I have been a health and wellness coach part-time since 2009. I was originally drawn to study at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in 2008 because I noticed trends of how food choices contributed to the state of a person’s health. Working in international policy – I became concerned that some of our worst eating habits in the U.S. were quickly being exported to other countries. From 1999-2005 I traveled quite a bit and I still remember the shock I felt when a Kenyan doctor in Nairobi told me that Kenyans really had no history of heart disease until the appearance of fast food restaurants in the capital. I knew that my advocacy work had to center around education so that people can make good food choices – both for themselves and for the people in their lives. I also believe that the more people know – the more public policy on the national and international levels can be impacted to reflect best practices.

In 2009 I graduated from IIN and began Hearty Nutrition, a part time practice – coaching people on changing their eating habits. I loved seeing people implement small changes that made a big difference in their lives. IIN really gave me a good survey of a lot of dietary theory out there – and gave me a bit of business training to get up and going. As time went on, I read more and found that there are a lot of confusing messages out there that people are trying to decipher. More and more, my clients were asking for detailed information about the chemical impact of food as well as vitamin and mineral deficiencies. I knew that I wanted to understand all these systems and that I simply had to learn more of the science of nutrition.

Most nutrition degrees follow the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) guidelines. I learned quite quickly through my international advocacy work that the USDA has a duel role – to educate on good nutrition and to promote U.S. agriculture (agribusiness) at home and abroad. The truth is that most of the time the USDA tends to do a much better job of promoting agribusiness than it does in educating the public on good nutrition. So – when I began looking for a way to learn the evidence base of my nutritional practice, I wanted to find a place that would give me a more integrated education that includes the USDA basics while exposing me to other ways of thinking. Tai Sophia Institute fit the bill, but at that time Tai only offered herbal medicine and acupuncture classes.

In 2010 I learned that the Tai Sophia Institute was about the launch a MS in Nutrition and Integrative Health program. Tai Sophia’s approach is anchored in a wellness-based philosophy, and at the same time it emphasizes the interrelated physiological, medicinal, psychosocial, cultural, and spiritual roles of food in our lives. I enrolled in the inaugural class in 2011 and once I graduate in August, 2013, I will pursue becoming a Certified Nutrition Specialists through the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CNBS) and will be licensed to practice nutrition in Maryland.

My course work has been around the biochemical, and physiological processes in the body involved in food digestion and absorption. I have also studied nutritional therapies to address disease states and nutritional needs of each stage of the life cycle. At the same time I have had the opportunity to strengthen my counseling skills through peer practice and a supervised student clinic that began February 3, 2013.