THE JOB CENTRE – JESS MARK

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Age: 26

Occupation: Nutritionist

Which means: I’m currently working on a study at King’s College University, helping patients to reduce their risk of developing Cardiovascular Disease within the next 10 years. We are testing whether a psychological technique known as ‘Motivational Interviewing’ can help patients with lifestyle changes such as eating healthily and increasing exercise to reduce heart disease risk. I also write health and nutrition articles for TotallyTween – an online magazine for 8-12 year olds.

Did you go to uni? I studied Nutrition at the University of Nottingham and graduated in 2010.

What was your first job after graduating? I decided to go travelling, so my first job was working at Wimbledon. I had a few different jobs to save money to fund my 8 month long trip. When I got back from travelling, I decided to really pursue the nutrition route but it was so difficult to find a paid job! I did lots of volunteering at various charities, an internship at a Nutrition PR company and then decided to go freelance. My first proper nutritionist role was for Hillingdon council, working as a Nutrition Coach for teens, helping them to manage their weight and become more active. I was also running nutrition workshops for parents and children in primary schools across south London.

Do you have to have a degree to do your job, or is work experience more important? Having a nutrition degree and work experience were both really important in landing the job. For this project in particular, other health-related and psychology qualifications were also accepted as the role incorporates nutrition, exercise and psychology. However, other nutrition roles I have had ask for a degree as a requirement.

What’s the difference between a Nutritionist and a Dietician? Currently, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist as the title isn’t protected in the same way as a Dietitian. There is however, The Association for Nutrition (AfN), a charity that holds a register of Nutritionists who work at senior levels across the NHS, academia, industry and food service. This is to enable public safety and ensure those who release information are adequately trained and knowledgeable enough to provide evidence-based information and follow strict code of conduct. In order to join the register, you have to demonstrate core competencies in nutrition and science. The AfN currently accredits a number of undergraduate and postgraduate courses – my course at Nottingham was one of them. Students completing an accredited degree programme have the right to apply to join the register. Joining the register post-graduation gives you the title Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) and after 3 year’s worth of experience you can become a Registered Nutritionist (RNutr). This is useful because employers are increasingly looking for registered status in posts they advertise.

What’s does a typical day at the office look like for you? No day is ever the same, which I love! I spend most of my time at GP surgeries or community venues working with my patients. If I’m in the office, I attend meetings, catch up on emails, book my patients in for the week and organise rooms at GP surgeries and venues. I also have to plan my sessions and write up patient outcomes from sessions. Working on a study means that there is quite a lot of data to be collected and recorded. When I’m out of the office, I’m either working one to one with patients or delivering group sessions.

What’s the dress code? Smart/casual. As I spend a lot of time travelling to different locations, my main priority is comfort but I try to look as professional as possible. I do have to carry lots of resources to sessions, so it’s not unusual to see me running around in my trainers with a change of shoes in my backpack!

Where do you see yourself in two to three years time? What are your achievable goals? I would like to get back doing freelance work. I really enjoyed creating my own projects, especially for children. I think it’s so important for children and parents to be properly educated about food, so I want to continue health promotion in this area. I would also quite like to do some more studying and work abroad.

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would it be? I really can’t see myself not working in this field. I love food, so it would probably be something food related – maybe own a restaurant or set up a food delivery service?

The world has gone mad for ‘Super Foods’ and ‘Clean Eating’ – is it all  just another moneymaking scheme? I definitely see it as a massive marketing ploy. There’s always a particular food that we ‘must be eating’ that will ‘solve all our health problems’. The term ‘Superfood’, however, has no official definition and the EU have banned health claims on packaging unless it can be supported by scientific evidence because it gives us a false expectation of the benefits. ‘Clean eating’ also has no definition or scientific support. The reality is, if you eat a ‘Superfood’ thinking that it will undo the damage of consuming other unhealthy, processed foods, it won’t! Superfoods cannot compensate for unhealthy eating; no food on its own can work miracles. The Superfood trend exploits the fact that healthy lifestyle choices can reduce our risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, strokes and cancer. There’s a massive wellness trend at the moment with a lot of influence from social media- Instagram in particular. You see lots of incorrect advice being handed out which can be very dangerous as it promotes confusion and misinformation. I know it’s boring and everyone has heard it before, but a healthy and balanced diet really is key. Limiting yourself to consuming only a certain superfood or ‘eating clean’ and restricting other important nutrients can be detrimental too. Balance and moderation are what’s important. We need to eat what’s right according to our individual needs.

And finally, what one piece of practical career advice would you give to your younger self?

STOP WORRYING!  I would tell myself that there’s no point worrying if the problem can be solved, and if it can’t be solved there is still no point in worrying! It’s not going to help the situation, so just let it be. If you’ve tried hard enough and really given something your best shot, you’ve got to trust that things will take care of themselves and work out in the end.

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My beautiful best friend, confidante and foodie. We like to eat. And party.

Questions for Jess? Just ask.

THE BODY

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I love food.

