This week I get to feature a good friend of mine and fellow dietitian, Patty Duffey RDN, LD. One of the reasons I love being in this profession is the great friendships that I’ve made in the dietetics world. I think I have more friends that ARE dietitians than are not. I don’t know if that’s because RDNs are just really awesome in general or if we just tend to form bonds over our extreme love of food, fitness and everything that surrounds it. Patty and I met during our internships at Mt. Carmel College of Nursing in Columbus, OH. A year later we met up again in Australia while we were both traveling abroad and became roomies in a teeny little apartment a couple blocks from St. Kilda Beach. Patty now lives in Chicago and I’ll let her tell you more about her current non-traditional position with My Fit Foods, how a test result from a bone scan in high school got her interested in nutrition, her favorite meal to make at home and more:

Hi everyone– My name is Patty, I’m a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Coach at My Fit Foods in Chicago. My journey to getting where I am today was, well simply put, a windy one. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree in dietetics at Miami of Ohio, completing my internship and passing my RD test, I took the uncommon path of packing up and moving to Australia for a year. I was lost as far as how to go about what truly interested me in nutrition and I went abroad for my “gap” year to figure out what interested me. Through that year of exploring, I met some amazing people including dietitians in the health and fitness industry that led me exactly to what I wanted to do – nutrition counseling. I LOVED the proactive healthy culture that I was surrounded by, and just KNEW that was the industry for me. The connections I made in Australia led me to a job in Chicago, where I worked as a nutrition intern at a PR firm before landing my first coaching role at LifeTime Fitness and moving on to my current role.

Take us through a typical “day in the life” if you can. Hmmm typical day….okay, well depending on how many clients I am working with, I could be at our store for 9-10 hours. Yes, I work at a store! My job is a funny mixture of retail combined with my nutrition coaching. My Fit Foods is an energetic place where people can come shop for a healthy, convenient option. However, they also have the opportunity to work with me on a meal planning program.  I am usually off to the side in my office either counseling clients or keeping up with the business side of the job. Working in a store can definitely create a chaotic day because as a leader in the store, I have been pulled into every situation that you can imagine but it does tend to keep things interesting.

patty duffey Since I work late evening hours, I am always up in the morning catching up on nutrition, social media and EXERCISE! I like to try new workouts with personal trainers who I work with, but mainly, this is my stress relief and ME time. I always have a much more positive outlook on my day after a good sweat.

What first got you interested in nutrition? I grew up in a very active and health conscious family. My dad is a orthopedic surgeon and has always been involved in sports medicine. He changed my life when he decided to have me go through a bone mineral density test when I was 16. Research at this time was just emerging as far as calcium, vitamin D and bone health….and with my lifestyle, small frame and genetic history, I fell into a risk category. The scan actually found that I had osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis. If I didn’t change my diet, I would have osteoporosis by my 30s. Luckily, we were proactive and found out early enough in that I was able to completely reverse the diagnosis and had healthy bones by age 18. I knew my first year in college that I wanted to go into allied med or a nutrition related field and spread the word that food is medicine.

What a great story– you are living proof that nutrition can change lives! Is your current position something you’ve always imagined yourself doing or far from it? HA. Good question. If you told me when I was 18 that I was to move abroad for a year after completing my degree, I wouldn’t have believed you. My path to getting where I am today has been a fun and crazy one, with a lot of ups and downs. Each year has brought something new and unexpected. I firmly believe that each and every job I’ve had has given me experience to grow and has led me to my next chapter. I’ve also met some incredible people and established great connections along the way. I couldn’t be more thankful for that. I’ve always imagined myself as a nutrition entrepreneur or business owner, so to answer your question, no, I didn’t always imagine my current role…. but I think that’s the exciting part about trying to discover your own happiness in a career, there doesn’t have to be structure or sense to what another year may have to bring! I believe everyone should have a job that gets him or her moving in the morning. I absolutely LOVE my clients and the coaching part of my current position. My 2 year plan in to start up my own consulting business here in Chicago!

I completely agree. Every single job and experience you get now is going to help shape and create your future business and give you knowledge you can and will use later on.

Is there any food that you feel like you couldn’t live without? MANGOS!!! I love that fruit. Ahhh and Fage Greek yogurt. Better yet, Greek yogurt combined with either fresh mango or peach in the morning. High protein combined with the sweetness of nature’s sugar. There is currently a farmer’s market, all local sourced farms, just across from my building in Lincoln Park. You will find me there almost every Saturday morning from Spring to Fall – definitely one of my happy places.

