A second crack at that dratted essay… comments/critiques very welcome!

On another note, I’m leaving tomorrow morning for the New England Chapter of the American College of Sports’ Medicine’s fall conference, titled “Confronting the Obesity Epidemic.” I’m driving down with my boss/unofficial advisor/nutrition prof. and taking full advantage of all of the wonderful lectures on obesity, Type 2 diabetes, etc., etc. So excited! I’ll be sure to share some conference happenings next week.

I grew up in a household devoid of television, potato chips and soda, and consequently learned to love reading and the copious soy and whole-grain products pressed upon me by my idealistic parents. Although I graciously partook in MTV, white bread and Fluffernutter when it was offered to me at friends’ houses, a largely media- and “junk food”-free diet left me open to possibilities and alternate pastimes that passed my classmates by, including learning by way of osmosis about a field that I now plan to pursue as a career—nutrition.

The goal of the practicum course that was my young study of nutrition was to soak up as much information as I could about the fascinating science of how the foods I was ingesting affected my body, and my textbooks the many Nutrition Action and Eating Well magazines littered around the house.

In biology class my senior year of high school, I delighted in learning the chemical structures of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. The tangible connections to the information I had gleaned from years of reading about nutrition enthused me in a way that the chemistry I had learned two years prior had not. I might have succeeded at memorizing the disparate properties of protons, neutrons and electrons, but their intrigue held no candle to that of these food molecules staring back at me on the page.

Entering college a year later, I was cognizant of academic passions but had no succinct idea of what I wanted to major in. Nutrition remained an interest, but was not an option of study at my liberal arts college, beyond that is the survey course I enthusiastically enrolled in the spring of my first-year.

Studying nutrition for the first time in a classroom setting, I felt a passion for the material that I had never experienced for French or history. I needed no reminder to read the assigned textbook, reading ahead as I did for enjoyment when I had a spare moment. And while some of the information we were learning was not new to me, there seemed endless dimensions of knowledge to be explored within the broader topic of nutrition and health. The field was constantly evolving, the body of work constantly supplementing itself with new empirical studies that had the power to influence the health of myself and others around me.

I took the next year as a gap year, spending half of it working various jobs to save money for the rest of the year, which I planned to spend improving my French in Switzerland. During that first half of the year, I worked for the New England Grassroots Environment Fund as an intern investigating the topic of food security in my native Vermont, an opportunity that afforded me the chance to learn about a different aspect of food and wellness. Also during that time, I volunteered for local non-profit Food Works, helping teach nutrition in a community setting to low-income elementary school students.

Later that year, as I adjusted to life in Switzerland, I found myself drawn time and time again to the subject of nutrition. I visited the Nestle Museum of Alimentation in Vevey, enthralled by the images and artifacts of food products of yore. I read books in French and English about different philosophies of health and nutrition, my language skills growing alongside my understanding of human nutrition.

When it came time to return to the U.S. and to Smith that fall, I fell into line as a psychology major. I had always enjoyed the subject and it seemed in the absence of any formal nutrition program the “next best thing.” Still, I managed to tailor my projects in various classes to my passion for nutrition, completing for example a presentation on Binge-Eating Disorder for my Introductory Psychology class. And I of course continued to devour all the information I could about nutrition, grateful for the morsals I could find.

The summer after that second year, I again volunteered with Food Works, this time working with a program that helped teach single mothers to cook with local, seasonal ingredients. By the following fall, however, I had decided to pursue my academic interest in nutrition at full-force, and so began taking classes as pre-requisites for graduate study in the field. Again, while it was the rare lesson on lipid structures or on ghrelin and leptin that intrigued me, I was able to enjoy learning chemistry and biology for their own sake as well, knowing full well that mastery of such subjects would be necessary for my later study of nutrition.

It is also to be noted that I have throughout my years at Smith participated in several extracurricular activities that greatly informed and benefited from my interest in nutrition. As a staff writer, assistant features editor and later features editor at the school paper, I often pitched and continue to pitch pieces on nutrition and health-related topics simply because such topics interest me most. Whether it was interviewing my peers on their opinions of “pop nutrition” or writing a food piece on the cultural and culinary significance of apples, I loved every minute of it.

Also relevant to my passion for nutrition and health was my involvement since my first year at Smith in Active Minds, a chapter of the national student-led mental health advocacy and education group. In my work as Chair of the group, I felt particularly drawn to the subject of eating disorder awareness and education, and led an annual weeklong campaign on the topic. More recently in this same capacity, I organized a training for student facilitators to launch peer support groups at Smith, serving myself as a facilitator for the eating disorder support group. Such work allowed me to sample a clinical aspect of nutrition—the many psychological complications that can stem from the “simple” act of eating.

Now in my senior year, my interests within the field of nutrition remain varied. It is only in the past two years or so, however, that I have decided to meld a lifelong passion for writing with nutrition itself. I began a website this past June entitled “Grub first” that discusses my speculations as to what “good nutrition” is, as well as more personal thoughts on the often-conflicted relationship between women and hunger.

I also began this past summer writing for Examiner.com, a site that consists entirely of articles written by freelancers. As an “Examiner,” I have written on the subject of ever-compelling fad diets, nutritional philosophies like ayurveda and macrobiotics, as well as pieces examining approaches countries like Finland have used to reverse high obesity and heart disease mortality rates.

As for my professional aspirations, I have no doubt that I will use my writing skills to communicate on the subject of nutrition. I have dreams of working for a publication like Eating Well or Nutrition Action, but also of working for a company like Whole Foods or Nestle within their communications team. With an understanding of clinical nutrition thanks to my R.D. credentials, I will serve as an invaluable asset to such an organization.

Tufts’ Nutrition Communications degree is the only one in the country to offer such a specific focus, and will provide me with what I believe is the best preparation for a career of making the often incomprehensible (what is vitamin B12? Why do we need it in our diet?) comprehensible.

As my parents taught me so many years ago, the gift of good health is one that is often within our individual control, and it is my goal to share that lesson with others.

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