Sumaiyah Karim is studying nutrition at Leeds Beckett University. She talks with happiful about her passions, and why obesity is often misunderstood
Hi Sumaiyah, where did your interest in nutrition come from?
I’ve always had an interest in nutrition but I never thought using my interest as a career. I started university studying sport and exercise science, but by the second semester I had fallen in love with the nutrition module. I got in touch with the course leader and that was it. I kept wondering if I’d made a mistake, but it’s a move I’m glad I made as I enjoy everything about it.
There must be so much to learn!
There’s a lot to learn but the course is set out well. We have lectures and practical sessions in kitchens or laboratories. I’m very interested in obesity and childhood obesity. There’s been an increase in obesity, and it brings with it bags full of other health issues and risks. That’s the thing that’s often misunderstood: it’s not about being a perfect size, because there is no such thing. It’s about the health of your body and how that affects your life.
What are your views on the current nutrition scene?
I think the growing interest in food and wellbeing is great, but people need to be careful where they get their advice from. Unfortunately, ‘nutritionist’ isn’t yet a protected title, so anyone can say they’re a nutritionist and give advice on social media. Clean eating is interesting because being healthy allows for balance – I guess it depends on how far you go in being ‘clean’. Regardless, it’s important to seek advice from nutritionists who have studied the subject thoroughly at university.
I'd like to see myself working within weight management, like in an obesity clinic. Obesity is a complex phenomenon and should be treated as such
What about the controversies that surround nutrition?
Nutrition itself is quite black and white. For example, breast vs bottle feeding is a big one. There’s been extensive research and the advice is to breastfeed if possible. This doesn’t mean there aren’t disagreements. For many reasons, mothers choose to bottle feed, which is in their right as a parent. But realistically, the disagreement is professionals vs manufacturing companies. We know that formula milk is similar to breast milk, but it isn’t the same and that’s what manufacturing companies aren’t going to advertise because that won’t increase their profit.
You graduate this summer – what’s next?
I’d like to see myself working within weight management, like in an obesity clinic. Obesity is a complex phenomenon and should be treated as such. It has many aspects including psychological, social, diet and exercise. Hopefully I’ll get back to you with a great outcome!
Finally, what advice do you have for anyone looking to study nutrition?
Go for it! If you have a passion, then do your research on the courses available. Make sure they are accredited with the Association for Nutrition (AfN). Remember, you’re going to university to learn and sometimes it will be difficult, but it will be so worth it in the end.
If you'd like to find out more about nutrition or want to reach out to a nutritionist in your area, visit Nutritionist Resource