Feeding the Whole Self (Nutrition and Dietetics)

Over the past several years, I have realized that my health, soul and happiness are all bound by my fascination and growing passion for food.  From the formative years of college to this hour and this day, there is not one moment where I don’t find myself eating and living with the utmost vigilance.  When I learned how food ultimately embodied every aspect of my life, I quickly turned to the extensive literature on traditional and contemporary human diets.  While examining current food policy and agriculture, I discovered that the potential demise of humanity and nature through poor dietary habit was something I could not tolerate.  In western society there is an abhorrent denial of any thoughtfulness or respect toward how we fuel our life and soul.  Consequently, we now find ourselves completely detached from the foundation of our health and vitality.  This led to my conviction to practice and cultivate my unconditional love for food’s relationship to the body, soul and community.  Just recently, I heard a Patagonian conservationist express her personal connection to its cause by stating “to love something, you have to inherently identify with it.”  This most resonating description confirms both my personal and professional goals.  Health, nutrition and wellbeing have quickly shaped the identity and purpose of my young adult life, which I believe can be further realized and shared through a career in dietetics.

I aspire to become a healthcare provider of the whole self through practicing my passion for nutrition.  By teaching a community about the art, emotion, and simplicity of the human diet in relation to our wellbeing, I hope to demonstrate that wholesome food can lay the foundation for improving health from the ground up.  It may also subsequently foster economic sustainability and ethical resource management.  The way we nourish ourselves through food must be expressed with love, respect and humility toward not only our bodies, but the earth as well.  By empowering nutrition in healthcare, we can in effect treat not just the whole person, but the whole world.  Food is universal.  It is one of the rare connections we all share, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.  And consequently, it is one of the greatest sources of our diversity.  I cannot think of a better way to follow my passion than to practice nutrition, whether at the individual, community, or global level.  I hope to serve at all levels to help reinstate the value and pleasure of food nourishment through all aspects of life.  By incorporating my past, present and future experiences with food I hope to follow this career with a multidimensional approach to healthy, sustainable and joyful living.

[Redacted] University’s Master of Science in Nutrition with Didactic Program in Dietetics is my ultimate choice for graduate work for several personal and professional reasons.  Though I didn’t realize their significance at the time, I now reflect upon specific moments in my life that helped lay the foundation for my concern of our food and wellbeing.  Together with my insatiable curiosity for the history, science, and application of nutrition, they form my incentive to practice healthcare and help the community through this particular discipline.

My earliest memory of food that I took for granted until young adulthood was the good fortune to be raised on the family dinner.  Though I was at the same time at the misfortune of being born into the generation of processed foods, my mother strived to hold family dinners nearly every night of the week, and incorporate all the basic food groups regardless of the meal.  As I look back, I realize the power food has toward family, relationships and the community.  Its universality and biological necessity connects us and should force us to sit down, rest and talk over the creation of a meal.  Upon seeing that the family dinner was not as conventional as I previously thought, I knew it was something special that shaped my identity and soul.  It saddens me to think that we must reeducate our society on this simple ideal, but it is something I must lend my support to throughout my career.

Having grown up on this family dinner ideal, it was easy to be comforted in my experiences with food and people while traveling abroad.  During consecutive summer trips to Mexico during college, my most memorable and valuable interactions with the Mexican people were over preparing or sharing a meal.  During my first trip, a Habitat for Humanity project in rural Central Mexico, there was as much to be learned from the preparation of a meal between the village neighbors as in the construction of a house.  While learning to make gorditas from scratch and carefully assembling homemade tamales, a bond was formed between two cultures.  To see the neighborhood come together in helping build a house for another and sharing their celebration and joy together over a hard-earned meal is something I’ll carry with me forever.  Food helps convey humanity’s successes and defeats, joys and sufferings, and everything in between.

I was lucky enough to experience those “everything in between” moments during my second trip to Mexico while attending Spanish language school.  My host family, like most families of that culture, put paramount importance on their main afternoon meal with family and friends.  Not only were we graciously invited to share the meal with them, but there at the dinner table formed some of the most valuable and practical lessons on language and culture.  And of course, all these conversations were held over a beautiful, complete and homemade meal.  The beauty of food, however, was no better illustrated than in my travels to Italy and Rome two years ago.  Inevitably, every unforgettable moment I experienced during this trip involved food.  During the lively atmosphere of the aperitivo hour, for example, nothing was more essential in that moment than recognizing the joy and beautiful simplicities of life at one’s local café or al fresco bar.  Together they celebrate every night, sating not only their palettes but every bit of their souls as well.  Even more impressive was their immense appreciation in the definition of good, fresh food and eating with respect and gratitude.  There is no better example for the joy of eating than among Italians:  the dolce vita, eating seasonally and locally, and the simple pleasure and care for food that Italians inherently observe.

