Obesity Education for Dietitians

There is no doubt that dietitians are the health professionals most often looked to for advise on weight management.

It may therefore come as a surprise to many readers that although dietitians have vast knowledge about healthy eating and the dietary management of a wide range of diseases like diabetes, kidney disease, celiac disease and many others, most dietitians interestingly do not have specific training in treating obesity (the same can sadly be also said for the vast majority of doctors, nurses, exercise physiologists, or any other health profession you can think of).

No one is more acutely aware of this lack of expertise than the dietitians themselves, especially as they are so often called upon for dietary advise by people trying to manage their weight.

As anyone working in this field quickly recognizes (and regular readers of these pages will know this by now), eating or ingestive behaviour is only one part of the energy balance equation and even there, the many socio-psycho-biological factors that determine caloric intake are anything but simple.

I am therefore particularly pleased that the Dietitians of Canada have partnered with the Canadian Obesity Network to co-host the first pan-Canadian Learning Retreat on the Principles & Practice of Interdisciplinary Obesity Management for Dietitians, that is currently being held in Winnipeg.

The aim of the retreat is of course not to teach dietitians about counseling clients on healthy eating or even about nutritive approaches to weight losst. Rather, the retreat focusses on all of the other topics that dietitians need to know about in order to fully understand and appreciate the many factors that are essential for effective obesity management.

It is therefore not surprising that there is a lot of room on the program for the discussion of topics like weight bias, psychosocial factors, mental health, neurobiology of hunger and satiety, exercise physiology, body composition, and of course medical and surgical management of obesity.

Judging by the enthusiasm of the attendees, it appears that such a learning opportunity has been long overdue and I am certainly hopeful that events like this will help ensure that patients struggling with excess weight will have an increasing number of dietitians to turn to, who have been specifically trained in obesity management.

Winnipeg, Manitoba