Two years ago to the day, I finally became a registered dietitian nutritionist. Despite the fact that many dietitians study for over a month to sit for their exams, two weeks after I completed my clinical internship, I sat to take my test. For goodness sake, I had known I wanted to be a dietitian since I was in HIGH SCHOOL! I was freaking ready to get it done! In these past two years as a credentialed nutrition practitioner I've received tons and tons of emails from students and dietitians alike. They all are looking for guidance to do what I've ended up doing: owning my own practice and consulting business and to basically go against what every professor and older dietitian has ever told them. So I've finally decided to post a blog on what I usually write back to these emails and share with everyone who may not be so bold as to email me. If you're not a nutrition professional, feel free to skip this post! But if you're curious how I got to where I am in business today, read on!
Coming straight into the world of nutrition as a private practice and consulting dietitian is not a popular choice. I eluded to this when I wrote about one of my recent speaking engagements where the head dietitian of a very large hospital came up to me and told me she loved my business and I made the right choice to do what I do. She also said she wished more students knew it was okay to do this and that dietitians need to stop telling students they 'have to' go into clinical. The way she put it, it was a waste of her time and the student's time. She doesn't want new RDs who hate the hospital scene and are just putting in their time as they've been told to do. And that was a first for me to hear.
To be honest, I'm never quite sure why students are told "NO" by other professionals when they whisper that maybe they don't want to be a clinical dietitian. That mayyyybe they want to do something on their own. But whether these dietitians just think there's one route for everyone in life (10+ years in a hospital where you will get no training for owning your own business and have no exposure to marketing/PR training... and then go do whatever you want), or if they are honestly trying to protect students from possible failure, the students and dietitians they've said this to turn around and email me. Because I heard 'no' and did it anyway. Southern girls are stubborn like that.
From the start I knew there had to be something more for me as a nutrition professional. I personally found the routines in many of my internship rotations boring (read as I blogged through my internship). There was never enough for me to do. Nothing was challenging enough. I wanted fast paced, different every day (Which is exactly how it is for me now!). When I did my hospital rotation I was in the worst situation an intern could come into: everyone except the head dietitian had just quit. So there I was, supposed to be an intern, and I was working the floors of the hospital with just the head dietitian to see every patient (who also had to manage everything and couldn't see patients all the time). My training was being thrown into the shark tank. And yet, there I was: every day out of patients to see on my floors and asking if I could take over cases on the other lone dietitian's floors. I wrote a nutrition manual. I read case studies and medical journals. It was the best learning experience I could have EVER had!!! But I was bored.
Even through the rest of the year, nothing really struck me as right. More than anything, I felt like none of the specific positions I was exposed to had the potential to let me use my niche in the world of nutrition. I had been blogging during college and the internship. I loved social media, marketing, writing and food styling, recipe development and food photography. I loved working in wellness and preventative health with motivated women. And I loved helping people have the ah-ha moment. But traditional jobs just didn't offer those things in one tidy package.
In fact, it really wasn't my intention at all to go "all in' right off the bat. I had actually been told I had the strong possibility of what I thought was then my dream job being created for me with one of the companies I worked with during my internship. But corporate needed to approve the position. So I waited. And waited. And two months later the job wasn't approved and I was devastated. And then I panicked. I applied to what felt like dozens of jobs that were not what I wanted at all or were in the PR world and I needed more experience on larger social media accounts (Is it me, or is every entry position with the caveat '3 years experience needed'?). As each one fell through, friends and mentors kept pointing out that I had a pretty good thing going that whole time: during college, the internship and then as I applied for full time jobs, I had been doing consulting work the whole time. I had been helping people run their social media accounts. I had been writing TV scripts for nutrition segments on the news for food/beverage companies. I had been writing and getting paid. THERE IT WAS. I had just been ignoring it and investing my energy in what I 'should' have been doing: trying to find a 9-5 that wasn't what I needed.
In retrospect I am so glad I hit so many snags that forced me to look at what I had going! The consulting part of my business had actually been going on for years. And from there I took a long hard look at what I wanted out of my business life.
I made lists about what I wanted to do, who my ideal client was, where to go next. I did research (Seriously, tons of research on my target market, general PR, branding, food photography, you name it!). I thought about what was important to me. And when I finally decided what mattered to me as a person, the wedding dietitian part of it was brought in seamlessly. I invested in my branding. I strategized. I read Faye Berger Mitchell's book 'Making Private Practice your Business'. I used a business coach. I read every email question from NE DPG. I never stop learning and even today I have running lists of medical journals or marketing books or studies I want to read (slash have my interns summarize-keeping it real).
I won't lie. Owning your own business is not easy and it really isn't for everyone. To start with, if you are not in a good situation financially, the bottom line is you will need at least a part time job while you launch your business. I was very, very lucky that I could put 100% of my efforts into growing a business. But let's just say I wasn't exactly raking it in for the first year! You also have to have major drive. MAJOR. DRIVE. I'm the type of person that has a hard time not working. I'm highly motivated. I always want to know 'what's next'. And I have constant goals! But you have to figure out what fires you up. I know mine. And I know I love what I do.
2014 has been amazing for Healthfully Ever After so far. This is going to be a big year for me and for the business. I'm so happy I have been able to bring on interns to help the business but also to help them see what it's like to run a business and get that experience that's hard to find in traditional settings. I'm THRILLED I could be featured on a kindred spirit website, Southern Weddings as well as Style Me Pretty (both MAJOR leaders in the wedding world!). I LOVE being the wedding nutrition girl!!! I am so happy I have been able to present three or four times already this year to large groups on niche marketing/social media/ PR and my biggest presentation yet, our nutrition national conference in October. And that's just the first half of the year! To tie this post into one pretty package, I was actually offered a full time job earlier this week from that same company from two years ago. And I said no thank you. All along this, Healthfully Ever After, has been the right decision for me.
As they say in Mean Girls, "Don't let the haters stop you from doing your thang.". If you ever need a sounding board or have a question- if you need a resource or a connection- I'm just an email or comment away.
Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.