This next generation of RD's is coming in HOT and changing the way we think about health. They're de-bunking diet culture, challenging industry standards of health and encouraging us to be a little kinder to ourselves and our bodies. Connie of ConstancelyEating is no different. As a fellow RD-to-be, I've loved following along on Connie's journey through Instagram + her blog and she is truly someone who you can tell is going to (and already is!) making a difference in the lives of so many. I'm excited to share her story and feature her as one of the first Wellful Faces.
SO let's start off with introductions, tell us a little about yourself!
Hello! Well, I guess the most relevant thing is that I’m currently finishing my second year of a 3 year graduate nutritional science program at California State University Los Angeles to reach the end goal of becoming a Registered Dietitian! I’ll finish all course work in May 2018 and begin my Dietetic Internship starting August 2018 till graduation in May 2019 when I’ll be eligible to sit for my RD exam and FINALLY end this very long journey. I can confidently say I am SO happy to be done with research papers and proposals for the time being. I definitely don’t think this is the end of my education journey, be that furthering my education in terms of additional credentials within the dietetic field or just keeping myself up to date with the latest research but in terms of the formal education, I think this is it for a while ☺ Prior to my MS, I received my BS from DePaul University in Chicago in Health Science and consider that city my second home.
In other news, I love working with kids and have worked in Youth Development in some capacity for the YMCA for over 8 years! The people that I’ve worked with or for through the Y, have become close friends and mentors and the experiences I’ve had at the Y have shaped me into the person I am writing this piece for you today! I can attribute much of my leadership and public speaking ability to the time I’ve spent at the Y. I’ve also developed an immense amount of empathy and emotional intelligence through working with all age groups and walks of life that I appreciate deeply.
I am a super emotional person and value my close friendships and family. I’m an introverted extrovert. I need social contact every day but too much initiates this strong need for alone time with a book, a walk outside, or curled up with my current Netflix obsession. I love coffee shops, nature, and taking time to enjoy the mundane things in life.
How did you get started? What was the inspiration behind Constancelyeating?
I started constancelyeating my senior year of college at the end of 2015. It was nearing the time to submit my application to CSULA, the one and only graduate program I applied to, and I figured why not start something that might bring me connections in the field or show them that I’m a foodie! In hindsight I don’t even think it mattered to them that I had a food Instagram but eventually it started becoming something that I wasn’t doing for someone else (school) but instead, something truly fun for me!
I started to have “Instagram friends” through the comments and DMs I would get and eventually I started getting invited to a few sponsored events where I got to put names to faces. I also saw RDs who I wanted to be like and found their social media presence incredibly inspiring. I now had role models in the field! I thought to myself, maybe one day I would meet a few of these ladies or even get to work for or with some of them. Spoiler alert- I’m now an intern for Robyn Nohling aka @thereallife_rd! It just became my second identity- Connie and Constancelyeating and I found a lot of self-expression through Constancelyeating that I felt like regular Connie couldn’t attain. Now I consider constancelyeating part of my identity, I sort of meshed the two, since it has grown with me and helped me get to where I am. Weird how just opening up a space, albeit virtual, allows for that creativity flow.
You describe yourself as a future non-diet dietitian, will you explain a bit about what that means?
Yes! Essentially it means that as an RD I’ll get to help people improve their relationship with food, find ways to honor their internal cues , and find strategies that honor health in ways that don’t require restrictive and life-sucking dieting practices.
Being a non-diet dietitian doesn’t mean that health and nutrition are ignored, it’s actually the opposite. I think it opens up more individuality to allow a person to find what health means to them instead of what health means to their dietitian. It means finding a way of eating and living that is conducive to having an overall healthy life that includes mental, physical, and emotional health!
After having an eating disorder earlier in life and bouts of disordered eating through college, I know what it’s like to be bound to diet culture thinking that’s what healthy means. You can read more about my journey here. I’m incredibly empathetic to individuals going through their own process (I’m still discovering more about my process every day!) and finding out what healthy means to THEM and becoming a part in helping someone discover that is what gets me excited to be a dietitian.
