Our latest Guest Expert on LoveLula's blog is Monika Siemicka, a London-based dietitian who will be on hand to talk about the myths and musts of diet and all things food-related. Here we get to know her and her job a little better!
What made you want to become a dietitian?
I knew that I wanted to work in a field related to medicine and was interested in the role diet plays in preventing and treating illnesses so I decided to study Nutrition and Dietetics.
Eating well and keeping fit have always been important to me but you get so much conflicting advice on the internet, in magazines and on the TV. I decided studying dietetics would allow me to separate the myths from the facts!
What qualifications did you have to get?
I studied Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Nottingham. It was a 4 year course after which I qualified as a Registered Dietitian meaning I was able to work within the NHS. Since then I have been on many different courses as there is always so much to learn about nutrition. It is a new area that is constantly being developed and so I make sure I keep myself up-to-date with all the latest research and findings.
What exactly does your job involve?
I have now specialised in Haematology and Oncology Dietetics. This means I work with patients who have cancer, supporting them throughout their chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment and then helping them get back to a normal lifestyle once they are in remission. During treatment people tend to struggle with eating as they lose their appetite or the side-effects such as nausea and vomiting, prevent them from eating. I work with them to try and make sure they maintain their intake as much as possible and don't lose too much weight. Once people have completed treatment and are in remission then I advise them on getting back to a healthy, balanced diet.
Everyone has different dietary needs - some want to lose weight, some need to gain weight, some may need to cut certain foods out of their diet so I have to make sure that my advice is specific to each person.
Always a popular request is advice on weight loss! I have worked with people trying lose weight either on a one-to-one basis or in group sessions. Some of the topics I cover are describing the five food groups, healthy choices and portion control. I try to help people make small, easy changes to their diet that they can stick to and still get big results.
Do you think your own diet has changed a lot over the years working as a dietitian, or were you interested in healthy eating beforehand?
I think that I was always interested in living a healthy life-style so eating healthily and doing lots of exercise have always been important to me. However, being a dietitian means that you always know exactly what food you're putting into your mouth - good or bad! It's very easy for me to analyse my diet as it is part of my job so I suppose that has made me change my eating habits over the years for the better. I'm pretty good with getting my 5 fruit and veg a day, for instance!
Are all dietitians super healthy?
Not at all! The good thing is that we can justify eating most things as it's important to have a balanced diet, including chocolate! I think that lots of people feel that being healthy means having a restricted diet and not being able to eat what you want but I always tell my patients that the main thing is to enjoy your food and I make sure I follow that advice too.