By Holly Layer – Contributing writer
I never really thought I’d go back to school. I never, ever thought I’d go into health care, and I certainly did not in my wildest dreams think I would go into business for myself. Not in a million years.
But, it appears I’ll be doing all three of those things this year.
After getting my degree in Journalism from Penn State in 2005 and then serving as a Public Affairs Officer in the U.S. Air Force for four years, I found myself wanting something different for my future. After separating from the military in 2009 and moving to my husband’s hometown of East Aurora, I had one of those “aha” moments one day while working on my computer; I wanted to be a health-food writer.
My interest in fitness and nutrition began in college, so much so that by graduation I lamented that it hadn’t been my major. While in the military, I entered (and won) two “healthy” cooking competitions, lost some weight through making healthier choices and became passionate about overall health. However, I still loved writing and considered it my first true calling.
Within a few weeks of moving to the area with my husband in 2011 and while we were still house-hunting, I decided to go back to school to become a registered dietitian – the credential given by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics through their accreditation arm, the Commission on Dietetic Registration. The RD program at SUNY Buffalo State combines undergraduate coursework, including food and nutrition basics, chemistry and biology, and medical nutrition therapy, as well as supervised practice in local hospitals and health-care facilities. I knew if I wanted to be a successful health writer, I needed to be an expert in the field of nutrition.
I’m now in my last semester of my senior year and only months from graduation. I just finished interning for a month at Erie County Medical Center, shadowing an RD and getting hands-on experience assessing patients for nutrition risk, providing diet education and counseling, and evaluating the unique needs of patients in the Intensive Care units. Other rotations this semester include longterm care at Genesee Nursing Home in Batavia and staff relief at Buffalo General Hospital. While writing and counseling are still my main interests, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the clinical rotation.
Now, with the culmination of all this education around the corner, I’m about to embark on the scariest adventure of my life: trying to turn my passion for nutrition into my livelihood.
I’ll be one of the few graduates this May who doesn’t take a traditional job in a clinical setting. Rather, my dream is to see my name in print, helping people make sense of food and nutrition through my writing. I also want to be on the other side of the counseling table, meeting them where they are and helping them achieve their health goals, their way. I truly believe that just about anything. Even pizza and wings can fit into a healthy lifestyle. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that what we eat has a direct impact on our overall health and wellness, and eating for health doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or tasteless. If “you are what you eat” is true, don’t you want health?
Holly Layer received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Penn State and served four years in the U. S. Air Force before deciding to go back to school to become a registered dietitian. She loves running, reading, fine stationery, colorful kitchen gadgets and ALL things food-related. An avid cook and baker, you can find her in the kitchen most days whipping up something yummy. Too bad her husband, Andrew (an East Aurora native) is the pickiest man alive! You can find her work in the Refresh Buffalo Blog and at thefrozenpineapple.com.