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How are you doing this morning? Grab a cup of coffee. Today, I want to chat about how I became interested in nutrition, and then 3.5 years later, how that interested turned into a Nutrition Master’s degree and becoming a Registered Dietitian! Thanks Amanda for letting me think out loud! This is a little bit of a longer one..
Hopefully this post will reach those of who you are contemplating a career change, are currently studying nutrition and are an #rd2be, or maybe you’re just interested in nutrition and health, like I was.
My Food Background
I was never a huge cook or really helped out much in the kitchen growing up (gasspp – this may be a sin in the food/health nutrition world), aside from eating anything that was out or my mom cooked. As a three-sport athlete, I wasn’t very much concerned with health or food.
I went to class, made good grades, and practiced and competed really hard in sports. I loved sports so much that I chose to study them as an undergrad, and earned my Bachelor’s in Sport Management from UMass Amherst.
After graduating college, I worked in college athletics for a few years. Ultimately, though, I decided that working in sports wasn’t the lifestyle I desired. At this point, I was gaining incremental interest in running while dating Ed, and starting paying much more attention to the foods I was putting in my body. New to the cooking world, I spent time preparing easy meals with minimal ingredients. I was starting to see the results of putting real food into my body, rather than microwaveable, processed foods (yea you, low-fat granola bars, fiber one bars, fat-free yogurt, etc). And, most importantly, I liked the results. I felt so much better.
Becoming Interested in Nutrition
I moved to Charlotte, and spent time working at a bank and then in marketing. I still wasn’t completely satisfied in my professional life. I would sit at my desk, exposed to the many food, fitness and healthy living blogs. My two favorite blogs that I can say really motivated me to want to go back to school to actually study food and nutrition were Anne’s and Robyn’s blogs. Anne’s especially since she was a graduate of UNC, which was one of the top graduate schools I was considering.
I became interested in trying recipes I was finding and I would try to get my hands on anything I could in regards to nutrition. I even considered taking a few classes for fun. Going back to school after I was already out and in the working world seemed like a step backwards…Why spend more years of my life (and money) studying, taking tests, writing papers, group projects, etc. ??
But, ultimately, I knew that was what I wanted to do. It would be worth it in the long run. I wanted to be a person with the RD credential behind my name, a resource for health and nutrition, a “go-to” knowledgeable source. I wanted to focus on preventative health, and try to work to prevent the prevalent chronic diseases in children and adults, and help people understand the tried-and-true amongst all the false information out there. So, I started taking my prereqs at Winthrop in 2012, and now, 3.5 years later, I’m done with it all.
How To Pass The RD Exam
Now, I’m going to touch on the RD Exam, how to study and how to pass it on your first try.
The RD exam is a grueling test that really tackles your critical thinking skills. I spent about a solid month studying for it, putting in a few hours each day. I know many people who had success studying for just 1-2 weeks, and some that needed more time. Everyone is different, and at this point, you know best how you study and take tests.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the most organized person (if you can’t tell by these pictures). I mainly used the Jean Inman study guide, and I found it to be sufficient. While it’s pricey, it really focuses in on the four domains and key points of the exam – nutrition care, the science of nutrition, food service, and management of food programs and services. I also found these practice tests to be helpful. Doing a variety of practice questions is the best way to learn!
I spent between 3-5 days reviewing each domain (some were shorter than others), listening to the lectures as I followed along in the study guide. Then, I rewrote things and would later rewrite them AGAIN to make flashcards (this is the best way I learn, though it is time consuming). The practice tests were so essential. I went through the practice test for each domain and really tried to understand the questions I got wrong – mostly, WHY they were wrong. It is SO essential to understand the “why” to better understand the wording and writing of the test. You have to be able to think critically, like they want you to think.
By the last week, I was reviewing all of the domains again, and basically just quizzing myself with the flashcards. And, going through the practice tests again. At this point, I was just feeling anxious about the upcoming exam and was ready to have it over and done with. (AKA Watching Giada and The Food Network).
I also downloaded this app and used it for when I was sitting on the couch watching tv or reading in bed. It was a good way to spit out information for questions that were a little different from the Inman guide. I think the questions were somewhat basic, but helpful for some concepts.
I know other people have used Visual Veggies, Hess and Hunt, RD Flashcards and other study resources. I can’t speak to them since I didn’t use them but I know they have worked for others! I think picking a few will be the least overwhelming option and help you study efficiently for the exam.
Advice for Taking the RD Exam
1. Allow ample time to prepare yourself.
2. Schedule the exam as soon as you are eligible. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Knowledge fades fast.
3. Do all of the practice questions and then some. Use them to focus on your weak points.
4. Eat a filling breakfast the day of. The last thing you need when taking such an important test is feeling hungry, sluggish or tired. As RD’s, we know this already, but reminders always help 🙂
5. The exam is hard. Not everything you studied will be on it, and vice versa. You’ll doubt yourself during it but be assured that you know this. You’ve taken harder tests throughout school, memorized all of the biochem pathways, worked with carbohydrate counting, and likely treated someone with chronic disease. You got this!
5. C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E when you’re done. Becoming an RD is SUCH a proud moment and accomplishment. So much work goes into it. You deserve to celebrate!
And if you have a great best friend to make you a spectacular cake, bonus points.
If you’ve taken the RD exam, do you have any points to add?
How do you best study?
And, please let me know if you have any questions about nutrition, the exam, or anything else!