At the end of our WIL- Wellbeing Week, an exciting workshop was in sight: A workshop on nutrition to support winter well-being. The workshop was given by Audrey Dickinson, a nutritional therapist, who has spent many years abroad learning about food and optimal nutrition. Audrey taught us five steps to optimal health, reducing risks, and keeping well this winter through healthy, balanced nutrition. At the end of the workshop, we had the chance to talk to her about what impacted her career path, being a woman in the business world, and the importance of good nutrition to our well-being.
How did you become a nutritional therapist?
I have always been really keen to learn about food and I have always worked in the food industry. I have worked as a chef for many years in different countries and loved experimenting with food. Learning about different cultures of food was always great and I was very fortunate to be able to live abroad where I picked up a lot of different influences from where I used to live. I lived in Sri Lanka, I lived in East Asia. I traveled to Southeast Asia quite a bit and then I wanted my own family, my own children and unfortunately for me, it never happened. Fertility was a big issue for me. I have been through all of the different treatments of fertility, still, nothing worked and my diagnosis was just unexplained. And at that time, I was still thinking that I wanted to work with the world of food but I wanted to take it to a different level and learn what food is actually doing inside your body. This was just around the same time that I was going through fertility issues. So, when they told me there was no explanation as to why I was not conceiving, I began to question if this has anything to do with the food I am eating. Because this was a piece of information that was never given to me by the hospital or my doctor. But this messing in my life is really what drove me down my path to become a nutrition therapist.
Thank you for sharing your story about your infertility because I think it is still an issue, we encounter a lot but no one really talks about it.
Yes, and I am trying to catch people's attention even as young as yourself, young women like yourself, just to realize that many things can impact fertility. I didn't know that until it was too late. This is a message I want to share with as many young women and men as I can.
Were there any other challenges that you encountered in your career path of becoming a nutritional therapist and if you did was there anything that kept you going and believing in yourself?
I kind of always felt as if I fell on to my path of life when I started nutrition. It was almost like this is my path, this is where I am meant to be and I think this massively motivated me through my studies. I didn't find that I came across much of a challenge other than the fact that I studied in Ireland while living in Holland. I flew to Ireland over the weekends and I did find that a challenge because I felt if I was having to study that bit extra because I didn't have the immediate support. Even just my peer support groups weren't there to bounce ideas or ask a question to each other. So, that for me was a bit challenging I must say.But I was just thirsty to learn and I had no doubt about how fascinating I found the biochemical aspects of what I was learning, and just the influence of what food meant to the relationship with our bodies. I didn't find much of a challenge with studying that. I think I found it more of a challenge once I started my business. Then the challenges of business life and becoming a businesswoman were hard.
Could you elaborate on the challenges of being a woman in business?
I was very fortunate that I was able to fund myself. I aimed to open up my own business and have my own practice so I did save quite a lot. Funding for me was quite okay. But I didn't have much of a background in business and considering marketing you know how much you have to apply to each of these aspects to build the business. I naively thought I will have clients for 35-40 hours of the week - no problem. But actually, you are lucky if you spend 20 hours or 25 hours a week with your clients making money when the rest of the time you just focus on social media and create programs and develop different things for clients. That was a big wake-up call. Finding your voice, finding your inner voice, and being confident and not afraid to put yourself out there was a good challenge for me for the first year and I am much more comfortable with that now and who I am. And being confident about being a woman and finding your place amongst society and standing up for what you believe in...those were all things that were quite tough in the beginning.
Why do you believe the right nutrition is so important for our well-being?
Our bodies literally can't function in life without nutrition. Nutrition is like switching the lights on in the house. That is exactly what food does and what nutrients do. And if we didn't have that, then we could not mentally or physically function at all. This is why it is so important when we talk about health and wellness. Some people tend to forget about the nutrition aspect or they don't want to actually face it because there is so much delicious food out there that is all really naughty for us. For some people, it is too hard to deal with the idea that they can't have this food all the time. It is a mind game. No matter how much factual information you provide to some people they just don't want to believe that as being good for you. That's why nutrition is so important - because it is survival.
Do you have any tips on how someone can incorporate small changes in their daily nutrition to improve their well-being?
Just start with one thing. That one thing could be as essential as the essential fats, the omegas. If that meant that you never ate avocado in your life before, or maybe never used extra-virgin olive oil, then doing one of those things could be a first step. Start with that one thing every day - and just keep it as this one thing every day. And then maybe a month later add another one thing. Stick to small changes and don't expect too much of yourself because it is just not realistic. When we put too much pressure on ourselves to change too much at one time, we will just give up on all of it.
Interview and article by Hanna Dittmar