Love What You Do: 9 Professionals Tell Us About the Path to Their Dream Jobs

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Stephanie Middleberg; nutritionist, Middleberg Nutrition

What did you want to be when you grew up?
A professional tennis player. I was in awe of Steffi Graff. (I mean, we do share the same name!) But as I got older, I really had no clue. I was never that person who knew what they wanted to do in life. There was no plan. But looking back I have always gravitated towards health. I was a young athlete (a bit of a tomboy, really) and according to my pediatrician and parents always had a fascination with my doctor appointments (and I’m a bit of a hypochondriac). I was curious. Then as I got older I found myself reading Self magazine over Vogue.  The best advice I got growing up was do what most interests you.

What was your path to being a nutritionist?
This is a second career for me. I never intended to be a nutritionist, didn’t know any and hadn’t been to one, in fact I didn’t know it could be a career. My first job was in Healthcare Public Relations and soon came to the realization that I didn’t want my boss’ life. At the same time I developed some pretty bad stomach issues and my mom had major stomach surgery, so my interest in health only intensified.

So I literally opened up US News and World Report’s Best Graduate Schools and landed on Berkeley for all the important reasons, beautiful weather, great people, something different… then I found its public health program and immediately felt that this is what I want to do. So I talked to a lot of people in various public health schools and settled on NYU because they had a joint RD/MPH program and was led by Marion Nestle (as close to a god in the field as you could get).  As the program progressed, I gravitated towards the more personal aspect of nutrition, helping people in a one-on-one setting, so I dropped the MPH part to focus on Clinical Nutrition.  I was extremely fortunate to land an internship at a private practice which firmly cemented by path. Whew that was a long one.

Do you like your job?
I love my job, I love the field and I know how fortunate I am to be able to say that.  It’s also a fantastic time to be in this world, people care about food again, not just dieting or staying thin, but what is in their food, the quality of it, where it comes from.  I also have a great team working with me that makes all the difference.  And I have fantastic clients, which makes my job easy. We laugh a lot in my office.

What are the hardest parts?
It’s a 24/7 job just keeping up with all the literature, the new products, the trends, etc.
Plus being accessible to all my clients. It’s hard to turn things off.

What are the most rewarding aspects?
Seeing my clients achieve their goals, whether it’s those last five pounds of post baby weight, completing a triathlon or learning to appreciate what they eat.  Food can spur all types of issues, and it can be a very sensitive topic, so being there with folks I’ve developed deep personal relationships with as they move in the right direction is extremely fulfilling.  I get to help people for a living.

If you could be anything else, what would it be?
A dancer.  Although I’m not good, I am in awe of their grace, athleticism, poise, focus and a whole host of other positive adjectives.  I just love it.

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