All it took was one major diagnosis. That was enough for Neal Malik to completely reorient his life and become a registered dietician so he could teach others about their health.

“When I was in college during my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with a chronic disease because I was not following a healthy lifestyle at the time,” said Malik. “It was the worst thing and the best thing that has ever happened to me because it has changed my trajectory in life. From then on, I wanted to help others prevent diseases and to just help them feel better.”

Today, Malik works in Dining Services and utilizes his experience in college to inspire the UCR population to live healthier.

“I will always have the disease and will always have to take medication for it. But by improving my lifestyle, my doctors have decreased my medication. I am living proof that by changing your habits, you can really make yourself feel better,” he states.

As a registered dietician, Malik’s day consists of multiple projects that he tackles one at a time. His primary responsibility is to check that UCR’s nutrition database, which contains all of the recipes of any meal served on campus, is up-to-date and accurate. Additional services that Malik performs in his occupation include advising chefs on food purchases, revising menus of UCR’s residential cafeterias and inventing nutrition education programs with topics that range from portion sizes to healthier eating habits.

“My favorite thing about my job is the creativity because I really get to use my expertise, knowledge and experience to put together fantastic programs for faculty, staff and students,” Malik says.

Amid his many projects, Malik makes it a priority to keep an eye out for student health by creating a safe environment for students with food allergies and to properly inform them about wellness and healthy eating. Malik’s ultimate goal is to foster an overall healthier campus culture for everyone.

Malik views his job as a lifestyle instead of an occupation because during his free time, he applies what he teaches on a day-to-day basis.

“Most of my free time is spent practicing what I preach. So one of my hobbies is working out at the Student Rec Center. I’m there pretty much every day — they know me there!” he says, chuckling.

Beyond fitness, Malik also enjoys playing guitar, an instrument that he has been practicing for 15 years (in his college years he was the guitar player for a band called My Favorite Band), watching TED talks and traveling with his wife.

“My wife and I try to explore somewhere new every six months or so. Australia and Thailand are the two big places that are on our bucket list. Costa Rica has been on our list for a while and now we’re going to go this December,” Malik declares excitedly.

This article first appeared in Inside UC Riverside.