IN THIS AGE of 'slim is beautiful', nutritionists and dietitians have become ubiquitous. You find their pictures in newspapers and magazines, on television and advertising billboards, dishing out information about the latest diet and how to lose weight. It is easy to think this profession is part of the beauty industry. Well, it is not. Leslie Chan Kwok-pan and Spencer Tong Tai-yin are two dietitians in a non-profit organisation, the Hong Kong Council of Early Childhood Education and Service (CECES). They are responsible for organising a variety of projects in the community and in schools to promote nutrition and health. 'Our job is not about asking people not to eat, our job is choosing the right food for people to eat,' Mr Chan, 28, says. Mr Chan has also worked in the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital and the Department of Health's Elderly Health Services unit, counselling patients and carrying out health and nutrition programmes. Mr Tong was a counsellor in a commercial physical fitness centre. 'I used to meet at least 20 clients a day, and sometimes more than 40. I gave clients weight-loss advice and set a tailor-made menu for them,' the 28-year-old recalls. Dietitians can also be found working in the catering industry, for healthy food product companies, in food safety and in scientific research. After graduating in food and nutritional science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Mr Chan and Mr Tong continued their postgraduate studies in dietetics in Britain to become registered dieticians. 'All graduates in nutrition can claim to be nutritionists, but not all are dietitians,' Mr Chan explains. 'A dietitian must have undergone a one-year clinical placement at a hospital and be registered with an official organisation such as CPSM [The Council For Professions Supplementary to Medicine] in the United Kingdom.' As there is no official organisation like CPSM in the SAR, local dietitians have to be registered in other countries such as the UK, Australia, Canada and the United States. What makes Mr Chan and Mr Tong different is that they belong to a profession dominated by women. It is estimated that only 10 per cent of dietitians are men. Since joining the industry about three years ago, they have found their profession challenging. 'It can be quite fun. People are interested in our profession as it relates to everybody,' Mr Chan explains. 'It's a good talking point,' he adds. The two dietitians advise anyone interested in joining the profession to start as a volunteer with a hospital or with organisations such as CECES. 'You get a better taste for the job if you are directly involved with what the dietitians do or by chatting to them when you are a volunteer. It's better than going to the open days organised by the universities,' Mr Chan says. Since there is no dietetics degree course available in the SAR yet, the dietitians suggest studying for a degree abroad. 'Or you could start from studying a broader course majoring in nutrition to see whether you like to be a dietitian,' they advise.