Like many women, I have struggled with poor body image and food guilt for much of my life. Though my body has continued to change throughout the years, it seemed no matter what stage or age I was at in my life, my body never felt good enough and my food choices never felt perfect enough. It was these negative feelings that lead me to study food and nutrition and become a registered dietitian nutritionist. I thought that after I became a dietitian I would finally be able to figure out what foods were “good” and “bad” and how to finally get in shape so that I could feel closer to perfect.
After college graduation, I spent my first year as a registered dietitian nutritionist working with pregnant and postpartum women one on one and giving them nutrition advice. I soon realized telling women with young children to decrease calories and eat specific foods to lose weight felt forced and I wasn’t making the impact I would have liked.
After working in the field as a registered dietitian nutritionist and forcing weight loss messages, I knew I had to change my line of work to stay authentic to my belief system. In order to find myself and reflect on my career path and my message in the world, I joined the Peace Corps and lived in Nepal for over a year working with a food and nutrition program. Although I was feeling confused about my career path, I was certain I did not want to spread nutrition messages that caused guilt and shame with food. I knew I wanted to use my voice to empower women with my nutrition messages.
While I absolutely value my experience in Nepal and am forever grateful for the opportunity, the difference in how women were treated abroad really stood out and affected me. Seeing women only able to eat after their husbands were finished felt disturbing. I remember feeling sad and confused when women were menstruating and not allowed in the kitchen or in the house at all because it was seen as “unclean.” Additionally, seeing women covered up in extreme heat while men wore shorts and tank tops felt completely unfair.
Additionally, witnessing the effects of extreme poverty and starvation while living amongst unfair gender rules as a woman, caused a significant increase in anxiety and depression for me. During my time in Nepal I became pregnant with my first daughter. For many reasons, that mostly include cultural norms and gender rules, the relationship with my daughter’s Nepali father could not survive. Due to Peace Corps rules on pregnancy while serving, I did have to return home shortly after becoming pregnant.
Because I was so closely affected by this experience, I promised myself I would focus my life’s work to empowering women with my nutrition messages as a registered dietitian nutritionist. I would give women skills to transform their thought patterns and refuse the harmful societal and cultural messages about how women should look and what they should eat.
After returning home, I gave birth to a healthy half Nepali daughter Kyrah, now 3 years old. After Kyrah was born, I was a single mom working full time at a behavioral health hospital with patients struggling with eating disorders. When Kyrah was just 10 months old I met Adam, my American husband, and shortly after I had our second daughter Luna, who is now 1 year old.
I now manage my anxiety by using cognitive behavioral therapy along with medication. I pull from my personal experience and nutrition background to help women from around the world overcome their anxiety, accept their bodies and reframe their thoughts so they can also live a more confident life. My clients have told me that I provide a comfortable and accepting environment during our counseling sessions while also using humor and midwestern kindness.