Through my best efforts to recreate my own dolce vita, I find the best place to start is with food.  The future of our country’s health will not improve unless we put thought and love into how we nourish ourselves from the inside out.  As we consume calories to fuel our daily activity and replenish our physiological needs, we must also replenish our mind and soul.  To slow down and rest with loved ones at the dinner table is a good place to start.  Perhaps then the bonds formed at the table will carry over into the garden and community, as individuals begin to put health into their own hands.  With [redacted]’s clinical track focused on whole foods nutrition, I hope to integrate every aspect of my personal experience as well as my future education into simple, thoughtful healthcare.

My interest in joining the healthcare field started as a reflection long ago, but was clearly reinforced with my work experience after college.  As an aide at an outpatient orthopedic physical therapy clinic, working one-on-one with patients in their rehabilitation inspired and fostered my belief for every human’s right to health and wellbeing.  Working in rehabilitative healthcare, I am continually moved by how this field reveals human character, humility and potential.  Pain, oddly enough, becomes a powerful means of connecting with another.  Having seen nearly the entire pain spectrum throughout my personal and professional life, pain seems to absolve most social trivialities and hesitations by building a path toward healing and understanding.  Although some stories are more successful or inspiring than others, there is the underlying theme of a strong tie between mind and body.  A powerful turning point, for example, is when a patient enters the clinic absolutely euphoric over completing their first marathon, being able to pick up their grandchild, or simply reporting the feeling of being pain-free for the first time in years.  These goals of every variety are not just realized through the physical rehabilitation, but just as importantly through the emotional and spiritual change in one’s wellbeing.  My firsthand encounters with these remarkable strides in daily living show that when you treat the whole self by simply listening to and respecting one’s story, healthcare then proves to be a human right.

With my clinical exposure in physical therapy I not only identify with the personal interactions that help encourage a healthy wellbeing, but also imagine its potential integrative qualities for the [redacted] education and a career in dietetics.  Through this particular work experience, I have found my voice as a future clinician.  The ability to problem solve, anticipate and adapt a plan of care, and effectively communicate with patients are skills I will carry with me toward any clinical profession.  My work also verifies the importance of balancing a healthy, active lifestyle in tandem with healthy eating.  Through small changes and simple, mindful attention, both physical and nutritional therapies can be integrated into all lifestyles to become a catalyst for health and happiness.

To supplement my experience in healthcare, I wished to see firsthand the community’s response to nutrition for preventative health and ecological sustainability. One of my most enriching and motivating experiences turned out to be my recent service to local food bank gardens.  In an effort to reform the food bank norm of using processed, non-perishable items, the [redacted] County Food Bank formed a small program called the “Gleaners.”  Volunteer gleaners harvest surplus produce from local farms and both food bank and residential gardens, resulting in fresh, local and organic produce made available to food bank clients.  In addition to providing nutritious foods to the community, the [redacted] County Food Bank has also offered cooking classes and instruction on how to utilize these fresh fruits and vegetables.  In its essence, this small grassroots program holds the key to breaking the mold of the poor western diet and simplifies nutrition education.  It is programs like this that provide real, sustainable solutions in community health that ignite me to serve in this field and further its evolution.  The connectedness felt from the farm or garden all the way to the client demonstrates food’s vast ability to unite and heal.  Food empowers the client and volunteer alike to feel able and willing to take command of their health, and redefine eating as a soulful, sustainable and shared experience.

With its holistic approach to health and wellbeing, [redacted] offers an ideal and comprehensive program in nutrition which complements the experiences that have nurtured my passion for food and community.  As I make the personal commitment, the fundamental change I long to see is the imperative rebuilding of our relationship with food.  Just as we build a lifetime of personal interactions that help realize our potential and shape our soul, we must also find a similar connection toward our health and food.  For a healthy life and sustainable earth, it is vital that we empower this relationship and foster it through simple, fresh and whole foods which nature provide.  I am infinitely amazed at the connection between food and body, and know no better way to serve my community than by sharing and educating this fundamental life principle.


This essay was written by the same author that wrote Sustainability and Evolution.  Both were ultimately successful applications.

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