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Meet Dominique

You might be wondering what brings me to the point in my life that I’m so passionate, so motivated, and so enthusiastic about teaching others to live a healthier life in simple ways.

 

You might be asking why someone who is not a registered dietitian has been such a sought-out NUTRITION COACH and CONSULTANT for hundreds of people over the past 13 years. Or you might just be curious to understand more about me and my personal background. I’m happy to share my story with you.

family_picsI was lucky enough to grow up in an Italian-American household that was filled with love, great cooks, and lots of delicious and primarily healthy food. From the time that I was a teenager, I was interested in nutrition. My friends used to bring novels to the Jersey Shore for their beach reading, while I read books about nutrition. I was – and still am – slightly obsessed with the Food Network and cookbooks, and I have poured myself into learning about nutrition through the years. Most importantly, I love to eat! I’m what some might call a foodie in the best sense because I’m not afraid to experiment with food and I have a healthy appetite for good food.

 

All this said, I can clearly remember the defining moment in my life when my love of food and nutrition was taken to the next level – I was forever changed. During my junior year of college, I found out that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in her life (I’m happy to say she’s now a two-time survivor). Not only was I terrified about losing my mother, I felt for the first time like a ticking time bomb. After all, my mother was diagnosed twice, her mother had been diagnosed as well, so I thought that my own diagnosis was only a matter of time. I felt scared and helpless. My boyfriend at the time bought me a gift to help me feel better; it was a book called The Breast Cancer Prevention Diet.  The book presented lots of research about the relationship between food and cancer, and discussed the many ways that food and exercise can be used to help prevent cancer. Something inside of me clicked. It raised the bar and made even clearer that food could be a pathway to better health instead of something to excessively manage.

 

Throughout my twenties I really struggled with my desires to have better health, an “ideal” weight, and simultaneously enjoy the yummy foods I grew to love over the years. The book motivated me to try things I’d never done before, like exercising and yoga, and also to eat healthier. However, there was no guide for a woman in her twenties who used food as her emotional crutch to make her feel better. I’ve always struggled with bouts of intense anxiety, and as an Italian-American girl who understood that food is love, I was used to turning to food to make me feel better. As a person who was so well-educated in nutrition, however, I became fixated on “eating well” all the time. I became a compulsive calorie counter and would go back and forth between eating for my health and keeping my weight down, while also bingeing during emotional or anxious times. I had a lot of “food noise” in my head. At any point of the day I could have told you how many calories I had eaten, how many grams of protein, and how much I still needed to have. I still enjoyed food, but I thought about it a lot. And I struggled with the large portions that I grew up eating. I felt that turning down a second portion from my well-meaning but food-pushing father or grandmother would make them feel unloved. It took a combination of therapy, honesty, and hard work to learn to say “no thank you, I’ve had enough,” when they kept pushing to fill my plate again.     grad_pics

 

I went on to get a Master’s degree specializing in health communication, and later a PhD in public health with the same specialty. My experiences in graduate school did several things for me: 1) they provided a lot of struggles that challenged my anxieties and helped me to eventually learn healthier coping mechanisms than emotional eating; 2) they provided me with a LOT of teaching experiences and taught me how to reach different kinds of learners in innovative ways; and 3) they provided me with lots of training in research, forcing me to be even more critical about messages in the media related to health and nutrition, and reinforcing the importance of evidence-based research and practice. In other words, I learned how to study and critically evaluate research about health, and use my skills in communications to take sometimes complicated health information and teach it to others in simple ways to help them become motivated, informed, and empowered. Some people have asked me why I never wanted to get a clinical degree as a registered dietitian, but it never appealed to me. I knew that I wasn’t interested in creating meal plans or telling people what they had to eat. Instead, I wanted to be an educator who taught people how to eat in a way that would make them look and feel great, better understand the role of food and nutrition in helping them to do that, and motivate and coach them through the difficulties often associated with these choices. I was born to teach and I believe it’s my calling to serve in that capacity.

 

After finishing my PhD and moving onto a career in university teaching and individual nutrition coaching, I turned my attention toward having a family. Since I have been struggling with endometriosis for many years, my husband and I were not surprised to have some fertility challenges. However, nothing could have prepared me for my miscarriage in my 11th week of pregnancy. To say that I was devastated would be a huge understatement – I felt destroyed. And after all of the complications and the surgery to help my body recover, I looked in the mirror and saw a pregnant body without a baby.

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It was at that time that I realized how far I had come with regards to my healthier living and how much I overcame my food noise. Had my miscarriage occurred just a few years before, I might have started emotionally eating and drowned myself in my sorrows. Instead, I exercised and ate well to lose the pregnancy weight and once again prepare my body for fertility treatments. I never counted a calorie, measured out my food portions, or became obsessed with anything. I just lived my life using the same simple and healthy practices that I’d been teaching to my students and clients. I went into my next pregnancy (with a lot of fertility help) in the best shape of my life. Throughout my pregnancy I ate to nourish my baby, exercised as much as I could reasonably do, and enjoyed the process of shaping my daughter’s health as well as my own. I’m happy to say that my daughter, Linnea, has a great palate and is a very adventurous eater. I believe my prenatal nutrition played a role in this. I also know that my simple and healthy approach to eating was the largest factor in losing my pregnancy weight quickly and keeping the weight off after my daughter was born. healthy_eating

 

Throughout my journey I’ve developed such a strong passion for living a healthy life simply that I can’t help but share what I’ve learned so that others can do the same. I don’t pretend to have everything figured out perfectly and I still struggle with stopping myself at one bowl of pasta. However, I do have some important philosophies and lessons which I believe contribute to making me a great nutrition coach and have led to so many word-of-mouth referrals from my past students and private clients. I know that when you eat for your health, your weight will fall into place without you ever having to suffer, make huge changes all at once, or give up what you love. I’ve learned that when you follow what the research says rather than what the media wants you to believe, you will never be steered in the wrong direction. I’ve learned that everyone likes different foods, has different food issues, different health scares, and different lives, so a one-size-fits-all approach to health and nutrition coaching never works. I’ve learned that people really want to live healthier lives for themselves and their families, but they often don’t know how – or worse, believe their choices to be healthy when they are in fact not – due to confusing or misleading messages in the media and food marketing. I know that knowledge is powerful and motivating, so when you educate people about nutrition rather than tell them what you think they should eat, you can empower people to make healthier choices that fit their lifestyle. And I know that no one wants to give up the foods that they love. I’m happy to say that my training and my years of experience have taught me how to help myself and others to follow these philosophies and lead better lives.

 

It is my passion to help people live healthier lives that allow them to ENJOY FOOD and EXERCISE without it overtaking their life or all of their mental energy. I no longer believe in dieting, I know how to evaluate research to make complicated findings very simple to understand and apply, and I know how to motivate and teach people about how to make nutrition and exercise enjoyable while helping them to improve their health, their waistlines, their energy, their skin, and their relationships with themselves. I’m honored to have the opportunity to take my life experiences, lessons, research, education, and hard work to help others live their healthiest life…simply.

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