Crying from frustration was the beginning of my journey to self-motivation, transformation and my career. This was not a very exciting starting point but this pivotal moment is what changed my mindset. Being healthy was never a priority to me. I ate what I wanted, was active when I wanted but it was never consistent. For a long time, the only vegetables I ate were tomatoes and broccoli. I was a picky vegetarian leading me to make very unhealthy choices. These habits carried me through college where my main food choices included French fries, broccoli, pizza, waffles, ice tea and three cookies after every meal. I came from a household that always ate at home with wholesome meals and while I was still picky at home my parents always made sure I had a healthy meal. When I went away to college, this all changed. Needless to say, I started to gain weight. I began to feel tired all day no matter how long I slept the previous night. I grew frustrated when I started to feel uncomfortable in my own body and did not have the energy to do what I wanted to do during the day.
One day on my winter break from school I broke down from frustration with myself. I got to the point where I felt enough is enough and something just clicked in me where I knew something had to change. I decided to start slow by going for walks and tracking my calories. When I started tracking my calories, this was the biggest wake up call for me. I could not believe one cookie could be almost two hundred calories. This means that my post meal cookie consumption was adding up to six hundred calories a day. That alone was a huge shock for me. I slowly started reading about nutrition online and learning different swaps I could make to decrease my calorie intake. While I will never support obsessive calorie tracking behaviors, I do believe it can be necessary for some to track calories and see how many calories are in some foods. This is more so to help you be mindful instead of restricting. I could have eaten a cookie with every meal, but maybe three every day is pushing it. Nutrition is a lot about balance which I did not have or understand at that time in my life.
When I first started, my goal was to solely lose weight because I associated being thin as being healthy. As I continued to decrease calories, I also started lifting in the weight room on campus. The more I worked out, the less I ate and I started to lose weight fast. I became addicted to that feeling of seeing the scale drop. I eventually lost over thirty pounds and while I was so happy and proud of my results I will later come to realize that the habits I created were not sustainable.
I continued with hours of workouts and eating too few calories and I eventually hit a wall of just exhaustion. This was not the lifestyle I wanted to lead. I began to add back calories in my diet and was amazed that I was still seeing progress. I started studying nutrition on my own and enrolled in a nutrition class at school. During a summer break I worked with dietitians at a hospital and this confirmed my decision to change paths to study nutrition. I loved seeing the connection to what we eat and disease. We are not taught nutrition as a child and are just left to learn from media and advertisement influences. I was left thinking that a dietitian could have a huge influence on someone’s life. I had made the decision that summer to begin researching how I can become a dietitian.
Turns out, becoming a dietitian is no easy feat. It looked like I would have to take many science based classes, get accepted into a specific dietetics program and then apply to a competitive internship program where only 50% of applicants are matched. I was nervous but knew that this is what I wanted my career to be. So, I began taking my pre requisite classes in science which included organic chemistry, biochemistry, anatomy & physiology and many more. They were not easy. I was sharing classes with future doctors, nurses and physical therapists. While taking these classes I knew I needed hands on experience so I looked around and applied for internships and field work. I began working in an edible garden teaching others how to grow their own vegetables and live sustainably. I even learned how to raise bees! I also worked with children at a nutrition summer camp, did diabetes research and worked at one of New York City’s top hospitals. To my surprise, I loved all of these experiences. I was excited to dive more into the field. I applied to my master’s program in NYC and was accepted!
My masters was difficult, I went full time to school and took many classes ranging from food science to research to food service. As a nutrition student you not only learn what diets treat what illness but also how to run a food kitchen and much more. It was a crazy two years filled with study groups, late nights, working part time on the side as well as picking up non paid practice hours to gain experience. I had a goal to be a competitive candidate for the internship process, I did not want to give a program a reason to say no to me! When it finally came down to applying to the internship, I was very nervous. But, I pushed past my nerves and filled out the very long application, completed my essay, got recommendations and received some interview dates. I did a lot of research before my interviews, preparing for possible questions about myself but also situational based questions. The way a dietetic internship match works is the individual ranks their top internships and then the internship ranks their top candidates and it has to be a match. Once match day came, I was terrified to look on the computer system. I waited hours after it posted results to check but when I finally decided to, I matched to my top choice! All my hard work had truly paid off and I could not believe I was at this point in my future career.
That September I started the internship. The internship is set up as if you are working a full time job so each week I would complete forty hours of supervised practice as well as completing a master level class. This internship is unpaid so I chose to also work on the weekends during this time at an eating disorder residential facility. Wow it was such a busy year! During the internship I rotated to different sites which included diabetes, oncology, long term care facilities, food service, pediatrics, dialysis, supermarket settings and more. I was lucky to have an internship that provided many different settings to learn from.
After the internship it was time to study for the Registered Dietitian exam to get my credential. I spent all summer studying and eventually passed my exam. I was so nervous the first time, I was shaking. This is not something I usually share but I did not pass my exam on the first try. All I can remember from that day was shaking with nerves and I could not think clearly. I was prepared but I was not confident. The second time around I studied but concentrated more on positive affirmations and believing in myself. The second time around, I passed! I share this because I hope if you have found yourself failing at something you won’t feel alone. Do not give up! I hadn’t come that far to just not try again. You can do it!
After passing my exam, I applied for many jobs. My first two jobs were at a dialysis facility and an eating disorder facility. Something I learned from these jobs was that I prefer having a connection with my clients and being able to interact often. In my dialysis facility I saw how lack of diet education affected most of my clients. It really inspired me to want to educate more people and provide evidenced based nutrition. From personal experience and from working with clients I saw how overwhelming living a healthy balanced life can actually be. Keto, low carb, all meat, no meat, raw food, there is just so much out there. I want to help others find their balance in nutrition and be able to make it a lifestyle rather than a quick fix.
So this brings me to the day Krissy Cela posted on her story that she was looking for a dietitian to create meals. I was following Krissy for a long time and always loved her simple workouts and approach to a sustainable and balanced healthy lifestyle. Immediately I sent her a DM and forwarded my resume. This truly felt like the opportunity I was looking for to help others. At first I thought I would just be behind the scenes creating meals for the app. Krissy took my position to the next level and told me she wanted to have a dietitian on board because she values the insight of a professional. This meant the world to me! Many nutritionists do not go through the education a dietitian does, the fact that Krissy saw this and valued my experience meant a lot to me. I never hesitated to say yes to Krissy and here we are now! I look forward to helping each and every one of you through your journey and being right by your side through it all. Continue to follow this journey and do it for you and no one else. Your progress will not be linear, instead you may find yourself changing paths and finding different things that work for you. Just don’t give up!