My Story: The Path to Becoming a Dietitian

Mountaintop

I was born into a family that always prioritized healthy eating and exercise. Both of my parents came from families that struggled with obesity and heart disease and they were set on keeping both at bay for themselves and their children. My dad was in the Air Force and started running as a young dad as a way to manage his stress and his weight. He would drag my older brother and I along with him on short, then longer runs. I ran my first 5k race at 9 years old and came in 3rd for women (granted it was a small race in the middle of Georgia before races were popular, but still). I remember always kicking it into high gear at the end of a race passing exhausted runners and feeling my leg hairs standing on end as the adrenaline rushed through my body (remember I was 9, no shaved legs yet). I loved running and I was on top of the world when I ran. My head was clear, my body alive, and my spirit soared. In the 1980's, my dad also discovered Adele Davis's book. A nutrition guru way before her time, Adele Davis preached about whole foods, no sugar, and vitamins and supplements. All of a sudden everything we ate was sprinkled with wheat germ, sugar cereals and white breads were banned from our house, and we had 6 or 7 huge vitamins lined up on our plates every morning. 

My mom also exercised regularly. She called it "brisk walking" and I thought it was what every mom did until I began to get baffled looks at the work "brisk".  Now that I am a mother, I look back and know that it was also her time to get out of the house and have some peace away from the family responsibilities. I remember when I was in elementary school, before Adele Davis, my mom and I would split Happy Meals. She was all about portion control. Maybe even to the point of anorexia. I know my mother feared obesity, which her own mother and sister had battled, along with many of her aunts. 

When I entered high school, I started running on the cross country team. I used running just like my dad did...to manage stress and control my weight. Running in high school with my team and by myself were some of my greatest memories. I always felt like I was on top of the world when I ran. And after I was finished, I felt so calm and relaxed. It almost felt like a drug to me. And maybe in some ways it was. I had always struggled with chronic anxiety and sometimes fell into deeper depressions. Running always kept both at bay. If I was feeling stressed or upset about something, I just went for a run. By the time I came back, all was well (disclaimer: sometimes this isn't the best approach). During high school, I studied sports nutrition and learned how to feed my body so that I could perform my best. As I fine tuned my diet, my times improved drastically. This was the beginning of my interest in nutrition and dietetics. As I entered college as a freshman, the dining hall called my name and I was drawn to the bins of Frosted Flakes, white rolls, pasta, frozen yogurt and fresh baked cookies. Everything that had been forbidden at home was now available 24/7 and I could have as much as I wanted. Late night pizza orders in the dorms were a way of bonding with my girlfriends and there was A LOT of bonding going on. My weight went up 35 pounds in that first year at college. I looked in the mirror and was not happy with what I saw. But as a dietetics student, I knew what I had to do. It was just a matter of doing it. So back to the gym I went. Back to the running and portion controlling. I started going to Mrs. Greens, the campus salad bar, and started avoiding the dining hall. I refused to eat pizza at 3 in the morning. And the weight started to slowly come off. In many ways, being a dietitian has held me accountable to always eating healthy and exercising. I know that I have to represent health, and the pressure is pretty high. But I am far from perfect. I will never tell anyone that I eat perfectly. And I never expect perfection from my patients. I went through 4 pregnancies and I had my fair share of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food ice cream and pizza. I stopped running during my pregnancies which was hard to do. But I "brisk walked" (thanks Mom) before and during each one. And after I recovered from my pregnancies, I always went back to running. 

Two years ago, I went through a very difficult separation and divorce and I found myself on the other side: losing weight, unable to run and feeling undernourished. I had to use what I had learned as a dietitian to sometimes force feed myself, to give myself nourishment in order to have the strength to get through very hard days for myself and my children. And sometimes that meant making protein shakes and adding fruits and vegetables when I didn't feel like eating. And I had to continue to cook healthy meals for my children and myself when I didn't have the time or the energy. But I always knew that this is one of the things that would pull me through. If I could keep my body healthy, I would make it through. 

One amazing thing that came out of the dark days over the last two years, was my private practice. I wasn't even thinking about starting my own business. I had given up on that dream years ago as I started having children. But one day, I was out with my friends looking at office spaces for them. And before I knew it, I was signing on the dotted line for my own office. I had no idea how to move forward in building a practice. But step by step, I figured it out. As I continue to do every day as my business grows. I'm looking forward now to my second year of business. My business plan this year is different than last. Now that I have a year's worth of experiences behind me, I am learning what I need to do to move forward. I am looking forward to another year of helping others become the healthiest versions of themselves while I do the same. I push them as I push myself. I have compassion for them and their path as I do the same for myself. But for right now, I am right where I need to be. Being a mother, a dietitian, a business owner, and having amazing friends and family by my side every day. Those are the things that matter to me. My path, although it has been far from easy, has been perfect for me. And I'm looking forward to where it brings me to next. Annnd here I go.