Hi, I'm Katie
I sift through the noise and confusion of nutrition and healthcare research and present it in a way that’s realistic, accessible, digestible, and dare I say it….maybe even a little bit fun? With a few puns sprinkled throughout just to keep things cute and spicy.
As a certified physician assistant and yoga instructor with a master’s in nutrition, I deeply study and understand all different realms of health. From holistic to western medicine, I see and hear it all.
I'm here to help you navigate the many spheres of "wellness" and form it into language that resonates and inspires.
I graduated from Northeastern’s PA program in August of 2019 and passed my boards shortly thereafter (you can find my study schedule for the PANCE here as well as a post with all of my end of rotation exam study guides here). I was once again struggling to decide which field to enter into because I enjoyed a few different things. I ultimately took some time off after graduating, did my yoga teacher training certification, and then landed my dream job as a primary care PA in a community health setting in the Boston area. You can read all about my journey to getting my job here. And some answers to some FAQ about life as a new grad PA here. I also pooled some responses from classmates about getting their first PA jobs here.
For a full set of all the posts I’ve written about my educational journey, be sure to check out my education index here.
And what a journey it has been. 6 years of really hard work. But it is an absolute privilege to be able to be where I am now.
The goal I had for my educational background is to have necessary skill-set to prescribe a robust range of interventions – from nutrition to lifestyle to pharmaceutical when necessary. I plan to integrate nutrition into my medical practice, focusing on how food can be used as a preventative wellness plan, as well as a source of psykaleogical wellbeing and vitality. I was even recently accepted to a nutrition fellowship for PAs and will be beginning that in August, 2020. Excitement!!
What began as a hobby, this site and its associated social media fingerlings are now a pun-packed passion. Since healthy food has been genetically passed on to me (see: last name Lemons), I use this platform to present all of my favorite recipes and habits with a twist – foods and behaviors that taste good and make you feel good; it should never have to be one or the other.
I’m also using this site as an excuse to post my favorite food puns.
It’d be a KALEamity not to, you know?
About my Nutrition Master's program
The dietitian route wasn’t for me because it is long, expensive, and wasn’t my end goal. I also was seek a curriculum with an intrinsic link to medicine only, rather than additional coursework in other arenas. I thought about it for quite some time, and even started an RD program. But after finding the UWS program, it just seemed like an all around closer fit. It would have been an expensive ends to justify the means, especially since I am also going to PA school (essentially just doing it for the licensure, and then having to supplement my education afterwards). For this reason, I chose the online program, which makes me eligible to be a nutritionist, NOT a dietitian, which is an important distinction to make. I will never have the RD certification, which prevents me from getting certain jobs and working in a hospital (as a dietitian). As a PA I can work in a hospital, of course.
The degree makes you eligible to sit for a certified nutritionist exam, however it does not leave you eligible to become a Registered Dietitian. I think this would hinder your ability to apply for some jobs, but in my opinion, the information is more pertinent to what I wanted to do with my career (specifically nutrition and integrative medicine). This program allows you to sit for certification as: Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS), Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN) or Diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition (DACBN). People who graduate from it become: health and wellness coaches, clinical nutritionists in private practice, prevention and wellness experts, health directors, employee health coordinators, entrepreneurs, corporate wellness managers, authors, public policy experts, professors, nutrition advocacy experts, lecturers, nutrition experts in public service or private industry, or nutritionists in clinical / medical practice.
I’ve loved all the classes in the program! For a list of the available ones, click here.
In this program, no. I found the information to be well-rounded and current.
It totally depends on what program you enroll in. I chose to do the program at University of Western States because of this exact concern. I was accepted and enrolled in an RD program, and the course list included classes in food science / management. I also experienced the pamphlets that RDs were giving patients (and saw the diet plans for chronically ill patients) while working at the hospital. The recommended advice was not in line with what I thought was best, and I don’t think I’ll be recommending low-sugar yogurt, gingersnaps, and egg substitutes to future patients. This was not the focus I wanted, and so I decided to forego the program. My program, in contrast, is based on the most recent nutrition research, and I am learning things that I think will be much more beneficial to my future practice: intestinal imbalances, inflammation, herbalism, detox and biotransformational pathways, sports nutrition and fitness, and the psychology of eating and wellness, for example.
