3/11/14

My road to becoming a dietitian.....Happy National RD Day!!!


When I was growing up, I always loved science.
As a student athlete through middle school until the end of college, I always loved being active with my body.
I suppose at a very young age, I was destined for a career that combined my love of science and the human body in motion. 

When I learned about biology in middle school, I thought a career as a marine biologist would be perfect for me because I loved animals.
When I learned about human anatomy in high school (1996-2000), I thought that medical school would be perfect for me because I loved the human body and helping people.
When I learned about human physiology during exercise in college at Transylvania University (2000-2004) while earning a Bachelor of Arts in Exercise Science and a Minor in Psychology, I thought that strength and conditioning would be a perfect career for me because I loved helping a body get stronger in order to perform better.
When I learned about exercise physiology and sport nutrition in graduate school  at Florida Atlantic University (2004-2005) while earning a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I graduated. 

With negative money in my bank account and a spare room at my parents new home in New Port Richey Florida (after moving from my hometown of Lexington KY), I moved in with my parents to figure out what I would do with a few expensive pieces of paper that I could proudly hang on my wall in frames. 
Throughout graduate school, I inched my way into endurance sports. Well, more like jumped in feet first without any hesitation. I trained for my first marathon with my own designed marathon plan (coming from a history of running with my longest run being a 10K road race) over the course of 4 months and qualified for the Boston Marathon (3:38). I decided that the next step would be to do my first Half Ironman and Ironman within the same year as the Boston Marathon. 
I never considered a career as a professional triathlete but I really loved endurance sports.
I felt accomplished, disciplined, energetic and healthy despite the volume that I was putting out to prepare my body for so many endurance events within an 8-month time-span. 
Before completing the Boston Marathon, I applied for and received an internship at the World Triathlon Corporation which was (at that time) in Tarpon Springs, FL. I learned so much about the history of triathlons as well as what it takes to put-on an event and during my 6-month internship I was also introduced to Judy Molnar, VP of Iron Girl. 
I started writing for several sport-related websites, like Iron Girl and Beginner Triathlete and started to find my niche for being able to relate to triathletes and runners but also to understand the science behind training and fueling for endurance (or multi) sport events.
I can't believe it but one of my very first articles  (one of the very few that I was paid for starting out as I tried to get my words out) is still on the internet from 2007. - Eggs, Meat and Milk...whey too many proteins!
Through networking, credentials and certifications, I landed a spot in Triathlete Magazine, writing a column "Gatorade Athlete of the Month" where I would spotlight an athlete each month.
Throughout that time, I used my sport nutrition credential from the ISSN to start writing articles relating more toward sport nutrition, nutrient timing and fueling a body in motion. Fueling the engine was one of my first articles to write on this topic and not too much later, I had my first article in Triathlete Magazine on that same topic. I still have that article in a frame for it was my very first article in print (there's nothing like seeing your name in a magazine for the very first time). 
After accepting a position at a YMCA as the wellness coordinator, teaching spin classes, the occasional water aerobics class, personal training and training for my first Ironman, I met Karel who shared my first Ironman journey with me throughout the entire summer of 2006. 
As I was training for Ironman Florida, I found myself gravitating toward other like-minded individuals when it came to answering questions on training and sport nutrition but still continuing to enjoy my time at the YMCA, working with the average individual who is seeking health improvements through a more active lifestyle or weight loss (or both). 


After completing my first Ironman in 2006 and qualifying for the 2007 Ironman World Championships by winning the 18-24 age group by almost an hour (11:00:47), I was extremely excited by how my body performed as I coached myself through my first Ironman (training and fueling) so my immediate reaction was to start a new dream of becoming a professional triathlete.
After giving the thought some consideration, I realized that I needed to put my education to good use.
I started to give local talks to triathlon clubs on sport nutrition and on the side, I would also provide consultations with athletes on nutrition. As a personal trainer, I was always asked about nutrition so that part came naturally to help others as I worked in the YMCA. 
In Feb 2007, Trimarni.blogspot.com was born. Oddly, it was after the Miami Marathon (where I qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2005) and that was the only race I have never finished. 
2007 was a rough year. Not only did I begin my long-term history with hip issues (starting around 30 days before the 2007 IM World Championships but I felt like I was not living life to the fullest. There was too much focus on triathlon training and I was not helping enough people. It was too much "me-time" and I felt this burning desire that I needed to help others. 
So -it was back to school!



