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I’m thrilled to have the chance to help future nutrition professionals. Let’s spread the word about Real Food far and wide!
Due to the volume of career-related inquiries I receive, I’m unable to respond to every inquiry individually in a timely manner – despite how much I’d love to talk to each and every person! For the sake of getting those seeking advice a response as quickly as possible, I’ve created the following entry. I hope it helps!
I am a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP™) certified by the Nutritional Therapy Association. Click here for my video review of the NTP™ training program.
I've also completed CrossFit Level-1 certification and the Poliquin Biosignature practitioner certification. I'm a member of the Board of Directors of The First Twenty, and an author – I wrote Eat the Yolks and The Purely Primal Skincare Guide. I've been featured on television and in several publications as a nutrition expert, including Paleo Magazine (where I write a regular column), OK! Magazine, Peppermint Magazine, The Huffington Post, and The Examiner.
I'm not a doctor, a registered dietitian, or a clinical nutritionist – and I do not, in any way, consider that a limitation to my career, nor does it have to be a limitation to yours. My qualifications are not bound by the often slow-moving pace of information “trickle-down” in much of academia, nor is it limited by membership in professional organizations that are sponsored by processed food corporations like Coca-Cola and SoyJoy, as the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics happens to be.
That said, to lack a conventional education in nutrition means I'm absolutely required to read, research, and seek as much independent education as I possibly can in order to be a reliable source of information. All the information you'll need, as an independently certified practitioner, will NOT be handed to you. You must seek it, and from there, you must distribute what you've learned through your own channels as I have – through blogs, books, podcasts and workshops.
I’m blessed that a good volume of people find me trustworthy and want to work with me. When you’re not a doctor or a conventionally-educated professional, you’ve got to be grateful for every single person that trusts their gut enough to trust YOU. And above all, you've got to trust yourself.
Most important: as is the case with many of us, my qualifications extend beyond a few lines on a resume. The qualifications I list here are not the sum-total of the work I’ve done. With the listed work, as well as other undertakings (like group sessions, activism and online learning) I have worked very hard to accumulate varied experiences across the health-and-fitness spectrum. I seek continuing education from varied sources, including local AND online classes, and read as many books and journals as I can to stay abreast of relevant information and research.
I am now working on my Master’s Degree in Public Health, because my passion has, over the last few years, become most rooted in the public health realm and developing nutritional standards and advocacy programs for at-risk groups, from youth to professional firefighters. This is a direct result of my work with Steve’s Club National Program and The First Twenty.
Based on all this, I’ve been able to establish a professional direction I’m happy with that is divided between the public health environment, individual consultations, and multimedia (blog, print, podcast, downloadables and workshops).
In effect, the Nutritional Therapy credentials are what enables my Nutritional Therapy practice and lends great weight to my ability to reach my goals, but what REALLY makes a good practitioner is well beyond that certification. A mix of credentials, continued education (online and regional classes that I seek and choose myself) and real-world experience are what powers my practice and my passion.
- Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP™) certified by the Nutritional Therapy Association;
- Bachelor’s Degree in English;
- Master’s Degree in Public Health (in progress);
- CrossFit Level-1 Certified;
- Qualified Poliquin Biosignature Practitioner;
- Current Study: CISSN Certified Sports Nutritionist
Multiple continuing education classes, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Paleolithic Solution Seminar – Robb Wolf, March 2010
- Adrenal Physiology and the Stress Response: Cause or Effect – Loren Marks, DC, DACBN
- Thyroid Function: A Holistic Approach – David Brownstein, MD
- Autoimmunity: Advanced Concepts & Molecular Mechanisms in Nutritional Immunomodulation – A. Vasquez, ND, DO
- Diabetes Mellitus, Insulin Resistance & the Paradox of Obesity Caused by Nutritional Deficiency – A. Vasquez, ND, DO
- New Concepts in Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Cardiovascular Health – M. Houston, MD, MSc
My undergraduate degree in English powers my first love – writing; and it is responsible for my ability to communicate nutritional and lifestyle information effectively online and in print. I was a writer first. Aside from my passion for holistic, ancestral nutrition, my passion for writing has been the single most powerful force in driving the success I’ve been blessed to have. This won’t necessarily be YOUR experience – we all have different strengths – but it has been MY experience.
Most requests for career advice center on my certification with the Nutritional Therapy Association. If you choose to enroll with the NTA, please list my name as your referral!
The Nutritional Therapy Association is, in my opinion, the gold standard of holistic nutrition programs. I believe this for several reasons:
- The core curriculum is varied and dense in information, and provides leads to further education and learning.
- The curriculum reflects my personal values – after a decade of searching, I have come to firmly believe in the “ancestral” (also known as the Paleo, Primal, or Weston A. Price) approach to wellness.
- The curriculum provides exposure to alternative points of view, but focuses on real food and practical ways to help others implement a better lifestyle.
- The curriculum provides exposure to evaluative methods and procedures (from functional physical evaluation to online surveys) that enrich my knowledge and my practice, although I do not use all of them professionally at this time – simply because each practice must be structured as each practitioner sees fit!
