You’ve seen me post every single pumpkin food I can get my hands on whether “healthy” or “unhealthy”, and perhaps you’ve wondered what my nutrition journey and food philosophy is. You know I’m a dietitian, but you might not know how everything pumpkin fits into where I stand when it comes to what I eat and what I recommend for my clients. Maybe you’re wondering what the heck pumpkin has to do with anything at all. That’s why I think it’s important to share a little bit more about my journey as a dietitian, why I decided to become one, what I believe to be true, and my own body image struggles that at times have even made me question if I was in the right profession for me.
Growing up I was surrounded by lots of food all the time. My parents are from Poland, and grew up there at a time when food was not plentiful. I know that they weren’t living in starving conditions, but coming to America where grocery store shelves were beyond stocked had to have been a culture shock. I believe this really had an effect on the way they parented my sisters and I because they always wanted us to have more than enough food at any given moment. Something that I think is a mixture of overly cautious loving parents, and their upbringing that faced scarcity at times. Needless to say, every holiday was decked out with all the customary Polish foods (and still is), which brings a lot of emotions and traditions to the table. I’m so thankful to have been exposed to these foods as a child, and realize they are part of who I am. Now I look forward to having them and telling other people about them. As a kid, I wasn’t.
Like any mom wants to make sure there kid has enough of whatever they need, my mom was that way with me about food. One of those default things that became the reason for everything: “well you didn’t eat yet or you didn’t eat enough”, “that’s why your tired” type thing. Let me tell you that at times the struggle was real.
Fast-forward to my teenage years and a combination of wanting to eat “cooler” foods and not wanting to eat what my mom made all the time kicked in hard. My sisters are older than I am, and when I saw them eating new foods like hummus, avocados and stuff from Trader Joes (remember the days when we were just discovering those?!) I wanted to too. So I started packing my own lunches, making turkey wraps with hummus or sandwiches with natural peanut butter than nearly leaked through my brown paper bag. That was when I started putting together the fact that the food you put into your body has the ability to either make you feel good or not.
Trying to eat healthy in high school is not exactly the coolest thing to do. Compared to the fears high school kids are feeling now it was nothing, but at the time anything that happens to you in high school is dramatic, as eating the way I was starting to was for me.This was also a time when I started becoming more physically active. I started running more, and my body started changing. I got thinner, and perhaps there was a time when I wasn’t compensating with enough calories after I would exercise and that’s because back then I really didn’t know how to. It went as far as a trip to the nurses office where I was questioned about my eating habits on a suspicion from my classmates that I had an eating disorder. My self-confidence plummeted to an all time low. I started becoming really self conscious of my body and overly aware that others were looking at me too.
AsI look back on that experience, perhaps it’s one I should be thankful for because for me it was the moment that solidified the fact that I knew I wanted to study nutrition. The moment I knew I wanted to be educated on nourishing my body and mind with food, and that I wanted to teach others so that they would have the knowledge they needed to make healthy choices.
I went to college that fall and was a dietetics major from day one! Not to brag, but I think I crushed it! As any type A dietetics student, I joined every nutrition club there was, volunteered, studied abroad in Europe, passed econ (phew!) and scored a dietetic internship at the end of it. Except through all that when I got the question: “Where do you want to work?”, I struggled to find an answer.
Fast-forward again (this blog post is like the customary flashback every TV series has!), to the end of my dietetic internship where I applied to my first job at a PR firm in New York City. Writing, nutrition communications, food brands and more. You can read all about what I day in the life was like here! Aside from being totally homesick, I really loved it! In a different world I would have stayed down that path my whole life, but a desire help people solve their nutrition problems took over and I found myself yearning to talk to people one-on-one to help build a foundation for a healthy lifestyle with food.
My philosophy is simple. I’m not one for fad diets, I’m not one for major food group exclusions to achieve momentary results. I want to help people feel amazing in their clothes, be confident, go out in the world and do their thing knowing they have the knowledge to make the healthy choices they aspire to make. I like to think I provide the tools, and they build the house. We start from the ground up and build that foundation on nutrition principles that is strong enough to withstand anything that may try to knock it down.
At a time when health information is everywhere and a different school of thought is preached by nearly everyone regardless of education or experience, I strive to show people just how easy and fun it can be to add more nutrition to the diet. And just as I enjoy showcasing the million and one ways there are to cook and bake with pumpkin and how nutritious it actually is, I like showing just that with other foods can getting people excited about making a delicious meal in their kitchens in no time at all.
I’m the millennial nutrition expert because I am a millennial. I want to eat cool new foods, and I want to show you how they can fit into your life too. I don’t want to sacrifice being social just to “be healthy” and I don’t want you to either. I want to help you tune out unsolicited healthy advice and tune in your body’s natural signals and cravings. Pizza? There’s a way to make it better for you! Dessert? Let’s add in some nutritious ingredients and make it fun! It doesn’t have to be just one or the other. A healthy lifestyle can go with living life to the fullest. I promise, it’s true! By translating evidence-based nutrition research, into easy to digest (get it?!) information, I spread nutrition messages in the simplest ways I know how to help people achieve results whether that be weight loss, energy improvement or a higher quality diet.
Through my counseling work I help people find the joy in eating to fuel their bodies in the best way possible for their lifestyle, and with my experiences, upbringing, and education I help people find a balance that lets them to wake up in the best mood, makes them feel good on a daily basis and best of all let’s them love themselves a little more and appreciate their amazing bodies. I didn’t appreciate mine for the longest time, always wanting to change it, until I discovered how beautiful acceptance can be. Something I strive to pass on to others.
So, why pumpkins? Talking about everything pumpkin is 100% me. It’s been a way for me to put my personality out there, to show you just how excited I am to find a new food, how I cook with it in a way you may not have thought of, or how I’ll scour all of the Target stores in my area to find what I’m looking for. And I’ve got to say, I’m thrilled I’m not the only one who can eat pumpkin year round!