Meet Swati Bathwal- the only Dietitian in the country who has volunteered at the President Estate clinic in President House India In an exclusive interview with Retropop Lifestyle, she goes candid and enlightens us with her work and achievements.

Read on,

From Ranchi to Australia…what would you tell us about your journey and evolution as a dietitian and nutritionist?

I was brought up in a small town, Ranchi was not considered a safe town so I was sent to a boarding school by my parents. As a child, I enjoyed reading books and glossy pictures of food and biochemistry really fascinated me. I got through medical school, but I went against my parents wishes. I took up nutrition as my subject and stayed in Delhi for about 2 years while I had randomly applied to Australian universities without anyone’s knowledge. I went for Griffith University, and they took only 7 International students at the time, I knew I had no scope but I got through the interview round and got selected. But here was the challenge, how to convince other family members and relatives? So, my mother secretly sent me to Australia while others knew I was staying with my aunt in Singapore. This was fun! But this was the beginning of other challenges to come. I studied masters in public health first and then masters in nutrition and dietetics. With the pressure of being an international student, came differences in the education system and cultural issues. And I was just 20 years old at the time, studying with doctors and statisticians in public health. But my life took a turn when I failed in my second masters’ degree. I was called back to India but guess what i sloped home. It all sounds like a Bollywood movie and with no support from family I went back, challenged the professor, repeated the course and while I studied worked in fuel stations for living and passed with flying colors and the same professor was the examiner. This was a life-changing moment in my life. After that, I applied for citizenship in Australia. I have worked for world’s renowned endocrinologist, Dr. David Carey worked in the largest diabetes institute of the southern hemisphere, baker heart and diabetes institute, where i gained interest in the diabetic specialization. I also scored a master’s in diabetes management and education and then did a sports dietitian course at Australian institute of sports. With about 3 master’s degrees in hand, I worked and contracted for over 200 general practitioners across Sydney, Wollongong, Brisbane and the Gold coast. And trained 7-10 junior dietitians. And since then there is no looking back.

·          Tell something about your family and childhood? Were you a naughty child or studious one?

I am the eldest sibling and was born with a silver spoon. My father was a profound scientist and was an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur, he even worked for NASA and my mother is a lawyer and an entrepreneur. Although I belonged to a traditional Rajasthani community, my grandmother always encouraged everyone to study and work. When you are born in a well educated family, it raises expectations for many and you are under pressure to do better. I always felt that but I always believed in listening to my heart and what I wanted to do. I was not naughty as a child, in fact I performed well in primary school but when I went to boarding school, I was the naughtiest of all.

·          How did you develop interest in nutrition and dietetics?

In school, I always had interest in biochemistry and biology but more than academics, I was an all rounder. Being a captain, I was everywhere- from dramatics to sports. Since we were in a boarding school, we helped each other with studies. I would top in biochemistry but just managed to pass in Maths. Post-school, I cleared my entrance and was ranked high enough to get through a good medical college, but I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to do in life. Because I wanted to work on “preventative medicine” rather than “cure”. So, I applied through universities and got an interview as I had a high score in biochemistry. With my mother’s support, I went to Australia while people knew I was staying with my aunt in Singapore. That was fun! I always question “why does this problem exist” and try to fix the issue. Also, my parents had an influence on the choices of food through my childhood. They grew all kinds of spices and vegetables at home and they always taught me the importance of it. We still have cloves, henna, cumin, and seasonal vegetables growing in our farms.

·         What about the challenges and how did you cope up?

I was racially discriminated against and failed in university by ½ a mark and that unit was only available after a year long wait. But I challenged the same professor and repeated the same course and graduated as a dietitian after a year. I had to wait for 1 full year to repeat that one particular course otherwise I would have exited as a nutritionist. In Australia, dietitians have an upper hand. Also, after my graduation for 1 entire year, I worked 1 week in Sydney and another week in Gold Coast (pretty much like 5 days in Mumbai and next 5 days in Kolkata) and worked on the weekends in a fuel station to manage my ticket fare. But I always questioned “what is my purpose in life”, and wanted to pass on my learning and share with society. So, my belief and determination helped me to be where I am today, and I hope to create something bigger one day.

·         How do you take your client through when they come for an appointment…how do you consult with your client?

