5 learnings from Dietetics Semester one
I've just finished the first semester of my Master of Nutrition and Dietetics, and it has been a steep and exciting learning curve. This semester brought together all of the previous learnings through my undergrad and the holistic nature of dietetics has really started to come together for me. This semester we learned about nutritional management across a range of diseases, we tried different feeds and formulas (some are definitely better than others), we learned about public health and advocacy, about how to work with communities to better their health outcomes, and we got a taste of putting together a project plan for an organisation/group/school in Canberra that will potentially be put in place. On top of all the textbook teachings there were also many more subtle messages that I think will make me a more open-minded and better learner and dietitian, and may help you too! Here are five of my learnings in my first semester of dietetics:
1. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition. This is not necessarily a new learning point for me, but it has definitely been cemented this semester. Different diets or 'lifestyles' lead us to believe that they are the correct way to be eating (or living) and that this will be right for everyone. Vegans say animals are off-limits, for paleo fans it's grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, etc., some eat low-carb, others high-carb, and there are more still who will chop and change what's in and out on any given day. In all of these groups of people there will be some who are thriving, and this way of eating will really work for them (these are the people you hear about most often), but this does not mean it will work for you. We are all very different people, with different backgrounds, different abilities, different incomes, different like and dislikes, different health conditions, different goals, and just like no one pair of jeans will look great on everyone, no one way of eating will be effective for everyone and will fit in with every person's lifestyle. The underlying factor to successful dietary modification is that we start being mindful of what we are eating, we eat more plant-based foods and whole ingredients, and this can align with a number of diets. I'm a big believer that you have to find what works for you, and this is why it's important to see an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) if you need any help with this, as they have the knowledge and skills to work with you to find what's right for you.
2. It's OK not to get everything right the first time. It's OK to make mistakes, it's a sign that we're learning and more often than not it will be the mistakes that will stick with us and ensure we get it right the next time.
3. GPA isn't everything. In a cohort of over-achievers I'm learning that enriching the teachings with other activities that aren't graded is at least as important if not more so than getting good grades. It helps with the process of learning about the profession and networking, and reinforces the content we are taught in class.
4. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength. It's important to be able to recognise your own strengths and weaknesses, and it's even better to be able to ask for help in some of these areas. By asking you're saying 'I don't know, but I would like to learn', which takes a strong character and is a whole lot better than spreading misinformation.
5. It's important to enjoy the journey. We've all heard the saying "enjoy the journey, not just the destination", and my dad has definitely drummed this in to my head over the years, but this semester I feel like I've actually started putting it into action. I've continued exercising through stressful periods of study, continued cooking and eating well through exams, and haven't missed social engagements due to studying as much this semester. And guess what? I've really enjoyed the semester (the journey). It's easy to put off exercising and eating well until we're less stressed, or have more time, but what if this never happens? The beauty about looking after yourself in this way is that it's an investment in your health that will contribute to lowering stress levels, and will give you more time in the long run by not getting sick as often. So whatever journey you are currently on, make sure you give yourself permission to take time out to do things you enjoy. After all, no one's going to be all that productive when they're not having fun.
Thanks for reading some of my non-textbook learnings from this semester. If you're a student, or past student, what subtle messages have you learned along the way?