This week I’m excited to be featuring a dietitian who has really found her niche. Carlene Thomas, owner of Healthfully Ever After, LLC, focuses on helping brides get healthier before their weddings by teaching them sustainable, healthy practices that will last beyond saying “I do.” Carlene also works as a nutrition consultant and blogger, specializing in food styling, recipe development, food photography and social media marketing.
First things first Carlene. What got you interested in nutrition?
My Grandma is a physical therapist. Her father was a doctor. That got me interested in health…but I pass out when I see blood, so being a doctor or a nurse was out of the question. You may think blood doesn’t bother you until you are in a dialysis clinic. Food was also a big part of my life growing up. We are definitely a foodie family. My Dad spent his childhood in South East Asia because his parents were diplomats. He was exposed to some amazing food that he tries to share with us. I have distinct memories of him packing things like curry or sushi or ramen for my lunch in elementary school which was totally not normal during that time period.
That’s so amazing that you had that exposure growing up. Did your family motivate you to start your own business as well? Did you always see yourself as an entrepreneur?
HA no. Oddly my parents have their own business but I never was thinking “okay, that’s what I’ll do too!”. When I was in my internship I thought I had a job locked but the contract was never sent. After two months of waiting and back and forths with the company, I went into panic mode and applied for tons of jobs, none of which I actually wanted or were quite right for me. After a few months friends and mentors asked me what I was doing wasting so much time looking for a job when I had something great going: I had been doing nutrition consulting for over a year on the side anyway! So I let the job search go and just dedicated myself to running my own business. Even though it really sucked at the time, I’m so glad things happened the way they did. I think if I had been given that first job I never would have taken that risk and done my own thing.
How did you find your niche?
I had my wedding during my dietetic internship (I know. I’m insane.). My vendors would ask what my profession was while they were getting to know me and each of them always responded that they wished they had someone like me to refer clients to because they always saw brides who were crash dieting and in harming themselves. Specifically my amazing florist who went with my crazy vision of putting produce and herbs in my bouquet, really put it into my head. After a while and lots of research, I realized that was where I wanted and needed to be.
Take me through a typical “day in the life.”
- 6:45 ish- Wake up, feed the animals and walk the dog. Breakfast. Check social media.
- 8:00– Start on emails. Publicize the day’s blog post. Read blogs. Share links.
- 9:30– First project of the day. This varies depending on current contracts.
- 11:30– lunch
- 1-4:00 any phone calls or meetings
- social media for NEDPG or other clients
- 4:00 shoot new recipes (depending on season and lighting)
- 6:00 dinner
- 7:00 check emails, do a little Pinterest, make sure meetings/blogs etc are ready for the next day.
- 8:00 unfortunately any of my board meeting calls usually happen this late
- 10:30 bed! I’m an old lady!
- If it’s a photo shoot day or speaking engagement, it’s TOTALLY different and totally insane. Ask my poor interns after they attend their first one!
What is the biggest challenge of running your business?
There’s only one of me and a million opportunities. I can only do so much so I really have to be selective in what I say ‘yes’ to. The longer I’m in business, the more I realize I have the power to say no.
Do you follow any certain diet?
I try to be as local and seasonal as possible. While I was a pescatarian for many years, I’ve expanded to eating local well-raised meats as well. And I always aim for a salad a day.
Is there any food that you won’t eat?
Offal. Meat I’m unsure of. Aged Danish Blue Cheese. Most bok choy dishes.
Are there any food or nutrition related books or documentaries that really changed the way you think about food?
In college Food, Inc. turned me into a pescatarian for several years but the reality is a documentary should help you question things but never MAKE you change. Specifically food and health documentaries are meant to be extreme. Take it with a grain of salt. And be adaptable. New studies are always coming out and we need to make sure we aren’t stuck in the 90’s as a profession. Dietitians are always learning and looking for new data.
Do you believe in calories in vs. calories out or is there more to it?
That’s the starting point of a conversation but I am way more focused on healthy habits than specific numbers. If I have a client downing six diet cokes a day, we need to look at that too.
If you weren’t a dietitian, what would you be?
If you asked me in 4th grade my answer would have been Orthodontist (because I figured everyone had braces, it was a great steady job. Obviously I was the weirdest fourth grader ever.). I never wish I was anything else besides a dietitian actually. Because I have a business I can do everything I want!
What would you like to accomplish (can be career or non-career related) in the next 5 years?
Eventually I’d love to publish a book!
What’s your best piece of advice for someone looking to start their own business?
Do your research. Having a website doesn’t mean opportunities will just come to you. Pick a niche, pick an ideal client and learn everything about them. Also, join NEDPG.
Thank you Carlene for giving us a glimpse into your life as a dietitian entrepreneur and for being part of the Dietitian Spotlight Series!