~Habla Espanol~

“How many calories are in this?” My college friends would ask me directly, instead of consulting the easy-to-read, FDA-mandated nutrition facts label. In a few seconds, I’d regurgitate not only calorie numbers but also every other macro and micronutrient, regardless of the food in question, almost spot on, every time. My friends and family knew of this “talent” and thought that I just had a good memory and attributed it to my obvious passion for nutrition. However, what they didn’t know was that underneath the ‘loves to eat kale and drink green juice’ girl, I deeply struggled with nourishing my body and kept myself on a strict dietary regimen out of fear. 

My relationship with food used to be extremely complicated. Yes, of course it was difficult and frustrating at times, but it also led me to want to learn, understand, and appreciate the science of nutrition and guided me in the direction to now helping you! 

So, let’s backtrack to why I even became interested in nutrition. I am a former Team USA synchronized figure skater, and I trained forty plus hours a week on and off ice from ages 15-17 (essentially, my full time job was figure skating). It’s funny to look back at my diet back then, which consisted of multiple bagels with cream cheese for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, pretzel crisps and Nutella (my favorite snack at that time), and whatever baked goods my teammates would bring to the rink. I never thought anything was necessarily “wrong” with the way I ate. I had enough education at the time to know that I was burning more calories than I was consuming, and knew that I was incredibly lean and thin. But, I was happy and strong; my bones and muscles worked well together, allowing me to travel to Europe to compete on international ice. I finished the 2015 season, surviving off of whatever airport snacks I could find and, admittedly, a lot of European chocolate. I loved every second of my routine. I felt healthy and had fulfilled the dreams of five-year-old me, having fallen in love with figure skating from the first moment I stepped onto the ice. 

However, just when my third season began, a career-ending injury put everything into perspective. I still get emotional thinking about that day; It’s been more than seven years now and I can still feel the sensation of my right hand on the cold, hard ice, the shock waves being absorbed by my right shoulder. Even though I was in excruciating pain, I did my job as an athlete and finished the routine. The thought of having surgery, enduring a six month recovery, and not skating again never once crossed my mind on that day, but that’s what happened. Looking back, I’m so thankful for everything skating brought to my life and the lessons I learned that continue to benefit me today. I can confidently say that without this injury, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now. I wouldn’t be able to empathize with clients struggling with a massive life change or eager to develop new routines. Getting injured taught me the importance of resilience and how to be a support system for others, even when I wasn’t feeling supported myself. I was able to recognize what I was lacking in my own support system, and this enabled me to provide others with what I wanted to receive. To this day, I still use these important life lessons as a way to remind myself why I do what I do; everyone deserves a support system, and I feel so grateful for the clients that allow me to be part of that for them! 

With my figure skating career well behind me, 2017 me looked forward to a new chapter: my first year of college at the University of Miami. Coming from the forest filled, cold winter suburbs of New York, this was a *huge* deal. I had never before called home a place so warm and full of palm trees, and I was so excited to finally be immersed into college culture (little did I know, I would call Florida home again just two years later!). I ate late-night McDonalds and considered my quarter-mile walk to class my daily workout. I finished off my freshman year fifteen pounds heavier (the rumors are true!), and I hated seeing myself in pictures. My return to school the next fall continued to be challenging. While I worked hard in school, I couldn’t always control my grades. I couldn’t control the drama in my social circle, and I wasn’t home to manage anything within my family. With a lack of ability to control external factors, I turned inwards and focused on my eating. I developed routines that hid or justified my obsession on what and how much food went into my body. I lost twenty pounds by the end of winter break and I adored how clothes fit my body. This was both physically and emotionally taxing, but I couldn’t stop. I loved the way I looked in the mirror for the first time in three years. Controlling what I ate gave me a sense of power, and with each pound lost, more motivation to continue this harmful lifestyle. I felt like the way I looked was a result of my own hard work and strenuous routine, something I had lost between the end of my skating career and my first years of college. I subconsciously knew I had a problem, but I was addicted to the way I looked. An abnormal psychology class during my sophomore year spring covered eating disorders thoroughly, and I remember feeling relief because I could finally put a name to what was going on. Instead of taking a step back, I craved learning more about why I had fallen into these patterns, what ‘benefits’ these patterns were bringing me (spoiler alert: nothing good!), and wanted to learn how I could put a stop to this vicious cycle I had started. 

Working at a world-renowned private nutrition practice in NYC was an important time in my passion for nutrition. It was my first practical experience and the first time I was taught by an actual person whom I admired and who was incredibly successful in my field of interest. On a less positive note, I was still immersed in every detail about food, as the internship legitimized my focusing on each calorie I was eating, tracking my food, and feeling frustrated when I “cheated” or indulged. That summer and fall, I worked hard to retrain my brain away from the cycle of food guilt. During my junior year, with time and more education, I was able to change the narrative and have learned to eat intuitively, listening to what my body tells me it needs. Some days I want a green juice and salad, and other days I need a warm, comforting bowl of penne alla vodka. I pride myself on now being able to recognize when I begin self sabotaging, and choosing to eat what I want, not what I feel like I am supposed to in order to be “skinny”. These days, some of my favorite nights consist of making dinner with my family, following new recipes from Instagram, or throwing together ingredients left in the fridge. I genuinely enjoy making dinners and baked goods for my friends because I realize the happiness it brings to all of us. I’ve learned how to acknowledge the craftsmanship behind cooking and, along with that, the primary goals of nutrition.

Over my education, internships, and jobs in the nutrition field, I’ve learned one important rule: food should be a part of your life, but not your whole life. I enjoy combining nutrition science with real-life situations (aka, learning how to fit foods into your lifestyle, not by avoiding them completely). My nutrition philosophy includes using evidence-based nutrition science coupled with learning how to listen and trust our bodies in order to nourish ourselves to our fullest potential. 

Though I love working with every aspect of nutrition, my interests lie primarily in helping those in college, young adults joining the workforce and in the nutritional management of gastrointestinal disorders. I also love tapping into the former athlete side of myself with sports nutrition and nutrition for fitness and overall wellness. 

When I’m not working with clients, you can usually find me in the kitchen cooking or baking new recipes, at a workout class, exploring the Orlando area, or reading on my Kindle. 

I’d love to work with you! (Book an appointment here

Email: serena@orlandodietitian.com

Phone: 407-412-7080

Credentials: Masters in Nutrition, Columbia University

Bachelors in Exercise Physiology, University of Miami