A month ago (eep!) fellow dietitian and blogger Gemma Critchley asked me to participate in a little Why I Write challenge. Gemma shares great nutrition info, recipes, and product reviews on her blog Dietitian Without Borders. She’s very thoughtful in her blog posts and takes the time to carefully review available research when it’s relevant to her topic. You can read her story about why she writes here. You might also want to follow her on twitter: @dietnoborders.
I took a bit of a long and winding road to dietetics. After high school I went straight to university and completed an honours degree in psychology. I loved it. I knew that there was no way I was going to get a job with a BA in psych so after a somewhat torturous year working in tourism retail I decided to apply to grad school. Unfortunately, due in part to my obscure choice of research interest (I wanted to combine psych and philosophy and look at the development of “self” – deep, right?) and in part to my absent honours thesis supervisor deciding that he couldn’t write me a letter of reference (due to the fact that he was absent during my thesis – grr) I didn’t get into grad school.
After my dream of a career in psychology fizzled, I decided to go back to school for graphic design. I didn’t like it though. Art school is tedious, lots of repetitive drawings of potatoes (don’t ask), I wasn’t learning what I wanted to learn, and I wasn’t confident enough in my ability to generate good ideas. I dropped out and went backpacking across Europe for a few months. It was an amazing experience but I have no desire to ever stay in a hostel again.
Following the backpacking trip I got a job. Worked. Got another job. Worked. I was frustrated and felt like I needed to do more with my life. I figured that people could use some help figuring out how to eat healthy and I loved cooking and fitness so I decided to go back to school again for nutrition. This was when I was 28. I worked through my entire degree and my internships. Internships don’t pay. Don’t even get me started about that.
During my final internship placement I had a phone interview for a position working as a public health dietitian in Belleville, Ontario. I was offered the position. Permanent. Full-time. Pretty much the dream. Packed-up my cats and drove to Belleville.
Despite having a great job, I still wasn’t happy. I didn’t like Belleville and spent most of my time running through a rotation of work, gym, hide in apartment… After less than two years I decided to move home without a job lined-up. I thought I was going to work with a fellow nutrition grad at his private practice. Unfortunately, many health plans don’t cover RD services and most people don’t want to pay for dietetic services so that plan didn’t pan out.
After time working for a temp agency in administrative positions, a brief stint working in weight management in Ottawa, and more temping, I finally landed a job working in nutrition (sort-of).
How It All Began
I started my blog back in 2011 when I was working in public health. I came to work one day ranting to my dietitian colleagues about an advertising insert for Nutella that had come in my Chatelaine magazine. I was ranting because they had a dietitian supporting their spread as part of a nutritious breakfast. Ridiculous, right? Then I saw Yoni Freedhoff ranting about the same issue on his blog Weighty Matters. I was like, hey, I’m always ranting about this sort of thing, I should start a blog!
I started Bite My Words as a place for me to vent about nutrition misinformation. Things that I read in the media or heard people say. Even if nobody read it, I wanted to combat these myths and lies and a blog seemed like a better way to do it than ranting to other dietitians (not that I stopped ranting, mind you).
It took a long time to build-up a solid readership. I’m pretty sure that there were days early on when the only hits on my blog were my mum and a couple of my friends. Seriously, I think only three people read my post about cabbage. Some of my content was great, some wasn’t. My writing style wasn’t ideal. If you go back, you’ll see that pretty much every post was one paragraph. I like to think that I’ve improved over time and that I’m continuing to improve.
How I Write
Initially, I would write a post every day and then post it immediately. Eventually, I learned the beauty of scheduling posts so that I could write them when I had time and then have them go live at the same time each day. I was still writing pretty much every evening though, having posts go live at 9am the following day. Now I try to work a bit farther in advance. Sometimes I’ll have a couple of weeks posts scheduled. Sometimes I’ll be frantically searching for inspiration the evening before. I don’t post every day anymore either. My work days are much longer than they were in Belleville and I have other things to do besides write every evening. I still post three times a week. I think that it’s important to post regularly to keep your audience (yes, you!) entertained.
I come up with topics through a number of ways. I get daily alerts and digests of nutrition and food news in my email. I follow others who are interested in nutrition on twitter, as well as
quacks people like Dr Oz who are always great for blog fodder. I also read nutrition magazines, Chatelaine, books, and recent nutrition journal articles. I can be inspired by a conversation or a friend might email me something that they think will interest me. Usually it’s pretty easy to come by something that fires me up. Sometimes though, it’s a struggle.
What Keeps Me Going
For me, blogging is like exercising. I feel so much better after I do it and I know that I’ll feel crappy if I don’t. Also, my current job doesn’t afford me as much opportunity to use my brain as I’d like. Writing blog posts allows me to feel like I’m contributing to my field, helping people, and learning about the latest nutrition research and trends. In addition, positive (and even negative) feedback keep me going. When people tell me that they read my blog it’s just a really nice feeling. When I see someone land on my blog after searching for some crazy diet or scam product I like to think that I may have saved someone’s health and money.
For the foreseeable future I plan to keep blogging. I’m toying with other opportunities such as freelancing and entrepreneurship. Stay tuned :)
I’m now supposed to nominate three fellow bloggers to share their stories. However, I did one of those chain-blogging-type things before and I don’t think that anyone took me up on it. So, if you’re a reader of my blog and want to get in on the “why I write” action please, go ahead, I’d love to read your story. Share your link in the comments.