Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
When I finished high school, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I was thinking about pursuing an arts degree when I stumbled across a seminar on nutrition at one of the university open days. Four and a bit years later (2016) I completed the Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics (Honours) at Monash University, excited and ready to start my career as a dietitian.
Like many new graduate and young dietitians, I really struggled with the job search. It felt like I was constantly writing and submitting applications and attending interviews – but with no luck. Throughout my degree, I thought I had developed a great resume that would be attractive to employers – I had volunteered for several groups, maintained good grades, received a handful of scholarships and grants, and even started my not-for-profit organisation The Nutrition Press. But it always seemed like there was someone with more experience (even for new-grad positions) or a better fit for the jobs.
So I decided while I was looking to go back to uni. I am now studying communications at Deakin University and loving it. While this was all happening, the opportunity arose for me to open my own private practice, which I have just started in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. It is great to finally have a position in the dietetics field, allowing me to put all my knowledge into practice.
Will the private practice be general nutrition services or is there anything you’re specialising in?
I am basing my practice around the philosophies of the non-diet approach and “health at every size”. I think that the principles of this approach are really valuable in promoting long-term and sustainable behavioural changes in my clients. My services will also include diabetes management, the low FODMAP diet, allergies and intolerances, women’s health and heart health, as well as providing corporate nutrition workshops and seminars.
What does your day-to-day diet look like?
At the moment, I am trying to focus on eating what my body wants and addressing my cravings. I try to make sure that I take the time before each meal to really consider what I feel like.
What I eat in the first half of the day is pretty consistent; breakfast is usually some muesli with fruit, yoghurt or milk eaten on the go between the gym and work – yes, I am sometimes guilty of eating in the car. If I am at home, I might go for something a little more elaborate like scrambled eggs with mushrooms and toast or a breakfast burrito. Sometimes on weekends, I love to try out one of Melbourne’s many delicious brunch spots with friends. Lunch is usually left-overs from the night before or some sort of sandwich or wrap. I always try and squeeze some veggies into my lunch to meet my five serves. I usually have a snack mid-afternoon, which varies depending on what I feel like. Some days it’s cheese on crackers, other days its fruit and some days it’s even a bit of chocolate or ice cream. My dinners really vary depending on what I have in the fridge and what has inspired me on social media that day. At the moment, I am focusing on incorporating more legumes and pulses into my diet, as well as eating more fish and less red meat.
A few years ago you started The Nutrition Press. Tell us more about this.
The Nutrition Press is a not-for-profit organisation I started in 2014 to provide nutrition students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the field. At the time, it seemed like there was a plethora of nutrition misinformation on the internet (which is still the case), and a lack of people successfully trying to overcome it. So I thought since there are so many students looking for opportunities to put themselves out there and make a name for themselves, why can’t we provide a platform for them to do that, whilst also providing high-quality evidence-based information?
Since then we have published almost 200 evidence-based articles on our website, had more than 50 students involved in our team, reached hundreds and thousands of people through our social media pages and helped achieve our goal of producing informed and aware students who have experienced a wide range of opportunities, and have advanced their knowledge beyond anything they could have learnt in the classroom.
What does your current role consist of with the Nutrition Press?
My current title is “Founder and Director” at The Nutrition Press, essentially meaning that I oversee everything happening at the organisation. This includes everything from managing the recruitment of new team members, overseeing the delivery of content on the website and social media pages, ensuring everything we produce is in line with our objectives and aims, and just ensuring that everything is running smoothly form my day-to-day.
Because the Nutrition Press is run by students, is it difficult to make sure everything is evidence-based and in-line with your objectives?
Over time we’ve developed policies and management strategies to ensure that the content we’re producing is in line with those statements. Initially, we had difficulty with some authors and the content they were producing. In some cases, this was because their ideas weren’t evidence-based, or sometimes it was simply because their article lacked structure or engaging content.
We took this experience and created a structure or procedure for the development of future articles. It goes along the lines of: the authors start off by pitching their ideas to an editor who then provides feedback and goes through a brainstorming-style process. This created a way for our editors to ‘control’ the ideas that are coming in before the authors put time and effort into writing the article. It also means that we can ensure that article content doesn’t overlap between authors. Once the skeleton on the article has been developed on with the author and author and editor, it is then written and edited before it is published on the site.
Social media is another area where I think dietitians have the potential to spread evidence-based and interesting messages to a large group of people, hence why we utilise it at The Nutrition Press. I am lucky that I have had some incredible individuals involved in my social media team over the years, all who have a knack for engaging people and compiling a spectrum of content. I am lucky that the team involved in our social media haven’t needed much guidance to produce content that is in line with our objectives. From time-to-time, I will have someone contact me saying that something we published might be a bit questionable, so this is something that I reflect upon with the team, allowing us to make an informed decision together.
I noticed one of your pitches for getting volunteers is that the quality of their writing throughout the process. Is there any structure for how you help improve their writing?
I am a strong believer that when people are volunteering their time, they must receive some sort of reward or benefit from it. For student involved in The Nutrition Press, their benefits are that they get their work published on a reputable site with a decent reach and that they work closely with an editor to improve their writing over our 12-month program.
When students join the team they are allocated to an editor who will work with them for the 12 months. Through the writing process, the editors provide feedback to the authors on their writing. We have a big emphasis on constructive feedback and provide opportunities for our authors and editors to go back-and-forth in the development of articles. I believe that getting the authors actively involved in this editing process allows them to really develop their writing skills.
Sounds good, and it does sound like it’s working. It’s something that can help them with their careers no matter what they go into.
I think it definitely is! The quality of the articles that we produce these days is much higher than what it was way back in 2014.
Many of our former team members have gone on to achieve great things in both nutrition – and health-related positions, as well as in other areas like communications and business. The feedback that we have achieved from these now-professionals is that their involvement in The Nutrition Press allowed them to not only develop their writing and communication skills but also to make a name for themselves and develop a network both in Australia and around the world!
Any plans for where you want to take the Nutrition Press next?
There are definitely exciting plans coming soon for the Nutrition Press! I’m not quite ready to reveal them yet. Stay tuned and we’ll be revealing that in the not too distant future.
Rachel Ben-David is a recent graduate dietitian from Monash University. Rachel is also the founder and director of the student-run website The Nutrition Press. This website aims to provide a resource made by nutrition students for nutrition students that is based on high-quality evidence and that can be used to enhance studies.