Elaine Hastings, RD, LD/N, CSSD
On the Job
By: Angela Voelker
Healthy Line of Work
When deciding between chocolate ice cream and a full meal, Elaine Hastings will take the sweets. For this registered dietitian, it’s all about finding balance. Hastings, of Associates in Nutrition Therapy in Fort Myers, has been practicing for 15 years and was recently named president of the Caloosa Dietetic Association. A "nutrition entrepreneur," she works contractually and is also a writer, motivational speaker, product researcher, counselor and sports-nutrition advocate.
Why did you become a registered dietitian?
Growing up, I always had a tremendous focus on health, diet, sports, athletics and nutrition. Oftentimes, young girls, especially athletes, become obsessed with their image and weight—so much so that it hinders their athletic performance. That is what happened to me. I became very sick from not eating right and ended up in the hospital. My focus and drive for perfection only stumped my growth as a young girl and athlete. At that point I decided that I wanted to teach people how they could be healthy.
Where do you believe America is in terms of nutrition?
People are getting it now, as a result of all the health-related diseases. We are seeing a move toward organic, but it’s more expensive. At the other end of the spectrum, we still have an obese population that is growing children and families to be the same. The biggest issue is education about portion sizes and the availability of healthy foods.
What are the more memorable cases you’ve dealt with?
A big part of my practice is eating disorders—people who are really struggling to get out of the mindset of wanting to be thin. Some have been discharged from an inpatient facility, or I recommend they go to an inpatient facility. You really need to re-teach them how to eat healthfully. These are the most difficult for me, but I do them because I’m good at it. The girls need somebody to understand where they are, so they in particular are in my heart.
What are your day-to-day challenges as a registered dietitian?
I want to reach as many people as I can, but I’m only one person and one business. My goal is eventually to complete a book and have a virtual office so I can track clients’ diet, exercise and progress online. Also, the public is following people who are self-proclaimed nutritionists, believing that they are registered and legitimate; to be a registered dietitian, you go through five years of school and do an internship, like any medical specialty.
Are there other popular misconceptions?
The belief that there is a miracle pill out there; anybody who tells you you’re going to drop 10 pounds in five days and keep it off; and any plan that is not giving you a variety of food groups, and not teaching you how to eat in moderation and watch your portion sizes.
What is your new business?
My husband and I have started Pro-Performance Athletes that specializes in sports development and nutrition exercises. I am going to become board-certified in sports. There are 65,000 registered dietitians in the country and only 159 that are board-certified in sports.