What’s your advice to someone who wants to pursue their RD?
My advice is to GO FOR IT! I have learned more about myself through grad school than I have in my whole life prior, both personally and professionally. The field of dietetics is so broad you have so many opportunities to find what you are passionate about be that food service, cancer nutrition, eating disorders, community and public health- just to name a few!
My biggest piece of advice and something that is a constant work in process for me is to simply accept and enjoy the process. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about who I’ll become instead of who I am now.
It’s ok to get a question and be stumped or challenged because the truth is you will be challenged and you will be wrong sometimes. I was wrong on so many things and I know I will continue to be wrong on things in the future. It took me some time to find my intuitive eating and non-diet niche and I am thankful for all the experiences that led me to it. I was totally sippin the diet-y koolade for a while before finding Intuitive Eating- just part of my process. I also feel grateful to have role models that lead me in that direction. I by no means know everything and I don’t think I ever will. I am excited to keep learning!
When someone finds out you study nutrition and are going to be an RD, what’s the most common question you get asked and how do you answer it?
HA! I get several questions. They most often start out like this…
“Oh! So I’ve cut out x from my diet because you know how bad that is for you… what are your thoughts on that?”
“What’s the healthiest thing I can eat?! I’ve heard that…”
“Can you please make me a meal plan?!...”
The way I approach pretty much every question that relates to a specific food or fad is to say “Oh, that’s interesting, tell me what you know about x and what you would like to know about x”.
That usually gets people to think a little harder rather than just ask me for an information dump.
I’ve information dumped before in the beginning of grad school before I knew how to handle questions better and it just feels icky. I felt like I had something to prove so that they knew I was competent on the subject but I realized that doing that gets both parties nowhere. Most of the time what people really want from you is permission or validation that what they are doing is “correct” or “allowed” and prompting them to give you specifics lets you see if that’s the case or if there’s something else that needs addressing.
At the end of the day I answer questions with caution because I can’t answer really anything without a lot of context of other foods in their diet and other life style factors like sleep, stress, movement, medical diagnoses etc so I let them know that!
The answer to the meal plan question is always a hard no. I let them know that I actually don’t believe in meal plans (there are certain circumstances where I do, certain stages of ED recovery or through a medical diagnosis like a renal diet for example) and that instead of teaching people to rely on external sources of information like a meal plan, I believe in teaching people how to honor their own internal cues to dictate when and what to eat. The response is usually something like “WHAT? I would just eat candy all day!” and my response is something like, well, maybe for a day or two but then you would feel pretty yucky wouldn’t you? Then I let them know there’s an amazing book called Intuitive Eating that I recommend reading and I would be more than happy have a conversation with them if they have questions or would like to discuss something further.
I think you get my point here- there’s no blanket one size fit’s all nutrition recommendation because we are all so unique and part of being an evidence based Registered Dietitian to be is knowing that and honoring that.
I always recommend reading books and listening to podcasts with professionals and experts in the field because answering certain things isn’t in my scope of practice, so to speak, as a student right now.
What’s been the biggest learning curve with growing your brand and sharing your life online?
Oh man, vulnerability for sure. A lot of people start their page to be predominantly food, like myself, but then sometimes it stays that way or it morphs into something else. That something else is sharing my life with people. My struggles, my triumphs, my goals, me working through my own process. I found out that people like the person behind the food photos a lot! I sure do when following other people.
I’ve chosen to be rather vulnerable on my page through sharing my experience with anxiety or going to therapy or my experience getting to intuitive eating and that has been hard but also really rewarding. It’s 100% my choice to put myself out there in the world and even though it’s scary sometimes, that’s the only way I know how to help people in the best way right now. Since I can’t counsel and take clients I can share my personal experiences and hope they resonate with people.