I have never had a problem gorging on carbs and rarely count calories. I always thought that I was actually an Italian woman trapped in a freckled body and felt superior because I was one of the few girls in my year who wasn’t obsessed with what I ate. I had this idea that I was the cool girl, the one who ordered spaghetti on a date, slurped until her heart was content and never split puddings. Ever.

But what I lacked in obsession, I more than made up for in neglect. I used to be skinny and only ever used to move my body to shuffle to the dance floor, drifted from shop window to shop window and only ate vegetables because I had to. I would eat a cheese and pickle sandwich everyday after school, after snacking all day, and no one could understand where it all went.

But since I turned 25 and completely lost the ability to break down anything fattier than a carrot stick, I decided to give my body the leg up that it needed. In addition to buying a yoga mat – and actually using it – I’ve started juicing; making glasses of goodness that kick coffee’s arse in the pick-me-up stakes each morning. I cycle, I walk, I sit down less and I’ve started wearing heels again. Not only do they make me look taller than normal and feel a little more glam than when I’m in my jim-jams, they give my calves a workout when I get down and dirty on the dance floor.

Now, although I’m pretty laid back about what goes in my mouth (don’t), pretty much only eat when I’m hungry and give my body what it craves – even if that is a bar of Whole Nut -one rule I do abide by is that I absolutely never weigh myself. This isn’t just because the last time I checked (in 2005) I weighed eight stone and I would like to continue to pretend that I am stuck in that weightless, pubescent tunnel, but because it doesn’t matter to me what the scales say. As long as I don’t have to burst a blood vessel trying to fit into my beloved black skinny jeans and I can still cycle across London on a Sunday without passing out, then I’m happy.

Loving our bodies shouldn’t just be about pounds and ounces and although we’d like to say otherwise, most women my age tend to focus primarily on what’s staring back at them in the mirror. I love to try out the latest MAC lipstick as much as the next person and have an unhealthy obsession with clothes, but I cannot stress enough that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, so please, do not neglect your health.

You might be young, have hair like Rapunzel, a bang-tidy bod and your nails might be lacquered every Tuesday, but that’s not what’s going to keep you going for the next 30 years, is it? Just because we are young doesn’t mean that we are immune from life’s curveballs, no matter how invincible we feel after a few glasses of gin. Prevention is so much better than cure, so speak to someone if you are not feeling 100%. Go for all of your check ups – even if it means cancelling on friends – and have a timely route around for lumps and bumps, because no one else is going to do it for you… well, unless you ask nicely.

I, myself, have been feeling a bit fuzzy in the head as of late, so have been accepting advice from wherever it’s offered. One chap suggested to me that I would only be able to move forward with things and exercise a positive mental attitude if I explored what is good for my body. “Sort out the physical”, he said, “and the rest will follow”. And he was right. A few vitamins, some freshly squeezed fruit juice and some serious work outs later, I feel a lot more like myself. Actually no, a better version of myself.

I urge you to do it too and do it now; after all, once the arthritis sets in, there’ll be no Zumba for anyone.

Here’s to health and happiness. Have a wonderful Wednesday.

The Chub

large (4)Although being almost eight months into a relationship is quite the achievement for me, what isn’t an achievement, is gaining half a stone.

Girls, you know what I’m talking about: nights out dancing with your mates are replaced with romantic meals out, salads at lunch time are quashed by brunch at our favourite places which means too many cappuccinos and a silly amount of avocado. And sadly, from inside this cloud of candy floss, it is very easy to forget that cake equates to calories.

So a friend, who has been with her boy for over a year now, text me to comfort me and let me know about the vicious cycle: they feed you because they love you; they still think you look great. They keep feeding you; you diet; they ask you where your tits have gone-you start eating again.

My boyfriend’s housemate and his dancer girlfriend have avoided this weight gain by working out together (outside the bedroom you ‘orrible, crude lot). It’s a great idea in theory but a duvet day, particularly as the Autumn weather kicks in, is far more appealing.

This isn’t the first time that love chub has hit either. It seems that every time somebody loves me, they want to feed me up good and proper – I guess men really do prefer something to hold onto. And lads, if you don’t, you’re going about things the wrong way: stop feeding me or muffin top you shall receive. I practically rolled through the summer of 2012, found it tricky to fit into my car along with my uni stuff after my first year and felt bloated for the entirety of my seventeenth year on planet earth.

But I’d rather be fat with love than skinny and alone, right?

Coming from an Irish background, food, to me, defines love. Any rejection of food is, as a result, a rejection of that love. I’ve been told the same goes for Italian families: a mozzarella ball is practically a giant hug.

If you’re not of Celtic or Roman descent and are still not convinced that the two go hand in hand? Think about one of the greatest gestures of love: when a mother feeds her baby. Think of tea with friends, family dinners, baking for besties and food in the bedroom: these are all signs that, like it or not, love comes with calories. And I think I’m fine with that.

My beloved Kate Moss however, would disagree. She once said that, ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’. Well little miss, you know what I’d say to that? You haven’t actually been in love.

Someone pass me a scone.