Learning from my mistakes…

Alrighty everyone… time for a little personal moment. I have been thinking about writing this post for a few weeks, but honestly was a little nervous about it. Sometimes it makes me squirm to acknowledge my imperfections or my past mistakes because well, who wants to really come face to face with those things?

Yesterday I read Alexis Joseph’s (Hummusapian) post, I Have Been Changed for Good, and so much of what she talked about resonated with me and gave me a little push to share my own story of how I have evolved over the years. If you haven’t read her article, I highly recommend you take a look and see if you feel some of the inspiration that I felt after finishing.Everyone has a “story” or has something about themselves that they dislike or work to change. I’m not going to sit here and talk about all my problems or struggles as someone who works in a profession where talking and thinking about food can consume a good chunk of my day. I more want to reflect back on where I was and who I hope I am becoming now in my career and in this hobby I have adopted, blogging.

No, I don’t have over a million followers. In one day, I really don’t know how many people I reach. My hope is that for those who read this, maybe they can reflect on themselves in a similar way. Maybe you will just get to know me a little better and either appreciate my honesty and flaws or think that my words have little value. I can only hope that what I say might just help one other person.

I have been blogging for about 5 years. I started blogging in college as an outlet and way to help others “eat healthy”. What a blanket statement right? It’s interesting as I look through my various phases of blogging the different names that I took on and how they related to that period of time in my life – Nutritious, Fit Me; Nibble on Nutrition; and now today, Her Healthy Kitchen. Boy, does this bring me full circle. It may not be apparent to you, but to me this timeline truly shows my growth as a person and as a health professional.

When I first started my blog and was in the height of taking nutrition classes and “training” myself to be the best nutrition professional possible, I was doing anything and everything possible to maintain that image. “The perfect dietitian.” What even is that? To me, as someone who wanted so badly to have that title this meant eating perfectly, being at an optimal fitness level, and being a “role model” for those trying to achieve the same.

If I could go back in time, I would change so many things about this point in my educational career.

My recipes and my advice were all about having “less”. Less sugar… less fat…less dairy; the more I took away, the smaller the chance was of me not looking the way I needed and achieving the image that I was going for. I was fueling my body with “diet” products that were filled with artificial sweeteners or weren’t filling or satisfying (rice cakes — AWFUL decision) all to keep my calories where I wanted them. I was extra careful with the foods that I chose and was very proud of my diligence and dedication to “healthy eating”.

At the time, I was training for half marathons and not fueling properly, and when the training was over would struggle with the thought of not continuing to “feel fit” or exercise in the way that I was. I was prideful when people told me I was thin because I was doing it the “right way” in my eyes. Of course I am thin. I mean, I was studying nutrition for goodness sake?

Now, I’m not saying I had a problem with eating. I ate a lot… I was just extra cautious and would avoid foods that I though may effect my body in a way that I did not want or like. I have had many close people in my life struggle with disordered eating, so I am well aware that this is a slippery path that many people can find themselves going down. I don’t think I was at that point, but I do think my perception of food and nutrition was very skewed.

A few things happened to me since that time period.

For one, I actually became a Registered Dietitian. As a Registered Dietitian, my looks and my appearance mean nothing to a 5 year old child who doesn’t know where he’ll receive his next meal if it is not at school. It doesn’t matter to a newly diagnosed diabetic teen who is angry and upset that they cannot eat what their friends eat. Being a dietitian is so much more than teaching people to “eat healthy”. My job helps me build connections with families, children, new mothers, and help them prevent future disease and disparity. I can play a role in breaking the cycle of diabetes for a family by educating a child on how to make themselves balanced meals on a budget. I can teach a mother how to properly feed her infant so that it can thrive and grow at an optimal rate. This is my job, and this is something that I live for.

The second thing that happened is I got married! I have one of the most supportive spouses ever. When I started really getting into Her Healthy Kitchen and revamping my approach to blogging, Jeff was and still is my number one supporter. Being married to someone that has complete opposite eating habits than myself has actually helped me become more balanced with my own eating. I want to fuel our little family with wholesome foods that are not only are satisfying, but nourish us and keep us healthy and fulfilled. While some days the challenge of hiding veggies in our food (sorry Jeff!) can be tiresome, cooking for two has opened my eyes to new recipes, new challenges, and has made me really appreciate sharing a meal with someone else — not analyzing every part of that meal.
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I think about my views on food and nutrition now, and I am so proud of where I am. Five year ago, I was eating PB2 to make sure I didn’t have too much fat from peanut butter. Today, I probably have at least 1-2 Tbsp of full fat peanut butter every day on top of eating handfuls of nuts such as almonds or cashews for snacks while I’m at work. Why did I make this change? Because why miss out on all the healthy fats that REAL peanut butter and real nuts have to offer? Fat is good baby!

