Michelle Jaelin, BFA, BASc, RD
MEDIA DIETITIAN, ARTIST
& CREATIVE NUTRITION COMMUNICATOR
for something nutrishus
Michelle's use of artist in her title has always intrigued me and now I know the back story. I remember professors teaching us that nutrition is both a science and an art, which makes sense as we often have to translate research into practical advice, although Michelle is an artist in the true sense of the word. Her creative background contributes to her non-traditional approach to dietetics. She is kind and special and I appreciate her thoughts about our profession - where it's headed and where we should direct it.
Why did you become a RD?
My path into dietetics was definitely an unconventional one. I was a Visual Arts student at York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design in Toronto.
I discovered yoga and fitness to help manage the stress of university in my second year and wanted to learn more about health and nutrition. However, I was a grade A art nerd. I had no understanding of physiology, science or math at the university level whatsoever.
I found Health Education and Promotion and decided to apply for the Nutrition Team Lead position. I applied, thinking that the worse that can happen is I wouldn’t get the job!
I was lucky and got the job. And during that year, I decided to create a photo exhibition about “What Students Eat” inspired by photojournalists Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio who created Hungry Planet: What the World Eats – featured in Time Magazine. It was a successful event, generating dialogue about food, nutrition and health behaviours of students across campus. After that, I knew I wanted to help people with food and eating through art. I interviewed a few practicing dietitians, went back to school to get some science credits and enrolled at Ryerson University to become a RD!
What area of dietetics do you work in?
Media (writing, speaking, TV) and private practice.
How would you explain what you do?
I communicate nutrition information in a fun and creative way, and help clients reach their health goals.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
As an entrepreneur, every day is different. There is often a lot of writing, emails, planning, time spent in my studio (food styling) and making stuff (food/recipes and displays). I also aim to visit locations across Ontario to better understand where our food comes from.
I hold another position as an Art & Cooking Instructor at a private art school. I teach children to be creative and exercise the right sides of their brains. I also teach cooking and basic food skills. Everyone is creative, but the skill needs to be nurtured.
What has been your career path?
In 2013, I auditioned and was chosen as a TEDx Speaker at TEDxRyersonU. My talk was about using art to help people understand their health and science better.
As a creative person, I never fit into the traditional roles of a dietitian. I started my own communications business because it catered to my strengths. I won the
2 years in a row as a nutrition student and I have always loved communication, whether it be through written, verbal or visual art. I also have my own private practice.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
I hold a 4-year BFA Honours in Visual Arts Studio, and a certificate in Food Security from Ryerson University on top of my BASc Nutrition & Food degree from Ryerson and dietetic internship at Aramark Canada.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
I would like to see more diversity in the field; men and women of different ethnicities, sizes, abilities, religions, sexual orientations and classes. Past Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President Dr. Evelyn Crayton published a paper about the lack of diversity in dietetics in the 2015 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and also presented this evidence at the 4th International Critical Dietetics Conference in Chicago. I would like to see a more inclusive and diverse profession.
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
Dietitians are human. We are not perfect, nor are we perfect eaters – there is no such thing. We are flawed, just like everyone else. We have good and bad days, and everything in between.
We are here to help with your own goals; not judge based on your food choices.
What would you like people to know about RDs?
Dietitians wear many different “hats” and work in all kinds of areas; therefore, a statement like “dietitians count calories” is not very accurate.
But if I could sum us up in one word, I would say collectively, we all care about nourishment.
What are challenges you encounter as a RD?
When others judge me based on my food choices. Hey, I’m human too!
What do people think that you do for a living?
Help people lose weight and make meal plans.
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
I am passionate about making a difference and finding non-traditional and creative ways to advance the profession.
What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals?
Dietitians are smart. Seriously. I’ve never met a group of nutrition professionals as intelligent as registered dietitians! Our knowledge of nutrition is vast, we stay on top of literature and constantly undergo vigorous training by our respective regulatory bodies to maintain our credentials. I do not know any other nutrition/wellness professionals as smart as RDs!
What is your favourite meal?
Pizza, egg tarts, pretzels with mustard and chocolate cake. Not all together.
What tip(s) would you give to our readers?
I share one of my favourite quotes by singer Jill Scott that resonated with me:
“We all have our own thing — that’s the magic – and everybody comes with their own sense of strength, and their own queendom. Mine could never compare to hers, and hers could never compare to mine.”
On a personal note, the only times I ever felt insecure or competitive was when I forgot what had made me special. And when I remembered what that was, that feeling went away.
Each and every single one of us is unique, even if collectively we are dietitians. When you find what makes you wonderful, you begin to see what’s wonderful in all other dietitians.
In the words of Jill Scott: find your own queendom.
It’s up to you to figure out what that is, and share your gift with the world.
More about Michelle:
YouTube: Michelle Jaelin