What made me want to become a dietitian? It’s a tale to tell!
Thank you for the opportunity to share my story with you. While it might feel a tad indulgent to write a blog post about my own history, I offer a peek into my past with purpose. Connecting with a dietitian to work on your nutrition goals can feel vulnerable and scary.
My hope with this blog post is to connect with you on a human level: I am a licensed and credentialed dietitian…and I have also had my own struggles with eating, my body image, and food rules.
As I’ve worked through my food relationships to make them more positive and constructive, I have learned a lot along the way.
The early days
I grew up in an amazing family. We laughed, we played and we ate great food.
But to be honest, I didn’t actually like healthy habits so much.
As a kid, I wasn’t all that active yet (I hadn’t found activities that I really enjoyed). The food my parents made for me wasn’t all that enticing…veggies and more veggies! What I really craved back then was nachos (and still do… lol). Did you like nachos as a kid, too?
Here’s where my childhood felt harder: I stuck out. Or at least I felt like I did.
I was a lot taller than my friends and also a bit chubby. I can’t think of a time that my body didn’t make me feel self-conscious. I felt less cute than my peers and didn’t seem to be getting the same attention from boys.
Even though my parents really wanted me to be healthy, I wasn’t. I didn’t like vegetables, my body wasn’t as healthy as it could have been and my body image was terrible.
Heading into my teen years, I was so vulnerable to the pressures of dieting and weight loss, so it was no surprise when those desires took hold.
The teen years
In my teen years, I realized that I could potentially do something about my size. In pursuit of no longer being bigger than my friends (and in the interest of feeling more attractive to crushes) the dieting roller coaster began.
And man, were there some ups and downs.
While I couldn’t actually say that I was on this or that specific diet, I remember constantly thinking about – and worrying about – my body.
Occasionally, I was calorie counting. But more often, I was looking at portion sizes. Specifically, I was carefully taking note of how big my friend’s portions were and aimed to eat less. I remember trying to go as long as possible, and eating as little as I could.
During my teen years, my weight went up and down. It would trend down when I was restricting…and then when I could no longer stick with my restrictions, the weight that had quickly peeled off came right back on again.
What’s so sad looking back is I was perfectly fine and healthy. It was my bad body image driving this dieting. And while I certainly had room to improve my not-so-healthy habits from childhood, crash dieting like I was just wasn’t the way to find health.
I was punishing myself with vegetables I hated and workouts I could never sustain. Instead, I needed to find joy in nutritious foods and movement I actually liked to do.
(P.S. I don’t recommend calorie counting for most…but I also know how scary it can feel without the structure of calorie restriction. This blog post shows you just what to do: How to Stop Calorie Counting & What to Do Instead).
College + beyond
While I was a university student, I decided to try Weight Watchers to lose the weight that I (really didn’t need to) lose, once and for all.
And for a while: it worked.
I finally had the dream body that I’d always wanted.
But the reality was, I lost too much weight and lost it too fast. These changes came at a major toll on both my mental health as well as my relationship with food. This damage took years to repair.
While I didn’t see it at the time, Weight Watchers made me fearful of food. While it is true that WW helped me to eat more fruits and veggies and taught me some nutrition info, more than that, it makes me think of all foods – at every meal and snack – in terms of points.
This point system left me scared to eat olive oil or nuts because I knew they’d wreak havoc on my daily points tally. I also was manipulating the points by eating very little during the week so I could use my ‘weekly points’ on an overeating episode on the weekend. I’d eat and eat all of these saved points in one sitting and end up feeling very sick.
Because of their high point value, I was afraid to eat fats. I also didn’t know what it meant to have balance with the fun stuff. It was all-or-nothing and I felt so completely stuck. But at the same time, I felt like I had to adhere to this intense level of restriction to feel good in my body and maintain this goal weight I’d never dreamed possible.
In the years following the Weight Watchers fiasco, I stopped following the program to the letter but I continued with the restriction and unhealthy relationship with food. I started working in marketing, my first career, and I started experiencing bad digestive issues.
