Graduate Story

Joy Skipper tells us how nutritional therapy added a new dimension to her career

How did you get into food writing and styling?

I actually studied to be a photographer and in my final year, when I was photographing race and show horses, I entered BBC MasterChef just for fun. I made it through to the televised regional semi-finals and this made me think that I should try photographing food.

“From there I worked with Anthony Blake, one of the top food photographers in the UK at the time, and when the food stylist didn’t turn up one day I offered to give it a go. I loved it and found I was very good at it! From there I was asked by magazines and other clients to style their food, then write the recipes for their features, and finally got into writing books — it all happened in a very organic way.

What drew you to nutritional therapy?

I’ve been a pescatarian for 40 years and have always eaten very healthily. I wanted to learn more and help others to feel healthy and full of energy the way I do most of the time. I also love learning so nutritional therapy is great because you never stop; new research is always coming out and you have to rethink the way you approach certain things. I love learning so much that I am now studying for a Masters in sustainability — obviously focusing on food.

What was your favourite thing about studying at ION?

The great friends I made, who I am still in contact with now. We travelled to and from the weekend lectures together and we all learnt so much from each other, discussing the lectures and relating them to our own experiences.

How did your career develop after studying at ION?

I went on to study for another year to complete my degree, whilst also seeing clients on a one-to-one basis. After a while my food clients realised I could write about health and nutrition as well as food, so that side of things grew. I was then asked to present talks to corporate clients, which I love doing. I also row competitively so focused on sports nutrition initially. It was great to see results in a different way — athletes improving their times and winning races.

How has nutritional therapy changed the way you approach recipes?

I am much more aware of how healthy a recipe is and how I can include different ingredients to make it healthier. For example, using dried fruit as a sweetener instead of pure sugar, or adding spices and herbs that will not only add flavour but also an additional nutritional benefit. It obviously depends on who I am writing for, as sometimes the client’s brief can be quite strict.

What is the best thing about your job?

The variety most definitely — I couldn’t do the same thing every single day. 

I love having a few strings to my bow so every day is completely different. I think this has proved invaluable during the pandemic, because I was able to switch to giving cooking lessons online, as well as nutritional therapy consultations and presentations online too. I also love interacting with people — it is great seeing a client’s health improve when you’ve done something that initially appears to be very simple, but can have a great impact.

What are your career highlights?

There are so many. I have met and worked with some wonderful people, including lots of great chefs (most of the famous ones), all of whom I have learnt so much from. They have also fed me some amazing food, which is obviously my passion, and eating it with them in their private kitchens is very special.

What ingredients would we always find in your fridge?

Lots of spices, herbs from the garden, homemade yoghurt and bread, fresh fruit and vegetables from my garden and allotment (and a freezer full of any gluts of those), a great olive oil, tahini, nut butters and dried pulses — all ingredients you can use to make a healthy meal without too much effort.

What would be your go-to quick and healthy meal?

Grilled salmon and a variety of homegrown vegetables with a tahini and lime dressing. Followed by fruit and yoghurt, and then a couple of squares of dark chocolate. I judge the Academy of Chocolate Awards, so I am very fussy about the chocolate I eat — it’s always good quality, low in sugar and very rich and full of flavour. A little goes a long way.

What would be your advice for those thinking about studying nutritional therapy?

It’s a great subject to learn, just to enable you and your family to be healthier. I think it can be hard to make a living from nutritional therapy alone, so you need to be sure that it’s what you want to do, and maybe find something else that you can do alongside that complements it.

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