You guys are going to love this month’s interview. May Zhu, known on social media as Nutrition Happens, is an RD-to-be completing her dietetic internship in Chicago. I’ve followed May’s Instagram account for (what feels like) years and have gotten to know her offline, too. Funny story- when I made my mom an Instagram account last year I immediately had her follow May because I knew she would love her posts…I was right :)
More than just her pretty pictures, which are really stunning, May is the sweetest and most supportive person you’ll ever “meet” (and hopefully really meet in person one day). She genuinely cares for her readers/friends/fellow bloggers and takes the time to respond to every Instagram comment, and she gets A LOT of them. There need to be more people like her in this world.
Without further ado, here’s May! My comments are in red italics.
Interview with May Zhu: Instagram Queen and RD-to-be
Q: How did you develop an interest (and passion!) for food and health?
A: I’ve always been more of a science orientated person, so I’m interested in anything anatomy related. I thought for the longest time I was going to dental school! I started undergrad as a biology major but changed to nutrition when I started distance running in college. During college was when I became more aware of the food I was eating, at first as a mean of improving running performance. However, aside from the health benefits I noticed after I took on a whole foods approach, I also learn more about the way the food system works in the U.S – from farm to table. It led me to thinking about the importance of understanding exactly what we put into our bodies, since agriculturally the food in this country has changed so much. I absolutely love everything about the nutrition field – there is always something new to learn!
Q: What is your go-to meal for busy nights?
2 fried eggs and a large bowl of roasted vegetables. Side of hummus!
Q: You just ran the Chicago Marathon…congrats! What is your history with running and how was the training process?
I played volleyball competitively for 8 years growing up – running was something I pursued in college to stay in shape. At first, it was a way for me to de-stress, but eventually I wanted more of a challenge. I signed up for my first 10k my sophomore year and became instantly hooked to running races. The energy from each race is always so inspiring! Since then, I’ve ran handfuls of 5k’s, 10k’s, 5 half marathons, and finally, a full!
We began preparing for the marathon in May. At that time, I had taken a little bit of time off from running and the farthest I ran was 6 miles in the months prior to the training season. I worked with my coach, ultra-marathoner Sara Wells each week to work out a plan that gradually built up my endurance again. My plan included 5 runs a week with at least one long run, one track workout, one strength training, an easy run, and intervals.
Q: Other than running, what types of exercise do you enjoy?
I devoted a large amount of time to hot yoga after taking some time off running last year due to an IT band issue. I wanted something lower in impact to stretch out all the tightness in my body from running, but I still loved workouts that lets me sweat. Core Power was a great compromise! I also love high intensity workouts that involve lots of plyometrics – anything that let’s me work large muscle groups at the same time.
Q: You have a very successful and fun Instagram feed. What are you favorite foods/things/places to take pictures of?
Q: Instagram started as hobby of mine sharing my healthy lifestyle with others but quickly evolved into what I want to pursue the rest of my life – nutrition awareness and education. It is my favorite form of social media because people love photos – it’s a great conversation starter. I love bright shots with clean backgrounds – emphasizing colorful and nutritious foods! And I know it probably sounds overrated, but some of my favorite shots are actually of latte art – is there anything more cozy than a good cup of coffee?
Q: Can you describe a little about your process toward becoming an RD?
It’s a long and competitive process – going through it myself gives me so much more respect for current Registered Dietitians! The first step is going through an accredited dietetics program approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This gives you all the foundation courses (think biology, anatomy, organic chemistry…etc) and nutrition background knowledge. In order to register officially as a dietitian, you have to apply for and get matched to a dietetic internship, which currently only has a 50% match rate. Internships are unpaid and typically last about a year, giving you experience into every aspect nutrition works as a profession. Afterwards, most people study for about a month or two before sitting down to take the exam to officially become certified as an RD.
Q: How would you like to use your RD certification?
My current dietetic internship is actually one of the more unique duos – a coordinated one with a Master’s in Business Administration. Currently, it’s the only one in the U.S with a combination business Master’s and dietetics, so it is two years vs. the traditional year-long internships.
My future goal is to open my own private consulting practice and branding a healthy start-up delivery service (how amazing does that sound?!). Nutrition Happens was an early project to familiarize myself with branding. It’s been an eye-opening experience and I can’t wait to get a few new projects rolling!
Q: What does it mean to you to live a healthyish life?
I grew up with a family that loved to travel and experience new foods in new places – I’ve always been a food lover! Food brings people together and learning about new cultures and their foods has always been fun for me. As much as I love scoping out the food scene in town, I genuinely love eating nutritious foods because I love the way it taste and the way it makes me feel. I have a large passion for supporting local and sustainable farmers and I want to promote more awareness in these areas. For me, living a healthyish life moves beyond food and ultimately finding a nice balance between work and play!
This or That…
Almond butter or peanut butter?
Almond butter, hands down. Although my favorite nut of all time? Cashew butter! (I’m officially changing this question because Lauren answered it last month too!)
Beach or mountains?
Beach! I love being in warm weather. This will be my first winter up North (I’m originally from South Carolina!) – a Chicago winter at that, so it will truly be a learning experience.
Running or yoga?
I enjoy a good variety of workouts, but running will always be my first love.
Winter or summer?
Summer – see beach explanation above, ha! I really don’t like being cold – so this winter should be fun! (You have a place to visit in Florida!)
Morning or evening?
I’m a morning person. I love getting my workout in early and having extra time to myself before I tackle my to-do list. Evenings for me means winding down, eating dinner, and sleeping!
NYC or California?
California. I’m a beach bum and looking forward to moving out West in the future!
Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s?
This is always the one question that stumps me the most..I’m a hardcore grocery shopper – it’s a hobby for me! But if HAD to pick, I would choose Whole Foods, for the variety. I also love a good hot bar!
Rachel or Monica?
Rachel – because confession, if I wasn’t pursuing a career in nutrition and dietetics, I’d want to work as a buyer for Ralph Lauren. A girl can dream!