Ladies and gents, I have a question for you.
When you hear “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist”, what do you imagine?
Google images shows a lady in a white jacket and a stethoscope smiling while biting a carrot. Like… don’t we all smile while biting a carrot??
( TBH – I didn’t know that was even possible… )
Another image shows a woman in a white jacket smiling and holding an apple. Once again, we all smile when holding an apple – right??
Contrary to popular belief, not all Registered Dietitian Nutritionists hold carrots or apples while forcing an awk smile…
When I entered school at UW Madison, I had another image of RDNs.
I picture a RDN as a woman or man who worked in a variety of settings – not solely a clinical setting with a white jacket. Clinical dietetics is a rockin’ route, but I don’t see myself reppin’ a white jacket.
I want to wear a cute top, just like my RDN spirit animal, May Zhu from Nutrition Happens!
May is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Chicago, IL. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Food Science, Nutrition, and Dietetics from Clemson. She continued her studies and training in dietetics by completing her Dietetic Internship at Dominican University. This is a coordinated program in which she also earned her MBA.
Dietetics and business?? I dig it!
May is a hustler who built the brand and blog, Nutrition Happens. Before you head over to her Insta feed, whip out a bib because you will be DROOLING ALL OVER YOUR PHONE.
Her motto is “that nutrition happens when you learn to respect yourself by nourishing it in all aspects of life – mind, body, and soul.”
And guess what? Nutrition DOES happen with oatmeal and a chai donut or two…
May not only keeps it real with her audience, but she has also paved the path for many “RD2Bes” ( Registered Dietitian to be – dietetics student ) by creating an unconventional and unique path.
She can make a flat lay like it’s nobody’s business and her recipes will make your stomach growl louder than a hangry dog. There is nothing holding this gal back. She is what I like to call, a “Lady Boss”!!
If you are considering dabbling into the business side of dietetics or curious of it, this post is for you!
Without further ado, here is the woman, the myth, the legend in a cute top, May Zhu!
Hails: How did you become interested in nutrition?
M.Z.: I’ve always loved science and learning about health. I credit much of my influence to my grandmother, who was a pediatrician and taught me so much about cooking real food and the impact nutrition has on our overall well-being. Growing up I loved reading all of the “health” sections of magazines and news articles so everything about it felt natural to me. I knew I wanted a career in healthcare so when I started working for my dentist in high school, I thought going to dental school might be a right fit.
But after starting college as a biology major on a Pre-Dental track, I quickly realized I was spending all my spare time thinking about nutrition, health, and food. One day after a friend casually asked a nutrition question (which of course, I was the first to jump in and answer immediately), he replied back “May, you are a walking nutrition encyclopedia!” Up until that point I never considered a career in nutrition, so when I realized how oblivious I was to where my actual passions were, I made the switch to dietetics and never looked back!
Hails: What was your go-to meal as a college student? Current go-to meal?
M.Z.: I went through a long oatmeal phase in college – I think I ate it almost every single day during undergrad! Since college, I’ve made it a point to always mix things up. But my go-to meal will always be soft scrambled eggs with roasted vegetables and a good spoonful of tahini. I also love a root vegetable hash with any type of greens.
Hails: What would you tell yourself as a “RD2Be” in college? Any pieces of advice for RD2Be’s?
M.Z.: Stay open minded and humble during the internship to learn as much as possible. I’ve learned that there is no such thing as asking too many questions because it’s the best way to see if an area within nutrition is the right fit for you. And be honest with yourself about your personal goals. There’s such much “noise” these days that affect our decisions but we have to understand that our paths will not look like anyone else’s.
Hails: Did you have any jobs as an undergrad or before you started Nutrition Happens that have been helpful in your current career?
M.Z.: I worked a full year in corporate (as part of a health coordinator on a marketing team) after undergrad before diving into my internship. A majority of my job revolved around creating and presenting nutrition materials, so It helped me think of the different ways that media can play a large role in learning. This is what made me dive into more of the communication and media side of nutrition!
Hails: What did you wish you knew going into your Dietetic Internship? What did you find most helpful in your Dietetic Internship for what you do now?
M.Z.: I wish I embraced sooner that it was okay for me to say no to things. Burnout can be real if you deny yourself the time to unplug! I thought I could do everything (between blogging, the internship, and MBA classes) and it was just a matter of prioritizing to fit in EVERYTHING, but at the end of the day it’s more about admitting to yourself it’s okay if you don’t. You have to take care of yourself before putting on your best work – and that includes saying no to things without guilt or shame.
The one thing I always emphasize the importance of is networking. It is an incredibly powerful tool that will lead you to many doors if you continually look for opportunities to pursue them. The relationships I’ve built over the years with the connections I’ve made through both my internship and Nutrition Happens have been some of the most valuable things to come from my experiences.
Hails: How did you decide to pursue a MBA? Do you find your MBA useful for your current job? If you could you go back, would you still get your MBA or would you get a masters in something else?
