A series of mine that I really feel passionate about is my Women at Work series. I started this interview series as a way to feature various women who make work “work” for them! The idea behind it is to help women entering, or re-entering, the workplace who might be struggling to know which direction to take. In this series I showcase a variety of women, many of them moms, who have made a career choice that they are passionate about and one that works for their lifestyle too.
Today I’m interviewing Cath Day, a registered dietitian and mom of a 10-month-old baby girl.
If you’re anything like me you probably think that you only need to consult a dietitian if you need weight loss advice, so to find out more about this career option and to establish what a dietitian really does and how they can help us all, read on…
I am a wife, mother to my 10 month old little girl, registered dietitian, lactation consultant and author! What a mouthful!
I am currently lecturing post-graduate students at the University of Cape Town, within the Division of Human Nutrition. I also have a private practice in Constantia, Cape Town where I consult with patients/ clients on nutrition and breastfeeding.
When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
After completing my undergraduate degree in Human Life Sciences (BSc), I realised that I did not want to work in a laboratory all day. I wanted to work with people and make a difference in their lives but I did not want to become a doctor as I knew the lifestyle was not for me. That is what attracted me to the Allied Health Care Profession. Dietetics particularly stood out for me as I grew up on a farm and thus have always been interested in food and how the food we eat affects our health.
What did you study – was it in this field or something different?
I studied undergraduate degree in Human Life Sciences (BSc) then I completed a Medical Honours in Medical Physiology (to build on my understanding of the human body). After that I completed my medical honours in Dietetics and Nutrition. After practicing as a professional I decided to up skill myself and thus completed a post-graduate diploma in lactation consultancy.
What was your first job in the industry? and what path has your career taken since?
Community Service year in JHB at Natalspruit Hospital. I was in charge of the Neonatal ICU where my passion for helping breastfeeding mothers was started. Since then I have become a lecturer at UCT at the Division of Human Nutrition, authored a book (Food for Sensitive Tummies) and I have a private practice in Constantia.
What have been the highlights?
Authoring my first book – it is a recipe book called Food for Sensitive Tummies. I have also been asked to present at conference to my peers. I have also served my profession on a volunteer basis by having sat on the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) Executive Board.
What’s the best part of your job?
Teaching my students to become the best dietitian they can be and helping others make the lifestyle change they need to, in order to improve their health.
What is the most challenging part?
Providing individualised care and nutrition support to each and every one of my patients – I do not give out generic plans. No person is the same and thus I work with my patients to set goals which are realistic and attainable.
What is your typical day, or maybe week if days are very different?
My weeks are very different. If I am lecturing on a course I will be with my students for the duration of that course. If I am not lecturing, then I consult with private patients, three days of the week. I used to easily work a 12 hour plus day, but with the arrival of my daughter I now try to put her needs first, thus my week can look like anything. I try fit in play dates in order to socialize her, I am privileged enough to take her to swimming lessons as well as Wriggle and Rhyme classes and Nanny ‘n Me classes. Sometimes I feel like a headless chicken, but it is all worth it.
What are the “secrets” to your success?
I love this quote – it wraps up everything I feel success is about… hard work and dedication.
The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.
As a mom how do you get the balance between your family and career life right? Your tips and tricks?
It is very difficult to find balance. First thing I would say is to have boundaries. When at home, forget about work – put your family first. When at work, focus on the job at hand. Secondly, look after yourself. It sounds so selfish and we all know that mothers always tend to put themselves at the bottom of the list but I really believe that a happy mom = happy family. So book out time for yourself (at least once a month), use your support system and don’t be too proud to ask for help (communicating well with your husband and friends is what gets you through those rough days).
What do you do for fun in your down time?
Play with my dachshunds (Mango and Litchi). I am a huge animal lover and nature freak. My husband, daughter and I love the outdoors so we do a lot of walking.
What do you still want to achieve in your career?
I would like to do my Masters in Nutrition and start up a lactation consultancy business.
Thanks so much for sharing your story Cath!
A registered dietitian is a recognised expert in evidenced-based nutrition. Dietetics, the field of nutrition, health and the application of science-based nutrition knowledge offers a variety of career opportunities that go beyond the usual view of the dietitian as someone who helps others lose weight. If you have interests in health, food, healthy lifestyle and science, you may well find your niche in this growing profession.
While dietitians are certainly the ‘go-to’ people for those battling with their weight, there is a lot more to the career than just sharing weight reduction tips. Dietitians promote good health and wellbeing for all and can choose to focus on children’s health, maternal health, food allergies or eating disorders, or even medical conditions that require a dietitian’s management such as diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS and intestinal disorders.
A career in dietetics will suit those who:
- are interested in food and health
- enjoy and have a flair for Science
- would be fulfilled by a caring, helping profession
- are lifelong learners who are attentive to the on-going developments in Science
- are able to translate scientific knowledge into practical advice
- are comfortable in the role of the expert and like sharing knowledge with others
- have strong inter- and intrapersonal skills
- have a positive attitude and the ability to motivate others
- have empathy, understanding and tact
ADSA, the Association for Dietetics in South Africa is one of the country’s professional organisations for registered dietitians. It is a registered non-profit organisation served by qualified volunteers. The Association represents, and plays a vital role in developing the dietetic profession so as to contribute towards the goal of achieving optimal nutrition for all South Africans. Through its network of ten branches ADSA provides dietitians with the opportunity to meet and network with other professionals in their provinces. Through its comprehensive Continuing Professional Development (CPD) system, ADSA supports dietitians in meeting their mandatory on-going learning, which is essential to maintain their registration status with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).
If you are interested in featuring in my Women at Work series to showcase your own career choice or business I’d love to hear from you. Please drop me an email with more details at firstname.lastname@example.org