Dr Somi Igbene is a biomedical scientist and registered associate nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition.
She holds a Bachelor’s degree (first-class honours) in Biomedical Science from Kings College London, a Master’s degree (distinction) in Human Nutrition from St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, and a PhD in cell and molecular immunology from Imperial College London. Somi is passionate about promoting health and wellness in the African community, and she has a keen interest in type 2 diabetes, sickle cell anaemia and weight management.
What is your top professional goal as a nutritionist?
My professional goal as a nutritionist is to educate the public, especially women, on what a healthy, balanced diet entails, cultivating healthy eating habits, managing blood sugar, and preventing type 2 diabetes.
With a doctorate degree, one would have thought you would be more academically inclined. How did you become an entrepreneur?
I am still academically inclined; I just don’t work in laboratories or teach formally in an educational institution. My career still requires teaching my clients the theoretical and practical aspects of nutrition. So, while I don’t necessarily teach officially in a school or university, I still teach in my office.
I don’t know that I followed a formal process to become an entrepreneur; if one exists, I haven’t seen it. Really, I decided I wanted to help people with their diet. I got my qualifications, opened a website and social media accounts, and started educating people. That was it.
Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way people think about their health and ultimately their diets. What should people be eating right now?
COVID-19 indeed has shown us the importance of diet and maintaining a healthy immune system. In truth, there is no one-size-fits-all diet but everyone, including children and adults, should focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, tubers, proteins, nuts and seeds. Ultra-processed foods like pastries, sweets, chocolates, cakes and fast foods should also be kept to a minimum. Portion control is vital!
As a scientist and a practitioner in the consulting and service fields, how do you hope to scale your business in a way that is simplified and sustainable?
With a service business like mine, there is a finite number of people you can work with at any one time while maintaining quality and efficiency. The plan is to, over time, bring on more and more qualified nutritionists with similar interests, skills, and vision to the team.
What does your consultancy generally do?
For example, we have created a 12-week lifestyle programme to help change the mindset, adopt healthy eating habits, lower and maintain balanced blood sugars and incorporate physical activity into the daily routine.
Unlike traditional eating plans that require you to use willpower to follow restrictive diets, the Whole Way uses specific strategies and techniques to help adopt healthy lifestyle habits.
These strategies and techniques are personalised to fit unique needs and lifestyles. They also support you to change your behaviours and adjust your mindset permanently. This way, you get off the yo-yo diet train and learn to eat in a sustainable, health-promoting manner.
Each weekly session lasts an hour. At each session, we discuss one topic and develop a strategic plan to help you implement what you’ve learned into your daily routine. So, you leave each session knowing exactly what you need to do, no guesswork.
The programme is designed such that you learn and stack on healthy habits. By the end of your programme, you will overhaul your diet and because you’ve done it slowly, it will not feel challenging or overwhelming.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I would love to tell you that I have it all figured out, but right now, I don’t. I still work very long hours, and while I’m alive, I can’t honestly say I have a life outside work. That said, I’m actively working on finding a work-life balance.
How do you get your clients to trust you?
To be honest, I think that you have to make sure that your client is aware that you have their best interest at heart and you are there to actually help them and not to shove generic advice to them and provide them with tailored tools that are specifically designed to help them.
If you are genuine, I do not think you have to work actively to get your clients to trust you just because that is the way you are and the way you come across, they are likely to see that you are willing to help them and just from that alone, they are more likely to be able to want to share with you and also the more transparent you are, especially if you are sharing your personal experience, that tends to go a long way because then they know that you see them, you have been through it yourself and because you have come out from the other side, they have more faith that you will be able to help them.
So in the long run, it is about you being transparent, friendly, emphatic, sympathetic and being a good listener; all of those things come together when building trust between you and your client because trust is a two-way thing so as long as they know that you trust them, they will more likely trust you.