Meet the Dietitian: Retha Harmse

We spoke to ADSA Executive Committee member and registered dietitian, Retha Harmse. She has served on the ADSA Executive Committee in the Public Relations portfolio for the last two terms (2019 – 2023). She is a powerhouse and we are glad to have her on the ADSA team!

Tell us a bit more of yourself?
This is quite a tough question as I don’t really have a short answer to this, there are many aspects to me that it is hard to narrow it down to just a sentence or two. But let me try;

In my personal life, I would say I don’t do anything half – I am properly serious and hardworking when I am in task mode but I also have a very silly sense of humour and can laugh abundantly when I rest (those who watch my Instagram stories would agree). I also really pour my heart in soul into everything I do.

In terms of my career, I love learning more and improving myself daily – not just for myself but also for my patients and to help the profession grow. I really believe we can change the world!

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?
I often tell my patients that I became a dietitian because I love people, I’m passionate about health and I love people. And in short, that is it!

After matric, I took a gap year where we did a different course each week and there was a month focused on career guidance. In that month I did shadowing in dietetic lectures, with clinical dietitians and outpatient consultations. And after that there was no turning back.

Once I started studying and after that started working, I realised that this is definitely exactly where I need to be.

What would you have wanted to do if not Dietetics?
I would’ve wanted to study Medicine (but can now truly say that I love being a dietitian).


Where did you study (degree and/ or postgrad)
I studied BSc Dietetics at the North West University, Potchefstroom campus. Besides getting my qualification and becoming a dietitian, I made some of my fondest memories there and met lifelong friends.

Where do you work and what does your job entail?
My private practice is located in Saxonwold, Johannesburg in Oxford Healthcare Centre. I work in a psychiatric day hospital called The Day Clinic and I see the patients for individual as well as group sessions.

We use the modality of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Intuitive Eating to help our patients improve their relationships with food and their bodies and practice more self-care and acceptance towards themselves.

This is so rewarding and I absolutely love it

Walk us through a day in your life?
I would arrive at the office, see The Day Clinic group sessions or individual patients and in between a few outpatients. There are also paperwork in between, stuff like patient notes, billing, etc.

I would work on social media content for the practice (recording a video, writing captions, etc), work on developing a course/masterclass (either for dietitians or for the public), plan a corporate offering for a company or engage with the media (television, radio or written media).

Each day is different, but I really love it exactly for that reason.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?
When individuals experience Food Freedom! It is the most rewarding when I see people free from the hold that eating disorders or disordered eating had over them. When food becomes something they can just enjoy and their bodies become an instrument that they can experience life through.

What has been your career highlight?
To be honest, there have been so many highlights (and I think this is just the beginning). But being an ADSA spokesperson and serving on the Executive Committee has definitely been a massive highlight. I experienced so much growth (both personally and professionally) and would urge everyone to get more involved in the ADSA structures.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?
Working in mental health and eating disorders, it is really hard to sometimes switch off and not take the emotions home with you.

What is something that people don’t know about you?
I love music – I play the piano and sing in the church band.

What are your favourite foods?
I love most foods, but my best ones are Sushi, Butter Chicken and Asian Cuisine.

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?
Then you probably tell people what to eat and what not to.
Can you give me a meal plan?
Then you shouldn’t look at what I have on my plate now.

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