Article By: Rachel Ignomirello, MS, RDN, CSOWM, LDN
Rachel Ignomirello is a Bariatric Dietitian and Board-Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management.
Looking back at my life, I would have never guessed I’d be a bariatric dietitian, but I can’t say I’m surprised. I grew up around a family member who struggled with weight, and I even remember helping them track Weight Watcher points. It was like a fun game to read food labels! I graduated high school with the goal of becoming a dietitian but not knowing what field I would like best. In college, I remember watching My 600-lb Life when it first came out and found bariatric surgery fascinating. It was truly life-changing for those patients.
When I got to my dietetic internship, I experienced all kinds of rotations like clinical, food service, renal, oncology, school nutrition, public health, and many more. When it came to my bariatric rotation, I only had one day in a clinic. In that one day, I got to observe two bariatric dietitians. One taught the super important pre-operative class, and the other counseled post-operative patients. It was an interesting rotation, but it was too short to discover my career potential. Despite that, my first job ended up being the dietitian for a bariatric center. During my time there, it became clear that bariatrics was for me.
I was drawn to nutrition areas that had a mix of everything, and bariatrics has just that. Being a dietitian, we work in nutrition. The bariatric diet is one of the most thorough and strict diets to teach. We must assess the patient's diet, behaviors, and weight loss. There is a lot of counseling, which I enjoy. I’ve always felt like a good listener and an empathetic person. I also love teaching, and there are PLENTY of classes to lead and support groups to moderate. Bariatrics also involves science with new research and lab management. With medical/clinical, patients may present with side effects, complications, or even hospital re-admissions. Bariatrics is a special niche in the nutrition world. There are clear, set guidelines on what to teach and counsel. For me, I would rather be extra knowledgeable in one area than a little knowledgeable in everything.
In 2020, I became the first Board-Certified Specialist in Obesity & Weight Management through CDR in the Knoxville area and the seventh in Tennessee. Two years later, and I am now the dietitian for a different, leading metabolic and bariatric surgery center. I have learned a lot from my patients. No one patient is the same, and no one comes to us with the same story.
Getting to watch patients on their journey from seminar to their goal weight is a beautiful thing. Many start off nervous, acknowledging that making that initial appointment was one of the hardest things they’ve done. By the time they hit maintenance, they have a brand-new sense of confidence and happiness. Life is fun again! Whether patients come back to us with honest struggles or just endless gratitude, we are here for them. Because of the patients I get to help on a daily basis, I still work as a bariatric dietitian and will for the rest of my career.
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.