Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner Owner of Root and Branch Nutrition
An overweight, always-sick child with a strong love for processed, sugar-laden junk food, I became fed up at an early age and decided I needed to make a change. I hated how I felt and even more, how I looked. Soon after I turned 13, I took my health into my own hands and began following a classic “portion control/everything in moderation” diet program—complete with low calorie, low fat, sugar-free “diet” foods. I combined this new diet with an exercise program that focused on cardio and emphasized burning calories and lost over 50 pounds in a few short months. Although I was finally at a healthy weight, I struggled regularly for years to not gain back what I had lost. I maintained the weight loss, but I found myself yo-yo dieting and over-exercising in order to do so. It was not until I really learned about food and nutrition, focused on quality of food and exercise over quantity, and made health my first priority, that I finally could abandon my “always dieting” lifestyle and stop obsessing over my weight.
Over the next 10 years, I read everything I could about nutrition, health, exercise, and weight-loss. The more I learned, the more improvements I made to my own diet and lifestyle. I started slowly eliminating the low-calorie packaged foods and adopted a "clean" diet void of processed foods. I started lifting weights, and my body shape changed significantly. However, I still struggled with symptoms and wondered why. Why was I always exhausted? Why was I still having digestive issues? Why was I struggling with anxiety and panic? Why were my periods still so painful and irregular? Why did I "need" to exercise for hours per day to avoid weight gain? I always was looking for "the answer"- the one thing I was doing wrong that was preventing me from feeling as good as I had worked for.
In early 2013, when I joined Crossfit Rockland and heard about the paleo diet, my interest was once again sparked. I did some research and adopted this way of eating immediately. Everything suddenly clicked—the years of yo-yo dieting, calorie counting, and struggles with personal health challenges started to come to an end once I cut out problematic inflammatory foods from my diet and began adding in healthy foods I had always avoided because I had been taught otherwise. After completing my first Whole30 challenge, I was amazed at how I felt, both physically and mentally. I resented the fact that I had essentially been on some form of a diet for over a decade, struggling to be fit and healthy, and most of all feel good, when there was a better way.
So was that it? Did I find "the answer"? Not exactly. A year of eating a strict paleo (i.e. low carb) diet, coupled with high stress and intense physical training left my energy in the toilet. Hormonal issues resurfaced. Digestion problems arose. I learned the hard way that I had found a framework- the way of eating that should be used as a starting point. I had found a way to experiment and find the right way of eating for me- the foods that made me feel and function my best, and the foods that didn't. From here, I needed to focus on addition instead of subtraction- adding foods in that my body needed even though a particular diet "plan" told me these were off-limits. I learned that nutrition is never black and white, and as a society, we need to realize this. It is time to let go of the rules and plans that others (who don't even know us) tell us to follow, and instead find what works for us individually. I realized I needed to help others to do the same: weed out the misinformation, the dogma, and all the confusion about what to eat- by figuring out just what each body needs to function at its best.
Educational & Professional Background
While in college, I began working at a chiropractor's office where overall wellness and prevention of health ailments were promoted, and nutritional therapies were successfully utilized- this only served to intensify my desire to learn more about health and nutrition. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Thomas Aquinas College in 2010, I realized quickly that my original career plan no longer felt like the right path for me. I began taking nutrition courses at a local community college and finally felt as if I had found my calling. In the spring of 2011, I enrolled in the Health Education & Promotion graduate degree program at Lehman College, excited to combine my desire to teach and help others with my passion for health and nutrition.
Throughout grad school, I continued to work at the chiropractor's office while gathering professional experience in a variety of other settings such as a private gym, a hospital, and a nonprofit organization. My knowledge and passion grew, but also evolved as I was exposed to new information and began working more with others. In particular, my experience working as a personal trainer opened my eyes to the power of nutrition as it relates to health, fitness, and body composition. I recognized that many of my clients never saw or felt any profound results from their efforts in the gym because they never truly changed how or what they were eating—just how much. After I left this job, I was inspired to teach people about changing what they put in their bodies. With this goal in mind, I began working with a large charitable organization to create an employee wellness program, where I had the opportunity to develop and teach my own wellness seminars to employees.
I completed my Master’s degree in Health Education & Promotion in September of 2013. I not only gained vast knowledge on nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases, I also became well-versed about health counseling techniques, behavior change theories, and planning, developing, and implementing health education programs for both individuals and groups.
Since receiving my Master's degree, I continued to work in whatever way I could to educate others about nutrition and health. I collaborated with Nyack Hospital to teach weight-loss and nutrition classes in the community and co-led nutrition seminars to members at Crossfit Rockland. In April 2014, fed-up with the lack of accurate nutrition information available, I began developing my own four-part nutrition course. In September 2014, I taught my first session... in winter 2017, I will lead my tenth!
Teaching nutrition has evolved into a passion all its own. A few months after I began developing my class, I decided to take my career one step further. I enrolled in the Nutritional Therapy Association to become certified as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, which I achieved in June 2015. I officially opened my nutritional therapy practice, Root and Branch Nutrition, in August 2015. (You can take a look around my website to get more information on my practice and services!)
In addition to my nutritional therapy practice, I currently work in the office of Dr. Bernadette T. Dunn, DC, as a nutritionist for Kettlebell Kitchen, and co-own Hippie Healing, an all-natural beauty & skincare product company. Put simply, my main goal is to lead a fulfilling, adventurous, and meaningful life doing what I love: educating, guiding, and motivating others to use nutrition as a tool to change their health and as a result, their lives.