My Road to Being a Self-Made Nutritionist
Working for myself, with no boss or middle-man in control of my daily activities, has always appealed to me. Maybe it stems from the fact that I grew up watching both of my parents work hard on things they enjoyed, to make ends meet. This wasn’t always the case, sure, they worked other jobs before I was around where they had higher-ups to answer to, but when I was growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s they had a different approach whether it be intentional or not.
For a while my mother worked in an art store selling paint supplies and fabric for craft enthusiasts and spent her evenings running art classes to a group of 5-10 ladies in the store after dark - eventually relocating to our living room, adjacent to the living room where me and my dad would often banter with them whilst watching pro wrestling. During the days my father worked in a small warehouse where he designed and created custom car trailers for all sorts of people and purposes. Sometimes I would request to help for the day (mostly to see what treats the mobile lunch lady had to offer) and instantly remember how boring it was for a 10 year old to hang out in a dusty office lingering with the smell of welding fumes.
At the time, I thought nothing of it, they were just doing what needed to be done. During my later teen years and into my 20’s I worked in a number of retail jobs that I disliked and the idea of breaking the mold and working for myself with true accountability really started to form. The trouble was I had no idea what or how I would do that, so I just kept doing what I knew and suffered with a smile.
Then university came calling and I found myself in a nutrition degree after a stint studying biology. I’ve always loved food, I mean who doesn’t, and over the years my interest and curiosity in diet and nutrition continued to grow. Even in high school, with my only small weekly wage from packing shelves, I would usually opt for a salad roll rather than one filled with chicken and gravy like my peers. Halfway through my nutrition degree I really had to consider what I wanted to do once I graduated. My options were; complete a masters degree and work as a dietitian treating people in a clinical environment (this never interested me), to transition into research, possibly a PhD and work in academia (I never considered myself THAT smart), or to graduate with the rest of the cohort and take my chances looking for a job and working for a business I would likely have no passion for.
Of all the options, the idea of working for myself and paving my own way stuck out like a sore thumb. The self commitment, motivation and grind that it would take to work as solo-nutritionist was always on my mind but never truly bothered me. Call me naive, but creating my own business, providing consultations and guidance to people in need just seemed doable from the start - especially in today’s online/social media climate.
I have been registered as an Associate Nutritionist with the Nutrition Society of Australia for a few months now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have been actively working as a nutritionist. On the contrary, I am still working in retail to pay the bills and feed my face, but I have been actively working to build the infrastructure of what I want to create and to get my name and personal brand off the ground. Sure it’s a tonne of work and will require years of consistency and commitment, but nothing good comes easy in this life. There are always going to be moments of doubt when starting a venture like this, but if there is positive intent behind every action then I feel like that is all that matters in the end.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, a few weeks ago I attended my first nutrition conference since graduating last year. To retain my accreditation as a nutritionist I have to continually be learning and involved in the ecosphere of nutrition science in order to garner enough points for renewal of my title every 3 years - conferences provide the most points as they are a jam-packed week full of research and findings from professors and students across the country.
I completed my Honours degree 18 months ago (which means I spent a year conducting research after my bachelors degree) and while I enjoyed the grind of doing my own research, I also found it very tedious and the logistics of all the behind the scenes stuff just wasn’t for me. I’ve always enjoyed finding and learning new research and the idea of going on further to complete me PhD has been in the back of my mind but I’ve never felt like I would be mentally committed to spending 3 more years of study - and if I couldn’t put every ounce of my energy into a project, then in my eyes it wouldn’t be worth my time.
After just a day at this conference it was made it clear to me, that a life in academia and getting a PhD for the sake of a title is not for me - I simply felt out of place in that kind of rigid format and environment, which was a feeling I briefly tasted whilst completing my Honours. This just further validated what I have been trying to do and build - a career that allows me the ability to move with freedom and creativity in the nutrition science realm.
I have a great deal of respect for anyone willing to invest their life into researching a particular topic, in any field, but I feel like I can be of service in a larger capacity by consuming a wide range of topics, deciphering and presenting it to laypeople - rather than digging in the trenches of a smaller concept. To feel this confirmation in my bones wasn’t necessarily surprising to me, but was definitely needed at such a critical time in my life when I am trying to pave my own path.
What journey are you on and what will it take to get you there? I would love to hear your stories below or via email.