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The People Behind Great Weight Loss

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

People hear that I am an online dietitian and they can't help but ask, "What’s that?"

Working on the internet is not the typical employment track for a clinical dietitian. Most dietitians or licensed nutritionists (I’m both) work in face-to-face patient care, hospitals, the food service industry, nursing homes, or private practice. But, there is another career path for nutrition professionals and it’s a place where you can really make a difference!

Today, I’m eDiets Director of Nutrition Services on the internet, managing a staff of credentialed nutrition professionals! I’m writing programs for weight loss, maintenance and healthy living. My department is responsible for supporting members by advising them about their weight loss or weight maintenance programs, meals and recipes.

However, my nutrition career began traditionally, as a clinical nutritionist working in a hospital, assessing and counseling patients. My initial experience was in the cardiac care unit, speaking with patients who had just undergone angioplasty and/or open-heart surgery.

Hospital Dietitians Have Little Time to Teach

How frightening that the most common first symptom of heart disease is DEATH! We’ve all heard of that busy and seemingly living large 45-year-old male who dies suddenly of a heart attack. The lucky ones survive the catastrophic event! For a nutritionist, what better place than a hospital to convince patients to change their behavior? They’ve seen the light! The first contact with the patient may be post-heart attack, or heart surgery -- they're in bed and in pain... and vowing to eat better and exercise. That’s the common scenario.

A hospital nutritionist has a couple of strikes against her or him. First, there are time constraints. Generally, hospital nutritionists receive a list of newly admitted patients on a daily basis. They must assess these individuals within 24 hours. Admission may be for something totally unrelated to diet. For example, a broken leg or some other injury. But, the majority of admitted patients need some type of nutritional counseling.

There is rarely a follow-up visit. So even if you have had more than a few minutes to try and educate the patient, typically that patient will leave the hospital and you’ll never see him or her again. You’ll never know if that person made the changes necessary to improve his or her health. You won’t even know if the patient had questions!

Combat Heart Disease with Nutrition

The leading cause of death in this country is from heart disease, most commonly related to diet, but also to lifestyle factors including smoking and obesity. Sixty-one percent of adults in this country are overweight or obese and have double the risk of contracting type 2 diabetes. Today, over 17 million Americans have diabetes; 90 percent of them have type 2 diabetes. The leading cause of death in diabetics is also heart disease.

Yes, patients with heart disease and diabetes need to learn how to change their lives! They need counseling, they need information, they need support, and they need motivation! Hospital nutritionists do not have nearly the amount of time necessary to counsel a patient effectively, let alone assess their receptivity and ability to learn. And for some patients it’s absolutely the worst time to attempt to educate -- nutritional counseling is the last thing they want right out of surgery. They’re angry... how dare their body betray them like that!

Making Positive Changes: eDiets Works!

Believe me, I am definitely making more of an impact on people now! I used to be frustrated when all I had time to do was hand out a printed meal plan and ask, “Do you have any questions?” It was so rare to see a patient more than once.

Today’s health care model includes hospitals employing health care professionals just to get patients discharged as soon as possible. I used to make the rounds every morning with the nurses, social workers, pharmacists and physical therapists assigned to the ward and the doctors whose job it was to recommend discharge. Regardless of the nutritional needs of the patient, if their time was up, they were out. Some needs were secondary to discharge if they were clinically stable.

That’s why nutrition at eDiets really breaks the mold. We’re doing something here that’s never been done before. We’re providing ongoing instruction, interaction, motivation, support and follow-up to thousands of individuals who have one goal in common -- to improve health by getting to a healthy weight and staying there! Research shows repeatedly that all diets work and no diet works.

You can go on any type of "diet" and lose weight. Even unhealthy fad diets will result in weight loss. As long as calories expended are more than calories ingested, you will lose weight. However, research also shows that 90 percent of those who lose weight regain the weight within three to five years. The successful losers are those who make PERMANENT lifestyle changes, who eat a healthy low-fat (especially low-saturated fat) diet, and who get regular moderate aerobic activity.

As an online nutritionist, I’m able to speak personally with members who need a bit more help, or a lot more help to reach their goals. I’m able to adjust programs and improve them to help members stay with their healthy meal plan. The community here at eDiets provides meetings with professionals to support members’ efforts to learn new behaviors. The members share their successes and failures in meetings and chat rooms. Research shows that the key to success is interaction.

It’s a great new world online and a great new career for nutrition professionals. I love it!

Did You Know...

...the incidence of diabetes in America continues to confound the health professionals? The number of people who have diabetes has risen to approximately 18 million, and experts predict that by 2020, there will be more than 30 million with diabetes! And, 90 percent will be type 2 diabetics who are overweight or obese. Just losing 10 percent of your body weight will lower your risk for diabetes, and if you have DM2, it will improve your condition!

eDiets Director of Nutrition Services Susan L. Burke, M.S., R.D., L.D., CDE is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, and a Certified Diabetes Educator who specializes in both general and diabetes-related weight management.

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