I have only a 20% workload with clients because I focus more on writing and reading and podcasting. And my goal is to give quality service; quantity is not the number here. There is a selection criteria, they have to come via source of referral or give an initial interview where I understand if the requirements are achievable. We then assess the motivation level. I believe dietitians should be best friends with clients, because we eat food all day, and if you don’t have a mutual understanding of expectation and faith in work, it doesn’t work.

·          What are the main concerns of your clients when they come to you?

How can we make weight loss permanent, is there a quick fix and women in particular worry about stress levels and impact of emotional eating.

·         How do you thrive in this competitive field/what makes you soar above your contemporaries?

I am my own competition. I learn from other academics but I never compete with them. I roar loud because I bring over a decade of experience and learn everyday from credible sources and make patients be an active learner rather than spoon feed information. There is a magic in reversing ageing at the cellular level through nutrition and I work on that.

·         Any memorable moments of your career which you would like to share with us?

I learn from my patients, colleagues and fellow dietitians. I have fortunately worked for the president house India and have also worked overseas within a dynamic culture. But one incident is special. During the second wave pandemic, I was helping people through my social media platforms and guiding through nutrition, blood tests and other health parameters etc. I was attending messages everyday and one day I received a random message saying, my posts helped him save his family. I didn’t know this person, I never met his family but here I was receiving blessings from them.

·          Some tips for the working woman?

If you say you are stressed, remember stress can be rewarding too, because success always happens when you are out of your comfort zone. Live your life, make your own choices and wherever you are, if you manifest it, it will come to you one day. I also strongly believe that when women gather and support each other we create wonders, so support each other.

·         You have worked both in India and Australia, what all differences and similarities do you find in the aptitude/attitude of the people regarding diet and fitness

Both countries are blessed with cultural diversity. The main difference in attitude lies in trust and credibility in this profession. In Australia, you cannot practice as a dietitian unless you have intense training and you have to continuously update your credentials via international governing bodies but in India, there are also self claimed dietitians or a nutritionist. In India, people are not aware that there is a difference between the two. Australians love meat, beer and beaches. They eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and they exercise regularly. And in India, many of us are lazy; we rely on domestic help and eat more carbohydrates under the banner of vegetarians. We are blessed with ancient herbs in India and unfortunately, we are moving the western way. but post pandemic, people are again looking for ancestral ways of lifestyle.

·         Any advice for those who want to make a career in this field?

Firstly, being ethical, food can prevent many illnesses. Do not give half knowledge. Learn from a good institution which has a license. You will always learn, continue to learn, so do not stop learning because the day you stop learning you fail. Read from online journals, organizations etc, and lastly, when you are in the public domain be genuine to the audience, it is not about you, it is about them.

Rapid fire

Favorite food item

Vegetables and cheese 

 Favorite restaurant

Sky point, Q1 in Gold Coast, Australia and Olive, Goa (both for their view)

Three diet essentials

Water, three fresh colored fruits and 5 differently colored vegetables.

 Your fitness mantra

Do not depend on domestic help; keep moving every wake up hour

Your other interests

Surf, swim, spa and work towards a sustainable planet.

Fitness mantra for active India

Growth takes place out of your comfort zone. Keep striving towards your goal.

If not a nutritionist…

A geologist.

One question which no one ever has asked and you wonder why?

Who supported you at the time when you were struggling?

If you had one superpower, what would it be…?

To work toward climate change.

One message for the women of India

Life knocks us down, but how fast we get up ,that matters.

 About Swati Bathwal

Swati is a Delhi based accredited practicing dietitian, accredited sports dietitian, nutritionist, accredited Anthropometrist, certified diabetes educator, registered yoga teacher, an author and fit India ambassador.Originally an Australian Indian, she practiced in Australia for over 15 years before moving to Delhi, India in 2016.

A Few Highlights

* She -is an ambassador for fit India movement launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi

* She has worked with several A-list cricketers, aspiring models, actors, and management gurus and helped them reach the pinnacle of physical fitness.

* She has been on sports panel discussions along with stalwarts like PV SINDHU, ROHAN BOPANNA, RAMJI SRINIVASAN and many other recognized athletes at the time of pandemic

* On panel for various health organizations like CII, GSIC among others

* She is the only sports dietitian with experience from Australian institute of sports, Canberra; and diabetes educator from Australian Diabetes Educator Association

* She is a  recognized author for school textbooks, approved by NCERT, India.

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