How I Chose My Master's Degree in Eating Disorders and Clinical Nutrition
Updated: Feb 14, 2018
I have received multiple messages via Instagram regarding how and why I chose my specific master’s degree. I thought I would write a blog post, which might help answer many of those questions…
In 2015 I graduated from the University of Delaware with a BS in Dietetics. At that point, the path to put those 2 letters (“RD”) behind my name were quite simple: match with a dietetic internship, complete my supervised practice hours and pass the national certification exam. However, there was a lot of discussion in the professional field of dietetics regarding the educational path to become an RD. With so many self-proclaimed “nutritionists” in America, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics decided to increase the credentialing level of education. Thus, in 2024, all registered dietitians must complete Master’s level degrees as well. While I was not required to complete a Master’s Degree to become an RD, I knew that all future RDs will have 4 letters behind their name (“MS, RD”). And for me – your typical Type A, overachieving and competitive 22-year-old – I wanted to be as qualified as my future colleagues and competitors.
So, my new plan was as followed: complete my internship, apply to master’s programs, pass my credentialing exam, complete master’s degree…. And that’s exactly what I did….
I began to researching master’s programs and I was surprisingly disappointed. Throughout my internship I learned a lot about what my likes and dislikes were in the field. I knew I loved clinical work, outpatient counselling, private practice, community work and recipe development. I specifically loved all gastrointestinal disorders, weight loss and weight maintenance, eating disorder nutrition therapy, diabetes education and cardiovascular-focused nutrition counselling. Unfortunately, many of the master’s programs focused on areas of dietetics I did not enjoy so much – agriculture, public health, global food systems, exercise and sports nutrition, molecular nutrition and nutrition education.
For the programs that I felt attracted to, I felt disappointed on the core curriculum. So much of program focused on metabolism, molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, etc., which are all topics I have already covered in my undergraduate degree. At the point of entering a program, I would already be an RD. I wanted to find a program that I felt offered my new and exciting information that could make me a better dietitian – not re-learning the material I already knew at a more in-depth and research-based level. I wanted to read and learn things that I wasn’t already taught in the past.
As my favorite part of my internship was my elective rotation, which took place in a local private practice – I knew that was my end goal – to own my own practice. I had to think which master’s program I would benefit the most from in the long run. I even contemplated getting an MBA…
One thing I learned during my experience was that everyone has their own style of eating, own emotional perspective about food, own rules regarding food, and own personal relationship with food. During my counselling experience, I felt that I wore several hats: at times, I was just a dietitian and others I could have been a therapist. And then I finally realized that nutrition is so much more than physiological – it’s psychological! We choose to eat, or not eat, certain foods based on mood, emotions, opinions, personal beliefs, etc. So why, as a dietitian, did I not have more psychology education? To be fair, I minored in psychology at UD – but this was general psychology and not nutrition or counselling specific psychology.
And then, once I realized what lacked in my professional education, I found the PERFECT master’s program (Hallelujah)! It was entitled MSc Eating Disorders and Clinical Nutrition – and the best part – IT WAS IN LONDON! DREAMY!
So, I considered the program and I was THRILLED! The course still touched on basic physiology, in depth-metabolism, macro- and micro-nutrients and biochemistry. BUT, it also offered several modules regarding the etiology and treatment of eating disorders, from both a nutrition and psychological perspective. In fact, the main course leaders and tutors were all psychotherapists, as opposed to dietitians. I thought to myself, “wow, this is the perfect opportunity to really expand my psychology education and skills, specifically in regards to nutrition-related condition”. There was even a hospital placement where I worked with dietitians, psychotherapists, psychologists and family therapists.
And the BEST PART was that my boyfriend was currently living 25 minutes south of London, which of course prompted me to even look at programs in London J
So I applied, I got accepted and I packed my bags….
The program was VERY challenging. I excelled in the clinical nutrition modules and had to work extra hard in the more psychology based modules. This program helped me understand WHY AND HOW we eat the way we do – and that handing someone a meal plan is completely useless without dealing with the factors that prompted them to need your services in the first place.
I was also able to combine my interest in gastrointestinal disorders and eating disorders for my dissertation. My paper was titled “The Implications of the Gut Microbiome in Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa: A Systematic Review” and was even chosen for a short presentation at the 2018 Eating Disorder International Conference.
I feel extremely lucky to have received the master’s degree that I did. Now, as Bari Stricoff, MSC, RDN, I feel more well-rounded and specialized in my field. Moving abroad also helped me become more independent and worldly. Plus, it enabled me to finally move in with my boyfriend after a 3-year long-distance relationship!
Please reach out if you have any further questions or inquiries!