The journey to be a Nutritionist started with the Prasad of Degree, from the Temple of Learning, i.e., College. Like the biscuit base in a cheesecake, the Degree was the foundation, and flavourful upper layers developed as I practiced what I learned in the college. Of course, there were garnishes not taught in the college but added to the taste nevertheless. Here are some of these life lessons for a health professional.
Life Lessons For A Health Professional
1. Hard Realities
In college, we lived in a cocooned and protected world. During tough times, our professors would guide our ships to safety in stormy waters. But in real life, we need to face things like lower payscales, quacks, clients who believe in social media information, superstitions, blind beliefs, social media trolls. Convincing them about correct practices and earning respect is something that one can do with experience.
2. Theory Vs. Practicality
One can be an expert in making perfect diet plans, but the real challenge is counseling. The person counseled has to be empowered to make the right choices. To convince a toddler to eat and a grandpa not to eat certain foods requires smartness and empathy. While dealing with teenagers, for whom peer acceptance is of paramount importance, we need to steer them from the path of fad diets and make healthy foods look cool. Convincing someone that excessive alcohol would be detrimental to health while portrayed as a cool thing in social media requires tenacity.
3. Joining The Dots
Understanding the perspective of the opposite person comes with experience. Stress is the root cause of most ailments, and we need to join the dots to find the causes of stress. Family can either be a good or bad influence on a person’s dietary and exercise habits. Sometimes, there is a marital see-saw where one spouse is inclined towards a healthy lifestyle while the other is a certified foodie. Cooks aim only to please taste buds, so they need to be trained. Annapurna of the house has her own woes of eating at odd times, eating while cooking, having leftovers of kids, or emotional over/under-eating.
4. Degree Vs. Work Experience
Sometimes, an unskilled but experienced worker might have some hack to resolve on-the-job issues. Age and gender biases come into play while ensuring that instructions are followed. Projects teach us the skill of building a team, resolving conflicts, problem-solving, out-of-box thinking, and being an able leader.
5. Every Problem Has A Solution.
Challenge is when the rules and food systems have to be implemented by a lay person, and it requires practical solutions explained in simple, not technical language. In-depth knowledge of rules and their interpretation is possible only by reading the fine print plus being up-to-date with changing laws. When certain laws need to be amended, it requires persuasion power backed by research and logic.
6. Religion And Food
Adapting nutritional advice to suit different religious-based requirements is learned mostly with practice. Dealing with foreign-origin products sometimes requires convincing that they need to change packaging based on Indian laws, similar to how it is done for other countries. In the case where rules followed abroad need Allergen warning of traces of egg present, the green dot logo becomes contradictory to sentiments of vegetarians. The subtle art of handling consumer complaints is learned on the job. Here, the customer is King, but you have to convince that your product is the ultimate genuine thing.
How to profitably use the knowledge learnt in college? Before we apply knowledge, it is essential to earn the trust of clients. It requires marketing oneself as a reliable product that is the answer to prospective client’s needs. With growing experience comes the wisdom to be more financially sound and know one’s true worth.
With technology changing in leaps and bounds, it is necessary to adapt and be up-to-date with the various modes of communication. From making PowerPoint presentations to Storyboards, technology can be used to better access clients, tools like apps that can convey messages more effectively.
Being in a competitive field requires one to be well aware of rules, which are not being followed by competitors, which will ensure excellent product visibility without bending the rules, especially while labeling, marketing, and advertising. The right judgment of raw material grades, packaging parameters, production using available human resources and resources, understanding seasonal and festival-related demand changes that will optimize profitability is understood through actual implementation.
Change is the only thing that is constant in life. When there is a change in systems, eating habits across generations, regulatory changes, social life, more ordering of convenience foods, night shift jobs, pandemics, one needs to adapt to the situation. The correct path can be found only by joining the dots between knowledge, intuition, risk-taking, and experience. Learning never stops and is a continuous journey.