The life of a male dietitian… a bloke in a woman’s world

Joel Feren - men's health dietitian

I often make the joke that I became a dietitian in order to meet girls (much to my girlfriend’s dismay). Truth is, I became a dietitian because I love food and love how we can use it as medicine. I enjoy trialling new recipes, grocery shopping, reviewing the latest scientific papers and debunking common nutrition myths. For me, I get to talk about something I love all day and get paid for it. Talk about a winning formula. And I had no idea that I’d be a lone male. 

But I have to admit that I often feel like the lone male in my profession. In fact, I was recently mistaken for the IT guy at a dietetic conference (suffice to say that I was the only fella in the room). Now, I’m certainly not complaining about my professional predicament, because I think that it may actually work in my favour.

Being male in a female-dominated profession allows me to stand out. I was the only guy in my course at uni and I’m often the only man in the room when I am with my peers. My gender is my point of difference. Some patients may find it easier to consult with a male, although perhaps the reverse is also true. Either way, being a male dietitian means that I can give a blokey spin on food and nutrition. I certainly found this to be the case recently when I met with a number of truckies from a large freight company. This is not to say that a female dietitian couldn’t also have provided helpful dietary advice to the drivers, but just that I may have been better able to relate to them. 

Now it’s also true to say that diet can be a very sensitive topic for many. I, for one, am acutely aware of this. When I was growing up, I always struggled with my weight and I certainly had an unhealthy relationship with food. So I realise that one of the most important things that I can offer my patients is a comfortable and non-judgmental setting. Regardless of my gender, it is the rapport that I create with the patient sitting across from me that will determine whether or not I will be helpful for that person. It is extremely difficult to have a successful session with someone, especially when attempting to generate change if you don’t establish a meaningful bond.

So, perhaps my gender isn’t so significant after all. It really is a minute detail in the scheme of things. Either way, I love my profession and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in food and health. Plus it’s a great way to meet girls.

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