Jaime Thorpe

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Meet Jaime! I'm so excited to feature her as this week's Wellful Faces. We met this year as interns at MGH (our intern class is truly amazing) and she become a fast friend. Jaime is one of those people you just want to be immediate friends with -- I feel so lucky to have her as such a supportive and inspiring one! She is going on to change the face of health as an amazing RD and already is as she covers staff relief (and maternity leave!) in the MGH Cancer Center. She is already changing the way we think about health by incorporating her compassion and passion for intuitive eating and realistic approach to nutrition in the clinical and oncology settings. 

SO let’s start off with introductions, tell us a little about yourself!

AH! Hi! I am so happy to be featured on here. My name is Jaime and I am currently a dietetic intern/RD-to-be at Massachusetts General Hospital. I finished my undergrad 1 year ago at UMass Amherst and absolutely loved it, so much so that I stayed in the New England area and am still living with my college roommates. I am finishing up my internship in August, staying at MGH a bit to cover an RD on her maternity leave in the Cancer Center, and in the midst of all that will be studying for the RD exam! Can’t wait for this long ride to be over and to get my RD credential!  

Of other importance, I grew up in North Jersey, was born in South Jersey, and now “home” is Philadelphia – so it depends on the day where I say I’m from. Im fortunate enough to have grown up with my 2 older sisters, mom, dad, and a huge extended family that I am extremely close with – all of which are my huge support system. I have always been extroverted, or needy as some may call it, but love spending any free time surrounded by friends/family. My boyfriend, Brad, is in the Army and is stationed in Seattle, so we’ve been doing long-distance for a year now during my internship. At any moment you’ll probably find me gabbing on the phone with him, my mom, sisters, friends, or one of my grandparents. Other than that, I love cooking/baking when I have time, going for pretty walks in the Boston area, and listening to podcasts or Chris Stapleton on repeat! 

How did you get started? How’d you get into nutrition and start @Jaim_Eats? 

My path in nutrition began in high school. I had major GI issues, got “diagnosed” with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and had a big realization about how the food I was eating was affecting my body. I went into college as a Communications major – thought I was going to work on a movie set and marry an actor (A girl can dream, right??) and after one semester switched to Nutrition realizing that was where my real passion lied. I worked my butt off in college, as most nutrition majors do, and fell in love with counseling and working with people to reach whatever nutrition goals they had. I spent a lot of time in my undergrad working one-on-one with athletes in a program that I ran with some close foodie friends, working as a nutrition counselor at the recreation center, as a peer mentor, and a nutrition TA for our introductory nutrition course. My primary interests still remain in counseling and working one-on-one with people, and hope to use Jaim_Eats as a way to connect with people and take on clients once credentialed!

When did you start your Instagram? What was the inspiration behind @Jaim_Eats?

I started Jaim_Eats as a way to share healthy recipes with friends/family and hoped it would reach other followers. I also was hoping to get free food sent to me like all the bloggers I followed – because… the internship is a hard time financially. Proud to say, I have gotten one free box of food so far!!! So in that case, I am winning. But in all honesty, my reason for starting has changed, as I am sure it will the more I work on my page. I hope to be realistic with my followers, show them that ALL foods fit and inspire them with recipes, real-life talk, and some nutrition fact de-bunking that can get confusing in the media. I’ve been inspired myself through creating this page – and found a whole group of non-diet, intuitive eating RDs and RD to be’s that are really changing the way we perceive health and nutrition. I hope to continue sharing these messages, stay true to myself, and be realistic on how we can improve our overall well-being – which will definitely not include just pictures of food. 

Your Insta bio says “whole foods, intuitive eating and simple & affordable recipes” can you explain a bit more about what that means for you?

Yes! These words basically encompass what I hope my page will provide to a follower. I want to put emphasis on whole food recipes, that are simple and affordable and can be made for a busy intern like me or busy working person! I hope to bring ease to someone who is stuck in a rut for what recipes they can make and hopefully provide insight on easy meals that don’t break the budget. The reason I put “whole foods” is because I am so passionate about how food is metabolized and used in our bodies, and aim to keep my recipes full of fruits/vegetables, grains, healthy fats, and plant-based proteins so I can explain their importance in our diet, which I think I will delve into more with the blog starting! I sprinkled intuitive eating in there, too, as I am starting to transition my instagram to more thoughts on our relationships with food and highlight aspects of intuitive eating that I want people to be more knowledgeable about! It’s a big mix of a lot of content. I think with time I may have a clearer message, but for now I hope my instagram/blog will be a source of fun, nutritious thoughts and an insight into my crazy intern life!

What’s the the most challenging part about being a dietetic intern? What’s the most rewarding?

The most challenging part is figuring out who you want to be and what you want to do when you’re finally finished. The internship has been amazing, stressful, eye-opening, exhausting all in one. There are days where I leave just overwhelmed and anxious, but then days where I feel inspired and empowered. Its honestly just a total rollercoaster. And I think that is ALSO what is so rewarding. I’ve started to embrace the uncertainty and just let life take its course. Once you’re done (or almost done like us MGHers), you feel like you have accomplished so much. The 3 months of hair nets and clogs and 6:00AM start times all serve their own purpose. I have met and networked with so many amazing professionals and am just grateful to have been exposed to all that I have in this short amount of time. 

