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What no one ACTUALLY tells you about being a Nutrition Student

What no-one tells you about being a nutrition student

Okay, you LOVE health, nutrition and FOOD - probably while you’re hanging around on this awesome blog right?

So naturally you want to absorb ALL the knowledge about how the two interact. How food fuels our bodies and provides all nutrients we need to survive and even THRIVE. I get it. I spent hours upon hours researching this stuff online. But you get to a point where Dr Google gives conflicting information and you’re not which source to believe, or whether you should be believing any of it at all.

Should we be eating coconut oil? Shouldn’t we? Is it high in saturated fat? Doesn’t it have some special chemical chain that makes it different to digest? Maybe the olive oil companies put out bad press about it because their sales were nose-diving. Maybe Pete Evans is right? Maybe I’ll go Paleo, or Keto, or whatever he’s selling to us now. But wait, how is the Mediterranean diet so popular with all the olive oil? ARGHHHHHHH *brain fuzz* Sound familiar?!

So after the same conversations with myself over and over, I wanted to work all that out for myself. Not questionable second-hand info from Wikipedia. Naturally I gravitated towards Nutrition Studies. As of January 2017, I took the leap and enrolled in a Bachelor of Health Science majoring in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics - basically a 3 year degree to give me qualified Nutritionist status.

Wow. Was I in for a shock.

I had no idea that so much hard-core science was involved. Let’s be honest, it’s just science degree with a bit of digestion thrown in for good measure. The clue is in the title. Although I was a straight-A student in school and already have a business degree under my belt from one of the worlds top universities, I totally wasn’t prepared for this.

To give you the full low-down on what it’s like, I asked some incredible Nutritionists along with Sash (my Content Manager and current Nutrition student) whom I met at uni - for their shocks when they hit the first uni classes.

Here’s what no one tells you about being a Nutrition student:


What no one tells you about being a Nutrition Student

With the degree actually being a Bachelor of Health SCIENCE, it's surprising how much basic science knowledge you have to learn before you get to the good stuff about food and digestion. There's hours on hours of lectures about cell division, macrophages and blood vessels - not something I honestly thought I would be spending so much time on. I know that the juicy stuff is coming, but let's be honest, I'm not learning whether coconut oil is in fact good or bad for you. You'll be spending many weeks buried in biology and chemistry text books, asking yourself why you signed up in the first place. If you were good with science in school, you'll breeze this. For me it is a little harder (it was my least fave subject!) so I'm finding it a challenge. Still, it's not all bad news. I have a much better understanding of how the human body works on a chemical and physical level, which is already super helpful for my line of work.




What no one tells you about being a Nutrition Student


What struck me about my degree was that you never finish learning. Every new nutrition fact that you learn makes ten new questions pop up. The human body is complex and nutrition is an evolving science. There comes a time when you have to accept that you don't know everything, but that you know enough to make positive change — both in your own diet, as well as that of others. After all, you can't know it all just yet because the research is still happening!



What no one tells you about being a Nutrition Student


If you want to do nutrition, you have to be motivated because you love it and feel passionate, not for the money. Many nutritionists work multiple jobs to earn a normal salary. Being a nutritionist or dietitian often requires you to juggle multiple tasks and jobs at any given time, which can be tricky to stay on top of.

When you’re a nutritionist, you will get asked to do a lot of work for free and give your opinion for free. While people wouldn’t ask a lawyer or accountant to work for free, somehow the same rules don't apply for dietitians and nutritionists. While you might offer a few free tips to your hairdresser, when organisations ask for your opinion you need to have the confidence to charge for your time and value yourself otherwise you can get taken advantage of.
There aren’t many jobs in nutrition but there is a lot of work. If you go into the industry, be prepared to run a business. This means being able to learn lots of skills from marketing, website development, invoicing, communications and business development, just to name a few. You’ll also need to pay your own Tax and superannuation so you need to factor that into your prices.



What no one tells you about being a Nutrition Student


There is a lot of science & medical subjects in in the degree. A lot! To understand nutrition, you need to understand the human body. My Bachelor’s degree of Nutrition & Dietetics at Wollongong uni actually comes under the faculty of science, medicine & health and the included chemistry (organic & inorganic), biochemistry, psychology, physiology x2, food chemistry, more biochemistry and so on!