- The NTA provides excellent business counseling and resources, including online programs and insurance.
All that said, a few important points must be made:
You can do well in the course without exploring all the resources the NTA provides. This is a good thing for folks who complete the course for personal learning only, as many do, or to augment an already-established medical, health or fitness practice, but completing the course requirements (ie “testing out”) alone will NOT make you a good, intelligent, or well-rounded practitioner. You must make a point to explore the resources given, the source material provided, the books they recommend, and the continuing education they provide in order to be a good practitioner capable of helping others effectively. That’s a responsibility only YOU can take on.
Creating a successful practice is not easy. It helps immensely to already have a network established – whether that’s through a blog, a gym, or a community group (church, meetup, etc) that you’re part of. It took me four years to build a self-sustaining practice, and those were 4 years of relentless hard work undertaken as a total career change. It's not easy, but it was worth it!
YOU must figure out what you’re good at. Nobody can do this for you. If you have a passion for helping, you must trust yourself and your gut instinct when building your practice. It may not look like anybody else’s practice, and that’s OK.
You MUST seek continuing education. The pace at which new information and research is released is staggering. You MUST keep up! For example, if you’re interested in sports nutrition, the NTA will provide a great springboard – now, go seek further certification in sports-specialized arenas and institutions. Self-experimentation is also a form of continuing education. Sometimes it backfires – but you always learn something. (Wink.)
If you build it, they don’t always come. Getting your certification doesn’t always guarantee clients. You may have to pound the pavement, network, and be patient as you build your practice. You may have to spend money on web development or “trade” consulting for web work. There’s nothing more rewarding than building a practice, but it may not come easy. Don’t get discouraged.
I cannot advise for or against any program other than the ones I have chosen to complete. I can give my enthusiastic recommendation for the NTA and all post-completion educational opportunities their practitioners receive. That said, YOU must decide what type of program is right for you and move forward confidently, with faith in your ability to establish a practice based on what you feel is best and most personally enriching. Do your research and trust your gut.
I have several ongoing projects with another holistic health professional – Diane Sanfilippo of Balanced Bites. Diane attended a different program than I did – she is credentialed through Bauman College and the CHEK institute. She has also undertaken extensive real-world and institutional ongoing education. I am not familiar with the CHEK or Bauman programs personally, but I understand they are excellent. It’s no surprise that Diane is a fantastic practitioner.
Why the Master’s in Public Health?
I chose to pursue my Master’s Degree in Public Health because, while I am intrigued by the “micro” aspects of nutrition – learning how food works in the body and the constant stream of scientific trials and studies to be evaluated – I am fully confident in the power of an ancestral diet to change lives from a “macro” standpoint, a firm grasp of science notwithstanding.
Good, nutrient-dense food is simply what everyone should be eating (and capable of procuring through safe, local foodsheds). A large part of my job is to peel back years – sometimes decades – of nutrition and lifestyle myths to help people identify, love, seek and find real, healthy, life-changing sources of nourishment with the proper individualized attention (whether that “individualized attention” be in the realm of digestive healing, athletic performance, or overall moral support). There are brilliant minds doing the scientific “heavy lifting,” and I am forever grateful for them; but I am no biochemist, and I am no clinical researcher. My role is as a bridge between the scientists and those seeking help with implementation in everyday life.
Unfortunately, while the health-promoting principles of a diet based on real, wholesome foods apply toeveryone, there are populations of people deserving of health that simply have no concept of, or access to, real, nutrient-dense foods. I believe that the benefits of an ancestral diet should reach more than “Paleo” enthusiasts and plugged-in members of the Ancestral Health community.
The benefits should extend to those at the mercy of what food they are given (whether in school lunches, hospitals, food deserts or a military chow hall). The fact is, there are populations – from firefighters to at-risk youth – that deserve to know what to eat, why, and how to get it; and they deserve to be healthy enough to live each day to the fullest. The MPH will allow me to work with these groups in a commanding, legitimate capacity and make change for populations whose needs are more dynamic than what can be addressed in a laboratory. I have started on this path with Steve’s Club National Program and The First Twenty, but the MPH will further enable those endeavors.
Public health is an incredible, multi-faceted field with endless possibilities. The profession represents the intersection of science, economics, politics, and reality in a way no other profession does. The concept of “prevention” is its foundation, yet its focus has shifted toward treatment and responsive action; what better way to bring back that preventive healthcare focus than by changing the overall health of at-risk populations through well-educated advocacy?
My Nutritional Therapy practice
I started out doing consultations at my gym and via Skype. As my personal bookings grew over the years, however, I felt it was professionally and financially sound to open a public office. I opened this office within an excellent sports-oriented chiropractic clinic; a clinic from which I was also able to draw clients. This was a mutually beneficial arrangement, as the clinic was able to advertise an in-house nutrition professional; and we were able to refer to one another knowing we were referring clients to a trusted individual. In certain circumstances, we were able to co-manage client care.
In 2013, my husband's military orders moved us halfway across the country – so I closed my office, packed up my practice, and began my new adventures as an amateur homesteader while continuing to write, podcast, research and learn. I've diversified my income streams a bit, working both in the private sector and, since I am no longer in a geographical position to take clients, I continue to create informational/educational materials (both free and paid).
