November 9, 2016

When I entered college many years ago (yikes, insert awkward face), to many people’s surprise I declared Dance as my major when it was expected I would do something else…anything else. You could just feel friends and family cringe when they heard the news. Granted, dance had always been my main activity – sport if you will (ahem) – and I very much loved everything about it. The musicality, athleticism, dedication, emotion, performance and pageantry of it all really captured my heart and soul from an early age. And while I wasn’t always the best dancer, I wasn’t the worst. However, even though I knew I wanted to continue dancing throughout college and beyond, I wasn’t really sure how I would actually pay the bills one day. I never really wanted to live in New York City or Los Angeles after college, and I didn’t want to open a dance studio. I basically had no idea how I’d actually make a living as a modern dancer. I was not about that ‘starving artist’ life. Or about starving. Au contraire, mon ami.


I’m pretty sure my parents thought I had some sort of food obsession from the moment I could speak. Rumor has it, I was always eating something, and I would always be the kid to show off my clean plate to the adults at family meals (also, born a brown-noser). No crumb left behind. And please don’t judge my family – it was the early 80’s, y’all – but my early favorite foods included cold hot dogs, pizza crust, & raw oysters. You know, typical, safe foods for toddlers.  I’m still down with the raw oysters and pizza crust, but the hot dogs had to GO. Somewhere along the way I developed a strong aversion, alas, I go for the hamburger or nachos at sporting events these days. But I digress…


I was also THAT kid that liked all kinds of fruits and vegetables, which really annoyed the other kids. Every time someone said no to the likes of tomatoes, mushrooms or onions, I would volunteer as tribute for their scraps. While this came across very brown-noser (it’s a theme), I just really wanted more food. I also really wanted to help when it came to food prep, and both of my grandmothers and my mom were pretty great about giving me tasks in the kitchen. It was likely more effort for them to supervise me and make sure I wasn’t chopping off my fingers rather than just cutting up the veggies themselves, but they gave me those experiences when I asked. I remember insisting that my grandmother and I make a ‘carrot soup’ from scratch when I was 6 years old after reading a children’s book about rabbits. I really thought I could rally up the local bunnies if I served a feast of carrot soup on the back porch. While I didn’t attract any bunnies, I certainly remember chopping those carrots and boiling them in broth with a bunch of herbs and seasonings that my grandmother and I threw together without a recipe. I remember feeling like a magician, or a chemist even, making that crazy soup with her. It tasted awful by the way, but the memory is pretty sweet.


While my love for food was well established, as I hit puberty I began to question my ways. I mean, I was actually blessed with a pretty great metabolism, I was active, and I was always at a normal and healthy weight. But I was a dancer, which meant normal and healthy wasn’t always good enough, at least in my mind. I knew of other dancers with actual eating disorders, and to me they had the dancer look. But I knew deep down that there was no way I could ever attempt anorexia, being hypoglycemic and all. And bulimia wasn’t an option for me either, no thanks. I even contemplated laxative abuse, but then quickly realized how incredibly INCONVENIENT a strategy that would be. Then, in a moment of enlightenment it occurred to me – I could learn about proper nutrition so that I could maximize my food intake, support healthy energy levels so that I could perform at my best ability as a dancer, and be healthy overall. A nutrition dork was born.


All through high school, I was obsessed with all of the food and fitness magazines. My mom would always let me get one or two magazines on our weekly trips to the grocery store, and I would have each one read cover to cover within hours. I remember around the time I was 15, I walked into the living room one day and sat down with my mom, and told her that I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I told her I wanted to become a registered dietitian, and that I wanted to write nutrition articles for companies and magazines like the ones I so loved to read. She always supported my writing, and told me she thought that was a great idea and that I could do it. But when I started researching the amount of science required for a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and the requirements to become a Registered Dietitian, I started to laugh. I told my mom, “there is no way I could pass all of those science classes”. She disagreed, of course, but I wasn’t buying her confidence in me.


Fast forward to freshman year of college. As a dance major I was required to take at minimum one science course. To me, Biology 101 seemed much less intimidating than Chemistry 101, so I enrolled. I remember the class section had over 200 students, and our first biology lab was overwhelming to say the least. I had a complete meltdown – sweating & tears included – when I couldn’t get my microscope in focus for the first 30 minutes of lab. I was well behind on my lab worksheet in identifying the cell structures in the provided slides. This was it, I was done. If I couldn’t get a microscope to focus, how the heck would I pass this class? These were the thoughts running through my head. Luckily the poor soul beside of me took pity on my anxiety attack, and showed me how to use the focus wheel. I caught up on the worksheet and even made it out of lab on time. Now fast forward to the end of that semester, the day final Biology 101 grades were posted. I stood in the hallway sweating (again), looking for my student ID number on the sheet toward the bottom half of the listing, obviously, just knowing that there was NO WAY I did well on the final. But my number wasn’t there. I went to get the professor and I told her that maybe she forgot my grade on the list. That’s when she pointed out that my number was at the top of the list. Top grade for the whole class. My mind was blown, and my life was changed that day.


The next semester I took a couple of nutrition classes and added Chemistry 101. Made all A’s. I then added Nutrition & Dietetics as a second major. After a few more semesters, I ended up dropping Dance to a minor, as my performance hours were interfering with my biochemistry and anatomy labs. The rest is history, and I’ve been a Registered Dietitian since 2004. In the spring of 2015, I completed my MS in Nutrition. And yet, I’m still dancing. I’m letting my nutrition gig support my ballroom dance hobby these days, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not starving (praise Jesus), but I’m still an artist. I get to keep my creative side alive through dance, communicating nutrition to others in my day job with healthyAisles®, and now with this blog. And it’s kinda cool that my mom can say “Remember what you said you wanted to do when you were 15? You’re doing it!”


Moving forward with my blog, my goals for you are the same ones I have for myself – let’s eat & enjoy as much tasty food as possible while staying balanced, healthy, & active. Let’s be smart about our health, but rid ourselves of the food-fear that surrounds us in society. Let’s learn about the science of nutrition in a fun way, and learn how to interpret new nutrition research without unnecessary panic and confusion. Let’s get cooking in the kitchen more. And finally, let’s have a sense of humor about all of this stuff. (insert winky face)


I’m all in, are you?



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    • Lynne
    • November 12, 2016

    LOVE IT!! Proud of you!!

    • Karen
    • November 12, 2016

    So excited for you…what I have see so far I am loving!

    • Jenny
    • November 12, 2016

    Very cool! I felt so intimidated by the science classes as well. Great site, Monica! I’m looking forward to following.

    • Julie
    • November 12, 2016

    Great job 🙂

    • Brenda
    • November 12, 2016

    Love it!

  1. Reply

    Inspiring life story Monica! Looking forward to reading your blog.

      • Monica Amburn
      • November 19, 2016

      Thank you Elliott! 🙂

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