International Women’s Day Spotlight – Dietitian, Rachel Hannah

Mar 7th, 2022

Rachel Hannah HPC Dietician

International Women's Day Spotlight - Dietician Rachel Hannah

Welcome to this special Spotlight series on International Women’s Day. In Canada, International Women's Day 2022 celebrates the theme "Women Inspiring Women". At U of G, online and in-person events are planned to help amplify the inspiring contributions of women from within the University community and beyond. The Health and Performance Centre prioritizes sharing our practitioners' stories to showcase the expansive team of experts and community we have built. 

Meet Rachel Hannah, a registered dietitian with the Health and Performance Centre and elite marathon runner sponsored by New Balance. Rachel completed her undergrad at Georgia State University, she won a bronze medal in the 2015 Pan Am Games marathon and five Canadian championships in road racing, track and cross-country. Rachel shares with us International Women’s Day means to her and excellent insights into her career.

Q: Why drives you to do work in this field and what do you love about it?  

A: I love helping my clients reach their health and performance goals. When I see improvements in quality of life from helping with weight management it gives me a deep sense of purpose that I am making a positive difference in their life. With sports nutrition clients I love helping athletes reach their performance goals while maintaining good health and making that a priority above performance. When I complete follow-ups and see clients have made sustainable behaviour changes based on our sessions, this give me a sense of pride knowing that they are incorporating healthier behaviours.

Some examples include helping athletes improve their relationship with food and fuel properly for their sport. The majority of athletes are at risk for relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) which can cause negative health and performance consequences if not treated, especially early on. One of the main treatments is to ensure energy needs are being met and have a plan to do so. I work with all different types of athletes and genders and learn a lot from them too! 

Q: What does the International Women’s Day slogan ‘Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow’ mean for you in your work life?     

A: The theme recognizes the contribution of women and girls around the world, who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response, to build a more sustainable future for all. See hereIn my work life, this applies to helping clients make changes around sustainable eating and doing what they can to reduce their carbon footprint. Examples would be buying local food when possible and produce that is in season. March is nutrition month and this month’s theme is called Ingredients for a Healthier Tomorrow. The campaign focuses on encouraging Canadians to make healthy food choices that are also sustainable and benefit local communities and the planet.

*see the attached activity guide for Nutrition Month 2022 and more information on sustainable eating.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to a woman looking to begin a career in your field?  

A: Look for women mentors during your undergraduate studies and ask to shadow them. You will learn a lot about the profession and the area you want to focus on. Learn and experience many areas of the field since you never know how this will help you in another area. People should reach out on social media (Instagram, LinkedIn, etc). The world is so closely connected and the resources are at everyone’s fingertips, literally. Young students and professionals should have the courage to reach out on social media for advice and pathwork mapping. I mentor young students and they should reach out anytime.

Q: What has been your proudest career moment?

A: I am a Dietitian and elite marathon runner sponsored by New Balance. I have 2 proud moments. The first is athletic success which would be the Pan Am Games Bronze medal in the marathon in 2015 in Toronto. What sticks out in my mind most is when I see sustainable weight loss that has dramatically improved someone’s health and well-being. One example is a client who lost over 100 lbs and started running marathons. From a sports nutrition perspective, helping athletes overcome Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (REDS) is a very proud moment (ex improving bone health, eating more carbohydrates, return of menstrual cycle etc).

Q: What does gender equity mean to you in your career? 

A: Gender Equity includes all genders/backgrounds/orientations having an equal voice and influence in professional decisions. Equal voice and respect impact should be shared. Everyone should have the same opportunities to advance and be in leadership/management roles.