Last week, my team and I had a fun after-hours happy hour call (where everyone was drinking tea… #pregnancyproblems). We talked about our career journeys and how we ended up where we are now.
One of our amazing team members, Samantha, is a second-career RD and is applying to her dietetic internship in January. She asked for advice and it made me reflect on how far I have come since the days of graduating from my coordinated dietetics program.
When I graduated from “RD School” I was lost, confused and honestly a little freaked out. I had just spent the last four years studying nutrition, but still felt super unqualified. I originally decided that I wanted to study nutrition for two reasons:
- I was a swimmer my whole life (through college) and was fascinated by sports nutrition. I selfishly wanted to know how I could swim faster by fueling my body properly.
- I had chronic digestive issues that plagued me my entire life. I tell our clients that I was “born constipated” and that I get it. So, for another selfish reason, I decided that I wanted to figure out how to help myself find relief from my constipation.
Sadly, when I graduated from my undergrad and internship, I still had no clue about sports nutrition and definitely had no clue about digestive health. I would think to myself, “How am I supposed to help other people if I can’t help myself?”
That fear and imposter syndrome led me to pursue a masters degree in something outside of the nutrition world. I applied to a Kinesiology program, thinking maybe I would learn enough to feel qualified to work in the sports nutrition arena.
At that point, my digestive issues were at an all-time high. My dad was terminally ill and I had no clue at the time that him getting sick would be one of my biggest lightbulb moments in my career. As hard and grief-filled as that season was, and as much as I wish he was still here, I am grateful now for the lessons that came out of it, even if it took me years to realize what that season taught me (keep reading…)
Throughout the first years in my RD career, I worked in clinical because I was told that is what I “had to do.” At two years to the day, when I thought I had fulfilled my requirement, I quit. And, I didn’t even leave for another RD position. I was so convinced that I had completely chosen the wrong career, that I pursued something else. I took a position with an eating disorder treatment center in their marketing department. Talk about a complete 180… I traded my days of clocking in and out and providing low-sodium diet handouts for traveling, working from home and building relationships. Looking back, I am so glad I did that. Although it may seem like this was a complete distraction on my path, it actually gave me so much clarity and time to process what I truly wanted to do.
The more stressed I was, the worse my symptoms got. At the time I couldn’t make the connection, but years later I finally had a realization: maybe, my digestive issues didn’t just revolve around food. For years, I thought that if I just knew what I “should” or “shouldn’t” eat, I would feel better. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I had tried it all.
This lightbulb moment sent me down the wonderful rabbit hole of functional medicine and functional nutrition. I wanted to understand more about why my constipation and bloat was chronic and, at times, unbearable.
At this point, I had lived with over two decades of constipation and felt like there was nothing else I could try. That was a limiting belief of my own that I had to work through. I also worked through the limiting belief that I didn’t have what it took to help other people. Over the next couple of years, I navigated my own digestive issues, started a brick-and-mortar private practice and slowly started to find relief both personally and professionally. It all finally made sense.
I can relate to my clients on a personal level, as well as professionals who feel stuck just like I did. I am grateful for all of the experiences along my journey:
- My clinical job gave me an appreciation for my health and a passion for helping people prevent having chronic health issues.
- My first private practice office, housed inside of a stinky triathlon company, taught me that “going scared” was better than not doing anything at all.
- Marketing jobs taught me how to build relationships and connections.
- My multi-location private practice, where I saw a full caseload every week (with a waiting list), taught me how to scale a business so that I could help more people and get some time back to be more present with my family.
I didn’t think my current success was possible until I surrounded myself with the right people, invested in coaches, and constantly challenged my mindset.
So, hear me out: don’t let your fear hold you back from taking the next step in your career. Invest in yourself, and ask for help. Trust those who have done it before you, and let them lead you.