Why I Became a Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist
About 5 years ago, I set out to change my career. I decided to become a dietitian. Why?
At the time I was doing SEO marketing at a small agency for lawyers. I had been doing marketing for the last several years and I had become pretty good at my career. My salary was on the rise… but something was eating me from the inside.
I Hated Marketing
Okay, hate is a strong word. And, it’s not entirely accurate.
You see, I actually loved the process of marketing:
- Identifying your customer
- Determining what they need and want
- Developing a strategy to reach them
- Articulating ideas into words that compel
- Creating content that contributes value
I loved it. There was an intimacy with your customer, that you had to be able to establish through messaging. But first you had to know who they were and where to reach them. Only then could you provide value.
The truth though, was that I seldom saw the value.
At the end of the day I didn’t care how many widgets our company sold, or how many software upgrades happened.
Deep down I wanted to change lives. I wanted to market something that I actually saw of value.
The Sound of a Car Leaving in the Night
I must have been between 8 and 10 years old. It was pitch black outside, and I recall the sound of the door in the living room. Then the sound of my mother’s car’s ignition and the sound of tires on the gravel driveway. From my bedroom window I watched the red tail lights turn left and fade into the night. Then there was only silence.
There was worry in my heart. It wasn’t like my mother to take off in such a hurry, in the middle of the night.
My grandfather had been sick. And, I did not know it then, but I would not see him again.
He had been a crucial part of my childhood, and the primary male role model in my life. And today, now I wonder, if he’s the reason I became a dietitian.
My grandfather had type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. I remember as a child going to doctors appointments with my grandparents. I remember the family waiting in the hospital, as he underwent open heart surgery. I remember seeing the giant scar upon his chest and the heart shaped pillow he brought home to recover.
I remember the silly songs he’d make up for each of us grandchildren. I remember sitting on the tailgate of his pickup, and the smirk upon his face. When I was riding in the bench seat, listening to Johnny Cash, I felt like I belonged. I was only a child. But I felt like a man and I felt loved.
When I was young, my mother changed careers. She was in her thirties. She was a phone operator, then became a computer programmer, in a time when that was rare for women, let alone a single mother. She tells me today that my grandfather was a crucial part of that. He encouraged her, and believed in her. I know he gave her a lot of strength.
My grandfather left this world when he was only 67. He was not that old of a man and he left us far too soon. Now, there’s a sting I feel in these memories, that I haven’t felt in years.
Costco Deliveries to the Office
So there I was in downtown Seattle, sitting in a cubicle, marketing shit I didn’t care about. I was in my thirties. Life was good. It felt comfy, but I felt empty.
The downtown office was plush. We sat above a brewery, which frequently fueled company meetings. A weekly Costco delivery kept the company kitchen stocked with m&ms and Red Bull – the kind of perks that were par for startups.
The money was good. I couldn’t sleep. I was stressed out constantly. Around me I saw colleagues with the same problems. Our health was deteriorating away. Society had a problem. I saw it on the bus, I saw it in the office, I saw it everywhere. There was too much work, too much stress, not enough movement, and a lack of proper nutrition. My HDL was dangerously low, I was told an independent risk factor for heart disease. FUCK!!!!
I Was Frustrated
There I was writing emails, and ads intended to sell software. Meanwhile, nutrition gurus were hocking supplements, based on bullshit wrapped in marketing. I wanted to help people, but not like that. I was frustrated. The last thing the world needed was another marketer calling himself a nutritionist. What if I could go the opposite direction?
So, I decided to change my life. I quit my job and I went hiking.
And then I went back to school to study nutrition and exercise. My pursuit of change came from a drive to empower people. I wanted to help them parse nutrition fact from fiction, to avoid the BS of marketing gurus, and to help them to live healthier lives.
But deep down I just wanted to help people avoid repeating the histories of their fathers and their grandfathers.
Prevention isn’t Easy
Today’s society does not make prevention easy on us. We often work too much and are overstressed. We worry about time and money. We repeat to ourselves “I don’t have time”, but never finish the sentence.
But, if we did it would read like one of the following:
- I don’t have time to eat better.
- I don’t have time to sleep.
- I don’t have time to exercise.
- I don’t have time to make my health a priority.
This is why we’re at risk of repeating the story of our fathers.
Yet, we know more today about health and prevention than ever before in history. When my grandfather was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, there was no such thing as prediabetes. The term wasn’t coined until 2003. You either had diabetes or you didn’t.
Today, we are more cautious. We have warning signs we can acknowledge and then take action. But, first we must be aware.
The CDC estimates that 88 million people in the US have prediabetes. That’s more than 1 in 3 people. The good news is that with prediabetes, you can reverse it, and prevent type 2 diabetes. Or if we’re told we have metabolic syndrome, we can make changes to help prevent heart disease.
I sometimes wonder what may have happened if my grandfather had been diagnosed with prediabetes when he was younger. Or what if he’d been told he had metabolic syndrome? Could his heart disease have been prevented or slowed? Could changes have been made?
Moving From Awareness into Action
As a society we’re far more aware of heart disease and diabetes than we’ve ever been before. Yet, we still have a long road ahead. It’s estimated that 84% of those with prediabetes don’t even know they have it.
I became a dietitian and an exercise physiologist because I wanted to help prevent the repetition of history. I wanted to reduce the tragic stories of fathers lost too soon.
When I was a child I didn’t want to become a dietitian. In my twenties I wanted to be a rock star. But, everything I did felt empty. I needed a mission.
Today, my mission is to help others move from awareness into action.
Positive Change Takes Many Tiny Actions
I strongly believe that nutrition and physical activity are the keys to a better life. Not only do they have the power to heal and prevent disease – they have the power to make us feel alive.
But where do we start? There’s so much information.
And, we have oh so little time.
It starts with tiny actions. We trust in trust, we try, we repeat. Along the way we love ourselves, and we reach out for support when we need it.
My Nutrition and Health Coaching Program
If you’re not quite sure where to start, or you’re frustrated and in need of support, I can help.
As a dietitian nutrition coach, I have no greater joy than helping people take the steps to better health. Maybe you’ve been spinning your wheels and you need some accountability. Or, maybe you’re overwhelmed with too much information.
Remember, you just need to focus on one step at a time. Love yourself and enjoy the process. And with every step you’ll make more progress.
So, what’s the one step you need to take today?