Anne-Marie O'Shea

Job title Head of School of Nutrition

Employer Future Fit Training

Tell us a little bit about your role as a nutrionist, who you work for, and what you do…
I am Head of Nutrition at Future Fit Training (FFT) which is an award-winning training company, offering courses, qualifications and guidance to people who want to embark upon a career in the health and fitness industry. We specialise in Personal Training, Pilates and Nutrition but offer training in many other fitness related subjects too. For the past two years we have been awarded Training Provider of the Year by ukactive, a leading representative body for the fitness industry.

What are your main responsibilities?
My role is very broad as I oversee anything nutrition related at Future Fit Training. I ensure our courses are always up-to-date and reflect the latest research as well as developing new courses to fit the needs of the industry. I deliver training to our career advisors so they can advise potential students on the nature of our courses. I also attend industry events and write about nutrition for publications. On a day-to-day basis I also speak with our students and provide help and guidance as required.

What are the differences between the job as a nutritionist and a job as a dietician?
Although there is a lot of overlap, the job as a dietician will involve working in a clinical setting as opposed to the job as a nutritionist who will primarily be non-clinical and in roles such as research, teaching, the food industry or public health. To train to be a dietician you will do a course in Dietetics as well as work placements while to train to be a nutritionist you will do a degree in Nutrition. However, with a year post graduate course a nutritionist can become a dietician. The training for a dietician will be more focused on working with people with medical conditions meaning that most individuals requiring a special diet will have consulted a dietician.

“Nutrition is a topic that interests a lot of people, both inside and outside of the fitness world, and I like helping them to understand nutrition better and de-mystify it as there are a lot of nutrition myths out there!”

What do you enjoy most about your role?
As someone who has a real passion for nutrition, I enjoy igniting that interest in others and helping to educate those who want to know more. I love chatting with our students who always come up with interesting questions. Nutrition is a topic that interests a lot of people, both inside and outside of the fitness world, and I like helping them to understand nutrition better and de-mystify it as there are a lot of nutrition myths out there! I am constantly surprised by the questions asked of me however a lot of individuals want to know how healthy their favourite food is and the debate surrounding eating fat or not causes a lot of discussion. It is also a real joy when I get positive feedback from our students which is reassurance that we are doing it right.

Do you have any stand out moments in your career to this point?
It was definitely a few years ago when I helped to set up the nutrition arm of the company; it was recognition of how important nutrition is within the health and fitness industry. At the core of any fitness course should be nutrition and behaviour change as they help lay the foundations for real change. Getting our courses certified by The Association for Nutrition was another stand out moment as not many other training providers have such an accolade.

Nutrition

Nutrition

What opportunities are there in your industry for young people in 2018?
Obesity and diet related ill health are such pressing problems for the NHS at the moment. As such, there is an ever-increasing demand for professionals who can help with diet, fitness and behaviour change. In general, there is also a huge interest to work within health and fitness and with good people skills and the right training, which doesn’t need to be at university level, an individual can have a very successful and enjoyable career in this industry.

“Obesity and diet related ill health are such pressing problems for the NHS at the moment. As such, there is an ever-increasing demand for professionals who can help with diet, fitness and behaviour change.”

Tell us a bit about your career as a nutritionist and your path to this point…
To train to be a nutritionist I have a degree in Nutritional Sciences, a masters in Public Health Nutrition and I qualified about 15 years ago. Since graduating, I have had many jobs as a nutritionist in a variety of settings from a charity to the food industry. I was never a sporty person at university but it just so happened Future Fit Training had an interesting sounding job in an area I wanted to build experience in and here I am over 10 years later. I wholeheartedly believe in the ethos of the company and love that my role has expanded and grown every year since I started. It is a true testament that you can never fully know where your career path will take you.

What experience and extra-curricular activities does a career as a nutritionist require?
As there is so much information available at people’s finger tips both online and on tv, they think they have an understanding of nutrition. However, it is crucial to have a solid science background and an in-depth understanding of physiology and chemistry. Nutrition is also heavily evidence based as such it is vital to stay up-to-date with the latest research by reading industry titles and attending conferences and events on a regular basis. I would also advise watching tv shows that are diet and nutrition related as this is the stuff your clients will have access to and will usually form the basis of a lot of their questions, especially over social media.

What characteristics would the ideal candidate for your role possess?
The most important trait is empathy. Changing long held dietary habits is hard and although an individual may know what they should be doing nutritionally, they may well struggle and have failed several times to action it. A passion for nutrition is also a given. You should take pleasure from wanting to inspire others to learn about nutrition. Along with being a good communicator as a lot of nutrition information is scientific and you are required to simplify it and make it engaging and accessible to a range of audiences.

“You should take pleasure from wanting to inspire others to learn about nutrition.”

If you had one bit of advice you would tell your younger self, what would it be?
Be open to opportunity. Say yes to new things, especially things that scare you, even if they aren’t the sort of experiences you had in mind for your career.

What was the best advice you were given?
Take time each day to focus on the bigger picture on both a personal and work-related level. We often get bogged down in the small things, such as answering emails, and end up losing sight of the things that are important. More recently, I have been trying first thing to tackle the task that will make a difference that day and will move me forward in the grand scheme of things and not to sweat over the small things.