What no one tells you about being a Nutrition Student
Early on in the degree, I felt a strong sense of “the more you know, the less you want to say” which was quite a surprise! Learning about the incredible complexity that is human nutrition, provided me with an even greater respect for the professional Nutrition industry. Although I’d been blogging online for a few years by then, what I said online and how I said it, became ever more paramount in order to provide the most beneficial message to my audience without confusion or misrepresentation.
The other thing that I didn’t expect was making such incredible, life-long friends! Real people who share my passion for all things yummy food and nutrition!


What no one tells you about being a Nutrition Student


When I was dancing I had to be super careful with my diet, and hence I learnt a heap of information along the way. Before starting this degree I thought I knew a lot about nutrition and how the body works when really I was only just scraping the surface. It's given me a great respect for everyone in the health field, not just nutritionists but dieticians, naturopaths, doctors and the like. Nutrition is a profession where you never stop learning, and there is something truly exciting about that to me. Maybe it's my ballet background but I have always felt the most purposeful when I am constantly learning, working and striving towards something. It's fascinating to think about how one-day people will look back at us (in terms of scientific knowledge) like we look at people in the middle ages.

I also never thought that within my first year of study I would be able to snag one of my dream jobs, working as a content creator for Sal and The Fit Foodie Blog. It's a small world so networking is super important.


What no one tells you about being a Nutrition Student


For me one of the most significant things no one tells you about being a Nutrition student is the depth of study required regarding biochemistry, chemistry and physiology. It’s so imperative to build a strong foundation here so you understand the mechanism of the body on a functional and cellular level. I think today’s glossy nutritionist life on social media negates the reality of not only what studying nutrition is like, but additional what being a nutritionist actually is in the real world.

Read on: Nutritionist-Recommended Healthy Cafes in Sydney!


Have you recently graduated from a natural health degree? Or are you thinking of studying? Let us know down below 🙂

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Sally O'Neil - Editor in Chief

Sal is on a mission to prove that healthy and nutritious doesn’t have to be boring – and that even while staying in shape you can have your cake and eat it too. After losing 14kg from adopting a healthier lifestyle, she shares her journey with others on The Fit Foodie Blog. She also works as a commercial food photographer and stylist, is studying a Bachelor of Health Science in Nutrition and Dietetics, and is the author of two cookbooks: Love Move Eat (Bauer Media, 2017) and Meal Prep Plan (Murdoch, 2019).

  1. Great article! This is so true, every other word in a nutrition text book was a forgein language to me when I did my Public Health Nutrition BSc (hons), and would involve further research to understand what it meant which would then lead on to a further foreign term. I’m now doing a Human Resource Management MA and can safely say that the Nutrition undergraduate degree was 5X harder!

    1. Thanks L! Haha, so interesting to know that the nutrition degree was harder! Many lifetimes ago I did a BA in Business and a very esteemed university in the UK, and i’m sure that was easier than the nutrition too. SO much complex science. Forever students… xo

  2. I’m a qualified PDHPE teacher, been teaching for 7 years. I have a 2 year old and one on the way and I’m just about to embark on my study in nutrition. Starting with b/food and nutrition then aim is to do a masters of dietetics and nutrition. All part time but if not now- when?! I’m excited but scared!

  3. Couldn’t agree more with all of these different takes on studying nutrition.
    I’m on my final year and I still feel as though I have so much more to learn!

  4. Great post Sal and to all the contributors. As a Nutritional Medicine student I love that your sharing this more in depth view of what nutritionists really study.

  5. I completed a bachelor of health science (nutritional medicine) at Endeavour College and you didn’t get much into Nutrition until the 2nd year but I had done biology for year 11/12 in high school so I had some previous knowledge. I understand the value and necessity of learning the foundations/basics but I’ve been practicing now for over a year and you don’t use it so much in day to day consulting as clients need simple explanations. I still feel it’s important to learn and be patient, as you will get to the good stuff!!

    1. So true K! I’m about to head into my 3rd year (part-time) equivalent to your second year…also with Endeavour. I think my learning will begin when i start to consult – theory is important but there’s nothing like speaking to real-life patients.

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