Just over two years ago, I had four university offers on the table, which were all rather different degrees. I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to do Nutrition. I definitely knew I wanted to study something to do with food, but with very little compulsory education and having taken completely unrelated A-Levels, I was unsure on what aspect of food I wanted to go into.
I have zero regrets with my choice. Some days I love my life at university more than anything, and other days, I wish I could drop out, hop on a plane and never come back. That’s student life. It’s tricky. And the second year blues have been a very real thing for me. Not only has my social life changed very drastically (which is a whooooole different blog post) but my outlook on my degree and nutrition has too.
Nutrition is not a fixed thing. It’s a science, so surely answers will be logical and straight forward, yes? Well, that’s not entirely true. Indeed, some things are known facts – we metabolise different products through different pathways and cycles (all praise the Krebs cycle), which is a plateful in itself, but nutrition is individual to each person. During my second year of university, this is something that completely overwhelmed me. There’s 7.4 billion people in the world! That’s 7.4 billion different dietary needs! And we’re ever growing. And there’s new medical breakthroughs, superfoods and diseases being found every day, which means you will never be able to cure the whole population.
Despite the fact I can’t save the world armed with my avocados and sweet potatoes, I can help a good few. During my two years of my Nutritional Sciences degree, I have discovered I have a huge interest and passion for healthcare. I want to learn more, discover more. I thought I knew a lot before I started, but I didn’t. I know a lot more now, but there’s still so much more my brain can absorb. I want to study further at a postgraduate level, conduct research, work abroad – almost “find myself” in this crazy nutrition world. Make my mark in fact (gosh, isn’t that a big ball of mozzarella). I know I don’t know everything, but I’m working hard now to try and know as much as I can.
But sometimes, doing a Nutrition degree makes you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. “Nutritionist” isn’t a protected term in fact (you can read about nutritional positions here). Anyone who’s had some miracle (aka fad) diet or weight loss/gain experience can call themselves a Nutritionist. But it is often unhealthy, not medically approved and very, very annoying for that small portion of us who are studying Nutrition. We want to help, but a lot of people feel they know best. “Barbara shared this link on Facebook about eating cabbage soup and losing a stone in a week so I know best” is something we very often hear, which is extremely frustrating. The lack of education and naivety throughout the generations on Nutrition makes our jobs so much harder. And big personalities like Gillian McKeith… well, don’t get me started.
Often, even some people studying Nutrition can not be trusted. Some live very biased lives, such as being body builders or professional sports people, with their nutrition being very specialised. It often cannot be generalised to normal, everyday people as they often think, which can also lead to a lot of confusion, especially in a social media centred world.
And then, when you try to understand that not everyone will agree, even the scientists start to argue. Conflicting studies will be released and evidence will be so convincing, you just don’t know what to think. You will just get used to telling people that you need to eat small amounts of red meat to pack in that protein and haem iron, and then next thing you know, you’re told to omit it completely due to being a high cancer risk. It’s really frustrating. And you just want to research and learn about it more, but you end up opening several more cans of worms across the way. You often lose track and fall off the path you started on in the first place.
I try to understand Nutrition from all perspectives. The experts, the sporty, the average bloke. I try to apply my knowledge. My experience, the science, the studies. But there’s SO much to take in. So much to apply. And it all leaves me very confused on how I’m supposed to contribute to a healthier world.
Throughout this year, all these things have made me really question Nutrition. Some days I just wouldn’t even want to go to lectures because of how it all leaves my brain in a muddle (unlike most students, I actually like going to uni, even after a night out!). But now the year is over, the stress is fading and my mind is now becoming clearer, I’m more determined than ever to go back to the ever growing jigsaw of Nutrition and get a good degree, as well as *hopefully* getting a place on a Dietetics course in the near future.
Let’s see what my position on all this is once I’ve started my dissertation…
Emma is a Registered Dietitian and Registered Associate Nutritionist based in Cheshire, England. Emma works in community healthcare and writes freelance alongside her work: topics including Dietetic life, nutrition, mental health and lifestyle. Emma also writes and photographs recipes for the platform, as well as being the author of the ‘Mummy and Me’ series for SR Nutrition. Emma’s Food Stories is PR friendly brand.