One course in biology, one course in physiology or anatomy and physiology, one course in biochemistry, one course in nutrition, and one course in medical terminology (this is waived if you have previous healthcare experience). I did all of these in the classroom, as I needed them for PA school, though there is a program through the school that you can do them. More on that here.
2-3 hours per credit a week. I usually took 2 or 3 classes per semester (each ranged from 2-4 credits), so my time commitment was anywhere from ~20-25 hours per week.
When I first started the program, I was working at the hospital ~30 hours a week, putting in ~20 hours per week to the program, and blogging / Instagramming on the side. It was tough, but I loved it all, so it was doable. Granted, I was single, in my early 20s, and living at home with my parents with no children when I did, so this time commitment is certainly not as realistic and accessible for all.
Yes! Professors are so accessible through emails and forums, and you’re required to write in forums and comment on other students post every week. It’s a very collaborative experience. Plus, the students in my classes are just so brilliant. Many come from far more educationally advanced backgrounds than me – RDs, nutritionists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, etc. They bring such rich and knowledgable input to all of the forums. Honestly, I find I learn just as much from their contributions as I do with lectures. It is admittedly a bit overwhelming, and taking the time to sift through everything in the forums is very time consuming. But if you’re willing to put in the time, the program has just so much to offer.
“What works for me, might not for someone else. There are so many different factors that go into it. I actually emailed 11 grads of the certificate program telling them about my dilemma and asking if they felt they needed their masters to do private practice, what they honestly thought about the program, if they had to do it again would they have done both their masters and the program or for those without a masters, did they feel like they still needed it after the program. Everyone replied to me! 3 people talked about everything over the phone. Every single one said the program was amazing. One RD working in SC did both UWS masters and the program and said if she had to do it all over again, the program would have been enough, but she wants to teach eventually so she knew she needed the MS. It was really helpful getting everyones feedback. A few people said a masters cant hurt; which I totally agree with.
This program was truly life changing for me. It has impacted the way I view food, wellness, and medicine. It is totally comprehensive, even covering the psychology of eating as well as botanical medicine. You can choose to partake in an internship as one or two of your courses, as well as choose electives that best match your interests. Each week, you’re exposed to not only lectures but current nutrition research, as well as access to research databases for your own personal use (this was huge for me because it allowed far more in depth blog posts). I love that I can do it completely at my computer, and that my professors are BRILLIANT. And that I am learning so much from classmates each day in the online forums. I am so very confident that it will totally change my capabilities as a future practitioner. For a full review of my program, check out this post.
I did not take the board exam to become a nutritionist. I just just just graduated from the MS program before starting PA school (finished in June, started school in September). I didn’t have enough time to get the clinical hours to make me eligible to sit for the nutritionist exam. Every state has different qualifications for this, so your state may be different than Massachusetts. I plan to do this after I finish PA school, as it can take up to 6 months to start a job as a PA according to my program. So this will be a great thing for me to do in the interim. I truthfully don’t think it will matter – having the Master’s gives you enough background and credibility to properly educate your patients (and your physician!). It just has been a personal goal of mine to be both a nutritionist and a PA, so is something I plan on doing.
***update (2020). I did not acquire the hours to sit for the CNS exam (certified nutrition specialist). I’m not entirely ruling it out, but the timing just didn’t work out. I actually ended up waiting a full year in between graduating PA school and starting my job. More about that here.