M.Z.: I had two goals in mind when I decided to pursue a coordinated program: acquiring the skill sets I wanted to run my own company and/or working marketing for a CPG company as a dietitian. I’m from a fairly small town so moving to larger city was the change I was looking for and there are a handful of major CPG companies with the Chicago area I was interested in.
If I had one piece of advice for those considering the MBA program, it would be asking yourself what your top goals are and whether if it aligns with what this program offers. If your goals orient towards a more conventional route, this might not be the best fit for you. Given my goals and where I wanted to be, I would have still gotten my MBA if I had a chance to do it all over again because my personal goals aligned well with the program offerings.
Having your MBA is nice to refine/ acquire base skill sets if you see yourself working in a management position, building your own private practice, or taking on business consulting roles. But I’m going to be honest and say that it’s not about being “book smart” but also 1000% what you make of it. Actively seeking out opportunities and experiences to learn and putting skill sets to action is what will push you forward.
Hails: Did you consider going into clinical dietetics? How did you get interested in blogging?
M.Z.: I’ve known since I the day I changed my major in college to nutrition I wanted to pursue an unconventional route. However, I did keep an open mind during my internship rotations because you truly never know what you might end up loving until you go through the internship.
Though ultimately for me, I’ve always loved to communicate – writing, speaking, curating bits and pieces to tell a story. I love the visual aspects of blogging!
Hails: What is the story behind the name “Nutrition Happens”?
M.Z.: I firmly stand behind a stress-free approach to nutrition – shouldn’t eating be enjoyable? I wanted to move away from the stigma of you have to “eat this in order to do that” type of mindset and re-introduce a judgment-free approach to health. Just let nutrition happen, you know?
Hails: What is the most exciting experience you have had as the creator of Nutrition Happens?
M.Z.: I’ve take a handful of press trips for media and they are always incredibly insightful. I love learning about the behind the scenes of food companies because you see the true passion behind brands – which to me, are all the people that make up the company. My best experiences are the ones where I get to connect with others.
Hails: What is a normal day in the life?
M.Z.: I wake up early and always start the day with a workout. Most people don’t realize how much admin tasks are associated with working for yourself, so it’s really not as glamorous as most people think. Days always look different depending on whether if I have private client meetings or finishing up a project for a media partnership. From day to day, it can look anything like planning for clients, writing, editing, copywriting, shooting photos, catching up on emails and business calls, improving the technical side of the website, or a mix of all of the above.
Hails: What is something your followers don’t know about you?
M.Z.: I am a skincare JUNKIE. I’m always on the hunt for the best skincare products. I also have the worst shoe addiction – future goals including having a room just for shoes (I always say dream big!).
Hails: I have to ask – what are your favorite spots in Chicago? (whether it be a fave restaurant, coffee shop, museum, anything!)
M.Z.: My favorite restaurant is Avec in the West Loop, but you’ll probably find me at Sweetgreen for lunch the most often. I love La Colombe for coffee but also like to support local coffee shops like Dark Matter or Ipsento on the 606. I also love RM Champagne Salon in the summer, one of my favorite warm weather bars because there is nothing like sitting outside during the summer on a patio drinking rosé and eating oysters!
Hails: Cubs or Sox? (PLS say Cubs – fun fact, I played a lacrosse game on Wrigley Field in 2014!)
M.Z.: 100% Cubs! Probably one of the best things about a Chicago spring / summer is baseball season. I still can’t get over how I was here for the World Series win in 2016. One of my favorite Chicago memories so far!
Hails: Pantry and fridge staples?
M.Z.: Lemons, cashew butter, leafy greens, eggs, canned wild salmon, and hot sauce. And tahini. And those dark chocolates honey mints from Trader Joe’s.
Hails: What are your top three tips for new bloggers?
M.Z.: Find your voice and stick to it. It’s a saturated space and ultimately your voice is what helps you stand out the most.
Stay open minded to learning new skills and drop all judgement / comparison – these last two are both mind games that hold you back from moving forward! Instead of getting frustrated (because there will always be something new to learn) embrace the discomfort and know that you can only grow from it.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to other bloggers! We’re all building a community together so supporting each other will only help you grow on your blogging journey.
Hails: Do you have any exciting plans for Nutrition Happens for the rest of 2018?!
M.Z.: Expansion! I’m building more layers to NH and will be refining more of the client consultation side so I move forward as a registered company one day. And I want to bring on additional contributing writers – there are no limits when you are in charge of creating your own brand!
Hails: Where can we find you?
M.Z.: You can find me at my site Nutrition Happens, by email at email@example.com, or on Instagram at @nutritionhappens. In Chicago, you’ll most likely find me at a local workout studio (Studio Three!) or hopping around coffee shops!
Thank you SO much, May!
I loved hearing your insight on the Dietetic Internship and about your unique journey to becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Also, big ups for being a Cubbies fan! 😉