When I first started studying nutrition, I was far from the healthiest eater I knew. In fact, I suffered from a serious addiction to diet lemon-lime soda — as in, a 24-ounce bottle a day addiction. This habit was fueled by my campus job, which allowed me to fill my water bottle, for free, with my choice of drink during shifts. Of course, nine times out of 10 I chose my favorite soda. I wasn’t a fan of plain water and rarely chose to drink it during the day.
During my sophomore year, I discovered that the school’s cafeteria offered a lemon-lime flavored water option that tasted quite a bit like my favorite soda, and I started mixing the two drinks — half water, half soda. I could barely tell the difference! That spring, I gave up soda for Lent and switched completely over to the lemon-lime water. More and more often throughout the year I would choose to drink plain water over anything else, and by my junior year I was drinking it more often than anything else. Nowadays, I still enjoy a soda or flavored drink now and then, but I have mostly become a plain water drinker.
You might be wondering why, as a future RDN, I would choose to tell the world that I was once drinking 24 ounces of soda each day. If you noticed, the story of me transitioning from a soda drinker to a water drinker was one that lasted almost three years. Three years! That’s how long it took me to make a simple lifestyle change as someone who was studying nutrition in college.
The point of all this is that I see nutrition as something that fluctuates and changes throughout our lives. As I complete my dietetic internship and prepare to enter the field of dietetics as a career, I try to keep in mind my own experiences with food and health. Making changes to be healthier can mean something different to everyone — it can vary from deciding to start taking walks in the evenings, eating fruit with your breakfast in the morning or, like me, drinking more water. Setting goals is important, but setting goals too big can be overwhelming. By making slow changes, perhaps even one at a time, throughout the course of our lives, we can turn small changes into big ones.
When I think of this year’s National Nutrition Month theme, “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” I think about how making better choices is something that happens one day, one step or one bite at a time. I chose to go into this field to improve people’s lives and to help them be the healthiest version of themselves. I believe that better health is a choice made every day — some days more than others! — and I believe that by being encouraging, supportive and, most importantly, patient with those trying to improve their lives, we can truly make a difference.