About PA school
Yes, upon graduating I took a CNA course. I got a job at a hospital as a float PCA. This stands for patient care assistant and is similar to a CNA (certified nursing assistant).I performed tasks like vital signs, blood sugars, and EKG’s, and helping with daily living activities like ambulation, getting dressed / washed up, and assisting with meals / going to the bathroom. I liked being in the float pool because it allowed me a vast array of experience. Each day I was sent to one of seven floors: telemetry, oncology, ICU, geriatrics, orthopedics, general surgery, or pediatrics. I had approximately 2200-2500 hours at the time of application.
Ideally, I wanted an emphasis on preventive medicine or something beyond traditional western medicine. Tufts and Northeastern offer a class in Nutrition, BU offers a class in preventive medicine, PCOM is a PA program in a DO school, which focuses on osteopathy and a more holistic view of healthcare, OHSU offers classes called Gut and Metabolism and Hormonal Regulation and Reproduction, and Duke is associated with an Integrative medicine facility. These were some of the schools I applied to. I also looked for more than one elective, as this allows a broader and more personalized rotation experience. And in an area with integrative medicine offices so I could potentially do a rotation there.
***update (2020): I went to Northeastern, which has one elective. And I ended up with the job of my DREAMS!
A lot went into this decision.
1. My father is a physician and while he loves his job and has no regrets about his career, it wasn’t a life I personally wanted.
2. I always wanted a strong, robust education in nutrition. I did this by doing a two year master’s followed by a two year PA program. Adding med school on top of that would have been really long and really expensive.
3. I am collaborative rather than competitive and always have been (I used to tickle soccer players to get the ball away from them. I think med school for the most part is departing from this mentality. But the thought of the match process and all of the boards was just not for me.
4. There’s so much I could do with a nutrition background, be that in dermatology, gastroenterology or just family practice. Choosing to go the PA route means I can easily switch between these disciplines, rather than having to commit to one for the rest of my career.
I had 2200-2500 hands on patient care hours. I worked as a PCA in the float pool at a nearby hospital. I also had about 200 hours volunteer work (through Cooking Matters as a nutrition instructor / classroom assistant). My overall GPA was a 3.79 and my science GPA was a 3.85. At the time of my application I was about half way through my Master’s in Nutrition and Functional Medicine. I was offered seats at Tufts University and Northeastern University, and received interviews at 5 schools, though didn’t take all of them after gaining acceptance to programs I liked.
100%. A resounding roar of yes. I was actually not excited to start when August rolled around. I kind of went into it knowing if I didn’t like it, that was okay because I had other options and I had another Master’s degree already. And my expectations were exceeded in every realm. My classmates are like-minded, curious, kind, hilarious, and just so wonderful, and being alongside them every day is so motivating to represent the PA field. My professors are inspiring and open to alternative treatments and ways of thought. It’s 2 years, a fraction of the cost of med school, pays well, you have autonomy when practicing, can easily switch between disciplines without having to do another residency or rotation, and is just a badass profession.
***edit (2020). YES!!!! I am so thrilled and proud to be a PA.
At the time of writing this, I just finished my first semester of school. Admittedly it was hell on earth, and is the hardest thing I’ve ever taken on. Being in a classroom for 9 hours a day, followed by 2-5 hours of studying afterwards is just downright draining. I wish I had stayed on top of things better during the week during first semester, rather than cramming 16 hours of studying in on the weekends. So my goal is to stay on campus and review the material THAT DAY, rather than waiting and telling myself I’ll do it the following day, and then pushing it off until the exam was coming up. I also wasn’t very efficient with my studying – rewriting all PowerPoints, studying while not very focused, and not taking breaks. Group study actually ended up being really effective for me, and I’ll try to do this earlier on in my studying this next semester. I also want to prioritize my important mediators: journaling, making time to do some breathing exercises, exercise, seeing friends, and cleaning my room. I cannot function when my study space is a disastrous mess. For a list of more 2018 resolutions, check out this post.
