by Allison Enke, MA, RD, LD

Jessica Setnick, MS, RD, LD, a Dallas native, first discovered her interest in eating disorders during her pursuit of an undergraduate degree in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. “My fascination with the development of human eating behavior coupled well with my interest in the psychology of eating and eating disorders,” says Jessica. With this revelation, she decided to complete her thesis on eating disorders in children, earn her masters degree in exercise and sports nutrition, and complete a dietetics internship at Texas Women’s University to become a registered dietitian. Eight years later, Jessica works as a nutrition consultant at her private practice in Dallas, Understanding Nutrition, where she specializes in the identification, treatment, and prevention of eating disorders.

Before Jessica pursued starting her private practice she gained work experience as a clinical dietitian at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas in both the Center for Pediatric Psychiatry’s Eating Disorder Program and Center for Pediatric Endocrinology. She has taught nutrition courses at Richland College and Texas Women’s University and is presently a recurrent guest lecturer at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. When Jessica is not counseling clients at her office or speaking to community and professional groups she can be found somewhere in the United States leading her own Eating Disorders Boot Camp, a three day training workshop designed to educate healthcare professionals on how to handle clients with eating disorders. The workshop, initiated in 2003, is offered about once per month in various cities across the US and once a year in Texas.

Jessica’s biggest challenge was the August 2005 completion of her quick reference book entitled Eating Disorders Clinical Pocket Guide. “This was hard but I am pleased with the finished product.” Her proudest accomplishment occurred a month later when her private practice reached its five year anniversary and climbed out of debt this past September. “These achievements were difficult at first but I just followed my dreams and tried to not get discouraged along the way,” admits Jessica. “Any idea or dream you can imagine in your head is possible so don’t let anyone knock it down.”

Jessica reports that eating disorders can be challenging at times but that her involvement with the Dallas-area Eating Disorders RD Support and Supervision Group is very helpful. “I am able to bounce my ideas off other nutrition professionals working with eating disorders patients and learn new strategies from them as well,” says Jessica. Other professional organizations that Jessica relies on for support and continuing education include the American Dietetic Association’s DPG, Dietetics in Developmental and Psychiatric Disorders, of which she is the Eating Disorder Resource Professional; Nutrition Entrepreneurs; and the Pediatric Nutrition Network of Dallas.

While Jessica gives and receives support from other dietitians, she has found a profession where she can provide support to her eating disorder clients. In fact, something interesting that not everyone knows about Jessica is that she was the first female mascot (a Penn Quaker) at her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. As a dietitian, she is now in the position to cheer on the sidelines in the dietetics world and provide encouragement daily to her eating disorders clients and other dietitians. Jessica wants to reassure fellow dietitians or those aspiring to be dietitians that it is okay to work towards a specialty in dietetics even if it is within another RD’s specialty. “The world has an unlimited need of what RDs have to offer,” states Jessica. “We are only at the beginning of seeing what RDs as a profession can achieve and we should stick together to be successful.”

To subscribe to SnackBites with Jessica and receive monthly tips on how to have a healthy relationship with food, log on towww.understandingnutrition.com/home.htm