One of the things I get asked quite frequently is how I am making a transition from lawyer to nutritionist. Where am I studying? Is it difficult? How do I balance everything? I thought I’d try to answer as many of these questions as I can in this blog post!
Note: this blog post is brought to you as part of a sponsorship by Endeavour College of Natural Health, which is where I am completing my Bachelor of Health Science (Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine). I am an ambassador for the College, and you’ll learn lots about studying at Endeavour in this blog post too.
I started developing an interest in nutrition quite a few years ago. At the time, I was intensely busy practising as a lawyer, and as the cliche goes, I wasn’t in the happiest place. Frantically busy at work, never finishing at a reasonable hour, I initially started studying a diploma in nutrition, something that doesn’t even exist anymore. It didn’t take me long to realise this qualification was inadequate and I soon changed over to studying a Bachelor of Health Science at Endeavour College of Natural Health.
Fast forward about five years – yes, five years! – and I am still completing my degree, although I’ve only got one more semester to go now. Although it’s only a three-year (full-time) degree, I have spread it out over a longer period. This has allowed me to continue working in the legal industry, support myself with a decent income, and travel with my husband. We moved to London mid-2014 and lived there until mid-2017, and I continued to study by distance (online subjects) while I was there.
Why did you decide to study nutrition?
Because I want to know more about food and nutrients than I could ever learn on my own, and I can picture myself sharing this knowledge with others. Before I started studying, I became really obsessed with food in a negative way and struggled with disordered eating, but in the long run, this past experience has become a motivation for me. All the things I used to believe in and subject myself to…oh gosh, honestly they were ridiculous. The more I learn, the more I realise that perhaps not many people really have a solid understanding of what it truly means to eat well. I would like to contribute to changing that and support people with thoughtful, evidence-based nutrition advice.
What is your background in law and how did you make the switch over?
I haven’t entirely made a switch from law to nutrition (well, not yet anyway), I still work in a law firm 🙂 Here’s a little bit about me:
- I started working as a paralegal in 2007, before finishing my law degree in 2009 and becoming admitted as a solicitor in 2010. I have a double degree in Arts and Law and I enjoyed my studies; I graduated from my law degree with first class honours. (Nerd and I’m proud of it!)
- After graduating, I worked as a solicitor in private practice for about 4 years – by that, I mean I worked in a private law firm where I had external clients. After that, I kept working in law firms but I moved into an internal management position, meaning I no longer had external clients but advised the firm itself. The reason I changed to an internal position was for a better work/life balance. An internal position can still be difficult at times, but generally is less demanding.
- During one of my years as a solicitor, I was unhappy. I took a position in a firm where the partner I worked for was not a good fit for me (to put it nicely). That was when I did pick up the nutrition books, because I needed an outlet. However, I uncovered a true passion. After a year I changed firms, started working for a lovely partner and found greater satisfaction at work, however the desire to pursue nutrition didn’t fade and I ended up enrolling at Endeavour College.
- Once I enrolled at Endeavour, I requested to be reduced to a part-time position in my solicitor role (4 days/week). About a year after that I moved into an internal position at the same firm. This allowed me to attend campus classes at Endeavour College in Sydney.
- I also lived in London for three years (where I continued to work as a lawyer)…which has significantly extended the length of time that it has taken for me to finish my degree, as I could only do online subjects while I was overseas.
How do you balance work and study?
Presently I still work in a law firm, in an internal position. I actually dabbled in some client-facing work in the last year and enjoyed it! But I know that it would be extremely difficult to study at the pace I am going at now and push my legal career too much. So that is why I have tried to find balance by taking a less demanding position, and working part-time. While you can do ANYTHING, you can’t do EVERYTHING. I work part-time, squeeze my classes around that, plus try to work on Nourish Every Day when I get a spare minute.
Last semester I managed to complete 4 subjects and work 3 days a week. The four subjects I chose were a full-time study load, and it was pretty tough. (I did 3 subjects on campus requiring 15 contact hours, plus another 3 hour subject online). There were periods when I felt unbalanced and the first thing I did was cut back the amount of time I spent on my blog. It’s more important to me to succeed in my studies right now.
Another part of maintaining balance for me has been to accept that it’s okay to take my degree at a slower pace. A lot of the people I initially started studying with have already graduated and sometimes I do feel a pang of envy. However, taking my degree part-time has allowed me to earn a decent income, and in turn that has funded things like buying a house, relocating to London and taking many holidays. I am so grateful for the home I have created with my husband and for all the memories we have created on our adventures. I also don’t regret all the time I’ve spent as a lawyer and all the wonderful friends I have made along the way. Having flexible study options at Endeavour College has allowed me to study and do a million other things too.