In your internship, you experience a lot of different rotations, what’s been your favorite so far? What’s been the most impactful so far for you?

My favorite rotation has been in oncology in the outpatient setting. The MGH internship allows 6 weeks of a concentration of our choosing, which is unlike many others. My first rotation of the internship back in September was outpatient – getting to counsel patients with Diabetes, Hypertension, for weight loss, and a whole week counseling cancer patients. That was BY FAR my favorite and is where I am spending the last 10 weeks of my internship (god bless being asked for staff relief). Counseling this population has been extremely impactful for me. You follow patients weekly (for the most part) and help them through some of the hardest treatments/times of their lives. It becomes a lot more than just food – you work with the patient to improve their well-being during a time where their body is in a state of physiological stress. It’s extremely rewarding and I am so grateful for my time there so far!  

What’s your advice to someone who wants to pursue their RD?

DO IT! It can suck – for sure. It’s a lot of free labor, hairnets and clogs, and hard chemistry classes. But if it is something you are passionate about and want to pursue, it is so worth it. The nutrition field is small – and it is so amazing to be a part of. There are so many routes you can go, too. My advice is to do all the sucky things that are required and work your butt off. I worked 2 jobs my senior year, was on the board of 2 clubs at school and was a TA for a weekly class. I remember being so jealous of my friends that didn’t have to put in all the extracurricular effort while I was just so I could get into a year of unpaid work. But those jobs/opportunities taught me so much. It all comes full-circle, and everything you do will become a learning opportunity. Not to sound like a preachy mom at 22 years old, but I really believe that.  So if you are thinking about it – definitely go for it ☺ and get involved because you never know where that can take you! 

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? 

                              “Oh you’re a nutritionist? What do you think about “X” diet?”                             OR … “Oh I probably shouldn’t eat this in front of you” 

For the first one, my response is usually a pretty vague. I’ve learned that I will never get to avoid these questions, and I try to be super honest and really do my research before taking a firm stance on something. Realistically, I will never be pro-any diet mentioned, but I try to reason with someone on why a diet may not be a realistic solution for whatever reason they are trying it. I also try and understand the thoughts behind someone wanting to diet and hopefully shift their thinking more positively about themselves.                        

For the second question (more so comment), I usually tell the person that I would never judge what any one eats. Then usually joke about something “unhealthy” I had that day or the day prior. The real reason is – I don’t look at foods as good or bad. I don’t think of a day as a complete wash if all I ate were chips and guac and a lot of margaritas (that’s a usual for me, too). I hope to make that clear on my page that I eat what I want, I don’t judge others for their choices (even in their choice is a specific diet) and I focus more on other aspects of our well-being than just the food we eat.  

I am starting to get really involved in the non-diet mentality and practice intuitive and mindful eating. I like to think my answers are more aligned with these practices, and focus on how our bodies will tell us what we need, how we should listen to them and take care of them. It is really hard when our society is diet-driven, obsessed with weight loss and idealizes a specific body. I think as an RD to be it is our role to explain why these diets are not sustainable and how we can improve our selves (regardless of the food we eat).

What’s been the biggest learning curve you had of the internship or of sharing your voice online?

My biggest learning curve has been figuring out what I want my page to be and how I want to reach out to others about things I believe in. I am definitely still learning, evolving, changing my page to fit my views around things, but it can be hard to have a page without a clear message. I’ve held back on some posts because I didn’t want to take a firm stance on a subject. I didn’t want to post something and get backlash from followers if it didn’t align with their views. I realize, now, that feeling was silly. My page is my own and it doesn’t need to be a clear and defined message. I hope to just put honesty and truth into my posts, show my life and life-lessons through this internship and path, and provide some fun recipes that I have been making to inspire others to make too! 

I envision my instagram/blog will be a place to grow a private practice, share life stories and day to day struggles, and provide nutrition-specific information that my followers are looking for. For now, it’s mostly just the food I eat, the struggles I am facing, and a little bit of myself to share with everyone. 

As an RD what do you hope someone takes away after visiting your instagram or having a session with you?

Through instagram, I have mostly been just showing my life through the food I eat, with a few long posts on my thoughts, struggles, and real-life talk. I hope my posts resonate with someone, inspire them, or just give them a good homemade pizza to look at. I think in the future, since I’m definitely changing some of what my instagram/blog will be – I just hope that my page is authentic, honest and real and can resonate with others. I hope the same for sessions with me. I hope to provide empathy and understanding for someone, provide support and guidance for whatever their specific needs may be. Currently, while counseling at MGH, I want to be someone that makes a positive impact in my patients’ days and be a supportive practitioner for them to lean on. Although as an RD/RD to be, our focus is nutrition, my goal is to be much more than that for a patient/client/follower. I want to provide empathy and build rapport with people in both my posts and my counseling sessions, and be an impact in their daily lives. Not sure exactly how yet, but that’s what I strive for.

