those patients that wish to improve their eating habits, not just for those who already have chronic conditions that require a therapeutic diet. In addition, I would hope that dietitians would be seen as the nutrition experts that they have trained to be and would not be confused with the plethora of individuals claiming to be nutrition experts who are spouting inaccurate nutrition news on the internet.

What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?

I once had a patients’ spouse ask me if I consulted with a nutritionist to come up with her spouse’s therapeutic diet. I told her that I was a dietitian and therefore am also a nutritionist. She told me that I was wrong and that a nutritionist does blood tests to come up with the most accurate meal plans for patients, and that they are the true nutrition experts. The biggest piece of misinformation I would like to clear up is that all registered dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians.

What would you like people to know about RDs?

RDs are not just calorie counters and meal planners, but much of our job is working as a health coach and counselor of sorts to inspire and motivate our patients to want to be the best and healthiest that they can be.

What are challenges you encounter as a RD?

As an RD, I encounter a variety of different challenges depending on what environment I am working in. In long-term care, some family members of the patients were very skeptical of my ability to provide the right diet for their family member since a lot of emotions were involved in this field of work. I was yelled at, corrected, and insulted more times than I cared to be, but every experience made me a stronger person and a more patient and compassionate dietitian. During my work as a weight loss counselor, my biggest challenge was trying to overcome clients’ strongly held beliefs in the nutrition and diet claims they read on the internet or saw on television. There is such a large amount of information in the media with much of it inaccurate or not fully explained to the consumer. I feel like it is one of my jobs to help the patient I am working with to navigate through all of the information they see and hear about so they can make informed decisions about their health.

What do people think that you do for a living?

For the most part, I think that many people, including my family thinks of me as a meal planner. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since I do create meal plans as part of my job, but there is so much more to being a dietitian than that.

What are you passionate about in dietetics?

In dietetics, I am passionate about helping my patients’ to realize their healthy lifestyle goals. Many of the patients’ I have worked with have emotional eating issues, history of disordered eating or mental health issues, and/or self-esteem issues that are directly related to their nutrition or weight status. I hope to be able to not only guide my patients’ towards healthy eating habits, but to help them improve their relationship with food and with themselves.

What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals?

RDs are unique from other wellness professionals because they are required to stay up-to-date with the latest nutrition research and findings in order to keep their credentials. Therefore, RDs are best equipped to provide patients with the most current and accurate nutrition advice.

What is your favourite meal?

My favorite meal currently is baked boneless skinless barbeque chicken with cheesy cauliflower rice and my favorite veggie, green beans. I have the recipe for cheesy cauliflower rice as well as more healthy recipes and nutrition tips on my website.

What tip(s) would you give to our readers?

If you need help in achieving your health goals, do not be afraid to seek out a dietitian for help. Helping you achieve your health goals is our job. However, we all have different health goals, experiences, and preferences that make us unique. Therefore, be sure to find a dietitian that is going to respect this uniqueness of yours and design a diet and advice that is customized for you so it can be something you can practically apply to your life for the long-term.

Anything else you’d like to add that you feel would be valuable:

Getting healthy is a journey, not a destination, so if you fall off the wagon, just get back on your feet, keep trying, and be honest with yourself. I always tell my patients to track their eating when they first start a new health regimen to help keep them accountable. I tell them to be sure to be honest in their tracking since some will try to be “good” on their tracker for my sake to try and impress me. However, if you are not honest with yourself about your unhealthy behaviors, and are not open to trying new things, healthy change will be nearly impossible to achieve.

More about Staci:

Website: Lighttrack Nutrition

Twitter: @MyLighttrackRD

Pinterest: My Lighttrack RD

Instagram: MyLighttrackRD

Facebook: My Lighttrack RD

Thanks Staci!