Please tell us about yourself

For this weeks spotlight, I interviewed a new RD (Registered Dietician) that I met while working at Shane Diet & Fitness Resort in New York this past summer. Sheena Pradhan works as an outpatient community RD and recently started her own practice, Nutritious Balance.

What did you study?

I completed my Bachelor of Science Nutrition and Food Science from Drexel University

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How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

There was a specific day when I realized that I was interested in nutrition. I ran track and cross country in middle school and high school. My usual after practice routine was to come home to a microwavable meal and various snacks in front of the TV while I iced my shin splints (or other running ailment – of which were many), which was followed by a “healthier” meal with my family. On one particular day, I decided to eat a tomato instead of a microwavable meal and actually felt amazing afterwards. After that day, I was very curious about how different foods made me feel and affected my performance with running. During the same time period, I also became very interested in personal training and exercise physiology. I even considered going to school for physical therapy. When I finally made the decision to go to school for nutrition, I was a sophomore in college, had recently switched out of the architecture program at Drexel University and was deciding where my career should go. I took a nutrition class and loved it. The rest is history!

What is your favorite part of your day as an RD?

The best part of my day is when a client exceeds her expectations of herself. The only thing better than seeing a client’s lab values (for example, cholesterol or blood sugar) go from being completely abnormal to normal or to see successful weight changes is when a patient or client knows how much progress she has made and can be proud of herself. The most important part of making lifestyle changes for better health is that the client not only achieves her goals, but also that she feels better about where she is in terms of her own health and fitness.

What is the biggest challenge of being a dietitian in your field?

I work in two settings: clinical outpatient nutrition and private practice. The biggest challenge in the clinical outpatient setting is reaching out to patients who do not realize that they could benefit from nutrition counseling. It is easy to counsel a patient that wants to make changes. It’s harder to help someone that does not want to make changes. The biggest challenge of having a private practice is finding new clients. Marketing in today’s world is easier because of social media and internet marketing firms like Yeah! Local who work the internet for you. However, running a private practice means I am a marketing professional every day. Twitter is just the beginning. Finding businesses to market my services to and maintain a presence there is my current challenge. That being said, creating a relationship with a client and maintaining it is extremely rewarding.

What is pushing you to start your own practice and become an entrepreneur?

I think it’s in my blood. I’ve always had a very independent and entrepreneurial way of thinking. I love having a million things going on at once. It feels very natural to me, like there is nothing else that I am supposed be doing. I find that I get bored just doing one thing for forty hours a week. Being able to also work in counseling, corporate wellness, providing cooking demonstrations and grocery store tours diversifies my “nutritionist” work. My first love (before nutrition and fitness) was design. With running my own practice, I get to experience design, business, nutrition, fitness, and writing – all of my passions. I’m living my dream and paving a path for myself, which is wonderful.

What would you say to someone interested in becoming an RD or getting into the field of nutrition? Any advice or caution?

My advice to anyone looking into any career path is to follow your passion – what is it that makes you most excited. If it is nutrition, then go into nutrition, if it is something else – than that is what you should be pursuing.

If you have doubts, research the entire process of becoming a dietitian. It is a lot of hard work, science classes and takes 5 years (4 years for a Bachelor’s Degree and 1 year for a dietetic internship). Be clear on what you are getting yourself into. If you love nutrition and see yourself as a dietitian, then it will be worth it in the end.