This is a guest blog post written by Katy Zanville, a nutrition intern with Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness and a soon-to-be HAES/intuitive eating dietitian. Check out her story about why she left the field of nutrition for over 10 years, and what finally brought her back to this career.
Over a decade ago, I went to college to be a registered dietitian. After graduating, being a dietitian no longer felt “right” to me and I took my career in a totally different direction. Now – 10 years later – I’m finally going back to school and finishing up the coursework to become a dietitian. This is my story about why I left this field in the first place, and what made me finally come back around to this career.
When I was younger, I was larger than the other kids my age and technically considered “obese” (I use that word in quotes because it is a stigmatizing term based on an outdated measurement that has nothing to do with health). In the third grade, my pediatrician sent me to a registered dietitian who taught me how to measure my carbohydrates and only eat dessert a certain amount of times per week. What she didn’t teach me? How to listen to my internal cues of hunger, fullness and satisfaction. Her advice only served to lead me further away from my internal intuitive eater.
This wasn’t the first diet I was put on. I tried Weight Watchers. I tried low-carbohydrate diets. I ate a lot of cottage cheese. I ultimately had a large growth spurt in high school when my body fully developed. This was around the same time I started exercising on a regular basis and learning about the connection between food and health. Ultimately, I decided to go to college and study nutrition.
In 2008, I graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Culinary Management. My original plan was to become a registered dietitian, but I decided against it. After four years of nutrition coursework, the idea of being a dietitian was not resonating with me.
I never felt like I fit in with the other dietetic students. While they were counting calories, writing down every morsel of food that they ate, and shaming me for not eating leafy greens every day, I was more interested in thinking about what I was cooking for dinner that night. Or where to find the best chocolate chip cookie. I love food and grew up watching cooking shows on the Food Network. And when I say I love food, I mean all foods. I saw no shame in eating dessert. Case in point, after graduating from college, I started working at the original cupcake bakery, Sprinkles. I often (and I mean often) got asked how I could work at a cupcake bakery after studying nutrition for 4 years. My answer? Why wouldn’t I? My philosophy is that all foods fit and no food should be labeled “bad”.
After eight years of working as the General Manager at Sprinkles and traveling around the country opening up new bakeries, I felt that I hit a wall. I wasn’t feeling challenged and I missed learning. I looked into graduate programs related to food studies and nutrition. I began listening to nutrition-related podcasts and following other dietitians on Instagram. I started seeing a trend of cool, open-minded dietitians that shared my philosophy about food (hey Alissa!). It wasn’t until I discovered intuitive eating that I decided to change careers at 30 years old and finally become a registered dietitian. I found my people.
I first heard about intuitive eating on Christy Harrison’s podcast, Food Psych, a podcast about Intuitive Eating, body image, and Health at Every Size. After she mentioned it multiple times, I decided to buy the book. I have never had a more “aha” moment in my life. This is exactly what I believed in. I hate diets. Why is our society so obsessed with weight loss? Mental health is important too! Through discovering intuitive eating, I finally felt like I belonged in the dietetics community.
There is a shift in this field and it is exciting to be a part of. I believe that health is not based on a number on the scale, but about the behaviors you implement into your life. And this includes eating for satisfaction, rejecting the diet mentality, making peace with food, and not stressing about every calorie.
The field is changing but it will only keep moving forward if more people adopt a weight-inclusive approach to nutrition. We were all born intuitive eaters, but diet culture has stripped it away from us and made it more difficult to listen to our internal cues. And in my opinion, registered dietitians are in the perfect position to help people restore their relationships to food. I am thrilled that this coming fall I will be a dietetic intern at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. And although it took me 10 years to finally come around to it, I am so excited and ready to become a registered dietitian.