by Janna Neitzel
This month is meant to serve as a reminder of how special, unique, and influential women are. (Additionally, just FYI, March is also National Nutrition Month. Just to give a shameless shoutout to my field of interest.)
As I look back on my career path, I see three key players who helped me find out what I wanted to do with my life. Let me introduce them to you…
First, I have to explain: There are two things I particularly love.
- I adore fruits, vegetables, baked potatoes, and anything else I can pull or pluck from a garden and eat without washing. (It’s a habit I still wrestle to break, even though I am now a grown, highly educated adult.)
- I. Love. Running.
So when I first became intrigued by nutrition, it was no surprise — and I was primarily looking at it from a sports performance perspective.
Enter Influential Woman #1: Family Friend
A family friend (Joan) introduced me to the field of Dietetics, which opened up a whole new world to me! The world of nutrition was so much more vast than I had ever imagined.
Dietitians do everything from working with Olympic athletes to making sure the most fragile infants survive and thrive.
- They write for health magazines and work with individuals to find peace with food.
- They study what nutrients and food properties help us fight cancer and which ones up our chances of never having to battle fatal disease in the first place.
- They determine how to feed someone in a coma or someone with no teeth or someone with limited digestion capabilities.
- They help grandpa understand why too much salt impacts his ability to breathe.
- They encourage new mamas to breastfeed, conveying a message of hope and courage, explaining why she possesses a superpower that is incredibly needed.
So, yeah, you could say my eyes were greatly widened through knowing this family friend, and even shadowing her on her super-awesome-really-cool-how-do-I-get-a-white-coat-just-like-you job.
Enter Influential Woman #2: My Advisor
Then, there was my graduate school academic advisor. She gave students a lovely kick in the pants to rise above the level you thought possible, while commanding incredible respect, not just for herself, but also for the students you surrounded yourself with.
She challenged students to own the materials of study to the point they could debate it, be quoted if contacted by media on the spot, refute inaccurate information, and do it all with gusto.
She scared me — only in that it ignited a flame in me. And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect (or divine). Her inspiration helped me to find what I’d first loved about nutrition, that had gotten lost in a tough undergrad experience.
This, for me, was one of the most nourishing moments of my journey, professionally and personally. And my advisor provided wise guidance while creating an environment conducive to flourish.
Influential Woman #3: My Mom
For those of us lucky enough to have a maternal figure, our moms are often one of our first role models. While my mother is all too radical and exquisite a human to quantify here, I’ll say she was and continues to be a beautiful fearless female with an insatiable hunger for learning. She’s notorious for reading, oh, maybe four books at once. (Whether this is a healthy/unhealthy habit is a whole other story).
She is in many ways my first example of what it means to be strong, to pursue one’s inner desires and goals, to be curious and courageous, and to tenaciously hope. She has not only shaped who I am by unconditionally loving me, but she’s also shown me what love looks like.
I can’t help but be wowed.
When I think back to the women who have contoured my path, shaped my soul, and provided such a magnetic blueprint that I can’t help but to study them, look up to them, and reference these parts of them in the making of myself, I can’t help but be wowed. How did I get so lucky?
And this question continues to direct me. I also hope to be a role model for others.
And this goal — this is my greatest motivator to be my best self, to nurture my favorite pieces of myself, and to grow in a direction I hope can inspire someone else along their way.
Janna lives in Albany, NY and is a college campus dietitian—how cool is that?! She never gets tired of talking and reading all about nutrition. Running is another thing that makes her who she is — she’s convinced it makes her a smarter, kinder, and overall higher-quality human (and there’s research to back that up). Her free time is filled with adventures, outdoor time, wine/cocktails/brewery visits, far too much Netflix, and ample laughter. She cannot wait to learn about you all, talk geeky nutrition talk, and answer any questions you can throw at her.
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