Why did you decide to study at Endeavour College of Natural Health?
I chose to complete a Bachelor of Health Science at Endeavour because I wanted to achieve a degree-level qualification which gave me a solid grounding in nutrition, as well as clinical experience. As I mentioned earlier, I started out doing a diploma by correspondence and soon realised this was inadequate. I wanted to understand EVERYTHING, and I knew this would involve getting the basic science right first, and then moving up from there. But I also wanted to learn how to practically help others and obtain clinical experience too. The degree program offered by Endeavour College enabled me to do both.
The part-time and flexible learning options (some of the subjects are available online, with exams able to be sat by distance too) also meant I could keep working. I didn’t want to give up my job entirely because (i) I didn’t hate it and (ii) it was a priority of mine to remain financially stable. I have always stayed in contact with the advisory staff at Endeavour College (who are available by email or you can see them on campus) to help with my course progression and subject planning.
What is the Bachelor of Health Science Degree like?
I am completing a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine). Endeavour College also offers health science degrees in Acupuncture, Myotherapy and Naturopathy, but nutrition is my jam. I really want to know how to use food/diet as the primary tool for supporting health.
The first half of the nutrition degree involves completing subjects in chemistry, biology, anatomy & physiology, pathology & clinical science, as well as some foundational subjects in human nutrition and a few sociology subjects as well. If you haven’t studied science for a while, some of these subjects may come as a bit of a shock to you! Get the textbooks (or borrow them from the library). Watch a million youtube videos (there are lots of helpful ones on there). And make sure you pay attention when you’re learning the pathophysiology of different diseases; it’s such important information to help you perform better in clinic later on.
The second half of the degree starts to bring in subjects that focus on giving you clinical skills and practical experience. You know, so you don’t sit down with a client and totally freeze! You will complete subjects focused on interviewing, case taking and counselling skills. Nutrition knowledge also gets a serious bump up through subjects focusing on clinical nutritional medicine and dietary planning. And of course, the final subjects of the degree involve you working as a student nutritionist in the Endeavour College student clinic (called Wellnation Clinics). You will see clients, under supervision of a qualified practitioner.
What is the most challenging aspect of studying nutrition?
There are academic and practical aspects that are challenging. On the academic side, be prepared to learn SCIENCE. You must understand the human body, you must understand nutritional biochemistry. Otherwise, how will you be able to use food to help support bodily processes? Sometimes subjects feel difficult. But this is why you’re doing the degree. So you know more than someone who claims to be a nutritionist after studying online for 6 months (and spurts rubbish). Maybe, you can scrape through your first year subjects at Endeavour College doing the bare minimum, with a pass for everything. But I would encourage you to take it more seriously from the beginning, because what you learn in those initial subjects forms the building blocks for you to help your clients later on. Think about sitting down in student clinic to see someone with a complex disease presentation; it will be SO daunting unless you know your stuff!
Practically, studying a degree involves some compromise/sacrifice. I do not think I would have been able to manage to study and work full time as a lawyer. Though many of the initial subjects are available online, as the course progresses you do need to spend an increasing amount of hours on campus, and many of these hours are compulsory. Clinic subjects require 100% attendance. Subjects aren’t always going to be timetabled in a manner convenient to you. And I know at times that is going to feel frustrating (but every semester somehow I have always managed to make it work). Make sure to ask for support and speak to a student adviser at the college if you need help with planning your timetable.
What do you think you will do after you finish the degree?
Umm… can you ask me in say, 6-12 months? I’m honestly not 100% sure. I would like to work one-on-one with people. I’d also like to spend time on Nourish Every Day and share more nutrition information and recipes online. But I’m not sure if/when/how I might detach myself from my legal career; let’s just see how it plays out. Studying at Endeavour College has definitely equipped me with the skills to work in a clinical setting as a nutritionist, and I’m sure those skills will only be enhanced by the final semester I’m still to complete, which involves a lot of hours in the student clinic, but that’s cool with me as I love seeing clients there!
I hope this blog post has been helpful guys! If I have missed anything or there’s something in particular you want to know, please leave me a comment below or shoot me an email and I will answer you! I’m also going try to answer questions via Instagram so if you’re not already following me on there, you can join me over at @nourish_everyday and contact me that way.
If you would like to know more about studying at Endeavour College, here are some useful links to specific information on the college website:
- Bachelor of Health Science (Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine) outline;
- Study options page which includes calendars of what is available as an online subject, and when;
- The “Before you apply” information page which has lots of useful bits and pieces.