A few years ago, I also fell into the thought that I shouldn’t eat whole eggs and would only eat egg whites; now I eat eggs almost daily for breakfast INCLUDING one big, tasty egg yolk. I now happily eat chicken, turkey, and pork (actually, I hate going a day without one of these proteins) whereas I previously avoided meat at all costs. I now look at whole foods as my fuel. I eat fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and some grains, and you will very rarely find me looking for a “low fat” product.

While I still support eating for good health and love posting all of my recipes, I think my life has become much more balanced and my approach to talking about food and nutrition has changed.

No, I still don’t support going to McDonald’s and ordering an extra large fry and thirst buster of soda, but I see the obsession that people can develop with eating “perfect” and never making a “bad decision”. Yes, there are circumstances where “low fat” or “diet products” have their place, and I recognize when those arise during a consult or counseling experience.

Today, my hobby for blogging incorporates my world of balance. Her Healthy Kitchen shows everything that I love about food, nutrition, and living my version of a healthy lifestyle. I love to eat! I want to be able to help others without creating obsessions or making people feel bad about themselves or who they are as a person. There is such a blurred line between being obsessive with healthy eating and eating for good health. I choose the latter and hope that I can help and inspire others to do the same!

 

 


I’m a dietitian, and I love vegetables, donuts, and ice cream.

Ok everyone, that National Nutrition Month post is finally here! Each year during NNM you hear me babble about some topic that I think will resonate with others. While this post might be a little different, I still hope it give incite to some of the myths and misconceptions that come with being a dietitian. I have read a few other bloggers discuss similar topics, or talk about the evolution and change that is occurring with “food talk” or talk of nutrition on social media and other outlets. I think it’s time I give my opinion and let you in on some of my biggest struggles when it comes to being a dietitian.

My NNM topic this year is going to be on, well…. myself in a way. I say myself, because I’m a Registered Dietitian, but I hope that some of my other dietitian friends read this and get a giggle or two out of it. While we all have different ways of working, promoting and using our knowledge to help others, or getting involved in different things outside of daily work, I think its important to clear up some of the myths and misconceptions about being a dietitian.

1. Because I’m a dietitian, all I want to talk about is fruits and vegetables. 

Yes, I love eating healthy. I love talking about food and creating healthy recipes; I love helping others, but food and nutrition does not rule my life. With that said, very rarely am I able to turn off the “dietitian” switch… and that isn’t by choice. We live in a world now where food and nutrition talk is everywhere. Flip through Pinterest, scroll through Facebook, or take a look at a few Snap or Instagram stories. Everyone is talking about what they are doing to get healthy, why they are qualified to talk about it, and what new diet they tried or want to try is. Recipes float through Facebook and Pinterest like water. Tips for weight loss can be found with one easy google search.

I can’t tell you how many times I get asked… “what do you think of this diet?” or “do you think this is healthy?”. While I appreciate the questions and am happy to help, I just wish sometimes I was able to have a conversation that was about something else…. really anything else. Imagine if you were an engineer and the second you got home and pulled up Facebook all you saw were blueprints for homes, articles about new lumber material, or design elements that people were trying on their own. It would be a little exhausting, don’t you think? Think about each time you went to a social gathering or party. What if as soon as you walked in the first conversation started with…”hey would you mind looking at this sketch I did, I’m thinking of designing a new shed for the backyard,” or “what do you think about that Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit, I’m sure you saw it right?” With all the chatter about “being healthy” sometimes it doesn’t surprise me that there is an actual eating disorder designated to being obsessed with eating healthy called orthorexia nervosa. While I love to share my journey with eating healthy and love to create and post recipes, I hope that I do it in a way that is positive and uplifting. I hope I show off my credentials as a dietitian in a way that inspires other to not deprive, but to have a good balance of healthy and happy in their life.

Also, shout out to hub — he definitely keeps me grounded and fully supports my need for a good ice cream sundae every once in a while!

2. Because I’m a dietitian, I’m judging everyone on the food they eat.

Let me start off by saying I absolutely love ice cream. My mouth waters when I see a donut inside of a cute little bakery. I almost always pressure my husband into getting dessert after dinner at least 2-3 times per week. I have a huge sweet tooth, and some days there moments when I couldn’t care less how many cups of vegetables I had that day.

It is very rare that I actually pay attention to what other people are eating. If you point out to me that you are eating something “unhealthy,” well then yes, I’m going to notice. Typically, I don’t walk around with my food sensers on looking for chips, fast food, or candy. There are moments when I have felt uncomfortable because others make a situation uncomfortable, not because I care what everyone is eating. I love french fries, but when someone points out “oh boy the dietitian is eating french fries!!” they become a little less appetizing and I can immediately feel my face flush!

