I earned my Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of North Florida. After graduating, I moved to Boone, North Carolina to pursue my Master of Science in Nutrition at Appalachian State University and complete my 1200 hour dietetic internship with Carolinas Healthcare System. After concluding my studies and obtaining my RD, LD/N credentials, I returned to my hometown of Gainesville, Fl, where I currently practice. With a solid foundation in nutrition science, metabolism and medical nutrition therapy, I decided to further my education in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through The Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy. I am currently obtaining my certificate of training in Integrative and Functional Nutrition.
I grew up in a home where living a healthy lifestyle was encouraged, my parents exposed my sister and I to a variety of foods and physical activities. As I made my way into adolescence, I became more aware of my body, the way it functioned and how the food I ate affected the way I felt and how much energy I had. In my late teen years, I became a nutrition fanatic, reading everything I could on the subject, I was extremely diligent with my eating and exercise regimen. My interest in living a healthy lifestyle quickly turned into an unhealthy obsession with dieting, excessive exercise and my physical appearance.
Nothing would keep me from getting in my workouts or following my meal plan. I sacrificed social events and avoided gatherings with friends so I wouldn’t sabotage my efforts. Any time I slipped up or ate a cookie, I vowed to “burn it off” the next day. At the time, I thought this was virtuous. I believed my discipline made me a better person. Little did I know these habits were quickly leading me to develop emotional distress and physical illness. I maintained these habits for a while and began college around the same. With new responsibilities living away from home, I was unable to keep up with my strict eating and activity regimen. I began feeling a tremendous amount of shame and guilt for not “looking the part” or being the perfect example. My relationship with food was spiraling out of control, cycles of restricting, binging and over-exercising took a toll on my physical and mental health. My digestion was awful, I was suffering from frequent GI upset. My weight was up and down, which took a toll on my self-esteem. I constantly compared myself to others and berated myself for my lack of “self-control.” Here I was, in college studying to be a dietitian, yet I couldn’t get a handle on my own issues.
My disordered eating patterns finally got to a point where I knew something had to change. I found the courage to seek help, something that was difficult to do as a nutrition major, I was supposed to have it all together, right? Working intensively with a both an amazing counselor and registered dietitian helped repair my relationship with food and my body. It took a lot of work, but over the course of a year, I was able to regain control. This was a liberating feeling. I practiced alternative coping skills and food was no longer needed to fill the void. I learned that I was using food to satisfy my unmet needs. While it’s easy to feel a great deal of shame over this, I have learned over the years to stop judging myself for it. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t have those experiences.
Once I learned to separate my value and worth from my physical body, I felt free. The size of my jeans didn’t make me a kinder person, a compassionate individual or a better friend. In fact, it took away from what I truly had to offer. When you expend all your energy thinking about your body, imperfections you want to change and how much exercise and restrictive dieting it’s going to take to get there, you don’t have much left to give. My new outlook was amazing, I was listening to my body, eating mindfully and my weight found its way back to the weight I was able to maintain without strict dieting or over-exercise. While my disordered thoughts about food and my body were finally resolving, I continued to struggle with chronic digestive problems.
Throughout college I was prescribed excessive rounds of antibiotics for frequent infections. My dermatologist also put me on antibiotics to help “control” my acne. The antibiotic use, coupled with stress and consuming certain foods that didn’t agree with my system worsened my digestive health. Conventional wisdom told me to load up on fiber, whole grains and eat yogurt. Regardless of what I did, my digestive issues persisted. I didn’t realize that all the “quick-fixes” never addressed the root problem.
This led me to begin exploring a more holistic approach. I read all I could about integrative and functional medicine, searching for an answer that I wasn’t getting from my conventional doctors. Throughout graduate school, my interest in holistic health and integrative nutrition continued to grow. Through self-experimentation with various dietary changes I was able to find some relief, but things still weren’t right. Eventually, I found an amazing functional medicine MD. Under her guidance I started a treatment protocol and was feeling immediate relief. For the first time, I finally felt like my body was beginning the process of repair. I realized that good nutrition and health is about more than just eating your fruits and veggies (after all, I’d been doing that all along and continued having GI problems!). Nutrition is extremely personalized and each individual has a unique system with unique needs. The one-size-fits-all approach of “everything in moderation” doesn’t always work. An individualized nutrition prescription is a vital component in healing and managing many illnesses. My first-hand experience as a patient receiving integrative and functional care prompted my desire to advance my education in integrative and functional nutrition. I am currently obtaining my certificate of training in integrative and functional nutrition. In my practice I utilize these principles to provide a holistic approach to nutrition care that helps clients meet their health and wellness goals. Read more about my approach.