Meet Maureen Wasik, RD, CDE, who owns and operates The Dietitian, LLC! Maureen is an experienced dietitian with a focus on weight management and diabetes. She is also fascinated by research in the area of the microbiome, intermittent fasting, and more. Read more about Maureen's start in nutrition – she was her first client, so to speak – and how she carved out her niche to differentiate in the area of diabetes care:
Why did you get started in nutrition and become an RDN?
My first degree is a Bachelor’s in Mass Communication. By the time I graduated college, I knew it wasn’t the right path for me but I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I had various jobs while trying to figure it out. Also at this time, I became interested in nutrition for my own health. I was always overweight and had chronic sinus infections, not good for a professional singer (my other passion)! Once I changed my diet, everything changed for me. The weight came off, I was healthier and my mood and energy also became more stable. It was incredible! It got me reading more about nutrition and health and eventually I went back to school to study dietetics to turn my avocation into my vocation.
Yes! It's amazing to see the value of nutrition first-hand. What's your practice like these days?
My practice attracts folks with a variety of clinical issues, but primarily I see people looking to lose weight and/or dealing with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. About ten years ago, I became a certified diabetes educator and this credentialing helps me stand out; practitioners need help dealing with the diabetes epidemic. Working with local doctors and APRNs, many of our patients have been able to greatly reduce diabetes medications or come off completely. While I respect my patients’ limits, I often ask them to jump right into clean, low-carb eating, especially when dealing with a disease state that needs an immediate remedy, e.g., out-of-control diabetes or fatty liver disease. This rapid diet change enables clients to see their blood sugars and labs normalize more quickly and helps keep them going. While I don’t think of this as a radical approach, it’s often different from the way folks have worked with other dietitians. This has been a successful protocol for my patients and has helped distinguish me from other dietitians in the area.
Kudos for helping your patients see such changes! What's your ideal patient profile?
All of my clients keep me challenged and interested! But to answer your question, I’d go with a middle-aged woman who wants to lose weight and get healthier. She’s ready to make changes and willing to partner with me to figure out what will work best for her. As a middle-aged woman myself, I appreciate these specific menopausal weight loss obstacles!
Because we're Healthy Bytes, I have to ask: why did you decide to accept insurance?
Accepting insurance was an easy decision since I wanted to stay in private practice. While there are people willing and able to pay cash, there are more folks who do not have extra funds available and need to find providers in-network. If I had turned all those people away, I wouldn’t have a practice.
What advice would you give another RDN who is thinking about accepting insurance?
Do not hesitate to accept insurance. It will help you grow your practice. Potential clients look on their insurers’ websites to find in-network practitioners and you will get self-referred people. Dietitians constantly need to find new clients. While I have some clients that I’ve been seeing for years, often a patient comes to counseling only for 3-12 months. Being on multiple insurance provider lists will help keep you in business.
We're glad it has been so fruitful for your practice! Are there any changes you're excited about in the field of nutrition and dietetics?
There’s so much out there to be excited about! Overall, I’m happy to have more acknowledgment by doctors and by society at large that food is your first medicine and what you eat is a crucial determinant of your health. Specific topics that have caught my attention: ketogenic diets, intermittent fasting, medically supervised long-term fasting and the microbiome. I think diet, and therefore, dietitians can help resolve chronic illness and some of these areas of study show promise to that end.
What’s your favorite piece of advice you have received?
When I first started doing private counseling, I shared a negative client experience with my naturopath who had been practicing much longer than I. She wisely reframed the situation saying that my counseling was sound, but my client simply wasn’t ready to hear what I had to say. Great lesson for me. Counseling is an exchange and all my good intentions and advice won’t fix a thing unless my client is a ready and willing participant in the process. As much as I want to make everything all better for my patients, I don’t have that kind of power.
Those are such wise words. Anything else you’d like to add?
The relationships I have with the people I counsel are what makes my day. Frankly, I think it’s also an important part of why they come back to see me. Without some human connection, it is hard to convince anyone to listen to you and take your advice, never mind come back and tell their friends about you! Getting to know people is my favorite part of the job.
Thanks, Maureen! We've loved getting to know you as well :)
Parts of this interview have been shortened and edited.