I’ve made a point recently of sharing inspirational health-related stories on my website recently, and that trend continues today with the feature of Shanna Stewart, creator of WellnessForTheWin.com
Shanna Stewart is a Registered Dietitian – born and raised in Kansas – with a huge passion for nutrition and fitness. She loves to inspire others to make healthy food and exercise a part of their everyday life and does not believe in diets. Instead, Shanna believes that eating well is a lifestyle, and that it’s so important to make your health a priority every day. You were only blessed with one amazing body, so take good care of it!
Today, Shanna will share with us her journey towards becoming a dietitian. I highly recommend giving it a read!
Wellness For The Win – Shanna Stewart’s Journey To Becoming A Dietitian
I have had this passion for nutrition and fitness for a long time now, but it only seems to intensify as the years goes by.
My interest in food and nutrition began all the way back in high school. I was a fit little cheerleader and I probably could’ve eaten whatever I wanted without gaining weight (#thosewerethedays); however, I started really paying attention to what I ate around then. Possibly a little too much. I never really restricted myself back then or did any binge/purge behaviors, but it was around that time that I started tracking calories in My Fitness Pal. Little did I know, this was a habit that I would continue for the next seven years or so. I just recently stopped counting calories, and it has been extremely freeing– but that’s a story for another day. (Check out this post on my blog to read more.)
Link: Why I Stopped Counting Calories – Wellness For The Win
Fast forward to college and I was overwhelmed by the fact that I needed to figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I went to Kansas State University, which is where my dad went back in the day, so I was pretty much brainwashed from birth that I would attend KSU as well. Luckily, I loved everything about small-town Manhattan, KS, and they also happened to have several majors that suited me perfectly.
I started out with a dual-degree; Nutrition and Kinesiology. It seemed like the perfect fit for me. I obviously had an interest in food and nutrition, and I really loved exercise, too. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with that yet, but I felt confident that I was on the right path. It wasn’t long before I heard about dietetics, and all of the different job opportunities that are out there for dietitians. Once I learned just how much you can do with the letters “RD” behind your name, I knew that’s what I was meant to do. I soon switched Kinesiology to a minor (although I still loved exercise, I did not want to be a personal trainer, or go on to PT school), changed my major to Nutrition and Health, and added a second major– Dietetics.
I have to admit, school was tough with that work load, especially because I put a lot of pressure on myself to get As in every class. I have to brag for a second and say that I only got one B throughout my whole college career (damn you, Biology) and graduated Summa Cum Laude (twice), only because it helps me lead into my next point. 😉 And yes, in case you’re wondering, I was — and still am — an over-achiever. As most dietitians are.
This type A, perfectionist personality of mine has been both a blessing and a curse throughout my life, especially in the more recent years. Obviously, it helped me perform extremely well in school, which is something that I am very proud of; however, it caused me a lot of unnecessary stress in an attempt to be perfect all the time, which ultimately resulted in over-analyzing my food intake, disliking my body, freaking out if I skipped one day at the gym, and has even caused some serious GI issues that the doctor diagnosed as “IBS” triggered by stress, and who knows what else. (I still have my good and bad days with this, unfortunately.)
Despite all of the difficult things I’ve been through on this journey, I can honestly say that I have a very healthy relationship with food and with myself today. We all have our ups and downs and our own way of getting there, but I love to help others find out what they can do to not only improve their weight or health status, but also their confidence and quality of life. I love to show people how eating healthy food and exercising can truly improve their overall well-being, and that they don’t have to give up everything they love in order to get there.
I work as a clinical dietitian in a hospital, and a wellness coordinator for the employees of a school district. These are two completely opposite ends of the spectrum in the dietetics world; treatment vs. prevention. Both are extremely important, and in both environments, there is so much room for education. I try to inspire my school district clients to adopt healthy habits so they never make it to that hospital bed. On the other hand, I have the opportunity to educate newly diagnosed diabetic patients on carbohydrate counting, or teach 50-year-olds who just had a heart attack how to follow a heart-healthy diet.
The best thing about this profession is seeing people get excited about living a healthier life and taking good care of their bodies. When I see that light bulb go off, and they realize, “I can do that too”, or I get an email from a client who is so excited to report back to me that they’ve worked out four times that week, or started eating a healthy breakfast every morning. Those are the moments that make the frustrating and difficult times so worth it.
I have had a very similar experience through my Instagram and blog, Wellness For The Win, and it may be the most rewarding of them all. Because it’s all mine. Something that I created all by myself with a goal to motivate and inspire others to live a healthy lifestyle by eating well and exercising often. When I get messages from complete strangers across the country letting me know they are recovering from an eating disorder and that I motivate them every day to make healthy choices and fuel their bodies– THAT is what it’s all about.
I also like to show my followers that people like us (RDs, “healthy food bloggers”, people who appear to eat fruits and veggies 99% of the time) like to have fun and eat pizza and cake too. In the end, it’s all about balance and enjoying life. It’s about treating our bodies well most of the time, but also knowing when it’s appropriate to not give a crap, and eat an overflowing cup of fro-yo with ALL the toppings. (And I mean all.)
I want to show people that eating healthy is fun, delicious, satisfying and most importantly, attainable. Yes, it requires a little bit of effort, but trust me, it is so worth it. You can’t put a price on feeling good on the inside and the outside.
I feel so blessed to have a career that I am so passionate about and have the opportunity to help others get excited about their own health too. I plan to continue to share my love for nutrition and health with anyone who will listen, and hope to inspire many more along the way.
Eat well, live well, be happy.
Shanna Stewart, RD, LD