As an associate professor of nutrition and a registered dietitian, Emily Heying sometimes gets a lot of questions this time of year.
That’s understandable as people are still trying to make good on their New Year’s resolutions to eat better or exercise more.
“People hear the word nutrition and immediately have questions about different fad diets, or the latest foods trending on social media,” she said. “And as a dietitian, you have to figure out how to have a conversation with them that doesn’t shame or blame, but leads them to credible information or small changes in maintainable habits that will help them meet their goals in the long run.
“New Year’s is always a big reset for a lot of people. The big thing for me is that a lot of people associate a dietitian with weight loss. But that’s such a small part of what dietitians actually do. There are many ways to improve your health that aren’t focused on weight loss. Dietitians are employed in a variety of areas to help people meet their nutrition needs or improve their relationship with food.”
Heying had an opportunity to explore a number of those areas over the past year thanks to a Faculty Fellowship Award from the Commission on Dietetic Registration/Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The national award provides a faculty member or doctorate holder funds ($10,000) to finish their dietitian (RD) credential and dietetic internship at an accredited program.
The Iowa native took a sabbatical from CSB+SJU during the 2020-21 school year to do just that through Iowa State University, a process that entailed completing course work as well as working in food service, hospitals and other community health sites throughout her home state.
“We have a nutrition major here and students can choose a dietetics concentration. That means I’m teaching a lot of future dietitians,” said Heying, who also serves as the faculty athletic representative at CSB.
“Ever since I started in this department, I’ve wanted to go out and have this experience so that I’d be able to provide more real-world applications. To be able to demonstrate how some of these things we talk about might present themselves in the real world when it comes to patients.
Her time in the field coincided with the height of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was truthfully very humbling to see first-hand how hard healthcare workers have had to work to take care of an increasing number of patients in this pandemic,” she said. “From a dietetics perspective, I saw many patients with COVID-19 present with different types of nutritional needs and it was very informative to see the ways health-care teams approached their care.”
Heying said going through the process was a valuable learning experience – one that has made her a better professor as she has resumed her duties at CSB+SJU this school year.
“I’m different as a professor now because I have a greater appreciation for the wide range of responsibilities a dietitian has and the wide range of roles they can play,” she said. “I feel like I can do a better job teaching future dietitians about all of the opportunities that are available to them as they try to help people with their relationship with food and achieving the lifestyle they want.
“I had the foundation and I was teaching the concepts before. But now I’m better able to help translate them to my students.”