3. All dietitians do is talk about weight loss.

Dietitians can talk about weight loss, but they can also talk about so many other things. Nutrition is probably one of the most versatile subjects to study, making our job field have even more variety and opportunity. In one day, I can talk about type 1 diabetes and the relationships between carb-counting and blood sugar control, the importance of nutrition during pregnancy, how to lower blood pressure through a low-sodium diet, a high protein/high fat diet to help a child whom is failure to thrive, and yes, I can talk about weight loss. I have friends who work in bariatric surgery, friends who work in intensive care, friends who don’t work with patients or clients at all and talk about infant formulas all day. Dietitians do not only talk about weight loss, and while we may know a thing or two about it, some don’t like talking about it at all. Here’s a little extra tidbit of information — I actually do enjoy talking about weight loss, so ya’ll are in luck!

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Now… I’m sure maybe at this point you are thinking, “someone took a grumpy pill this morning.” NO!!! I promise I didn’t, and I LOVE my job. I am so, so, SO proud to be a Registered Dietitian, and I absolutely love working with people and helping others connect the food choices they make with certain elements of their body or their health. What I don’t love is the way our society has morphed nutrition into a fad. I don’t love how healthy eating is something that you SHOULD talk about if you are doing it. If you had a salad at lunch, you better shout it from the roof tops because you just found the next best way to prevent heart disease by eating a bowl full of vegetables! Nutrition is something that I studied for 5+ years and am still studying, did 1,200 hours of supervised practice on, and took a nationally recognized exam for. Nutrition is so much more than eating salads, and health is so much more than looking fit and showing off your abs for the world to see.

I hope that when people look at me, they see so much more than someone who talks about food. I hope I wear my title well, because the last thing I want to do is contribute to others feeling poorly about themselves. I am constantly trying to combat what society has made “healthy” and what I know to actually be “healthy”. Normalcy in eating and food choices is something that varies from person to person and what works for one may not work for another. Healthy eating is not restrictive; its not obsessive; and its not all that I think about. I the words of Ellyn Satter,

“…normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food, and your feelings. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but it keeps its place as only one important area of your life.”


National Nutrition Month Tidbits

Well, if you have any dietitians in your life it’s no secret that it is National Nutrition Month! That being said, this is a perfect time to plug the “reliable nutrition” card! If you are seeking nutrition advice or have nutrition questions, always go to your RD first! Registered Dietitians are trained and have education and extensive training on science-based nutrition information and how to apply the research and science to every day practice. Before you click “search”, reach out to one of us and pick our brains instead… please!

I also figured I would use this month as a chance to give a few basic tips to healthy eating and maintaining your healthy lifestyle within reason. There is a reason that fad diets are called fad diets… they tend to not last long or be sustainable for extensive periods of time (hens FAD). My biggest pet peeves when it comes to nutrition advice: cleansing, juicing, and over-consumption of nutritional supplements. Juicing, just to pick on one, takes a very important part of fruits and vegetables…. the fiber… and completely disposes of it. What is left though is sugar and plenty of it. Yes, it is natural sugar, but no that doesn’t give anyone the green light to over-consume it. What happens with excessive sugar and no fiber? Blood sugar peaks and dips which more than likely leads to feelings hunger soon after you’ve consumed your juice.

My tips are very basic and simple. They build upon my basic principles for healthy eating  “Pick plants often, vary your diet, don’t deprive yourself, and enjoy what you eat!” that you see on my home page. Please feel free to ask me questions, I would love to answer them, and take this month as a good learning experience if there is something in the nutrition field that sparks your interest!

3 Tips to Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Changes:

1. Follow the 80/20 rule. Make 80% of your daily food choices healthy and nutrient dense. Allow 20% for leniency, “special” foods, treats, or things you know you probably shouldn’t have often. There is no harm in treating yourself every once in a while; no one is perfect! When we deprive ourselves of what we love, it often leads to relapse or over-eating.

2. Hydrate yourself with H2O! Each time you feel the hunger bug, take a second to think if you are actually hungry or thirsty. Often times we confuse hunger with thirst. Drink water throughout the day and skip the sugar-sweetened or caffeinated beverages. Caffeine can often be dehydrating, so after your morning coffee fix keep the caffeine to a minimum. There really isn’t an explanation for the sugar-sweetened beverages other than they aren’t necessary!

