So... How'd I get Here? Why I Decided to Pursue a Degree in Nutrition Science
This is not my usual type of post on this blog. In fact, the majority of my posts are original recipes ranging from decadent cakes to heart-healthy dishes. Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about where my future is taking me and what that means for my Instagram/social accounts, this blog, and my cake/cookie orders. 14 months ago from today, I was pretty sure that I would be going to Culinary School in the Fall of 2022. Now, it's January of 2023 and I'm pursuing a degree in Nutrition Science, playing college volleyball, and learning more and more about food, the human body, our society, and how to be an independently functioning adult every day. When I made the decision to put my dreams of Culinary School on hold, a lot of my friends, followers, family, and teachers were surprised. I used not being ready to give up playing a high-level of volleyball as an explanation (which is true), but that wasn't the biggest reason. It's time I offer an explanation into how/why my plans changed, and what that means for me. (This is going to kind of be a long post, so buckle up!)
First, some background information:
Growing up, I always loved to make/create things, whether it be a craft, project, or something edible. I also loved to be outdoors as much as I could. I was fortunate to grow up in a house where everyone had a pretty good relationship with food. For the most part, we were an "ingredient household" but never restricted fun foods like baked goods and processed snacks. We ate dinner as a family on a regular basis, and I personally wasn't a picky eater as a kid. Thank God I never had to experience an "Almond Mom". (For those confused on these quoted terms, look them up on Urban Dictionary.) My Grandparents also live on a farm which we would go to very often. There was usually fresh, homegrown produce in the spring, summer, and fall. This allowed me to see the beauty of how food gets from farm to table. I became interested in how I could make/get my own ingredients and what I could create with them. I started hunting, fishing, and helping out on the farm when I could. To me, it was so rewarding to eat a meal that we worked hard to get some of the ingredients for.
Unfortunately, around the age of 11, things got a little mixed up. Between my Dad starting a new job and my baby brother just being born, we had less time to do outdoor activities and cook healthy meals. We started eating more processed due to time constraints. I was in 6th grade at the time, so I was also past the age where I just willingly ate whatever was in front of me. I started to prefer unhealthy food and eat A LOT of it, My parents couldn't really do anything about it because of time constraints/stress, and the fact that I could go and sneak an entire pack of Oreos if I wanted to. This had a terrible effect on both my mental and physical health. I started to become less active, have less energy, and struggled to keep up with my peers in gym class. To distract myself from this, I started to become interested in almost every single creative outlet I could find. This included cooking/baking. It was so fun to experiment and create decadent desserts that I had previously thought only bakeries could make. But, like I said before, at times this had a negative affect on my health because I was an 11 year old, and its no secret that kids love sweets and junk food. We couldn't always find people to give my baked goods to, and it was so much fun. I didn't want to stop, so this often led to our family eating most of what I could make.
Around 7th grade, I started my baking Instagram account (@graces_messy_kitchen) and met an amazing online community of teen bakers just like me! I started to get better and better at my craft. I also started bringing in treats for my class. There was definitely a correlation between kids being nicer to me and bringing in baked goods hahaha! Although I was so happy to be making others happy with my baked goods, my health was not. I felt pretty crappy physically most days, we were still making poor food choices as a family, and didn't do anything to change that. This continued pretty much until my freshmen year of high school when I found a form of exercise that was actually fun for me: Volleyball.
My freshmen year of high school, we moved to a different town. I had played volleyball during middle school, but it wasn't very serious. This new town/school I was at had an extremely high level program. I realized that in order to play all four years of high school, I was going to have to make some drastic changes to my diet, training, and exercise. I went from being a scared and un-athletic freshmen who could barely run a 13 minute mile to a committed collegiate athlete my senior year. This involved a lot of stress around food and exercise, some ups and downs in my relationship with food, but in the end, I am so much more aware of how to live a healthier lifestyle, and how I never EVER want to go back to how I was feeling before. During this time, I still was spending a lot of time baking, but I started baking specifically for orders or farmers markets, and not eating everything I was making. This allowed me to have fun and express creativity in the kitchen without all the negative health affects of eating everything I make. My Instagram account started to take off around this time as well, which gave me a huge confidence boost and made me want to continue to post content, bake, and create recipes for people.
During my Junior year of high school, I was convinced that the best path for me would be to go to Culinary School, eventually open my own restaurant and hopefully become a famous chef. I even went to tour the Culinary Institute of America in New York! At the same time, I was still struggling with my eating. I started to realize how much misinformation about food is out there. I also had this feeling of guilt/doubt that I wouldn't be able to help people in the way I wanted if I became a Chef. (which isn't true, as I've realized. You can help people in any profession if you really want to!)
My Senior season of volleyball started and I had an existential crisis. My time of being an athlete was going to be over soon, and I was scared. The idea of not being able to train for something and continue to progress in a sport I loved terrified me. I started looking into committing somewhere to play for fun. Unfortunately, as a senior, I was going to be late recruit no matter where I played. (Pro tip, if you want to play sports in college, DO NOT commit late.) Fortunately, I found a good program who would take me that also offered a great program to become a Registered Dietitian in only 5 years. I started leaning more towards this idea as I was learning more and more about all aspects of food: Food insecurity in America, lack of Nutrition Education (which I had first hand experience in), how it affects athletes, different diets, Culinary/Pastry Arts, Social Media, how what we eat affects us, and so much more. I started to feel that if I went to Culinary School, I could only focus on one outlet of food, but I was interested in all of it. I wanted to do something that encompassed all of what I was interested in that still allowed me to create in the kitchen. The more I looked into it, the more I realized a degree in Nutrition Science was probably the best route.
Now, here I am, just starting my second semester of my freshmen year of college. Freshmen year of high school Grace would be very confused (but proud) of where I am now. I have learned so much already, but only the tip of the iceberg. I hope to continue to learn, grow, play volleyball, educate, and help others along the way.
What does this mean for my social media presence and baking business? Oh, don't you worry, I don't plan on stopping that probably ever because I enjoy making customers, followers, and internet goers happy. I hope to continue to integrate what I'm learning nutrition-wise into my posts, blog, and daily life. You'd think it'd be impossible to run an account with sugar-filled cakes but also post about healthy eating and what I learn in class and my own research. But, I plan on doing just that. I hope that all of you continue to stay and watch my content and journey through this crazy thing called life. There are some changes coming to my social accounts, but it will also stay relatively the same. I'm so excited for what the future holds, and I hope you learned a thing or to about why I do what I do and why I am where I am today. I'm so incredibly grateful for all of you. Although some of getting to where I am now was pretty crappy, I am a more educated and healthy person because of it.
So where do I stand lifestyle wise now? In short, I do what works for me, and you should too. What works for one person might not work for another. Theres a lot of trial and error that goes into finding the healthiest version of ourselves. And, health looks very different on everyone. Personally, I exercise every day, eat a ton of protein, and eat mostly whole foods. But, being an athlete, I do need a lot of calories to keep up with my activity level, so I do have dessert and processed food every day, but not nearly as much as I used to. Again, this is what works for me for where I am at in life right now, this might not work forever. I plan on continuing to educate myself as I learn more and more!
Thank you all for taking the time to read this post! If anything, I hoped this made you just a little bit more curious about nutrition, and the world of food with the endless opportunities it offers.