While I was in graduate school, I remember two specific things that I heard from others, when it came to figuring out what my life would bring in the next few years:
1) I would never be successful as a vegetarian in endurance sports (21 years later and 7x IM finishes - I think I proved a lot of people wrong)
2) I needed to have the R.D. credential behind my name in order to be successful with nutrition. 

I wasn't really sure what it would take to become a RD for I never had an interest in being a dietitian. I didn't want to work in food service or in a hospital. I only wanted to work with athletes, like myself, who wanted to fuel for sports in order to be fast in races. 

So, I applied for the University of Northern Colorado distance dietetic program in 2007 after recovering from Kona (which took months to be able to walk pain-free again after racing injured) as the first step and began pre-req courses locally in Clearwater/St. Pete since I had moved in with my boyfriend, Karel. 

I wasn't sure of a time frame as to when I would become a RD so I stayed as patient as possible for the next three years. And oh boy, was that extremely hard!

Becoming an RD was one of the most expensive, time-consuming and stressful experiences of my life. 

However, I would not have wanted it any other way. 

From 2008-2011, I blogged about various topics from Ironman racing, healthy eating, workouts and life. But in the midst of it all, I was overwhelmed with becoming a dietitian.

After receiving a verification statement from UNCO, my desire to become a RD shifted from "needing" the credential to be more successful as a writer/speaker to "earning" the credential to be more credible as a nutrition expert. 

As I was applying for internships, my passion grew in the field of nutrition and I finally felt like I was doing what I was meant to do in life.

Only one more step to go and I would become a RD!
 I realized that the dietetic internship process was a bit more complicated that I imagined. Not only complicated but extremely competitive. Realizing now that earning this RD credential is more than just paying for school to get a certificate. The RD credential does not get handed out like a nutrition certification after passing an exam.  

When I didn't get matched for my first round of dietetic internships I was extremely sad. So much of my life had been put on hold for the past few years as I worked so hard to get this last step crossed off the list in order to be eligible to sit for the RD national exam. 

On April 29th, 2011, my life had finally changed. 
After completing over 1200 hours of interning through the Marywood University distance dietetic internship program (thanks to second round matching the 2nd time I applied), I was finally eligible to take my RD exam. 

When I passed the RD exam in June, 2011, I was extremely happy and relieved but also still concerned as to how I would turn my passion of helping others with my background in nutrition, sport nutrition, dietetics and exercise physiology, into a career. 

The birth of my business, Trimarni coaching and nutrition, LLC, was not easy. I always wanted my own business for I felt like I wanted to provide services that I felt would best serve my population (not clients) of athletes and fitness enthusiasts.  

Logo designed by my friend and athlete (and AMAZING web designer) Doris S

It was a very long journey but I knew that becoming a RD would not only open doors to a fun career of writing and speaking on a national level but as a licensed dietitian who works part-time as a clinical RD, I would have never found myself feeling so fortunate to be so successful with a job that doesn't feel like work (don't get me wrong - we work hard and non-stop).
Since earning my RD credential, I have had the great honor to see my name in several national magazines which has been a dream come true:
Triathlete
Cosmo Girl
Shape
Runner's World
Women's Running
Bicycling
Men's Journal
Health
Women's Health

as well as reach out to my athlete-population in Ironman.com, LAVA online, Iron Girl and USA Triathlon.

I have also been able to Contribute to many articles online and speak at many local and out-of-state events

If you love nutrition and love helping people, consider making the time to earn your RD credential. Life is going to pass on by anyways, why not become a qualified and nationally recognized nutrition expert (meeting academic and professional requirements) who can "translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living". I would be happy to talk to any individual (or future RD/intern) about careers, the RD journey or anything else that I can do to encourage you to continue to pursue a RD credential. 

So, what's next for me?

Upcoming to-do's to advance my career:

-Earn my CSSD - Board certified specialist in sport dietetics - be eligible to work with Olympic athletes

-Write a book - focus on body image for athletes 

-Speak on a more national level - body image for athletes, healthy relationship with food/body, sport nutrition, nutrient timing, motivational talks on living a more balanced healthy and active lifestyle

-Enjoy the life that I worked so hard for as I continue to help others reach personal health, body composition fitness, nutrition and performance goals. 

-Continue to set goals for my active body 

-Speak and write more

-Travel more with Karel

-Expand my plant-strong culinary skills

To all my Trimarni followers and fans - THANK YOU for your continued support!!!