The sitting all day – feeling restless and cooped up in a classroom, whereas my days used to be filled with more movement. Because of back injury in high school, I have pain whenever I’m sitting for too long. I try to remedy this by seeing a chiropractor every few weeks. And also taking a 20-30 minute walk on my lunch break and stretching in between classes when we have a brief 5 minutes (for more tips on easy movement during the day, check out this post). I also really, really miss blogging. I have so many ideas for new content, and very unfortunately I’m limited to doing this on weekends. I strive to singularly focus on school during week days, otherwise my studying isn’t very efficient. Multitasking never really works in my favor. But I just have to remember that school is brief and temporary, and I’ll have time over breaks and when I finish. As of now, I’m taking time to invest in my future.
NO. Even in moments of absolute despair and when really really cool opportunities present themselves, I feel like I made the right decision and I am on my path. Keeping this in mind when I have NO motivation to study is really helpful.
***edit (2020). STILL NO REGRETS! Not a single one.
No. I got my undergrad in psychology. When I graduated I took the necessary pre-reqs at community colleges / state schools, got my CNA, and worked at a hospital while taking courses. In total, I took 3 years off in between undergrad and PA school. I’m so glad I did this!!! Truthfully, PA school tends to be an older crowd, and it’s not uncommon to take some time and get experience before starting. In fact, everyone I’ve talked to in the program is glad they’re doing it when a bit older (not to say that 26 is by any means old). You need a bit of maturity to face the workload in my opinion.
Point blank, I don’t. I will have to find and choose to align with a physician who has a similar mentality. Or work in an integrative medicine office. Truthfully, I don’t think this will be too difficult. Most patients come to their physicians and providers with questions from self-research. I haven’t faced any backlash yet re: talking about nutrition or probiotics with patients, and it makes you stand out. It also gives you an opportunity to educate the physician you choose to be alongside.
***edit (2020). I do this every day in practice! It’s easier than you think! For a more detailed look in this window, check out this post.
I don’t have an RN background, so I would have had to do the 1 year accelerated nursing program, followed by the 2 year NP program. This was more expensive from a monetary and time perspective. I also want to be able to switch between specialties, rather than be trained in one and not be able to move within the field.
Truthfully, I don’t know! I don’t want to do functional medicine right away, as I don’t have a solid enough background and experience in western medicine quite yet. But I do know I was able to integrate nutrition into my rotations even as a student! More about that here. And integrate nutrition into my own PA practice. I ultimately decided functional medicine wasn’t the best fit for me, at least for right now! More about that decision here. And more about how I incorporate nutrition into my practice here.
About my lifestyle
Definitely introverted. I love being social, but when I’m feeling overwhelmed I need some serious alone time. So maybe an extroverted introvert?
This one’s a real doozy. If I don’t have an exam, I’m up at 5, I exercise, I go to class from 8-5, I study from 5-9. I clean out my tupperware, I prepare new tupperware, I go to bed and repeat. If I do have an exam, I’m up at a 5:30-6, I get to campus early, and review notes. THE THRILL OF IT ALL!!!
Things get messy, but for the most part I schedule things pretty tightly. In terms of eating, I do my meal prep on weekends. This typically lasts me until Friday, and then I’ll utilize smoothies or other non-perishable items. I’m also more motivated to study when I feel good and eat well, so knowing the end goal is extremely helpful. When I exercise, I’m more awake in class and more motivated to answer questions and be engaged with the material, so again having this end goal in mind – knowing these behaviors result in better exam scores and better understanding of material – is hugely motivational.
Blog things I reserve only for weekends, and then I space them out during the week from the backlog. Otherwise, I’m too distracted from studying during the week.
In terms of a social life, I always take Friday nights off. Non-negotiable. I also try to include my friends in whatever I have scheduled for myself, be that a workout, or getting coffee, or grabbing lunch / dinner.
I posted twice a day, created a similar aesthetic for my photos, used natural lighting, and connected with similar accounts in the community. Find something that makes you different and unique and highlight that in each post. And don’t worry about the following! Focus on spreading your message and why you wanted to start an account in the first place.
