When I did my “ask me anything” post on Instagram Stories over the weekend one of the questions that came up was why I became a Registered Dietitian.
I started answering it on Instagram stories but it ended up being really long winded so I figured I would write up a [not so] little post on it instead 🙂
There are a number of reasons I wanted to pursue this career path. I lost my dad to cancer when I was 23 which sparked an interested in diet and how it relates to overall health. I worked at Health.com and interacted with the on-site RDs there and loved what they told me about their careers. But the number one reason I chose to become an RD lies in the story below.
When I was in my second year of college I go SUPER into health and wellness. I did sports all throughout high school and played volleyball in college my freshman year, but ended up not pursuing it into my sophomore year. Without a strict training routine, I definitely let my fitness slide and since it was college, my eating was not great (don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t horrible, but I knew there was some room for improvement).
So when my junior year rolled around, I decided I wanted to get back into a routine and start eating better, just to feel better overall.
I started doing a yoga class 5 days a week and was able to get back into a running routine. I felt great once I established a fitness plan and then decided to focus on my eating.
Growing up we ate well. We ate family dinner every night (usually a meat, a vegetable and a starch but always pizza on Friday!), my parents encouraged fresh produce and dessert was always available to us if we wanted it but it wasn’t a “must-have” every night.
Other than that, I knew nothing about nutrition. To combat that, I turned to fitness magazines which, to my great delight, had A TON of nutrition advice in them! I read them cover to cover, absorbing any and all information I could.
The only problem is that fitness magazines are not individualized in any way (I mean obviously, how could they be?) and I was taking the information I was reading like a personal prescription.
Most of the advice touted was how to cut back on calories, how to reduce fat, foods to avoid, showcasing celebrity diets (steamed fish and veggies only!), how to eat low carb, etc. Basically, completely inappropriate advice for my highly active, healthy weighted 20 year old self. But what did I know? I put it into practice and felt so proud of myself! I was following the advice to a T, improving my health and generally just doing great things for my body!
Well…not quite. About 3 months into following such a restrictive diet (I mean, what’s left as an option when you take ALL the diet advice you read and put it into practice?) I had dropped quite a bit of weight – especially because I had only increased my activity as my endurance grew. By 6 months, I had little energy on a day to day basis, my hair was super thin and by one year in I had lost my period.
Looking back I can’t believe I didn’t notice the above happening and think “wow, this is the complete opposite of my goal to get healthier.” I pushed those things aside telling myself what I had read, that getting healthy wasn’t always easy and that it was just about willpower and sticking to it!
So I stuck to it…but what developed the longer I stuck to it was a complete and total fear around food. I always felt like I was in danger of eating the “wrong” thing. And let me tell you, as a total food lover, it’s crazy to look back and ever think this was me! I never had an unhealthy relationship with food or my body so it was totally new territory for me. It was like I had been brainwashed by all the diet advice and with every new piece of advice I read, I felt like I had to adhere to it. I didn’t think to fact check any of the advice I was following or consult an expert to find out if it was right for me, I just went right along with it because it was in magazine! All the things I as a nutrition professional now, would warn against doing (not fact checking, not consulting an expert, blindly following random advice from a friend/magazine/book/blog).
It took a while for the fog to finally lift and realize that I was actually totally miserable! Not to mention I was about as far away from my goal of getting healthier than I had ever been in my life! I was way under weight, I could barely exercise anymore due to lack of energy, I was always tired yet had trouble sleeping and was withdrawing socially.
Once I was able to recalibrate and get back to just listening to my body and letting my hunger and fullness cues guide me, I never looked back! And I can absolutely say I’m happier and healthier living life that way than I ever was trying to follow all those crazy diet rules.
Even though it was well over 10 years ago and it wasn’t a very long period of time that I dealt with it, just having gone through it and come out the other side sparked my desire to go back to school and get educated so that I could be a knowledgable voice of reason and moderation for other people in my same position: impressionable, young (and my case a little naive!) individuals that have the best intentions to improve their health.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to blame my going through that on fitness magazines, I should’ve been more responsible about my consumption and should’ve listened to my own body (not to mention my worried friends and family when my weight dropped) rather than just blindly following generalized advice and thinking I knew better because of it!
As crappy as that experience was, I’m grateful for it because it’s what drove me to pursue my degree and why I get to do what I do every day – putting out a message of moderation and balance! Showing people that you don’t need to follow a specific plan, you can trust your body to tell you what it needs and most importantly, that giving into a craving or enjoying a favorite food when you want it is not wrong or something to feel guilty about!
If you saw my Instagram story last Friday night where I was saying the Instagram algorithm gets so frustrating because I feel like it prevents me from reaching so many of you, this is why. I’m so passionate about spreading the message of balance and moderation because I know what it’s like to feel like you’ve lost that. I want people to know that it doesn’t have to be that way! If I can help even one person to be rid of that feeling just a little bit, I want to do it.
One last note and then I’ll wrap up as I know this has been long! We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with information every day. Some of it’s great, some of it’s not so great. Anyone can promote themselves as an expert on any topic of their choice. I encourage you to always consider the source before adopting anything out there (diet, beauty and otherwise!) and be a discerning consumer – do your fact checking and consult an expert to see if it’s right for you and your needs before implementing it.17