High School (Graduated in 2009)
When I tell my story about my relationship with food and how I got to where I am today I think it is super important to share some very personal life experiences that make me who I am to my core.
January 18th 2009, my two best friends, Dana and Shannon, were in a car accident. Shannon died instantly and Dana was sent into a drug induced coma for weeks.
On my 18th birthday, I attended my best friend’s funeral. I had never thought experiencing that much emotional pain and sadness was physically possible.
What does this have to do with being a dietitian you might ask?
I had no idea how much our food and dietary habits were connected to emotion.
I never was diagnosed with an eating disorder (nor do I ever think I had one) but looking back now I had no idea how disordered my eating patterns would become over the next few years.
My life was out of control. I just lost my best friend and the other was fighting for her life back – learning to walk and talk again.
At first I couldn’t even look at food. The thought of food made me want to vomit because I was going through something so emotionally painful that I could barely get out of bed in the morning. As the months passed by, I vaguely remember finding comfort in food a little too much.
I would come home from an exhausting day of school and find myself getting lost in food. Food was good and I wanted to feel good. I would eat things that made me feel happy in excess and try to fill a void.
I have vivid memories of keeping a journal in my night stand that would track my weight and determine if I was being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on what those numbers said. I never ended up doing anything with those numbers but I look back at them now and feel so bad for my teenage self thinking that keep track of my weight would bring me happiness.
Up next, high school graduation and being accepted into Penn State Summer session…
College: We Are…Penn State! (Graduated in 2013)
My college years were some of the best and worst years of my life. Let me explain what I mean by that.
They were the best years because I met some of the MOST AMAZING friends who have become like family.
They were the worst because I did not understand how to listen to my body and take care of myself.
So, I headed off to college in July of 2013 and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to ‘help people’ but that was about it.
I only had to take two classes during the summer session (LOL – what a joke!) but I was so lucky to be placed into the classes that shaped the rest of my life…and I had no idea at the time.
Public Speaking 101: exactly what it sounds like – standing up in front of a group of awkward teenagers and speaking on random topics that we were assigned by our teacher. I LOVE public speaking.
Kinesiology & Nutrition 101: Three days per week were speaking in a gym learning about the human body and how it moves; two days per week were spent in a lecture hall learning about nutrition and how food effects our body.
I had NO idea what I wanted to do with my life at this point but I knew that I loved Nutrition, Fitness, and Public Speaking (foreshadowing).
So eventually I declared my major as Nutritional Sciences with a minor in Kinesiology. I married nutrition and fitness together. I think a part of me truly believed if I became an expert in these two fields then I would know ‘the secret answer to success’ and life would be perfect.
You would think as a nutritional sciences major I would eat perfectly, right? WRONG. College was full of Penn State football tailgates, beer, pizza, beer, and more beer. I am just being honest with you.
I thought if I ate salads during the week with hours of cardio that maybe JUST MAYBE that would keep me ‘healthy’. The excessive drinking and drunk eating was SO normalized in the college setting that I deemed it okay. I was fine. It was fine. Everybody was doing it.
April Fool’s day was match day. For all of my dietetic students out there, you know what I am talking about. For my non-dietetic peeps…match day is when you find out if you have been accepted to a Dietetic Internship Program. You apply to as many programs as possible and you rank them and they rank you. You get one program back or none back. When you apply to this program you have a 50% chance of matching. It is highly competitive.
I sat at a table at Mad Mex surrounded by friends with a few tequila shots in my system updated the match website on my iPhone 4 until my results finally popped up. I matched with my third choice internship; I was headed back to Pittsburgh, PA.
In May of 2013 I graduated from Penn State. I had my Bachelor’s of Science in Nutritional Sciences with a minor in Kinesiology but I was a hot mess. I remember walking across the stage on graduation day thinking WTF?! I am about to graduate college and head to additional schooling to be a dietitian and I still don’t have ‘the secret’ to success.
Dietetic Internship (2014)
My dietetic internship class was hands down the most amazing group of women. I look back on that internship class and there is not a single intern that I didn’t learn something from. They all left an imprint on who I was about to become as a dietitian but I want to mention a one of them in particular in this blog because she is still currently shaping me into the clinician I am today.
Haley Goodrich (Instagram: @hgoodrichrd) is one of the most influential anti-diet dietitians in the game. She own’s her own private practice and is leading the anti-diet movement and helping thousands of people recover disordered eating and eating disorder. She challenges the diet cultures in a fierce way—the world needs to see more of Haley Goodrich.
I continue to learn from Haley and will be traveling to DC this September to take a 2-day workshop with her and her mentor, Fiona Sutherland (Instagram: @themindfuldietitian), another kickass anti-diet dietitian.
Haley and I sat next to each other in our internship classes. We both would be forced to listen to the bullshit lectures for our preceptor but I think we both knew at the time that there was more for us then counting calories.
I truly believe that Haley is making the world a better place and I highly encourage you follow her—just browse her Instagram for one minute and you will see what I mean.
Side note on the internship, this is 1,200 hours of supervised practice. I had 14 different rotations where I had to work (for free) under dietitians, followed by hours of nutrition lectures at night. After 10 months, I had to sit for a national board to gain my RD (registered dietitian) credential.
