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Insider Secrets of Being a Health Writer

Welcome to Bolt’s insider secrets series! The Insider Series will take you behind the scenes into the worlds of writers from different industries. Here, you’ll find out everything from what their jobs are like to how to get started in their field.

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Originally from the PR industry, Melody Chong used to service clients in the F&B sector. She eventually fell in love with living a healthy lifestyle and began writing health articles and contributing to publications from Shape Singapore to The Straits Times. She then travelled to California to learn more about living healthily and returned to Singapore as a health coach.

1. How did you end up writing about health and wellness?

I’ve always been into fitness, health and wellness and writing was part of my PR work since I started 15 years ago.

It came naturally to drift into writing about health and wellness in time. One of the first full feature articles I wrote for a mainstream magazine was on healthy festive eating in the December 2010 issue of Shape Singapore.

After I became a certified health coach at IIN (Institute for Integrative Nutrition) in 2013, while based in San Francisco, California, I started writing more and contributing to the health and wellness space there. I also created and posted healthy recipes. A few of which are featured on popular US-based wellness sites like One Green Planet.

2. Do you think it’s necessary for health writers to live a healthy lifestyle as well?

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Yes, I believe in walking the talk. It makes the writer more believable and credible to practice what they preach and set the example for healthy living.

Readers can relate better and form a bond with the writer as a role model. Just as I select my PR clients (now mostly related to health and wellness) based on a like-minded personal belief in their products or services, I choose to write only articles with topics I would like to share with a public audience.

I feel a sense of responsibility towards indirectly influencing their choices from what I help promote through the media or write about.

3. What was your most challenging moment and how did you deal with it?

It’s always challenging to balance my PR work, health coaching and writing, along with keeping a fit and healthy lifestyle. But I learn to make sacrifices, e.g. spending less time for entertainment (watching movies, TV, shopping) or social engagements like attending events and meeting friends, and prioritise accordingly. Some weekends become weekdays or nights become days for me!

4. What are some tips and tricks for your industry?

Health is a dynamic industry with a constant flood of information, especially on the latest findings and research. It’s an ever changing but also evergreen environment with constant learning which makes it important to keep abreast with the latest happenings in the industry.

5. What are some of your favourite books, reference material, essential texts to read?

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I do not have any particular favourite books but I do spend time reading the latest in health, wellness and fitness trends from the various US-based health community web portals like WebMD, MindBodyGreen, Greatist, Elephant Journal, my alumni IIN blog and subscribe to various US mailing lists like Food Matters, Health and The Food Revolution Network. I also follow well-known US health bloggers like Foodbabe, Against All Grain, Minimalist Baker. With my limited time, I prefer to read more up-to-date information on what is happening in the world of health through the web or hear from fellow reputable health and wellness bloggers!

6. With so many people reacting to health foods in different ways, how do you ensure your content fits your audience?

It would be important to share multiple opinions, various view points and research studies but not single out any particular one. I would make comparisons and personal recommendations or preferred choices but not push my opinions, noting reader sensitivity and subjective viewpoints.

7. How has studying about health in California affected the way you view healthy living?

I was fortunate to be based in San Francisco while taking up my health coaching course. It’s the ideal place to pick up on the latest trends in health, fitness and wellness. It is the hub for tech and social media along with the most recent health developments.

There’s also a rise in combining the worlds of health and tech which I got to witness in terms of seeing the latest apps and start-ups. I had the opportunity to volunteer with local non-profit organizations like 18 Reasons to talk and share about health and wellness through health programmes, workshops and cooking demos for the less fortunate or lower income groups.

It was through such personal hands-on experiences that I learnt more about relating to people with health issues and getting directly involved with wellness topics. My time in California has definitely influenced my learning and readings from mostly US-based sites as one can gather in this interview!

8. Any final health tips for your fellow writers?

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Every body is different. Experiment with your bodies and find out what suits you best, whether it’s diet or fitness or lifestyle. What is good for your family member or friend may not necessarily benefit you, so listen to your body, choose what works best for you and not follow anyone else.