I went back and forth a lot with what I want constancelyeating to be and at the end of the day I want it to be a place where people see me learning life’s lessons, enjoying the big and small things, and at the same time promoting an intuitive eating and Health At Every Size approach to health and nutrition care. I tried recipe creation, hated it. I dabbled a bit in food photography and didn’t really enjoy that either. I tried dedicating more writing time to the blog and that really stressed me out. So really where I’m at right now is focusing on my Instagram and showing face on there in hopes to relate to people and doing the best I can to write in a way that resonates with people through my internship with Robyn. You can read my posts on her blog ☺ Eventually I see my blog being a space for my private practice to live and for some other fun content but for now I’m focusing on being a student and sharing my experience with my followers!
What do you hope someone takes away after visiting your website, or Instagram?
Well to be honest, I’m working through this question for my website now because I have goals for the future but as of now it’s been put on the back burner for my sanity and that’s ok. I’ll answer this from an Instagram point of view. I hope people come to my Instagram page and see a variety of food and lifestyle photos that maybe break the norm of what they think “healthy” is. I hope people can see a burger on my page that might begin to shift their opinion on burgers from something negative and “unhealthy” to just a neutral food that this girl eats and enjoys! Maybe if they look at my highlight stories and come across some of my favorite reads and they happen to order a copy of Health At Every Size or Intuitive Eating I’ve helped them initiate a new perspective on health. Maybe they read a post about movement and realize that walking is a wonderful form of exercise and dripping sweat isn’t required for a workout to “count”. I just hope they see me as a friendly face who is working on her goals and trying to be a 20 something to the best of her ability with a huge passion for helping people find a healthy relationship with food.
What’s your dream job?
I don’t have a dream job per say but I have an idea of the types of jobs I would love! I see myself having 2, possibly 3 jobs if I’m being honest. I’ve been teaching basic nutrition to undergrads at CSULA for 2 years now that’s ignited a teaching passion within me and I would love to continue teaching both at a basic and higher level to spread a weight-neutral approach to the dietetics curriculum at CSULA/elsewhere. Dream job at a university would be to teach a nutrition from a weight-neutral perspective that encompasses both research from Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size to get future RD’s exposed to this stuff early on in their school career.
Second, I want to open my own private practice. I see it starting out online and once I settle down with a husband and family one day, open an actual space to take clients part to full time. I hope through the practice I can offer simple nutrition education resources to reach a broader audience for an affordable price for those who might not be able to afford 1:1 nutrition counseling. I also want to be open to Q and A calls and mentor calls for people needing some guidance.
Third I would love to work part time in a community organization like the Y in establishing their nutrition program and taking members for consultations to again spread affordable nutrition care to those who may not have access anywhere else. My thesis actually started the beginning of my YMCA’s nutrition program through class creation, informational flyers, and workshops so were moving in the right direction! I would also be open to an outpatient nutrition education setting like Kaiser but I have yet to formulate my full opinion on that. After my rotations I’m sure I’ll have a better idea!
Take us through a typical (or not-so-typical) day!
Well let’s just do a typical Tuesday, those are fun! Wake up at 7 am and head straight to the coffee pot. I grab a glass of water and my coffee to bring to my laptop with me. From 7:10-7:30 I take care of scheduling and emails for Robyn and chat to potential new clients that reach out to Real Life Women’s Health. After that I settle into about an hour and a half of reading or writing for school. I focus best in the morning and I pace myself for my big assignments so that I write about a paragraph or a page a day depending on what’s needed. Then at 9:15 I head to the car to drive to the YMCA to take a Zumba class for an hour.
Post Zumba I either come home and shower or I get a quick manicure across the street if my nails need it. Nail care is the thing that keeps me feeling most put together so that’s important to me. After a shower and a possible mani, I pack up my stuff and post up at a coffee shop around 12 or continue working from home for a while on intern stuff or more school reading. At about 2 I check in on the lecture I’m giving that day and see if it needs updating or tweaking before giving that lecture at 5 pm. I save all my work from previous semesters on google drive so it’s easy to keep it together.