What’s your dream job?

Hmmm… right now, my dream job is to own a private practice and see patients who have food intolerances, are struggling with their relationship with food, or have specific goals like performance nutrition. I would like to also spend more time fostering my counseling skills in the outpatient setting. I have been loving my time in the Cancer Center and would love a job that works with patients of a specific population that I can support through whatever it is they’re going through. Similar to the cancer center I am currently in, I hope to work in an multi-disciplinary setting – where there are RDs, therapists, social workers, PT/OTs, who work as a team to help with all of a patient’s needs. My cousins and I joke about creating our own facility – since so many of us are in the health field (social work, therapy, SLP)… that would be the ultimate dream. 

What’s something you wish you learned in school?

I REALLY wish I learned more about Intuitive Eating/HAES. I learned a bit about intuitive and mindful eating in my Eating Disorders lecture, but would have loved to learn about it in multiple settings. Luckily, my intern friends are very passionate about this and the people I follow on instagram have really inspired me to look more into it. I’ve done some digging through podcasts and blogs, but definitely want to delve deeper into it. It’s so important and is really changing the way we define health and nutrition.

Take us through a typical (or not-so-typical) day!

Internship – I’ll do my current rotation: 

7:00 AM or earlier – wake up, get ready as fast as I can (I have impressed myself lately), grab breakfast that I made the night before, and get on my bus to get the red-line train to MGH. Usually listen to The Daily podcast by New York Times in the morning. 

8:00 AM ish – get a coffee at Coffee South (I worked my retail location here and have serious loyalty now), go up to the office and look into patients for the day.

9:00-5:30 ish – craziness in the cancer center seeing patients, writing notes, looking up medicinal mushrooms for a project I am working on, and helping the RDs with their crazy workload. 

IF working at the restaurant (I hostess 2 days a week for some money) I am there 6:00 pm to 10:30 pm then go to sleep and do it again.

Not fun – so on off days…

5:30-6:30 – head home, listen to a podcast on the T and get crammed into a train car where everyone smells because this is the WORST time to take the T. Usually walk home from the train station because there is such a cute path on the way home and call a (or multiple) family members until someone picks up. 

6:30-9:00 – usually make a dinner, take a million pictures of it for instagram, talk to my roommates about our days, and sit on our phones, watch TV, or work on any internship assignments. Depending on the week, I do go to the gym or run if I am feeling up to it, but never something I force because this internship is tiring! 

9:00-10:00 – If Brad is around we talk on the phone (he’s 3 hours behind) and I usually fall asleep like that. Lately he’s in training so I have been writing letters, or doing things like working on my blog and write-ups like this to keep busy ☺ 

Next day I wake up and do it again!! 

What’s your biggest goal as of now? (personal or career-related)

Get RD after my name. Finish up the internship, work for a few months at MGH and then figure life out! I want to take some time to travel and do things I have always wanted to (cross country road trip to Seattle, see sights like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon). 

In the immediate future, I want to get my blog up and running, post once a week if possible, and start re-vamping some of my instagram feed to be more about myself, life, and intuitive eating talk! 

What’s something you’re currently obsessed with? (people, things, products, habits, places - can be anything!)

Podcasts – I have been into RD Real Talk, Nutrition Matters, and I listen to The Daily each morning to get my news. 

Shopping for work clothes – such a bad habit!!!! I keep wanting cute dresses for the summer and I can’t stop going to LOFT ☹  Just bought new flats for work this weekend too… 

Taking time for myself – I have been very into taking time to de-stress lately and not force myself to do things I don’t want to. Whether that is staying in on a Saturday instead of going out with friends, skipping the gym and going for a walk, or just writing down my thoughts – I have found a lot of ways to de-stress and rewind. It has been so powerful and really has lifted my mood.

What does “health” mean to you?

To me, "healthy" is extremely different for each individual. What's healthy for me may not be for you. But as a foundation - nourishing our bodies with all types of foods, engaging in mindful movement, getting adequate sleep, and surrounding ourselves with what make us happiest is the best thing we can do for our overall well-being. I am inspired by the idea of intuitive eating and following a non-diet approach where all foods fit, where we don't correlate weight or body size with health and we enjoy life for the more important things. I'm striving to do that for myself and influence others to do so too. 

How do you see (or hope to see) our perception of health and nutrition changing in the near future?

Our perception of health is definitely changing by some awesome RDs and RD to be’s out there. I see health and nutrition becoming something more empowering than constant diet-culture fads. I wish for a world where we honor our hunger, we ignore the diet-mentality, and we eat foods mindfully for enjoyment and satisfaction. I also see a greater emphasis on body positivity and more awareness to the fact that diets don’t work, our bodies SHOULD be different, and we are all extremely individual when it comes to our health. I hope to keep spreading this message and stay true to my thoughts on this – even if they come out a little jumbled. I think awareness is the first step to change, and that is already happening! 

How can readers keep up with you? Social handles and platforms!

Right now, just @jaim_eats on Instagram. Blog will be posted soon once I figure it out! ☺ Thanks!!