Jackson Long: Performance Nutritionist, Imposter Syndrome Extraordinaire
I’m not usually keen on self promotion. In fact, I have a really really hard time “owning” who I am in general and putting myself out there. Pretty much as long as I can remember I’ve been plagued with recurring feelings of self-doubt, fear of failure (and success), insecurity, imposter syndrome, self-consciousness, and a fundamentally unfair amount of pressure and expectation on myself. I’m still figuring out how to work through this.
Yet here we are, my first article on this ProKit website. Am I doing it right? I haven’t written a long-form thing in a while, I typically prefer to record podcasts. But I started typing out an Instagram post with my thumbs and soon ran out of space, trying to express myself through words on a platform not really designed for nuance. I wanted to share an achievement I earned last week: completing a year-long, post-graduate diploma course in Performance Nutrition. To me, this level of self promotion on social media, of sharing success and thinking people give a shit about what I have to say is overwhelming and gross. That evil little demon monkey inside my head chirps away day in and day out, battering me with “oh c’mon Jackson, you’re not good enough. No one cares. Stop kidding yourself, you actually don’t know that much about nutrition or sports or science or coaching or health. You don’t even have 5 PhD’s!” This ego-driven Resistance as Stephen Pressfield calls it, is the enemy of creativity, of really stepping in to who we are. “Owning” our uniqueness of what we can bring in to the world, the gifts we have to give.
My path into the field of sports nutrition has been anything but conventional, but looking back up to this moment I wouldn’t have it any other way. Like I mentioned, I recently finished a really great course developed by The Institute of Performance Nutrition in the UK. These guys are leaders in post grad applied sport and exercise nutrition education (translating science to practice), which I really felt I needed to add on to my master’s in the more general side of nutrition to feel confident as a sports nutritionist. I learned an insane amount of skills and knowledge from brilliant practitioners, such as previous Team Sky nutritionist, James Morton.
My focus area is on the performance and health promotion side of food, with an emphasis on plant-based nutrition. While the more traditional path of nutrition practice, at least here in the U.S., is by becoming a clinically focused Registered Dietitian, I opted to focus more on the physiology, biochemistry, and sports science route of nutrition and choose to work solely with otherwise healthy athletes to optimize performance. Very different scope of practice. RD’s often have a very different skill set than performance nutritionists like myself, and the reality is that anyone can call themselves a nutritionist without having any sort of real education or credentials. I made it my goal to buck this trend and actually gain the proper skills, knowledge, and experience (and am currently in the process of applying to the Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register, an internationally recognized accreditation organization for sports nutritionist). RD’s have an extensive internship and exam to earn their accreditation in order to practice clinical and medical nutrition therapy, and sports dietitians get a further amount of training.
Part of me feels incredibly insecure about this, and that fake-narrative voice of Resistance slaps me in the face every day with this fact — that I’m not a true nutrition expert or professional since I’m not an RD, and that I’m just another TikTok wielding, wannabe influencer with “nutritionist” in my bio because I went to some weekend course in Holistic Integrative Chakra Aligning Nutritional Therapy School of Sedona, Arizona. Even though I’ve earned a bachelor’s degree in physiology from the University of Colorado, a two-year master’s degree in applied nutrition from the University of New England, and now a year long post-grad diploma in sports nutrition, and even given a TEDx talk on nutrition, I still feel like an imposter, just waiting to be found out.
I’m realizing that a lot of people struggle with this (like a lot). I think it’s par for the course for being ambitious, for giving a shit, for wanting to do something meaningful with our short time on this planet. Combine that with the toxic culture that social media can create around FOMO and comparison, and it’s a recipe for sometimes feeling like a piece of flaming garbage.
I’m still quite young, and basically brand new to this world of sports nutrition practice and coaching endurance athletes. Even though it sometimes feels like the world is in shambles and half the time it feels like I don’t know what I’m doing, there are moments of pride, of confidence, of flow. There’s another part of me that feels really awesome and excited about the path I’m on, confident in my unique set of skills and experiences. I want to do better at leaning in to both the things that excite and scare me. Remember that the learning never stops. I’d be pretty scared if I felt like I know everything and had everything figured out and 100% confident in my abilities at age 26. And I bet you 20 pounds of raw cashews that even if I did have 5 PhD’s, or an RD credential, or a million downloads on my podcast, those voices of self doubt or imposter syndrome wouldn’t magically disappear. They keep me on my toes, keep me humble. Instead of trying to run away from them, I’m leaning in and staying hungry for more learning. Here’s to the next chapter.
Crap, now I have to actually publish this thing 😱
to learn more about who I am and what I do, check out my podcast, In The Flow.