Nutrition therapist Deborah Schultz, MS ('00), RD, LDN, has achieved what a lot of women dream about: a successful career that she loves, as well as plenty of time to focus on her main job -- Mom. The combination of a successful career and successful motherhood can require a lot of creativity, and Deborah certainly has applied creativity and dedicated passion to manage this balancing act.
With her MS in nutrition and training as a registered dietitian from Bastyr University, Deborah has been able to flourish as a part-time nutrition therapist at the Mind-Body Wellness Center in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where she counsels clients about nutrition, teaches classes and co-hosts a cooking show. "It's one of those ideal jobs, when you think about it," she reflects. "It's something that you always think you want – something that's fun, that you feel so good and passionate about." Deborah is one of three nutrition therapists at the center, who work alongside physical therapists, massage therapists and clinical psychologists.
Even more idyllic is that she was able to combine her passion for her job with her love of her little ones by writing a book about nutrition, illustrated with photographs of her children. The two things came together naturally, as she just happened to have many photographs of her children and food, many of which are endearing or comical, showing them helping themselves to extra huge portions, making mischief with food, or simply gawking at the camera with their hairs standing on end. "I'm not really a photographer; I'm just obsessed with taking photographs of my kids," she says.
It's better than being obsessed with chocolate, right? Some obsessions are healthy and can even be lucrative. Her book called, Simply Eat: An Inspiring Guide About Food and You, is now being sold on Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble.
Deborah's unique perspective, which can be found in the pages of her book, is about self-acceptance; examining how to meet various emotional, social and spiritual needs other than through food; viewing food in a positive light and choosing foods that are whole and unprocessed. She says she brought this perspective with her to Bastyr, but it was further enhanced by Bastyr's curriculum and community. "Everybody brings a lot of their own personal experience to Bastyr," she says. "We are all so involved in learning and in accepting each other. Going through that experience helped me become okay with my perspective and realize that I could take what I've learned and make it my own and bring positive things into people's lives."
She adds, "Bastyr helps you see that we can all be moving in different directions. We so often feel that there's one right way to practice nutrition, but there are so many right ways to get results."
Deborah's "right way" is to focus on whole foods and the whole person. In her job at the Mind-Body Wellness Center, she helps clients achieve their nutrition-related goals by helping them to examine their lifestyle and address their mental and emotional lives as well as their daily food choices. And, although Meadville, Pennsylvania is not exactly a hub of alternative healing and healthy living, she relishes the challenge of bringing awareness to the people who live there.
"At first I was sort of shell-shocked here," she says. "Some people eat fast food five times a week, and they don't know about organic food," she says. "So I was a little scared." But in her dietetic internship, which she completed at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, she realized people would be receptive if she used the right approach. "I realized I could meet people where they were, and introduce a little at a time," she explains. "People are actually really glad to hear that they are not 'wrong' for what they are doing, and that they have other options."
She was actually surprised at first to realize that a holistic wellness center existed in the area. She hadn't moved to Meadville for a specific job; she moved there because her husband is from the area and they wanted to raise a family near his parents. Finding out about the Mind-Body Wellness Center was a happy coincidence. "It was such a blessing," she says. After her internship, she took a job as an acute care dietitian at Meadville Medical Center and waited for a position to become available at the center. In the meantime, she moonlighted at the center, teaching nutrition classes at night, which was her way to get to know them and vice-versa. When a position opened up, she was the top applicant.
She credits Bastyr's program with many of the assets she now brings to her work. "Bastyr's program was a tremendous help in developing my counseling skills," she says. "Most graduates from other schools in my internship had never counseled before. I think that's very unique in Bastyr's master's program and it's very beneficial."
Now in her third year of working at the center, Deborah sees patients individually and teaches classes on weight management, diabetes control and heart health, and also co-hosts a cooking show, "Savor the Flavor," which is televised on local cable. The show, which focuses on providing plenty of nutritional information, is in the process of being nationally syndicated. Recently she and the other two nutritionists from the center filmed a live show in front of 200 people in a movie theater. "We introduced people to the grain quinoa," she says. "It was so exciting."
It's also due to her Bastyr education that Deborah's knowledge of handling and preparing foods in the kitchen is more extensive than many of her peers. Deborah took the entire series of whole-foods cooking classes available at Bastyr and learned techniques she now uses in the cooking show. She laughs as she reflects on how far she's come as a chef. "I was not into cooking before Bastyr," she confesses. "My family thinks it's hysterical that I do a cooking show."
And, just as she hasn't always been a cook, she also didn't start out wanting to be a nutritionist at an early age. She was interested in science and health, and earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. "Initially I thought maybe physical therapy," she says, "I just didn't know." But her interest in nutrition crystallized when her sister was diagnosed with cancer at age 27. Deborah started spending hours reading and researching nutritional information for her sake. Through this experience, Deborah learned about the power of food to heal, and, she says, "I knew I just had to study nutrition – I had to spread the word."
When she began looking for a nutrition school, she also hoped to spend some time "playing," perhaps in the mountains. When she found out about Bastyr University, located in the Northwest, she said, "There was no doubt in my mind. I said to myself, 'This is the one. This is the perfect fit.' And it really, really was."
Interviewed April 2007