About everything else
My dad is an emergency medicine physician and my mom is practicing functional medicine consultant. I grew up with those two backgrounds and wanted to find a way to have a happy marriage (pun intended, duh) of the two. I am drawn to medicine, but a different, more robust and comprehensive approach to healing. Since med school / PA school get a cumulative of ~8 hours of nutrition background, I knew I needed to supplement my nutrition education in order to be a more well-rounded practitioner. Rather than applying to med school, I instead wanted two master’s: one in nutrition, one as a PA.
Keeping track of expenses and knowing exactly how much you’re spending is crucial. I didn’t realize how much the little things were adding up for me: monthly subscriptions like news and meditation apps, music services, Netflix, hulu, website hosting, exercise subscriptions, gym memberships, etc. You may not feel the need or ability to pay for all of these things, and could consider cutting back. I also find meal planning to be extremely beneficial for budgeting. This way you’re saving time, money, and preventing food from going bad. Shopping at Trader Joe’s or buying organic from stores like Stop and Shop or Price Chopper was also really helpful for me – literally cut my grocery bill in half. You could also try to find a job where you work remotely on your computer – editing, ghost writing, blogging, etc. This way you can work from the comfort of home (saving time commuting) and on your own time. For awhile after college I would meal prep for other families. This also helped bring in a little extra on the side without feeling like too much of a commitment.
This is a tough one. I had a hefty scholarship from undergrad / my parents helped me out and then I did all of my prereqs at local / community colleges. The Master’s program I did was significantly less expensive than RD programs. I also chose PA school over med school for this reason. I guess the only thing I think of is payback down the line. And knowing that although I’m spending a lot of money, I know that this path will give me a diverse background and lead me to help the most amount of people. With a lifetime of job security and benefits no less!
In order to be accepted into the online program, I needed all of the prereqs necessary for PA school (bio 1&2, chem 1&2, organic chemistry, biochem, microbio, a&p 1&2, statistics, psychology), so these are the courses I would recommend, regardless of major. A nutrition major, biology major, or chemistry major would cover all of these, I believe. Though I think it depends on the school. As long as she completes all of the courses necessary for something like a pre-med track, she’ll be more than set. After the bachelor’s totally depends on what she wants to do! She could do an online program like I’m doing right now (University of Western States), or go an RD track, nursing, med school, dental school or PA school. The possibilities are endless or health care!
For my full blog post regarding advice to undergrads, click here.
I’m not sure yet! I could either see patients online or in an office setting. I’d love to work for an integrative medicine facility, like The Cleveland Clinic or UltraWellness Center. As long as I can align with a functional medicine physician who echoes my philosophy of integrating nutrition into a medical practice, I’ll be pumped!
***2020 update. It really is so funny to look back and read my answers from years past. I ultimately decided working at a functional medicine facility really wasn’t a good fit for me. I currently work in a community health practice as a family medicine PA. Read all about that here! And a bit more about new grad FAQ here!
For a full list of books, check out my book shelf.
- The Happiness Diet – Tyler Grahama and Drew Ramsey
- The Food-Mood Solution – Jack Challem
- The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution – Trudy Scott
- The Chronic Stress Crisis – William G. Timmins, ND
- The Immune System Recovery Plan – Susan Blum
- It Starts with Food – Dallas and Melissa Hartwig
- Restoring Your Digestive Health – Jordan S Rubin and Joseph Bracco
- The Gerson Therapy – Charlotte Gerson and Morton Walker
- Mindful Eating – Jan Chozen Bay
- The Psychology of Eating and Drinking – Alexandra W. Logue
- The Mindful Diet – Ruth Q Wolves and Beth Reardon
- Healing with Whole Foods – Paul Pitchford
Depends on what you want to do. I want a more clinical and hard science background so it wasn’t the right choice for me. But for others, it fits more with their goals. For a list of other online nutrition education programs, click here.