Rosie Pope said it best when she said, “If you’re a mom, you’re a superhero.”
This Mother’s Day, SG Lifestyle’s Column Editor, Angela, caught up with super mum, 39 year-old cancer survivor and Principal Dietitian at Raffles Medical Group, Bibi Chia, over coffee and pancakes. During the interview, her sons, 14 year old Kiefer and 11 year old Dylan, sat good-naturedly, topping their mum’s glass with water periodically so she stays hydrated.
SGLS: Why did you choose to go into nutrition and dietetics? Tell us more about what you do.
Bibi: I knew dietetics was an area I wanted to get into at a young age. I was 17 years old when I made that decision. Over time, my passion for dietetics and nutrition grew because I was learning all the time.
I love food (both cooking and eating) and I love helping people, especially fellow foodies. And hence, my role at Raffles Medical fulfills this. As Principal Dietician, my team and I are deployed to educate and counsel patients who need to unlearn and relearn their knowledge of food and also debunk certain myths about food. For example, patients can be suffering from nutrition-related health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, gout or diabetes for a long time before seeking advice from us. They are not aware that making certain dietary changes can help them feel a lot better.
Apart from educating and counselling patients, I also help plan menus for our hospital’s patients, develop healthy-eating programmes for corporate clients and conduct health talks and webinars for public education.
SGLS: You specialise in healthy aging and paediatrics. Why these areas?
Bibi: These are the areas that are very close to my heart. My specialisation in paediatrics is due to the fact that I am a mother of two growing boys, one of whom is now a teenager, so I apply my knowledge of dietetics in my cooking to ensure my children consume the right nutrients. I research a lot and practice healthy aging so that I can live a healthy, long life.
SGLS: What are some of the common conditions (among patients) you have observed in your day-to-day work?
Bibi: I have been seeing an increase in the number of teenagers, some as young as 12 or 13 who have eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. They are at an age where their bodies are changing and they get confused and insecure about how they look. I see quite a number of teenagers who are dancers, gymnasts or performers, who have a love-hate relationship with food. Without intervention, their struggles can cause both physical and emotional damage.
As a mother, it breaks my heart to see these kids suffering. So I take it upon myself to work closely with these patients and their families so they can develop a more positive relationship with food, with the right nutrients, from the right food groups.
SGLS: How do you strike a balance between raising two boys and building your career?
Bibi: I am blessed that my sons are good-natured and mature for their age. They understand the challenges of me being a single mother with a full time job and hence, they are appreciative and well-behaved in general. I believe most working mothers often wish to have more time with their children and so achieving work-life balance is not easy. I try my best to spend quality time with them by involving them in the kitchen, making lunch boxes and exercising together. Prior to the pandemic, I also make it a point to travel with them.
SGLS: What would your last meal be?
Bibi: Definitely Lou Hei (Singaporean toss salad eaten during Chinese New Year). I get to wish everyone well, eat an auspicious salad and be with all the people I love.
Bonus Q: Who inspires you in work and in life?
Bibi: Dr Jeremy Lim, co-founder and CEO of AMiLi, a gut microbiome company, and Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health. He is both my mentor and good friend. He has a wealth of knowledge which he imparts generously. I look up to him a lot and aspire to be like him.
For the month of May, Bibi and AMiLi are offering SG Lifestyle’s readers who are interested to know more about achieving good gut health 5% off a Bio and Me test kit. Use promo code <AMILI> when carting out. Visit https://bioandme.asia/ for more information. Promo ends 31 May 2021. Terms and conditions apply.
Interview by Angela May Tan, Column Editor & Writer.
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