My journey to becoming a Registered Dietitian is certainly not a traditional one. As a lifelong athlete, nutrition has always been a priority, but it was not something I envisioned I could do as more than a hobby.
Growing up, I was obsessed with style with dreams of following in the footsteps of my mother’s career. She was a buyer for various fashion houses, always glamorously traveling for work throughout my childhood to places like Italy and Hong Kong. The thought of doing any other career never even crossed my mind.
Passion for Fashion
I majored in Fashion Merchandising at Indiana University (go Hoosiers) and, at 19 years old, was the youngest intern ever accepted to the Ralph Lauren corporate internship program in New York City. I interned there every summer of college, and before my second semester of senior year at Indiana even started, they offered me a full-time job. I moved to New York City the day after undergraduate graduation with stars in my eyes, feeling like the luckiest girl in the world. I worked for the Men’s Luxury Merchandising Team, assisting on Purple Label sportswear, suits & tailored clothing. I enjoyed my time there a lot and had many life-changing experiences, including meetings with Ralph Lauren himself. You would be surprised how small and soft-spoken he is while exuding so much power and respect. You can hear a pin drop when he’s in the room. It was incredible to be around.
My heart always felt like something was missing, so after a few years, I took a job at another fashion company as a womenswear buyer. Long story short: it was absolutely awful. Very much The Devil Wears Prada personified. In a fortuitous first week on the job, my new boss tasked me with getting all apparel products to a new store for its grand opening, however, she didn’t give me any real direction on how to do it. I was significantly shyer then, and asking for help wasn’t a strong suit of mine, so I executed the project incorrectly. In turn, the visual merchandising team could almost not set the store floor as intended. We got the product expedited from the warehouse, and everything worked out, but my boss screamed and berated me in front of the entire office while I sat there in horror, choking down tears. The rest of my time there went a lot like that.
I struggled with the company culture in the fashion industry, specifically around food. Eating in general was frowned upon so I was frequently mocked for (gasp) “needing” to grab food at lunchtime or eating a snack when a meeting ran multiple hours over time. My coworkers routinely made fun of me for “always eating so much.” (narrator note: something I know now that I didn’t back then is that their toxic comments were only a projection of their own insecurities and had nothing to do with me or my prioritization of a healthy diet.)
Time for a Change
I was miserable working 12+ hour days for a job I hated. I stuck it out for 8 months until quitting for the first (and only) time in my life. At that point, my heart knew I couldn’t work in fashion anymore.
Growing up, I loved being a part of a team, always involved in organized sports, specifically competitive cheerleading. I was blessed to have parents who impressed the importance of a well-rounded diet upon me from a young age. Health and fitness had always been a huge part of my life, with my passion only multiplying tenfold after graduating college. I became fascinated with how the foods we eat affect every aspect of our health. I started experimenting with different diet types (even going vegan for over a year), lifting weights, and teaching myself to cook. My mother, bless her soul, can barely fry an egg, so everything I know in the kitchen I taught myself. While my peers were out at the clubs, I was trying to make new recipes and going to bed early for my workout the next morning.
After I quit my job, I knew I wanted to do something in the health space, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I could do since all my schooling and experience was in fashion. I often heard the saying, “discovering what you don’t want is just as important as finding what you do,” so I started trying many different things to find my next career. I did social media and marketing for my personal trainer/mentor/friend, Kelvin Gary, boutique fitness studio, Body Space Fitness. Then I thought I wanted to be a Pilates instructor, doing all teacher training classes to discover that being a fitness instructor was not my journey. There was also a stint in non-profit, driven by my love for helping others, but that wasn’t right for me either.
I was extremely lost and depressed, pushing away everyone in my life, wondering if I’d made a huge mistake abandoning my fashion career just because I didn’t “love” it anymore. I stayed holed up in my New York City apartment, only leaving to workout and go grocery shopping for my cooking experiments, the two things that, to this day, bring me the most joy.
From New York to California
I knew I had to make a dramatic change so I ended my lease, packed my stuff, and decided I would move to a place I deemed the total opposite of New York City: California. I rented a furnished apartment in San Francisco for 3 months, telling myself, “either I’ll find a job I love and make this work, or I’ll move somewhere else.” Why did I pick San Francisco, a city I’d never even visited? No idea. Did I know a single person there? Negative. Have any family within a hundred-mile radius? Nope.
I started applying for a wide range of jobs, primarily at health-centric start-ups and in sports, another passion of mine. I also applied to a few fashion jobs here and there to keep my options open. I didn’t want to work in the retail world again, but those were the only jobs I would hear back from since that’s where my experience was. I got an incredible job at Fanatics, the industry leader in branded sports apparel, managing their branded product line. I was excited because the position allowed me to get my foot in the door of a new industry while utilizing the skills and experience I already had in fashion.
I loved the company and my team and finally felt like I was heading in the right direction with my career. San Francisco was a really tough city, but I was excited about my job, so I was determined to make the best of it. I channeled my energy outside of work into creating an Instagram account called @fitnesstrac (now @trulywellwithtracy), to share my workouts and healthy recipes. Throughout all this change, those two were always my constant loves. It didn’t matter how sad or lost I became, I always found a way to move my body and nourish it with whole foods in creative and delicious ways.
I was finally excited about my job and had a creative outlet for my true passion, so I was pretty happy…then Fanatics acquired Majestic, a baseball apparel company. With the acquisition, they decided to move all employees on the product side of the business from San Francisco to Tampa, Florida. I was utterly devastated. I tried to be open-minded about Tampa, and even went to look at apartments with the company, but ultimately I couldn’t see myself there.
I was working remotely for Fanatics, trying to make San Francisco work, but it felt very forced. Like I was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. At the same time, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I couldn’t stand the thought of being so far away from him while he fought the disease. So I moved. Again. Back to Atlanta where I was born and raised to figure out what I would do with my life.
Finding my Purpose
Through my Instagram account, I fell in love with sharing my passion for wellness and helping others on their journey toward a nourishing lifestyle. During my quest to “find myself,” going back to school for nutrition was always in the back of my mind, but I was terrified of the time it would take. As a fashion merchandising major, I didn’t have any of the prerequisites I needed to become a dietitian, so a two year Master’s program became a four year endeavor. I thought it was “too late,” as I was now in the back half of my 20s and originally pretty embarrassed about going back to school (narrator note: of course, now I know that’s ridiculous).
Thinking I had run out of options, I went to a career coach for guidance. She helped direct me to finally saying, “I’m going back to school to become a Registered Dietitian. The time will pass regardless, I might as well spend it doing what makes me truly happy. This is my calling.” In May 2020, I started taking the nine math and science prerequisites I was missing to be eligible for a Masters of Nutrition at Georgia State University.
After two years of working harder than I ever had in my life, in June 2022, I was accepted to the Georgia State University Coordinated Program to receive a Master’s of Nutrition.
And now we are here! I am on my way to becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and am set to graduate in August 2024. Then I will take the RD exam, pass (I believe manifestation and speaking into existence!), and start working with clients looking to transform their lives through the power of nutrition.
I hope my story serves as a reminder that there is no timeline on success. You are never too old, and it’s never too late. What’s meant for you will find you, but only if you put in the work along the way.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here. I feel so grateful to finally be pursuing what I know in my soul is my life’s purpose. I can’t wait to continue growing this community and help as many people as possible become the best version of themselves.
Welcome to Truly Well.