I literally JUST ate sliced mango with plain Fage Greek yogurt, raw oats and agave nectar. My goal in life is to move somewhere that I can grow a mango tree. I would probably save hundreds of dollars a year. Anyways– back on topic, what is the biggest challenge of being a dietitian in your field? patty.duffeyI’m sure you have gotten this before…but my Type A personality. This is most definitely a common trait among dietitians. In order to balance my client load, I’ve got to be
extremely organized in my business due to the high turnover (I work with people on programs in increments of just 21 days). On the other hand, working in both retail and a kitchen store, I have to be ready for anything that comes at me. As structured as I lay out my schedule calendar in the morning, my day almost never happens that way. Thus, battling with stress that comes from wanting to be a perfectionist and keeping everything in check to delegating tasks to my team is a constant challenge.

What is your absolute favorite part of the day?
That depends on the day of the week. I would say on a Friday or Saturday morning, I love sleeping in a tad bit longer with the sun shining into the room, grabbing a cup of joe with my boyfriend and then having the entire day ahead of me accomplish errands and do fun things just for myself.  Everyone needs a day like that!

What is the most memorable meal you’ve ever had? Sooooo many! I’m a huge foodie. One of my favorite things to do is to explore the amazing restaurant scene in Chicago. My family vacations also tend to have two themes – exercise and food. One of my most memorable meals would have to be the lobster bakes with my family in Chatham, Cape Cod. We steamed the lobster that we picked out live from the docks that morning, whipped up fresh salsas for appetizers and serve it with summer salads and grilled corn. It really doesn’t get more fresh than that.

Me, Patty and a Canadian friend attempting to recreate a traditional American Thanksgiving feast in Australia! That was one of the most memorable Thanksgivings I've ever had. We each picked our favorite dish our families made at home to make for the table. I think we had travelers from over 5 countries around our table!
Me, Patty and a Canadian friend attempting to recreate a traditional American Thanksgiving feast while in Australia! That was one of the most memorable Thanksgivings I’ve ever had. We each picked our favorite dish our families made at home to make for the table. I think we had travelers from over 5 countries around our table!

What is your favorite meal/food to cook? My go to on a late night after work is a veggie stir fry because I can load up on vegetables, sauté with a healthy olive oil, and be done in 15 minutes! I also love making fresh salsas to top baked salmon. It doesn’t get too complicated in my kitchen!

I’m more of the baker….I absolutely love to bake muffins, protein bars or any healthy snack/dessert, and am always looking up fun, new recipes for inspiration.

Do you have a current exercise or physical activity routine that you stick to or enjoy? My goal is to work out 3-4 times per week, though I wish I did everyday! This is usually a combination of CorePower Yoga and running.  I’m also very lucky in that I have a lot of clients and friends in the fitness industry. They are usually more than happy to kick my butt in a workout after I give them nutrition advice. I also just began training for the Chicago Rock N Roll Half Marathon in July, so I will be running a lot more often this summer!

What are your thoughts on organic foods? Do you feel strongly one way or another? I believe it’s smart to know your farmers and do your research. Mainly I stick to following the “Clean 15” and “Dirty Dozen” lists. Shopping organically can get expensive quickly. Knowing what “organic” really means and what is really worth it will make all the difference.

How about GMO’s? No no GMO! They are banned in most countries except the United States, and for a reason! Genetically Modified Organisms can have a hugely negative impact on your metabolism and health. I’m a big proponent of label reading.  If you see an 8 before the 4 digit code on your produce – put it back!!! That means it contains GMOs.

Chia Seed Muffins that Patty made recently with lemon, Greek yogurt and olive oil. Yum!
Chia Seed Muffins that Patty made recently with lemon, Greek yogurt and olive oil. Yum!

If you weren’t a dietitian, what would you be? Definitely something in the field of allied medicine. I was thinking of being a physical therapist my first year of college before I went into nutrition. After my year of travel to Australia, however, I would love to be a professional traveler!! Photography is a big hobby of mine and I’ve got a lot of countries on my bucket list to still see. 

What is your favorite place to go or thing to do in your city? After this “winter vortex” that Chicago has been through, one of my favorite things is my morning run along the lakefront trails.  There is something freeing about the gorgeous backdrop of the city that makes all my stress go away. It’s my personal form of meditation and best way to start the day.

What would you like to accomplish (can be career or non-career related) in the next 5 years? First and foremost, I want to begin my own nutrition consulting business! This is a very exciting path for me and I’m eager to get started. I also love food photography and want to become a yoga instructor one day.  I’m hoping to involve both those hobbies within my business model.

What would you say to someone interested in becoming an RD or getting into the field of nutrition? Any advice or caution? We all love food…but my question to anyone getting into dietetics, is WHY do you love food and WHY does it interest you? I would advise anyone interested in dietetics to find what drives them and makes them stand out among SanDiegous foodies. Any RD usually has a story of what connected them to nutrition. There are also so many paths to choose from –a hospital setting, social work to food management to coaching….it’s easy to feel lost at first. Definitely do your research and reach out to people in the fields you’re interested in.


Thank you Patty for being part of the Dietitian Spotlight Series!

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