Monday, December 28, 2009

How Did I Get Here? Where Am I Going? I need a roadmap.

I have no idea what I really do for living.

Well, when I say that, it's only about half true, but I still have a really hard time describing it to other people.

I'm not a typical dietitian. Don't get me wrong, I love the science of nutrition itself, but the thought of working in a hospital or long-term care facility never appealed to me in the least. It had nothing to do with the people there, as I did my internship they were very nice and I thought the environment was just, well, "ok." It never really felt like home to me, or a place where I could be creative, have different challenges day in and day out, and make my own job description. I'm thankful we have dietitians out there who love it, they touch many lives and do an exceptional jobs. It just wasn't for me right from the start.

During my last two years of college, my advisor, Dr. Kristine Clark, was willing to let me intern with her through the summer and then during the year. In the world of sports nutrition, Dr. Clark was one of the very first sports nutritionist to actually have this title at a major Div. One University. She was a trendsetter and innovator in the field. Before anyone had barely heard of the technology, Dr. Clark moved from underwater weighing to determine body fat percent to the BOD POD (see below), which looked more like that tv sitcom spaceship from "Mork & Mindy" than something to measure body fat! I remember the first time I jumped into my spandex and was locked inside. You could hear the air rushing out as your air displacement inside the air-tight container was used to measure your body composition. Pretty cool! It was extremely accurate, and I loved observing her counseling athletes from swimmers, wrestlers, and football players, to cross-country athletes like myself.
Mork getting out of the egg on the TV show "Mork & Mindy" (which I actually remember seeing on TV if that tells you how old I am!)

We started looking into programs where I could continue on to get my PhD, and pursue my dream of becoming a sports nutritionist at a university just like her. However, somewhere along the line I started to get a bit of cold feet about being in school for another 4-6 years right away. I loved working with athletes, conducting studies, and helping people achieve their goals, but I just couldn't see myself being in school again after finally getting my nutrition degree. I needed a break and felt I could always return to it later in life.

Out of the kindness of her heart, she made some phone calls on my behalf. Low and behold, one of the people who actually picked up the phone was one of my bosses from my current company. Dr. Clark explained that I was one of her best students and would be an asset to any company (I tried to not to freak out seeing as I had no idea what this company even did!). They weren't looking for a dietitian, but they were a company that made healthy baked goods for kids so they decided it might not be a bad idea to interview me.

It didn't hurt when I was interviewed that two of my bosses are also Penn State alumni, as is the President of our company. Not to mention that two out of the three also played collegiate sports (like me!). I swear, when I first got the job I wondered what I had gotten myself into. During those initial months all I did was make copies and try to figure out how to integrate my knowledge into the company's needs and products.

Today, I'm still not sure what I do, but it's more like a combination of product development, sales, marketing, writing, supporting our sales team, talking to customers, parents and a whole host of other things. My job is different every day. It has some stress that comes with it, but nothing excessive, and it allows me to be creative and look for new ways to improve our products for the children we serve in schools all over America.

With that said, everything starts with a dream and I've been thinking more and more about how I can integrate my first love of sports nutrition into my life in some way shape or form.

Don't forget though, I'm just like most of my fellow triathletes/sports enthusiasts that read my blog. I'm up at the crack of dawn for swim workouts, tired after a long day of work, and during the season, starving a majority of the time! I get exhausted, and I need quick / easy food that is also going to satisfy my needs as an athlete. Things have got to be simple because a majority of my day I'm pressed for time. Typically in the evenings I'm putting away training clothes from one day while re-packing the bag for the next day while trying not to set my kitchen on fire with dinner cooking downstairs.

So, with that said, I'm going to start sharing a little bit more of my nutrition knowledge/tips/tricks and thoughts about what I do to make things easier during the heavy training times to keep me on a healthy track. Now, just a forewarning, I burn a ton of calories throughout the week so my diet may not be the perfect example of the same things someone else who is much more sedentary might want to strive to emulate. However, just like everyone else, I'm committed to making improvements in 2010, cooking more, saving money, and using a sound diet to help me achieve my potential as an athlete and healthy individual.

Hopefully, you won't mind reading some of my thoughts on the matter and maybe you'll even gain some insight into the fact that eating "healthy" food doesn't have to be so difficult!

Just to start us out on the right foot, here's something I've done before to help make my snacks during the week better than just grabbing a handful of whatever is on the counter top at work.

Having Healthy Bites on Hand

Do you have fifteen to twenty minutes on the weekend to grab some quart baggies and fill them? I bet you do! By buying things like granola, trail mix, almonds, or dried fruit (or mix your own) in bulk containers and then fill the baggies - now you're on your way to better snacking.

Please remember, nuts contain better-for-you monounsaturated fats, but also are a concentrated source of calories. Therefore, do limit your portion size to 1oz. In the case of almonds specifically, 20-25 medium pieces is about 1oz. One reason I like almonds in particular is due to the fact that they have more calcium than any other nut (75 milligrams per serving). In addition, one serving also provides half of your body's Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin E.

So grab your baggies, make up your healthy snacks and throw them in gym bags, lunch bags and in desk drawers at the beginning of the week so you won't be tempted to go for the candy bowl when your stomach starts growling!

Stay posted.. more to come - that was fun!!

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