At first, I blamed those digestive issues on the stress of my fast-paced and demanding job. And then, I started wondering if a food intolerance was the culprit. I eventually saw a doctor and got some testing done, but really, no one knew why I was struggling so much. I was diagnosed with IBS, handed a low FODMAP diet handout, and was sent on my way.
Here’s the thing: no one told me the low FODMAP diet was meant to be temporary. I was feeling better following the low-FODMAP guidelines and so I took it as permission to get even more restrictive, but this time in the name of digestive health.
I kept having to cut out more and more foods. My symptoms would improve for a while, but they’d always come back. I felt like I couldn’t eat anything or do anything without extreme discomfort.
I felt frustrated.
I finally reached the end of my rope. My Google search connected me with a digestive health dietitian and I desperately booked an appointment.
This dietitian was so immensely helpful with my digestive issues that she inspired me to go back to school on my six-year journey to become a dietitian myself.
I impulsively quit my marketing job, moved back in with my parents to save money, and started taking high-school chemistry to qualify for undergraduate degrees in nutrition and dietetics.
And at long last, this is when things with my eating, my body image, and my relationship with food finally began to come back toward BALANCE.
First, I started realizing that my digestive issues were largely due to my restriction and undereating. I was eating so little – and although it was mostly ‘healthy’ foods, it just wasn’t enough energy or volume to keep things moving along, and for my body to have the energy it needed to prioritize the digestive process.
This led me to loosen the reins on my diet – just a little – and the journey continued.
In my training to become a dietitian, I started learning the science of nutrition and metabolism and realized how flawed the WW logic really was.
Fats weren’t something to be feared.
Sugar wasn’t something that needed to be 100% eliminated.
It was possible – and healthy – to find balance, EVEN WHEN you want to work toward a weight loss goal. And actually, it might be more sustainable to include the foods you love while you do it so that you can actually maintain any weight loss that does happen. (Psst – this is EXACTLY the approach I take with my clients today.)
Also in school, I discovered Intuitive Eating, which pushed me further toward the all-foods-fit approach that I preach today. At first, this led me to go a bit too far into the eat-whatever-I-freaking-want territory. But ultimately, Intuitive Eating really helped me relax around food. What a relief.
Intuitive Eating helped me to understand that nutritious foods fuel my body and fun foods fuel my soul. And there’s room for both.
Ultimately, I didn’t feel called to practice Intuitive Eating, even though it was so helpful in my journey. For me, using that label started making me feel restricted in a different sense.
As I moved forward as an Intuitive Eater I started to wonder, “is it bad for me to want to monitor what I eat sometimes?”. “Is it wrong for my friends to pursue weight loss?” “If I choose a salad over the fries because I feel like it better supports my health – is that diet culture?”
For me, the beauty and real BALANCE happened when I married the mindfulness and flexibility of Intuitive Eating with some intentional structure and nutrition goals that worked for me.
I found my healthy, happy version of sustainable, healthy, JOYFUL living, and through that, I discovered my passion for helping other women do the same.
And that’s a wrap
I’m willing to guess that you can see some of yourself in my story.
I’ve been the unhealthy ‘chubby’ kid.
I’ve been the teen dieter.
I’ve been the girl who was way too restrictive.
I’ve been the Intuitive Eater.
And now, I’ve realized that my best and most sustainable diet doesn’t have a name.
And I’m happiest this way. It gives me the flexibility and freedom to adjust my own nutrition goals and tactics whenever I want–with a healthy and balanced mindset–without being sucked into the diet culture of quick fixes and crash diets.
If you haven’t quite found your home between Intuitive Eating and dieting, this is the place for you. Download my free guide to feel fabulous in your body and confident in your eating WITHOUT losing control or feeling obsessed.
Or if you’re feeling ready to tackle this with the support and guidance of a dietitian who gets it, join the waitlist for my program… it’s pretty life-changing, if I do say so myself!
You deserve to find balance and joy with your eating, just like I did.
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