I am, admittedly, spread a bit thin – but I love the work, so investing up to 60 hours each week seems worthwhile. Some NTPs work entirely differently; some are employed by others and work a traditional 9-to-5. It all depends.
The same arrangement is NOT going to be right for everyone. If you have a volume of local business that drives you to open an office, be sure that business supports this choice financially. Opening an office is a big decision, and it’s helpful to work with other professionals to bolster your practice.
Depending on the laws in your state – which you MUST seek out yourself, I cannot help you – working with another health professional may enable you to practice, period. Why? Because in many states, you must work UNDER a licensed health care practitioner to operate legally. Contacting local physical therapists, chiropractors, or trainers not only helps establish a referral base, but keeps you legal.
Charge for your time. Your time is valuable, and as your practice grows, you will do yourself a disservice by not charging for your time. Even if you WANT to help everyone for free (and you may HAVE to work for free at the beginning to gain experience or in exchange for testimonials), you need to value your time, your sanity, and your ability to support yourself enough to bill as is appropriate. If you’re generating content through a blog, a podcast, or a facebook page, you’re creating plenty of free material for people to use. At some point, you must draw the line. You’ll know when that is. (Generally, it's before you get chronically stressed and after you realize you've replied to requests for free advice until 3AM one too many times.)
Trust your instinct. In choosing an educational program, a career path, or a daily work routine, you must do what feels right FOR YOU. My practice is – and should be – unique to me. We all have different strengths, interests and points we find important. Trust that your voice is IMPORTANT (it is!) and move forward confidently. You won’t always have the approval of others, and sometimes seeking too much advice can harm more than help. Sometimes you’ve just got to GO FOR IT!
Be honest and realistic about your scope of practice. You should utilize disclaimers and be clear about your INABILITY to diagnose, cure, speak to, analyze, or treat any disease. You can offer guidance about FOOD and LIFESTYLE, and, at times, targeted non-medical SUPPLEMENTS, to people who understand who you are and what you’re able to do, and who have willingly engaged your services. Protect your clients, protect yourself. Period.
Don’t stop learning. I think I’ve covered why this is important!
WRITE. We should ALL be talking about the things we’re passionate about, and we should be doing it ONLINE. Blogs are free, and they HELP PEOPLE. Get your voice out there. It may even enable your practice to grow.
Be genuine. Don’t spam. And for God's sake, start an email newsletter. If you go online, don’t try to build an audience – whether via blog or facebook or newsletter – by making meaningless statements, requesting “like” exchanges or tagging multiple popular pages in generic statements in hopes of building a community base. Build your base organically, through the content you provide. Feel free to “tag” or cross-post relevant or helpful information, of course (WITH APPROPRIATE CREDIT). This will garner the audience you want and enable you to help people rather than just accumulate “likes” from people who aren’t necessarily engaged with your purpose. And START AN EMAIL NEWSLETTER. I use MailChimp.
Don't forget social media, but don't put all your eggs in one basket, either. Facebook sucks – as you garner “fans,” you'll see why – but you should keep your “fan page” marginally active anyway. Your main line for connecting with people should be your blog/website and email newsletter; but post your new content to facebook, instagram, twitter and pinterest as well. People that stumble across your work will check to see whether you're active in social media in order to “get to know you” in the social media outlets where THEY are comfortable. (Choosing 2 or 3 social media outlets to focus on is better than trying to do all of them half-heartedly).
Understand that, when it comes to MY practice, I try really hard. And I’m also really damn lucky. In 2008, when I first stumbled upon this way of life, I was working in a totally unrelated field. I started blogging as an enthusiast of the Ancestral diet and lifestyle…and, soon after, I realized that THIS was what I wanted to do. With a little luck, MANY hours of writing and income-free passion projects, and lots of support from my husband, I was able to build my blog and my practice. I am extremely fortunate to have gained momentum organically, but that doesn’t mean it was an effortless or overnight process. I have put in more work, blood, sweat, tears, and time than I ever thought I had in me. My blog, which started with about 3 readers per week, grew as I stuck with it. (I stuck with it because I did it out of genuine passion! And I’d still be writing it if I had no readers at all.)
After several years, my audience had grown enough to offer my business the blessing of some built-in exposure. With the addition of some outside writing projects, my contacts in the health field, some flat-out serendipity, and the sheer fact that I jumped in to the pool at the right time, I have been able to build a business. I literally built a career from my passion. There were risks involved – both personal and financial – but I am so fortunate to have found a pool of health-conscious people to work with. I am so grateful to have a phenomenal, engaged, wonderful group of clients. I’m grateful for all my great luck, and I’m proud of my hard work.
If I haven’t scared you away, please be assured that I WANT to hear from you on your progress; and I WANT to help in any way I am able! Keep in touch with me, as it can only help others to keep a tight-knit network of professionals engaged in spreading the word about good food and a healthy lifestyle. Just because I can’t always reply, doesn’t mean I don’t LOVE hearing from you!
Thanks for reading!
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