Student Story

Jasmin Dieb ’24DIP Celebrates Nutrition as Portal to Healing, Family, and Love

A table of food, all components of a Mediterranean diet, such as fruits and wine.
Some components of the Mediterranean Diet. Photo by G.steph.rocket, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Creative Commons.

“I loved the fact that Simmons was not only in Boston, but it’s also a women’s-centered school, which gave me a sense of safety and community. I felt like I could really be myself here.”

“For my family, food is very integral to our community and lifestyle — it is so much more than just calories,” says Jasmin Dieb ’24, a Simmons student in the Nutrition and Dietetics Internship Program. “Growing up, my mother always prepared nutrient-dense foods for our family. She was never restrictive about food and diet, and instead emphasized what is good for you. I internalized this positive mindset in regards to food.”

While Dieb grew up in Cambridge, MA, her family came to the United States from Syria. “In general, Middle Easterners follow a Mediterranean diet, which is one of the healthiest diets,” says Dieb. “It’s a mix of grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, olive oil, olives, poultry, and fish. This inclusive regimen is very balanced, and thus does not place restrictions on food,” she explains.

Navigating a Career Change

As an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Dieb double majored in economics and Arabic and minored in Spanish. With her skillset, she initially decided to pursue a career in business, and matriculated into an international business program in Dubai. Her time abroad was cut short due to the pandemic.

Around the same period, Dieb developed a chronic health condition. “My gut issues got worse and my health deteriorated,” she recalls. “I began seeing a dietitian who advocated for my needs and essentially cured me.”

A friend suggested that Dieb become a dietitian. “I felt like that was the right fit for me, so I switched careers. Looking back, I realize that in some ways my life had been leading up to this moment. I have always been passionate about nutrition and shared recipes online that people could make from home,” she reflects.

Professionalization at Simmons

For Dieb, it was important to obtain an official credential in her new field. That is when a friend recommended Simmons’ Department of Nutrition. “I loved the fact that Simmons was not only in Boston, but it’s also a women’s-centered school, which gave me a sense of safety and community. I felt like I could really be myself here,” she says.

Dieb began the Nutrition and Dietetics Internship Program in January 2022. At Simmons, she found impactful faculty mentors. “I adore Associate Professor of Nutrition Kathrina Prelack; she explains nutrition so well. In her classroom, students feel heard, and she provides constructive feedback. Professor Teresa Fung is also amazing, and is very smart.”

Following preliminary biology and chemistry courses, she began taking actual nutrition courses, including Medical Nutrition Therapy, Nutrient Metabolism, Practice Clinical Dietetics, Community Nutrition, and Food Science. “These courses prepare you for the dietetic internship, but also provide you with the pertinent knowledge a dietitian should know going into the field. If you opt for the Simmons Internship, we have courses we take throughout the internship to continue prepping us. We also have a one-week boot camp right before our clinical rotation,” she says.

Once she completes her certificate program this April, Dieb will prepare for the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) exam in May. Obtaining her official RDN credential will set her apart from other nutritionists. “Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, even if they do not have a formal degree,” says Dieb. “But dietitians are the only credentialed and medically trained professionals in nutrition. Every dietitian is a nutritionist, but not every nutritionist is a dietitian.”

Being trilingual — in Arabic, English, and Spanish — is also a boon for her work. “My grandmother has always told me that the more languages you know, the more personalities you have,” says Dieb. “I love people and want to be able to empathize with different people from different cultures. Being multilingual enables me to help them more, and having cultural sensitivity and competence allows me to advocate for them on their terms.”

Celebrating National Nutrition Month 2024

For National Nutrition Month, Dieb encourages the Simmons community to “think holistically” about their habits. “People often want a quick fix, but if you refuse to change your lifestyle — if you continue to engage in negative behaviors such as smoking, drinking copious amounts of alcohol, remaining sedentary, staying out late — adding a ‘superfood’ to your diet that you heard about on social media will not be sufficient. It’s all about the baby steps, and how they accumulate over time to make a big difference.”

Moreover, Dieb advises people to integrate exercise and ample sleep into their daily routine. “Diet and exercise go hand in hand, and you need to practice both to experience the maximum benefits. People often underestimate the power of sleep. Your body needs rest in order to function, detoxify, and repair. I advise people to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.”

Dieb cautions people to not believe everything they see on the internet. “Take everything you see on social media with a grain of salt. Many people post advice but they have no nutrition credentials or clinical experience. Even if they intend to help, they can end up doing more harm than good. Make sure you get advice from a legitimate dietitian/nutritionist.”

As an ardent supporter of home-cooked food, Dieb encourages people to take their own meals to work. “It’s all about understanding meal prep,” she says. “All you need is to set aside a couple of hours one day per week to pre-make your ingredients. Then you can put together nutritious meals very efficiently. Carve out this time for you, and your future self will thank you.”

As Dieb elaborates, “I truly believe that when you are chopping ingredients and working with your hands, you develop a deeper connection to food, and it makes you feel better. Food has amazing attributes: family, love, connection — it’s so much more than just calories. People show love by cooking you a meal. Mediterraneans and Middle Easterners love food and don’t overthink it like we do here.”

Ultimately, National Nutrition Month reminds Dieb why she desires to pay it forward. “I want to help people feel like the best versions of themselves and to understand that a nutritious lifestyle is possible.”

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Kathryn Dickason