December 18, 2016

Why I Chose Nutrition & Dietetics

I described most of the reasons why I chose not to pursue veterinary medicine in a previous post, and today, I'm continuing this with "Why I Chose Nutrition & Dietetics".

My interest in nutrition actually sparked when I was 15, after reading "The Beauty Detox Solution". Prior to that, I didn't truly understand why it was important to eat healthy. I loved to cook and I also loved animals; seeing a practical connection between health, food, and animal welfare encouraged me to pursue more information about nutrition and the food system.
Following that book, there have been several other sources of information that have kept my interest going:
1. Food, Inc: this documentary has forever changed the way I look at my food - so much that I felt compelled to share my thoughts after watching it.
2. Authority Nutrition: I don't agree with the high-protein, low-carb emphasis of some of its articles, but I do really appreciate the evidence-based approach of the content.
3. Main Street Vegan: I found this book when I was visiting The Green Lotus Cafe a few years ago. Though I'm not a vegan, this book taught me to reduce my meat consumption and ground myself in a plant-based diet gradually.

As I mentioned in part I of this two-post series, I also got a freelance writing job towards the end of my senior year in high school. I wrote health and wellness articles for (no longer exists), which only encouraged me to pursue health, food, and nutrition even further. I loved translating scientific findings into applicable information for the general public.

All the while, this blog was still growing. I cooked every meal for myself during 10th - 12th grade, and I loved sharing the new recipes I came up with. The challenge of converting my favorite foods into healthier alternatives was exciting.

During my second semester of my freshman year, I took one of the few nutrition classes offered at my last school. This was a science heavy course, but I absolutely loved it. It made those painful biology and chemistry classes relevant. It made them interesting! In addition to speaking with other registered dietitians myself, this class also taught me to approach food in a scientific way - I learned why it was necessary to have a balanced diet. I learned about the science behind balanced macronutrients, and I learned to be more critical about the legalistic health recommendations and trends that the media (and even "health experts") touts.

My personal exploration with my own diet (a brief experimentation with veganism, pescetarianism that was largely ovo-vegetarianism, and now settling with a balanced, omnivorous diet) (I don'y enjoy the word, but I guess it's the most appropriate) has also made me realize that I want to equip others with the media literacy we all need as the stability of the validity of health information decreases.

Looking back now, I was developing very orthorexic tendencies, that is, an obsession with health. I want to empower others to acknowledge that the pursuit of health is not one of perfection. Health is about sustainability and balance. The food you eat should nourish both your body and soul, and should be produced as environmentally and socially sustainable as possible for each person. That could mean veganism for one person, but an omnivorous diet for another. One way is not necessarily the best way for everyone; each person is different, so everyone will find their own balance uniquely (and I want to help people find that individualized balance!).

I don't want others to struggle with perfectionism the way I struggled. I don't want others to degrade their self-confidence levels based on weight or body image issues. I want each person to recognize that their bodies are gifts from God that are not meant to be objectified, but treated with honor and respect.

Having people in my life suffer through chronic illnesses and other health issues has also made me become more passionate about the healing power of food - not just its preventative power. Attending a GMO lecture series this semester, which involved the famous T. Colin Campbell, reminded me of the famous quote by Hippocrates, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."

My continued love for animals and the environment will forever push me to learn more about the food system. I'm currently reading through Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, and am learning so much from each sentence alone. Pursuing the dietetics path doesn't mean that I have to give up my desire to take care of God's creations; in fact, I'm able to serve them (and Him) in a more fulfilling and meaningful way.

For a while, I considered public policy because I wanted to make significant changes at the governmental level. However, I've learned that the government isn't the most powerful entity in the food chain. Right now, I'm much more interested in empowering the individual. Individual change may not seem as grand and revolutionary at first glance, but it really is the driving force for change at a larger scale. My goal for my research project is simply that - helping others (and myself) become more knowledgeable about the food system, and to appreciate our food more.

All of these combined have contributed to my desire to pursue nutrition & dietetics. This career path combines so many interests of mine; dietitians don't make as much as veterinarians or doctors, but in this case, I can find more fulfillment and meaning to outweigh the burdens of finances. Practically speaking, this career path is more flexible, too. The field of nutrition/dietetics is much more varied than that of veterinary medicine. I don't have to sacrifice the other things that I want in life, and I'm also able to serve others (people, the environment, animals, God) more meaningfully.


The next step? Continuing to narrow down my interests within the realm of nutrition & dietetics.

My third most asked question has been, "What area of nutrition are you interested in?"
Right now, I find myself leaning towards communications, pediatrics, and private practice involving natural medicine (there's this great dietetic internship I've been eyeing that emphasizes this area).

I love to write, I love interacting with kids, I like the creativity/flexibility behind private practices, and I want to approach clients holistically.

Yeah, to a degree, there's some overlap between these interests, but I'm glad that I don't have the pressure to find a single career right now. My experiences over the next few years and my dietetic internship will further help me to specify and whittle down my interests.

For now, I'm going to continue seeking these experiences and explore on my own. This blog, my videos, my research work, reading books, shadowing opportunities, etc. are all forms of exploration. I'm reminding myself to enjoy the process of discovery; sure, I feel scattered at times with so many different things on my plate. Do I get discouraged that I could make greater progress with one endeavor if I focused solely on that? Sometimes, I do.

It may seem silly to others to not pick one thing to focus on right now. But the way I see it, I'm not going to know what I like until I try a bunch of different things, and there's no harm in just having fun. I forget where this quote comes from, but I remind myself of it often - "Once she stopped rushing through life, she realized how much more life she had time for." My communications professor stressed to us that we need to "get out there and play"; we need to "cultivate our interests", and there's no better way to do that than to simply try, fail, learn, and succeed.

I don't have to be too competitive and take everything too seriously - every little step counts, and it's necessary to enjoy the entire process. Sure, it's good to be challenged, but I have to enjoy it too :) 

I'm just very grateful to have a chosen a major that I absolutely love. 

And you know what? Maybe one day, I'll marry a veterinarian and live my former pre-vet dreams vicariously through him ;)


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