Zach Cordell, MS, RDN
NUTRITION PROFESSOR / THE LATTER-DAY SAINT NUTRITIONIST
for something nutrishus
I’ve been trying to feature Zach for awhile since he’s doing some great and unique work. He recently published a book and thus was available to share his unique career story. He says many things that dietitians can relate to and you can tell that he’s an educator, as he leaves you thinking.
Why did you become a RD?
I originally became interested in nutrition as a high school athlete. However, when I started my undergraduate studies in exercise science I wanted to train triathletes, but then I took my first nutrition class and fell in love. I was originally interested in international nutrition, which then flowed into Native American nutrition behaviors. Finally, I landed on the overarching umbrella of cultural nutrition and that’s where I am now! I developed my love for teaching while I was serving as a missionary for my church. Upon returning to school I sought out opportunities to develop my skills as an educator, and that blended perfectly with my love of nutrition.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I work in higher education as a nutrition professor at Daytona State College in Daytona Beach, FL.
How would you explain what you do?
In my job, I teach our introductory human nutrition course to students as a general course, nursing pre-req, or science requirement. As part of my job I work on scholarly work (books and podcasts), speaking at conferences, and mentoring students through clubs and other college activities. My job gives me a lot of freedom to work on projects that I find helpful to our profession and the public.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
I have courses that I teach Monday through Thursday in the mornings and afternoons. I also hold office hours, work on various scholarly project (including writing), evaluating our classes to find course improvements, grading student submissions and serving our community.
What has been your career path?
I worked in a hospital as a nutrition ambassador, and yes, that was the job title, but really, I was a diet tech. While in undergraduate studies, I worked on research projects and educational outreach and that continued into my graduate studies. As a graduate student, I was able to teach the lab sections of our general nutrition course. However, my first full-time job has been as an educator.
While here I have also done individual counseling, public speaking, launched The Latter-day Saint Nutritionist podcast where I discuss food, faith and science, and most recently published my first book, The Creation Code. In the book, I use the vehicle of the biblical account of the Creation of the world to explain the Stages of Change model.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
I obtained my Masters of Community Nutrition from the University of Massachusetts and performed my internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
In 5 years dietitians will have stepped onto center stage in the media, online, and medically to discuss nutrition. This will lead us not just to say we are the nutrition professionals, but have society recognize us as such. We won’t fight over how dietician is spelled because we will be doing more important things proving the impact we can hold.
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
We are not going to rob you of all the foods that you like, our job is to help you find your healthy.
What would you like people to know about RDs?
People should understand that RDs use science, and because of continual education and learning sometimes we have new findings. It doesn’t mean that we misled people, it means that now we know more.
What are challenges you encounter as a RD?
There is a lot of misinformation out there, so as an educator I have to re-school students by addressing what myths they believe about the nutrition world. Also, there is a lot of stigma around eating, especially as a dietitian. Sometimes I close my office door when I eat, not because I am ashamed of what I am eating but because I don’t want to have to explain to people that all food can fit in a healthy diet.
What do people think that you do for a living?
I feel like people think that I am working in a hospital kitchen, a gym, or some farm in rural Kenya where I have just discovered the magic weight loss fruit that America has been missing. There are many misconceptions about what we do as dietitians, and everyone thinks they know what we do (but they all think we do something different).
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
I am passionate about learning, creating, and the culture of nutrition. Everything we do influences what we eat and what we eat influences everything we do. From your job to your parents to your neighborhood and your finances, they are all influencing your dietary habits.
What tip(s) would you give to our readers?
I would encourage all of those interested in going into nutrition to think about what biases they may have, whether that be weight, race, culture, age or otherwise. Recognizing how you approach the world will help you to better understand how to connect with other people. When you understand your bias you can find ways to minimize that bias.
More about Zach:
Facebook: The Latter-day Saint Nutritionist
Book - Amazon