3. Move towards a primarily plant-based diet. No, I’m not asking you to get rid of the meat, but I am asking you to incorporate more plant-based foods at every meal. The nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds do wonders for your body in more ways than one. Whether it be reducing inflammation, boosting your immune system, or aiding in muscle or tissue repair, there is no denying how important the fruits and veggies are (as well as other plant-based foods!) to your body. It could be adding some veggies to your omelet in the morning, throwing a handful of raw almonds into your yogurt, having a piece of fruit with lunch, or filling half your plate with colorful veggies at dinner; just make it a point to pick plants often!

 


Studying for the RD Exam, What Worked For Me

Hello everyone! I know, it has been a while since I have posted anything, BUT with good reason. For the past 5 weeks I was studying for my Registration Exam for Dietitians… and guess what? I passed! This was an extremely exciting moment for me, and I have to say that the biggest thing that helped me as I studied was reading the blog of another dietitian who gave her advice, tips, and encouragement on passing this exam. Up until reading her blog I had heard so many things:

It’s so hard… I barely passed.

I would definitely study for at least a few months.

Make sure you know that study manual front to back before you walk in that room; you can never be too prepared.

I studied for 7-8 hours a day and still did not feel confident!

You need to memorize ALL charts in the study manual… just in case.

Sheesh… I could not get a word of encouragement if I tried. After reading through this dietitian’s blog, I had a wave of relief. Finally, someone with a different, fresh perspective.

Because this was where I got most of my encouragement and my push to actually schedule my exam, I thought I would pay it forward and offer up similar advice. This is what worked for me; everyone is different. You may completely disagree with my thoughts, but hey, what is one more opinion to read through? If your future goal is not to become a Registered Dietitian, this may not be that interesting to you!

How I studied for the RD Exam:

  1. I took a 3-day review course through Breeding&Associates before I graduated. If you are a “I need to hear it to remember it” type person, I would highly recommend a review course. It was nice for me to hear everything that I had leaned in the past few years over again, covering a wide spectrum of dietetic-related concepts and domains. It sparked things in my mind  that I knew I needed to go over in more detail or remembered the least from my college classes. It is grueling, don’t get me wrong, but definitely worth it! There are many review courses offered; I did not choose this course provider for any particular reason other than preference.
  2. I read through my entire study manual (which I received from my review course). Each day I decided to tackle 1 domain. Some domains that were a bit longer took me about 2 days to get through; MNT took me 3. As I read through each domain, I re-wrote the information from the book in my own words, focusing on content and combining bits of information together. As I wrote my notes, I would circle, underline, or write in different colored ink points that I though were particularly important or specific numbers, values, or concepts that I thought were crucial to remember.
  3. This step was VERY important for me. I took breaks. I would never sit in from of my book for longer than 3 hours at a time. In the beginning, when I was just getting started, I would only study for about 3-4 hours maximum each day. As my study time increased, I would always take a break every few hours and either go for a walk, go to the gym, call a friend or my mom, ANYTHING that would take my mind away from the content for a while and give me a little bit of relief. Honestly, I think I would have gone crazy if I did not do this. If you are the type of person that gets highly distracted and cannot come back to your work after you step away for a few minutes, I would not recommend doing this. This is what worked for me, and I definitely think it is important to give yourself some “you time” when studying or preparing for anything that puts a lot of stress on your body or mind.
  4. I shut out other classmates opinions. (Sorry to any of my girl friends who read this 🙂 ) I absolutely adore my friends from my college program; they have become some of my best friends. But, to me hearing their thoughts, opinions, how far along they were studying, or even if they had passed seemed to add more stress and pressure on to me. It is great to have the help and support of others, but know what works best for you. Ask for help from others if you need it, but if not, learn your stress triggers and avoid them at all costs!
  5. About 3 weeks into studying, I scheduled my exam for about a week and a half later. I knew that I wanted to take it relatively soon and having deadlines work well for me. It helped me see the light a little bit and know when the studying would come to an end!
  6. After I re-wrote all my notes, I re-read them and wrote down concepts that I was still having a hard time grasping, or wouldn’t exactly stick. I condensed big ideas.
  7. I read, re-read, and re-read everything that I had written down. I would go through my notes for each domain separately, and once I felt comfortable, I would take practice tests provided in the back of my study manual. Following the practice tests, I would take online tests for each domain that were also offered as a part of the review course package.
  8. A few days before the test, I took a practice exam online. This helped boost my confidence a bit because even though question wording was different, I was still able to test my knowledge and passed the practice exam.
  9. The day before the test, I put away my books and didn’t study. I actually went and got dinner with my boyfriend and just kind of relaxed. The morning of I made a good breakfast and had one last encouraging phone call with my mom before taking my exam!

 

Take a deep breath and have confidence in your abilities and your preparation. Do what works best for you and remember other people have been in your shoes. Good luck, and celebrate once you have passed your exam! All the hard work pays off 🙂