15 Oct Wellness with May Zhu
A collection of chats with various experts on their definition of wellness.
The first on our list of Wellness Week experts is registered dietitian and nutritionist, May Zhu. You might recognize her from Instagram (@nutritionhappens) where she serves up delicious food inspo and easy-to-make recipes.
A South Carolina native, May moved to Chicago in 2015 to pursue grad school after a brief stint in the corporate world. Doubling down on the knowledge, she completed both her M.B.A and dietetics residency, giving her the official title of registered dietitian (R.D) in 2017. After two years working in the field, May’s made a name for herself and has gained quite the social media following in the process. We met up with May to walk us through a day in the life of a nutrition expert and learn more about how she defines wellness.
Tell us a little about yourself.
“To start, I’m a registered dietitian and nutritionist based in Chicago. I’m in private practice, so that means I’m mostly working with clients one-on-one. I also do a lot of blogging and media work, so that’s more on the brand side of things when it comes to nutrition.”
What made you want to become a R.D.?
“Nutrition had always been on the back burner for me; I had actually thought that I wanted to go to dental school. So, originally I was a biology major, working with a dentist, and it just hit me that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I didn’t really get into nutrition until college because I was done with high school sports and realized I needed to stay in shape on my own. I started training for races and was like “what other element of training can I work on?” That’s when I realized there was so much to learn about the body and food and how it impacts people overall. That’s when I saw, personally, what a big difference nutrition was for me.”
Is there an area within nutrition that you specialize in?
“Well, there’s different dietitians for different reasons. I focus on general healthy eating, but definitely more on the intuitive side. My goal is to give people the confidence to know that they’re able to make decisions that make them feel good. Everyone really has the opportunity to make a lifestyle that works for them, it’s just knowing which decisions to go towards. A lot of people are like “is dairy bad for me” or “can I have a pizza?” So, we sit down and deep dive into why we feel we can’t have a slice of pizza. A lot of people come in very confused and I work to help them understand why they are making certain decisions, whether that’s what they’ve heard before, their family history or their environmental factors. It’s definitely a total body approach because it’s never just one thing that’s making someone miserable. It’s really about doing a refresh and laying down a good foundation. As long as you have that foundation of what your body needs, it’s a very intuitive thing to make good choices, so it’s all about giving clients that confidence to make those really good choices.”
So, how do you define the idea of wellness in the work you do?
“To me, wellness is about having the knowledge to feel empowered to make impactful and healthy choices based on your individual needs. Especially when it comes to nutrition, I always say that in a day you have two million opportunities to make a choice – whether it’s the food you eat or where you go to dinner. So, it’s about knowing you have the opportunity to make whatever choice feels good to you in that moment and having the mindset to move on if it’s not the best. The important thing is not letting one negative choice impact your next one.”
Building off of that, can you walk us through what wellness looks like in your day-to-day?
“I love mornings, definitely a morning person. I usually wake up early and get to a workout first thing, whether it’s a class at Ethos in River North or Pilates on the reformer at Studio Lagree. If it’s nice, I’ll run outside. After that, my day is a mix of meetings, admin work, blogging and working with clients. Most days, I try to work until 5:30/6 but some days it definitely tends to spill over. But I’ve found that I really like those boundaries because I know I can end my day and take a long walk or meet with a friend. It helps me put that social aspect back into my day because when you’re on your own and kinda make your own schedule, it’s important to me to set aside time to spend time with people I care about or just decompress on my own.”
How does Foxtrot help you achieve that sense of balance?
“Foxtrot is really a one stop shop for me. I always say that it’s the perfect place to stay all day—you can get a coffee, have a meeting, get some lunch, and finish off with happy hour. Foxtrot supports this balance of play and work while also providing a platform for local brands, which I find important. Also, I’m someone who loves food and works with food, so it’s always fun to see what new products you guys pick for the store and recommendations for things to try and share with friends.”
What are some of your favorite products?
Want to see what else May is loving from Foxtrot? Check out her picks here.
Thanks to May for sitting down to chat with us, and if you don’t already, be sure to follow her on Instagram @nutritionhappens.