I feel so fortunate to have picked the career of nutrition and dietetics for my life’s work, and have met so many fantastic dietitians along the way.
For this blog, I wanted to share with you six interview questions with an inspiring dietitian, Michelle Smith, MS, RD, that I met on Facebook Dietitians in Virtual Practice. She has helped me out a lot on this journey. I will also share a little bit about myself as well.
It is really amazing how similar in approach to nutrition we are. We talked and decided that a co-blog would be fun to write. We gain strength through our similarities, unique set of skills and connections.
Working as virtual nutritionists and bloggers is still a bit of the Wild West, and I find it fascinating what brings my friend and colleague to be here today. This is an opportunity for us to share a little bit about each of our careers, our personalities and approaches to nutrition. I am so glad that I have met Michelle and connected with her.
1. How did you get started with nutrition?
I fell in love with nutrition during my own wellness journey. Years ago, I was always tired, in pain, and obsessing over my weight. It wasn’t until I began to investigate what could be wrong that I stumbled onto the importance of diet and health.
It was through my research I found the benefits of living a plant-based lifestyle. After cutting out the animal products, and focusing on whole-foods, my health took a complete turn. My energy had dramatically improved, my confidence soared, and I absolutely loved what I saw in the mirror.
Although I had changed my life with nutrition I didn’t think about studying it until I sit in on my sister’s first day of her general nutrition course.
When I heard the professor give a breakdown of the topics she would be covering that semester including the impact a registered dietitian can make on their clients’ lives,
I sat in awe. As soon as that class ended I literally grabbed my sister and ran down to the Registrar’s office where I changed my major from speech language pathology to dietetics and nutrition, and haven’t looked back!
A light bulb went off the first day of my first class of nutrition during my second semester of college at Montana State University. “I could do this (Nutrition) for the rest of my life!
This is so fascinating!” said my brain over and over. Like Michelle, I also went down that very day and switched my major at the Registrar’s office.
Food has the amazing integration of what we do every day for survival and the ability to change the course of your life and health.
When I learned how much nutrition impacts the course of diseases and lives, I was hooked.
I started in chemical engineering, but something just wasn’t right. I loved chemistry, but it just wasn’t the dynamic field I hoped it would be for me. Nutrition IS biochemistry at its best.
I was also able to integrate my food knowledge from my parents; they are farmers and ranchers, and I cooked as soon as I could possibly do so. I have been happy with my choice for becoming a dietitian/nutritionist from day 1 and have never regretted my decision.
2. How did you come up with the name for your practice?
Since my practice is plant-based I knew I wanted a name that was fresh, organic, and clean, the same characteristics I attribute to a plant-based diet.
One day I sat down with the sole purpose of creating my name, going old school with only pen and paper in hand, and a dab of peppermint oil to get the creativity flowing.
I kept thinking of my approach, and what are some of the words I would use to describe my methods. That’s when it hit me, I am all about planting the seeds today, to sprout a healthier tomorrow.
The rest was easy as anyone that knows me knows I am an alliteration geek, so then came the task of my second word, starting with an “s”, sensibly.
Sensibly Sprouted to me means, we are planting the seeds today for your healthy plant-based tomorrow, in a sustainable, and sensible way.
I walked around for days not sure of what the name of my business name should be. It took some soul searching. “Who am I and what do I want to convey?”
I realized that my favorite part of being a nutritionist is the detective work and that word needed to be part of my name.
What could be the one change that could improve the trajectory of this person’s life?
What lifestyle piece is the one that this person is going to be able to change and become the turning point?
What makes the most impact in how they will feel? I love working with patients to help figure out what this might be for them as an individual.
Maybe it will be several things they are able to change and thereby begin to reverse chronic disease.
3. Approach to working with clients?
My approach is very tailored to each client because I find some clients need more motivation than others, some have the knowledge but need the accountability, and others have very little knowledge of plant-based living but their motivation is off of the charts.
My approach is to meet my client exactly where they are, and craft a plan that works to set them up for success by keeping in mind their unique needs.
Before I start working with any new client, I complete what I like to call a “Discovery Call.”
This call is for me to make sure that not only are we a good fit to work together, but we dive into your goals and set up realistic expectations.
