When Brenna Thompson was 15 years old, she asked for a Kitchen Aide stand mixer for her birthday. Because she had always loved cooking, she went to college to major in family consumer science. “After the first semester, I realized that was not quite what I was looking for. I was home watching TV and saw a program about a sports dietitian — I said, That’s what I want to do! That’s it!”
She interned at the West Virginia University Hospital for 10 months, then worked as an inpatient diabetes educator in Georgia for three years while also doing employee wellness consultations and lunch-and-learn presentations. Thompson began working at Nutritional Weight and Wellness in February 2012 after moving back to Minnesota.
“My internship was more clinical. We would pull up lab results and figure calorie, protein and fat needs for those people. We would do education on low sodium, low fat, fiber, then do our charting for the patient. I also helped out with the food service department, doing menu planning and creating a few new recipes,” she said.
At Nutritional Weight and Wellness, “I don’t know that I have a typical day. Some days I’m meeting with new clients. I follow up with old clients. If we’re a little bit slower, then I’m researching topics for our radio broadcasts or helping with the e-newsletter. If I have a client who’s stumping me, I’ll do research. I’m constantly learning something new — about a client’s metabolism, medication and its side effects.”
Thompson teaches clients that “the old eat less/exercise more theory just doesn’t work — you get hungry, you have cravings, you give into the cravings, you give up. Everyone knows they should eat more vegetables and less processed food. I started making these changes on my own. When I began working with Weight and Wellness, within a week I changed what I was eating and what I was feeding to my husband.”
What is the best part of your job?
It can be so rewarding when clients come in and tell me “I have energy, I don’t have cravings, my hot flashes are gone” — you name it.
What are the challenges?
No day is the same. It’s not as if I just get up and go to the office at the same time every day and do the same job. As dietitians, we work when no one else is working — that’s when clients come see us. When we try what we think should work and don’t get results, we have to do problem-solving. It’s what keeps the job interesting.
What traits and attitudes make a dietitian successful?
For this position, you have to be a good listener and a good problem-solver. You have to ask a lot of questions to understand what someone is thinking and feeling and what led them to end up in our offices. We have to be compassionate but tough to help people stay on track.
What advice would you give people who have made weight loss a New Year’s resolution?
This is about a lifestyle change. It doesn’t end — we just keep doing it. People need support — trying to read a book or do some crazy diet they read on Facebook doesn’t work. They need support, and they need to make changes they can stick with. □