My First Job: ShopRite (2014)
When I sat for my national board, I already had two job offers. One was for a non-profit implementing nutrition education into inner city schools in Pittsburgh and the other was a retail dietitian position with ShopRite Supermarkets.
I accepted the job offer with ShopRite before I sat for my boards. Thankfully, I passed my boards and was headed to Hoboken, NJ.
Because I went to Penn State, many of my college friends were from NJ and NY so I thought…why not? This will be a smooth transition. To be honest, it was. Hoboken is an extension of Penn State. Fun Fact: it has to most bars in one square mile in the entire US.
I basically was back in college. Cocktails and dinners out with friends every night.
Back to the job, I LOVED my job. I worked in a grocery store for two years. My office was smack dab in the middle of the grocery store. I would facilitate one-on-one counseling, cooking demos, cooking classes, grocery store tours, corporate wellness events, and events within my community.
Click here to see the amazing dietitian programs that ShopRite offers for their shoppers and communities.
I have nothing but amazing things to say about this job and the team of dietitians I worked with. Just like my internship, I was surrounded by AMAZING dietitians and badass women. All of them deserve recognition but two of them I will mention in this blog.
Lindsey Inserra – VP of Health and Wellness for ShopRite Supermarkets and my first official boss in the real world. Click here to read more on Lindsey and her passion. She is one of the strongest women I know and I thank God that she believed in me enough to make me a part of her RD team.
Jenna Werner (Instagram: @happyslimhealthy) started out as a colleague and quickly moved up to a management role for ShopRite. She also went to Penn State but we did not know each other at school. Like myself, she eventually left ShopRite and started a private practice. She preaches balance and crushes goals more than anyone I know. She is a dietitian and friend that has always been so supportive and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.
I left my job with ShopRite because my boyfriend at the time (now husband) and I decided it was time for a change. He got a job in Florida. I told him to move without me because I was not moving until I found a job that I was going to love. I was very doubtful because I didn’t see anything on Indeed.com or Monster.com that look remotely interesting to me.
I cried so hard when I told Lindsey and Jenna that I was leaving my job at ShopRite. I did NOT want to leave. I had no idea what I was going to do.
Then I googled “Dietitians in Jacksonville” and the name Mindy Black popped up…
Dietitians of Palm Valley (2016-Forever)
I cold called Mindy Black (my now business partner). I will never forget, I was scrolling her website and read the following: Dietitian of Jaguars, Dietitian of JU Dolphins, Owner of Private Practice, Facilitates Grocery Store Tours, and Implements Corporate Wellness. I thought to myself HELL YA, but there was no way this woman was doing this on her own.
Turns out she was.
I called and left a voicemail. Thought I would never get a call back especially because there was no job posting in sight. 30 minutes later I am getting a call back from her number and I answer. I was getting a pedicure at this boujee nail salon in Hoboken and they were trying to tell me to get off the phone but I shushed them, HA. Mindy Black was too important to not answer.
We chatted for about 20-30 minutes. We hit it off. She told me what she needed, I told her what I can bring to the table. Long story short, I moved to Jax not knowing what this would look like but that I was about to work with a badass RD.
The day before I called Mindy, the Jaguars offered her a full-time position. Travel full time with the team, sidelines for every game, 15-hour days at the stadium…. more like full time x 2. Therefore, I was able to help run Mindy’s private practice, Mindy Black Nutrition.
Years went by and we re-branded to, Dietitians of Palm Valley—conveniently located on Palm Valley Road in Ponte Vedra Beach but also, I am from the North so Palm Valley sounds like a resort to me.
We now co-own our private practice together and it continues to grow. We offer one-on-one counseling, online courses, community events, grocery store tours, and honestly are down for any collaboration in our community.
We have a team of amazing dietitians and interns that make DOPV what it is today. We could not do it without them. Combined we have over 50+ years of experience in dietetics and we love to lift each other up and use our dietitian superpowers together.
To end this very long story, I am going to bring it back to my relationship with food. Through these years my relationship with food and my body was all over the place. To be honest, I was extremely lucky that I ended up falling into Intuitive Eating without knowing it at the time. I honestly got to a place where I said “FUCK IT” I don’t want to diet anymore and I put my focus on healthy behaviors rather than a damn scale.
Food is fun, food is culture, food is family, food is energy, food is love. I have an Italian husband who loves to cook and eat and it a huge part of our lives. I remember years ago being afraid to eat certain food groups because I thought they were ‘bad’. Food does not have to be scary. I have achieved food freedom and it is possible for you to do the same.
I have been through extreme loss. I have moved from state to state and met a lot of amazing people along the way. Life is so short and is meant for so much more than chasing a smaller body.
For all the RD2be’s out there… there is no one ‘perfect’ journey to becoming a dietitian. Everyone’s path looks different but it is important to embrace every opportunity you are given, ask a shit-ton of questions.
If you are a RD2Be and need more personal guidance, click here to schedule a call with DOPV.
Everybody eats and everyone has an opinion on food. Please know that DOPV’s mission is not to prescribe a diet or tell you what you can’t eat. We love food and we believe it is truly possible to ditch dieting and learn how to nourish your body forever.