I was reflecting the other day (as all good future dietitians and dietitians do), on what question I most commonly get asked as a student dietitian that doesn’t actually relate to food or nutrition, and it is definitely “why did you choose nutrition and dietetics?”
I was first asked this by the head of scholarships in my first year. Why did I want to become a health professional when I could be a researcher? (Not to say that dietitians don’t go into research, many do, however it isn’t the career path you instantly think of when you say “I want to be a dietitian”).
I had to be a bit diplomatic with my answer, because I didn’t really want to insult a research career in front of a panel of researchers when they were offering me some money, you know what I mean?
My answer was: I want to help people. I know that being in the lab and researching could potentially help hundreds, thousands or even millions of people’s lives BUT I want to help people on that one-on-one level. You remember the face of the person who helped you through a tough time, or to help you reach your goals, and what kind of goal is more important than those relating to your health? But, you probably don’t know who discovered the drug that saves your life, you might not even know the name of that drug! Research is critical in every discipline, but I wanted to convey that I wanted to be that person that is in the community helping others.
I thrive off interacting with people, being shut in and focusing on something so detailed sends me mad (trust me, I have tried it before). I like the big picture, this is not to say the details aren’t important – they certainly are, but I’d love to understand the whole person and help them achieve what they want and improve their quality of life and watch them progress.
And THAT is why I chose nutrition and dietetics, it applies my love of science and all things technical to the human body (the complex thing that it is), and combined with the interpersonal nature of the profession, I knew it would be the perfect fit for me. PLUS, I love food! FYI, nutritionists and dietitians are NOT the food police, and we aren’t “perfect” either.
Now, that I know a bit more about being a dietitian than I did as a school-leaver, I love the diversity of the field, you can help athletes achieve their athletic goals, or help a desperate mother with a “fussy” child, assess entire menus to ensure a whole community of people are getting nutritionally adequate meals, help the mentally ill, the list goes on.