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“When you lose a parent at a young age, it changes you, it makes you question everything about how and why it happened, what they could have done differently and certainly how to stop it from happening to you”, says Dr. Hazel Wallace aka “The Food Medic” as we sip coffee in London’s Soho.
It’s a feeling I know well myself, as I explain to her, having also lost my father due to poor health, I too, have become fascinated in diet and nutrition and what I can be in control to change. However, whilst I have gone down the entrepreneurial route to solving this problem – Hazel, whose father passed away when she was 14, from a stroke, took herself to medical school.
“Like most young people, I wasn’t that sure what I wanted to do, so at first I just signed up to do medical sciences for 3 years, as it gave me optionality”, she says. “Whilst I was at Uni, I found myself eating badly, drinking too much and essentially getting out of shape really quickly, and when I read about diets in magazines, it all just felt like garbage.”
So Hazel decided to start investigating it all for herself, taking personal responsibility for both her diet and her health, she started a blog, now 7 years ago, called ‘The Food Medic’, which started to gain traction quickly.
“The crazy thing is, you get about 10 hours of nutritional training in 7 years of medical training, we just aren’t conditioned to consider prevention over cure. It’s only in very recent times that people have been focusing so heavily on food, when I started, people weren’t as interested in that conversation, but I did get lucky in timing with blogging so I was able to gain an audience fairly quickly, by offering something new.”
Through the popularity of her blog, Hazel was offered a book deal in her final year of medical school, which she initially turned down, afraid of over-committing. However, it was a ‘now or never’ type situation, so she completed her degree at the same time as writing the book. As a budding Doctor, she should, of course, have known better, but when do Doctors ever take their own advice?
“I ended up with shingles, strep throat and just feeling really terrible for a long time, so I learned a valuable lesson, but on reflection, I’m glad I did it because it helped shape my career”.
After that, she knew that she wanted to pursue both, after all - Hazel doesn’t seem to be the compromising type. Her drive and ambition regularly permeate our interview but in a human and charming way that reflect positively on her life choices.
She completed the rest of her medical degree, and is now a fully qualified doctor, has written a second book, and focused her energy on building up a community of loyal followers through her Instagram account.
At 28 years old, 7 years on from starting a blog, she’s amassed over 300,000 passionate and dedicated followers, and she spends a reasonable amount of her time getting to know them, what they find valuable, and what they don’t, so she can better serve them. “I feel like I have a unique opportunity to be of service, and share nutritional insights and advice from a medical point of view, which is a rare gift, I’m lucky to share”, she says. “I’ve enrolled over the last year in a masters degree in public health and nutrition to make sure I am really up to scratch and contributing the greatest value possible to my followers”.
All this, of course, prompts me to pose the question we are all wondering – “how do you have the time?”
With a Podcast out too, it feels hard to imagine anyone could fit all of this AND be a practicing doctor.
“I have spent time trying to analyze where I’m best suited to spend more of my time, and whilst I love being a doctor, I think this is my real calling, so I take locum jobs at UCL because it’s important to me to continue my training, but in reality, I know I can contribute meaningfully to society based on the amazing feedback I get from my community of followers”.
With 85% of her followers being women between 25 – 40, she spends a lot of time answering their questions and interacting with them regularly.
“It’s a strange thing”, she says to me, on reflection. “I know how lonely a place social media can be, and I do try to limit my own usage, of course, I know scientifically how harmful it can be for our mental health, but for me, being of service, it can be a place to find solace and a place of belonging. I get such energy from engaging with my community, it mitigates the downsides”.
For such a confident lady, Dr. Hazel Wallace notes that she doesn’t know for sure what she’ll end up doing in the future, but whilst this is working so well, she’s happy to continue adding value.
She comments that the likes of Zoella, Carly Rowena, and Dr. Rupy Aujla, have all been an inspiration for her own journey, but she has her own style, and after 7 years of constant feedback with her huge community of fans, has her own path to success well paved.
Her Key Takeaways For Building Your Own Community:
- Don’t add to the noise for the sake of it
- It’s only valuable if you are adding value, what’s your unique take on the world?
- Pick an audience, speak to them and for them all the time and be ruthlessly consistent with your message.
Dr. Hazel Wallace can be found @thefoodmedic on… everything.
January 13, 2019 at 01:23PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs