Mary Purdy MS, RDN




for something nutrishus

Mary is doing a variety of interesting things. She came to dietetics later in life and now works with both individuals and reaches a large audience via her show and podcasts. She's a great example of how dietitians turn research into practical advice. Like Mary, I jumped right into the private practice world, having never had a traditional job. I love the thought that went into her responses and am excited to read her book (since she kindly sent me a copy)!

Why did you become a RD? 

I have always been interested in food, health and nutrition since I was a little girl. I originally chose to become an actor but never lost my passion and zeal for broccoli and pomegranates. I started questioning this career choice in my early 30’s just as my dad was diagnosed with a very serious disease that wound him in a hospital where he received some very questionable advice from the dietitian there. When I began to realize that food actually had the power to help prevent and address disease I knew that I had to switch gears and do whatever I could to help people who may be in need of nutritional guidance. I was determined to heal the world one meal at a time!

What area of dietetics do you work in? 

I work at the start up scientific wellness company called Arivale in Seattle, as a Registered Dietitian Coach and Clinical Education Lead. I also host a web series and podcast called “Mary’s Nutrition Show” with my husband, who is a videographer and lead producer, all around great guy and fellow broccoli enthusiast.

How would you explain what you do? 

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I work with clients/patients over the phone providing diet and lifestyle counseling utilizing a personalized medicine approach which takes into account nutritional genetics, blood analyte biomarkers, microbiome and salivary cortisol. We take a long-term, integrative approach where we address diet, physical activity, stress, sleep, and supplementation. What is incredible is that we work with folks long enough to gather data that helps us to see how our intervention strategies have made a difference in their lives. I also act as an educator at the company, training our new hires and helping to build new trainings on a variety of topics for our current dietitians. For “Mary’s Nutrition Show”, we produce weekly shows either on Facebook Live or recorded for a podcast that provide easy to understand information on a myriad of food and nutrition topics that are usually sprinkled with a lot of humor to keep it fun and interesting for both listener and for me.

What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks? 

Because Arivale is a start up culture, every day is incredibly different. I spend a lot of time reaching out to and speaking to, texting or emailing my clients keeping them accountable as well as inspired and encouraged, and fielding questions from them on a regular basis. I hold clinical office hours where other RDN’s can pick my brain about tough cases. I attend trainings about new data, go to meetings about company updates, group gatherings around both clinical or personal topics, drink copious amounts of tea and have brief chats with other RDN’s in our kitchen area, and read a lot of research. For Mary’s Nutrition Show, I brainstorm show ideas, stay current on social media, practice talking points, respond to comments and queries and go to the grocery store often where I can try new products that I can be confident recommending to my listeners.

What has been your career path? 

After attaining my graduate degree in nutrition and finishing my internship at Bastyr University, I decided it would be a good idea to hang my shingle and go into private practice, even with no real business experience. (I don’t recommend this!) I had never had a normal job, so the thought of a 9-5 gig was very unappealing. The internship schedule almost killed me. I wanted autonomy. I started off in what might be thought of as a utility closet at a gym and gradually worked my way to an office with windows and a couch. I also got a part time job for two years as an outpatient dietitian at a hospital in Seattle which filled in the gaps very nicely. I also started providing wellness presentations at local businesses and community centers and began to build my brand as a private practice dietitian.

While keeping my business going, I took on another wonderful role as a Clinical Supervisor at Bastyr University’s Teaching clinic for 5 years and became adjunct faculty teaching in both the natural medicine and nutrition departments for 3 years. When the opportunity came up to work at Arivale with a team of amazing clinicians and founded by one of the founding fathers of systems biology, Lee Hood, I decided to close my private practice and take a chance on this amazing-sounding start up. I have never looked back and look forward to every day that I get to practice integrative medicine and learn from other health professionals, and drink copious amounts of tea while chatting with other RDN’s in the kitchen. Over the past few years, I have been writing humorous personal essays about becoming and being a dietitian and finally compiled them all into a book called “Serving the Broccoli Gods”

What advanced education or special training do you have? 

I am definitely a life long learner who for the past 10 years has listened to dozens of professional webinars and attended several different major conferences and symposiums every year that mostly focus on functional and integrative approaches to health. I took the Functional Nutrition Course through the Institute for Functional Medicine, and the Food as Medicine professional training courses through the Center for Mind-Body Medicine. Being on the executive committee and now the Chair of Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine has also afforded me numerous opportunities to build my knowledge base. I will never stop pursuing learning opportunities especially when the field is so incredibly dynamic. I just hope my brain can hold all the info!

In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now? 

I hope the world of dietetics will be more aligned and less divided on a variety of topics. Or if the division still exists, I hope there is a cordial agreement to respect the others’ opinions. I also hope food policy won’t be so driven by food industry. I fear that decisions around our food – both access and quality – are often being made by organizations that may not always have the consumer’s health in mind. I would love for RDN’s to have greater respect overall in the medical community as an integral part of the health care picture. I also hope that more RDN’s feel empowered to take an integrative approach to nutritional counseling, incorporating other aspects of what constitutes “health” and come to understand the value of personalizing the strategies, and that not all research may apply to every single person in the same way. And I hope that this is taught and incorporated into nutrition school curriculums and in medical schools. Filling out the conversation with our patients to include sleep, stress, GI (gastrointestinal) issues, environment, genetics, physical activity, and the benefits or lack thereof of supplementation will inevitably make our ability to guide and improve health outcomes all the stronger.

What are challenges you encounter as a RD? 

I don’t think people, my friends and acquaintances included, or other medical professionals always understand the depth of our knowledge and training around food and disease and how strong our understanding is of how to prevent, treat and in some cases possibly even reverse chronic health issues.

What do people think that you do for a living? 

I think some believe that I sit there and tell people to stop eating fast food and eat more vegetables so they can lose weight. I don’t think they understand that food is information for our genes and helps to support our bodies’ biochemical functions, and that decisions around meals go way beyond calories in and calories out.

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What are you passionate about in dietetics? 

I am extraordinarily passionate about the potential that a food as medicine approach has in stopping chronic disease. I love the idea of thinking outside the box with strategies, with trialing options with patients and considering n=1 experiments as a way to determine if the intervention is right for that individual. When we start focusing on the root cause of disease and begin our guidance from that perspective, we have the ability to dig deep and understand how to get us out of the health crisis in which we have found ourselves.

What is your favourite meal? 

Do I have to have a favorite? It depends on the season, on my mood, where I am, but I do love a good Spicy Indian or Thai veggie curry over brown rice, or vegetarian chili bursting with veggies and a side of corn bread. But then I also go nuts for a massaged kale salad with avocado and walnuts and beets! Give me flavor, richness, spice and color. Can I have that many favorites??

What tip(s) would you give to our readers? 

Don’t NOT do something because you are scared or worried that you won’t be successful. Don’t stay too long doing something in the field that doesn’t fill your soul. Stay open minded about the possibilities of this field and keep up the dialogue with those who may have different philosophies from yours. This is a great way to learn.

More about Mary:

Website: Mary Purdy

Podcast: Mary's Nutrition show on iTunes

YouTube channel: Mary Purdy

Facebook: Mary Purdy RD

Twitter: @marypurdyhere

Instagram: @marypurdyrd

Thanks Mary!