Interviewed by RDBA Contributing Editor Amanda Rubizhevsky, MPH, NC
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
I started as an In-Store Dietitian with Loblaw Companies Limited three years ago. I’ve always had a passion for health promotion and was really excited about having the opportunity to share my knowledge about food and nutrition with customers in the grocery store setting. I currently work between two different store locations, which provides a lot of diversity as I get to interact with different colleagues and customers. In my stores, I offer a number of different services including individualized nutrition check-ups, grocery store tours, field trips, food demonstrations and classes. The best part is that all of these services are free!
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
The biggest challenge for me has been feeling pressure to be an expert in every area of food and nutrition. On a daily basis, I get inquiries about numerous topics ranging from specific product-related questions to infant nutrition and renal disease. Sometimes, it’s challenging to find the balance between performing my daily role in the store, which is very busy, and staying current in the evolving world of nutrition. I’ve realized over time that it’s okay if I don’t have all of the answers immediately and that I can always follow up after conducting some further research or refer customers to someone who specializes in that area if it’s outside of my scope of practice.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
One thing I wish I knew is that there would be quite a bit of rejection. Going into this role, I thought that everyone would want what I have to offer, especially since the services that I provide are free! I felt that because I was so passionate about healthy living, that everyone around me automatically would be too! But I’ve realized that not everyone is at that point where they’re ready to make changes and I’ve come to accept that fact. As a dietician, I try my best to meet clients where they’re at and work with them to inspire small lifestyle changes. It’s all about the baby steps!
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
I would say that in some situations my introverted personality has held me back. I’ve always struggled a little bit with shyness, and in this position, a large part of the role involves interacting with customers and colleagues. I found that over time, as I gained experience in the role, I became more confident and found it easier to approach and engage with people in the store.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
Over the past few years, due to some changes in my personal life, I had to make several transfers to new grocery stores in different locations. At first, I found these transitions to be very difficult because I had become so established in my previous stores. The thought of having to start from scratch and rebuild those relationships with new colleagues and customers was very overwhelming. Although it has taken some time to adjust to a new environment, I feel that this change has been positive and has ultimately allowed me to become stronger as a person. It’s not always easy to get out of your comfort zone, but it can definitely stretch you in ways that you would never imagine. This transition has also allowed me the opportunity to inspire healthy living in a whole new community, which is the best part of all!
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I’ve found that speaking to fellow dietitians who work in the retail environment has helped me to succeed since we can relate and provide each other with solutions to issues that might arise at the store level. I read articles on sites such as RDBA and have taken workshops related to working as a retail dietitian to learn about ways that I can further improve upon my practice. On a daily basis, I conduct research to update my nutritional knowledge to better equip myself to respond to customer inquiries.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
One of the programs that I run in my stores that I’m most proud of is called Nutrition in Our Aisles, which is essentially a field trip program designed to educate children about healthier eating. On a monthly basis, I have large groups of children come into the store and I teach them about healthier food choices through discussion and activities and they’re also provided with a healthy snack at the end of the trip. I love kids, so having the opportunity to teach children about nutrition at such a young age and act as a positive role model is one of my favourite aspects of this role.
More about Elysia
Elysia Cartlidge is a Registered Dietitian with a strong passion for nutrition; fitness and helping individuals succeed on their quest to live a healthy lifestyle. Her ultimate goal is to inspire individuals to fall in love with eating fresh and wholesome foods and become excited about the sense of empowerment that results from taking control of their health.
Elysia received her Bachelors of Applied Science and Masters in Applied Nutrition from the University of Guelph. She has also undergone culinary training at George Brown College. Over the years, she has gained experience working in private practice, community, and foodservice settings, as well as editorial work.
Elysia strongly believes in practicing what she preaches, so when she’s not busy promoting health and wellness, you’ll usually find her in the gym working out, creating healthy concoctions in the kitchen, doing food photography, blogging and volunteering in the community.