3:15- prep dinner and snacks for campus with leftovers from the night before or a pre made Trader Joes salad in my lunchbox. Around 3:30 I’m in the car heading on the 30 ish minute drive to campus. I usually listen to a podcast or NPR but sometimes I just jam out in my car and let everyone watch me. Arrive on campus around 4:15 and head up to my classroom and either see a student early for office hours or work on a quick Instagram post or story before settling in to lecture for 50 minutes at 5.
5:50-6 SPRINT across campus to get to the class room that I take my graduate classes in and settle in for a 3 hour lecture/discussion on Advanced Topics in Nutritional Science. I eat dinner during class. Pretty much everyone is cool with us eating at any time because our professors and fellow classmates all know we have hectic lives and you are hungry when you are hungry (unless we have a guest speaker- no eating then!).
8:45-9 pm finish class and walk back to my car very exhausted. Turn on the podcast or playlist again and jam out for 30 minutes home- sometimes if I’m lucky it takes me only about 20! 9:30 take a quick rinse to wash the day off or a soak in the tub, rummage around the fridge to eat more if I’m hungry or just make some soothing hot cocoa or a few spoons of ice cream straight from the tub. 9:45-10:45 free time to watch a show or catch up on Instagram stories. I usually watch one episode of something (Greys Anatomy or The Good Doctor or Scandal or a Friends re run) and read for 5-10 min after to fall asleep.
11 pm say my prayers, thank God for another day and do it all over again!
What’s your biggest goal as of now? (personal or brand-related)
My biggest goal is to get those 4 letters after my name- MS, RD. I have day dreams of me walking across that stage, being hooded, and then passing that darn RD exam and breathing the biggest sigh of relief! Anything to get me towards that goal is my main priority right now. On a more personal note, I’m working on controlling the stress I have in my life. I’m working on cutting back from the things that I don’t need to be doing and being gentler in the way I speak to myself. I didn’t tell you about all the extra-curricular activities I partake in, but there’s too many, so I’m working on that. That’s a big work in progress but something that really needs my focus right now too. My goal is to have that better managed in the coming months ☺
What’s something you’re currently obsessed with? (people, things, products, habits, places - can be anything!)
I started meditating, per my therapist’s request and holy smokes is it cool! I use an app called headspace and do the 5 minute meditation almost every day and it has really been a great part of my day. It mimics that calm after a yoga class a little bit and I love that feeling so I’ll definitely be keeping that practice up!
I’ve also really been into Fage 2% yogurts. I love Siggis and I always will but there’s something about choosing how much or little flavoring you want in your yogurt to be really fun and satisfying to me!
Wine has also slowly but surely been something I have loved experimenting with. I’m just starting to get into reds now so I can’t say what’s my favorite yet. I’ve found that I really love a nice cold class of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio at happy hour with friends as a favorite way to socialize and unwind.
What does “health” mean to you?
Such a money question! Health to me means eating in a way that honors physiological and emotional wellbeing, moving in a way that feels good, and surrounding yourself with people that make you feel like the best version of yourself. I believe sleep and stress are huge contributors to our overall health and finding ways to maintain stress relieving practices every day and prioritizing a good night’s rest is invaluable. I don’t believe in food rules or restrictions unless medically necessary and if any decision is pulling you away from your emotional and social wellbeing then I think that choice needs to be reevaluated.
How do you see (or hope to see) our perception of health and nutrition changing in the near future?
I hope that diet culture will continue to be challenged through weight inclusive and non-diet research and practitioners + advocates in the field who are making a difference. I hope that we can begin to dissociate weight from health to understand that a person is so much more than what they look like on the outside and that health behaviors may or may not present themselves on the outside.
How can readers keep up with you? Social handles and platforms!