How I Became a Fully Plant Based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

This is my story (and mine alone) about how I came to adopt a fully plant based lifestyle and become a vegan Dietitian.

Spoiler alert! I didn’t decide to stick with veganism in a pursuit of optimal health.

Curious? Keep reading to hear my story!

Disclaimer: This article is not providing you personal medical or dietary advice. See our Disclaimers for details. A completely vegan diet is not possible for every single person for several reasons – such as lack of access to a variety of plant-based foods.

Trigger Warning: Talk of weight loss and eating disorders are included in this article. Individuals with eating disorders, suspected of having an eating disorder, and/or have had an eating disorder may not want to read this post. Please use discretion when consuming this and any other content on the internet.

The Beginning: Mad Cows Disease

At around 11 years old, I rather ceremoniously shunned beef because I was terrified of getting Mad Cows disease (interesting reason eh?).

Still to this day, I remember the very moment: I had just heard about Mad Cows disease on the news while eating a beef taco, and then intrusive thoughts started coming. Could I get Mad Cows disease from eating this?

You may laugh, but this little girl (going through all the emotions of pre-teen years, puberty, etc) had a good cry and decided to take beef of her plate for good.

Because beef was one of my main sources of meat, cutting it out drastically reduced my meat consumption.

From Perceived Wellness to Eating Disorders

Then in middle school, I developed some digestive issues. A healthcare provider assumed I had lactose intolerance, so I stopped drinking cows milk, but still included some cheese and yogurt.  

While my digestive issues got “better” eventually, my mental health did not. Dairy products had been a big part of my diet, and without them, I lost weight, which I (at the time) assumed was great since I was an living in a body classified as overweight by BMI (body mass index) standards.

But, unfortunately, this preteen was also going through many other insecurities as a that would be a story for another time!

Unfortunately, I developed Orthorexia  (an eating disorder that may manifest as an unhealthy obsession with eating “healthy”) and lost a significant amount of weight just before high school started. 

At some point during that time, I eventually cut out chicken and fish for reasons I can not remember, making me a lacto-ovo vegetarian (a vegetarian who also eats some dairy and eggs, but not meat, poultry, or fish).

Wow, this story just took a dark turn eh? Well, luckily for you (and me!) I did get some help via counseling (albeit reluctantly at first), which was a turning point. 

I remember a major shift in mindset when a doctor told me that I may have issues conceiving in the future, which was devastating to me, because I knew I wanted to be a mom one day.

Because of my experience living with an eating disorder, I decided I wanted to make it my profession to educate others about nourishing our bodies in a healthy way.

I learned that Registered Dietitians are credentialed professionals that can provide medical nutrition therapy for a variety of conditions.

So this young girl decided to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and she did!

To become a RDN in the USA, one must complete a bachelors degree and receive a verification statement from an ACEND (Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics) accredited program.

Then, a ACEND accredited supervised practice (ie: dietetic internship or individual supervised practice pathway) must be completed successfully to be able to take the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) dietetic registration exam. Some states also require licensure.

If you pass, you must keep up with 75 units of continuing education every 5 years to maintain the RD/RDN credentials. You can learn more here – which also states that in 2024, a masters degree will be required in order to take the CDR registration exam.

My experiences as a Dietitian included working in both the hospital and clinic setting. Then a change came when my husband and I moved to California…

Learning About The Vegan Diet

After the move, I started interviewing for a job that promoted a vegan diet. Up until this point I was still a lacto-ovo vegetarian. I was intrigued by the job, and wanted to make sure I resonated with vegan nutrition counseling.

So I extensively researched the subject, and became all the more intrigued. A healthy vegan diet (appropriately planned) may reduce the risk of certain health conditions.

I was so convinced at that time that I decided to be predominantly plant based (but not vegan) until…

Non Human Animal, Yet Still A Mother

Toddler air hugging a cow

I was watching a interview featuring Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine discus the benefits of ditching dairy. But it wasn’t the health benefits that stuck with me this time, it was the way he described the dairy cows were treated.

I learned for the first time, that most mother cows are separated from their calves shortly after birth. That mother cows could mourn for their babies- for days, and then are subjected to repeat the process all over again, until they were not “productive” anymore.

That last paragraph just scratches the surface about the realities of the dairy industry, but it moved me.

At the time, I was pregnant with my (first) baby girl, and couldn’t fathom the agony of such a painful separation for a being that can feel pain and such in depth emotions – like loss.

Plant Powered You

Until that moment, I had not thought about whether or not animals had feelings. Even if I perceived them as “less intelligent” beings, I realized that they were still beings that could feel and suffer deeply.

It took me a while (perhaps even after my daughter was born) as I struggled with my own cognitive dissonance.

I questioned how I could justify my use of dairy products ( or any animal products at all) because:

  1. I had access to a variety of plant based foods,
  2. the ability to afford a variety of plant based foods, and
  3. education available to me about meeting my nutrient needs without animal products.

And eventually, I realized something: Many of us can relate to number 1 and 2, but how many of us are educated on a nutritionally sound vegan diet?

How many of us have said “Sure, I’d follow a vegan diet, but I don’t know where I’ll get my protein?” Or “I’d be vegan but I can’t give up cheese!”

Yah, I definitely said that last one, and I can’t promise veganism will cure any cheese cravings, but I can tell you this:

A healthy and appropriately planned vegan diet is possible for adults who want to want to align their values with veganism and can (meaning having no medical conditions, lack of access to food, etc that would hinder them from adopting this diet) do so with the right variety of foods and appropriate supplementation!

And that’s how the idea of Plant Powered You started. To provide you with Dietitian written content about vegan nutrition.

But that’s not where the story ends!

Evacuated For Nearly a Month

Picture of smoke filled reddish sky.

About over a year later, we had to evacuate our home in California – for two different wildfires, totaling almost of month of being evacuated! The second fire nearly consumed our home.

I thought about all the natural disasters happening and increasing in number near us, and had yet another reason to stick with a vegan lifestyle (not just diet, but consumption in all forms: ie activities, clothing, makeup, etc).

We now have more evidence than ever that the animal industry extensively contributes to climate change. If I ever had any doubts about a plant based lifestyle, I was reminded all year round about the damaging effects of the mass production of animal products (as an FYI, of course other factors contribute to environmental deterioration).

Whether it was droughts, record high heats, or fire season. The climate was changing.

I realized that my choices could affect the world my daughter and those less fortunate than her grew up in ( it has been theorized that climate change will likely have the most damaging effects on those in poverty first) .

Our family decided to move back to the Midwest. One primary reason being the terror of fire season that seemed to be getting worse every year we lived there.

Today as a Fully Plant Based Registered Dietitian

And that brings us to today! I hope that you can resonate a bit with my story. I hope it shows you that there are many reasons to be vegan, and your concerns about nutrition on a vegan diet are valid too.

That’s why I created Plant Powered You, so that information about plant based nutrition doesn’t have to be a barrier.

The goal of this site is to empower you with RDN written information, to help you go from confused to confident about vegan nutrition!

Hey human “Bean!” I hope you enjoyed reading my story about how I became a vegan Registered Dietitian Nutritionist! Feel free to poke around on our blog to continue learning.

Leave a comment below to let us know if this post was helpful, share your favorite vegan recipes, and/or tell us your view on why you are vegan!

And lastly, why not sign up for the Plant Powered You e-mail list to stay up to date on new articles?
May the fork be with you…

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