I only work with clients 3-months at a time, as this is usually the minimum amount of time needed before a lasting change can truly be made.
My approach is not for someone that wants to lose 15-pounds in a month for their reunion, instead it is for the person ready to make the commitment for a long-lasting, lifestyle change.
Like Michelle, I use a tailored approach. When in doubt, start with the gut. Whether it is weight loss, fatigue, immune issues, I always start here for the most benefit if the patient is open to this.
Not every patient wants to go this direction, which is understandable, but from a functional medicine perspective, can provide the most benefit quickly.
The digestive tract is exposed to the outside world, and the insults of toxins more so than any part of the body, so cleaning up the diet can make a huge difference.
That said, if someone simply wants to work on high cholesterol levels, for example, I work to help in the direction that the client sees most realistic for them.
4. How do you keep your clients motivated?
Motivation is a huge aspect of my role as the nutrition coach, and not one I take lightly.
My program keeps this in mind, and because of how important I feel this is, I actually invested in a resource for my practice called Healthie.
Through this extremely user-friendly platform, every week I schedule time to check-in on my clients, via a video chat. This way there is never a period of time that my clients go without feeling motivated or supported.
Through Healthie my clients create their own unique usernames where they upload selfies of themselves hitting their goals for accountability, log their foods photos, send me messages in between our sessions, and where I can send documents in an instant.
And if those photos aren’t coming in, the messaging works both ways! So, I can reach out, check in, and make sure you are still on the right track.
I try to find out what the client’s goals are and what inspires them about food and eating.
A lot of success can be built from here. I can provide ideas for goals, but if they don’t resonate with a client, odds are they won’t be able to sustain a lifestyle change.
“I think I would lose weight if I didn’t eat so much sugar” is a goal that we can easily tackle with lifestyle tricks and strategies, for example.
I strive to be relatable. If a client is facing a struggle, odds are, I have struggled there too, or have helped others with the same issues. I also try to send out emails to check in on progress, how the patient is feeling.
My main reason for setting out on my own is to provide the most impact on health and improve people’s quality of life.
5. Approach to supplements?
Following a plant-based diet I definitely have my tool bag of supplements I like to use to ensure I am getting in those specific nutrients.
My go-to’s are vitamin B12, algae based omega-3, and a lichen based vitamin D3. After working for a retailer of supplements I have seen firsthand the benefits these products can bring to one’s health, however I also am a firm believer in a food-first approach.
In nature vitamins and minerals occur as complexes, and work synergistically with other compounds in foods.
However, that is not the case with supplements, and some of the doses included in these products can be a case for concern.
I always recommend working with a healthcare practitioner to make sure you are getting the right amounts for you.
In short, yes, I like supplements a lot and have my favorites that can have high impact.
For example, someone could be severely deficient in a nutrient, and it could take a year of eating right to fully gain back that nutrient.
Supplementation can bring about energy and change much more quickly in combination with positive diet changes.
When an improvement in energy is seen, everything, even cooking right, gets easier.
That said, nothing can fill the gaps without making steps towards a better diet. And supplements are so confusing to clients.
I need to have my laptop handy and demonstrate for patients right then and there to show how to find the correct dosing, ingredients, certifications, brands, etc…
6. What is the number #1 controversial question you get asked?
The most controversial question I get asked in regards to plant-based living is soy, hands-down. “Is soy safe?” or, “How much soy can I have a day without having to worry?” to be specific.
Personally, based on my own research I think organic soy products can make a great addition to a plant-based diet for their calcium and protein content, and tempeh (a fermented soy product) is a staple in my diet, especially in my BLT sandwiches, delish!
My approach considering soy is the same with any other food, moderation is key.
There is SO much controversy about foods and diet trends, so this is a tricky question. I would say that lately it is about fasting.
What kind of fast should I do? How long should I fast? What do I eat when I start back to my “real” diet again?
Fasting is a very hot topic right now and is gaining some scientific backing for some conditions. There isn’t a straightforward answer for the public, but for an individual, we can work through strategies if it is something that is reasonable for the individual client’s health concerns.
Lean more:, contact Michelle at http://sensiblysprouted.com/contact/ and
Heidi at https://www.thehealthyrd.com/contact
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Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling root causes of illness.