Kathleen (Kathy) S. LaBella, RDN, CDN, CSSD, ACE-CMES/CPT
PEAK PERFORMANCE NUTRITION & FITNESS SOLUTIONS
for something nutrishus
Kathy and I crossed paths on Facebook when she mentioned her unique work with musicians. Through various locations and practices, she has managed to keep her passions connected to her work. Her initial interest and career in the arts definitely plays a role in the clients she chooses to work with, although she adapts with the times in areas such as social media. Her day-to-day has changed over the years, as has her focus, which is currently on lifestyle changes, which she applies to herself as a role model too.
Why did you become a RD?
While studying art and design, I worked part-time for several years as both a runway model, commentator, and taught at a modeling agency. Part of my teaching included a curriculum for nutrition and exercise. I grew up skiing and swimming, and later became an avid weight trainer. I worked four years in corporate computer sales, but my passion was between the arts, health and fitness. It was a combination of my activity and teaching that fascinated me to learn more about nutrition to teach others. I left corporate at age 30 to enter school full-time for nutrition and dietetics.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I work in private practice and consulting. I specialize in lifestyle changes for weight loss, sports nutrition, nutrition for musicians, and corporate travelers.
My niche the last six years is “Nutrition for Musicians” now a video series and eBook that started while counseling clients in my private nutrition practice who were professional musicians. I soon realized how closely the musician’s activity levels were to many athletes when conducting nutrition analysis using and tracking activity from the type of exercise performed to musical instruments played, as well as similar body mechanic stress factors depending on the amount of time performing or practicing each day.
Nutrition for Musicians is a specialty that developed through a combination of my sports nutrition expertise, and background in the performing arts, previous playing, and exercise physiology, along with interviewing and working with several musicians and vocalists while providing nutrition education to them. Music has always been a passion for me too, from baroque and classical to blues, jazz, and rock.
How would you explain what you do?
Through nutrition assessments and education, I help people improve energy, weight control, and live a healthier lifestyle by finding time to fit it in. I motivate clients to achieve a higher fitness level and clear up many misconceptions out in the media. I help musicians and athletes improve performance, strength, decrease fatigue & soreness, while improving muscle mass, mobility, and healthier food choices on the road.
I motivate others by living the active lifestyle I teach as weight trainer, kayaker, beach runner, and former skier.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
Monday through Friday I am up between 3:30 and 4:00 AM to eat and work-out. I review emails after I work-out and start work between 7:30 or 8:00 AM and it runs until 7:00 PM for clients with space in-between to eat. Fridays I stop work at 5:00. I recently relocated to Old Sayrbook, CT, therefore I am supplementing outside rehab and long-term care consulting two days per week until my practice grows again. When I am not with clients or consulting, I provide local nutrition talks, and public speaking on prevention and lifestyle, and I am working in other areas to grow the musician side of the practice, along with performing typical office work, bookkeeping, marketing, and writing.
I just renovated my kitchen where I will be starting regular videos or vlogs to reach a larger audience. I had a professional kitchen installed, but I installed the backsplash tiling, laid the floor myself and did all the painting for my kitchen and half-bath, and just finished building a large outdoor stone staircase leading up to my office from the driveway. I fit some of this into my practice on improving lifestyle and living.
What has been your career path?
I’ve had four different practices between Connecticut and Massachusetts.
When I first became an RD, my areas of practice were sports nutrition, and geriatrics. I’ve continued to consult on and off in rehab as a supplemental income versus the ups and downs in private practice.
In MA, I was providing several sports nutrition talks from ski resorts to golf and fitness clubs, providing local television spots including PBS in addition to a private practice. I consulted at Smith College; and developed a nutrition component to a cardiac rehab program at a hospital.
In Connecticut my focus at first was private practice, but have written for local and national media, and I had a local Comcast television show. My practice is presently changing. I continue my niche on nutrition for musicians, and my other niche is lifestyle that includes a combination of activity, fitness, and outdoor living. It’s not about a diet, it’s about the entire lifestyle. I would like to take all that I have taught individuals and start packaging it to provide online programs or motivational public speaking.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
I am a Board-Certified Sports Specialist Dietitian, a Board-Certified Medical Exercise Specialist, and Certified Personal Trainer with American Council on Exercise. I also have the certificate of training in adult weight management through CDR. I never finished graduate school.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
I would love to see more dietitians in private practice in every town providing preventative care and checkups on everyone at least twice per year, or more virtual practices. I feel RDs can play a role here to help people stay on track.
What would you like people to know about RDs?
RDs are nutritionists with advanced training in internships, or advanced degrees following their Bachelor of Science. RDs work in several settings from hospitals, to private practice, to research and development, to community, corporate business, food service areas, agriculture, farming, pharmaceutical, and journalism. Within these professions RDs specialize in different areas of expertise from newborns to gerontology and cardiac to oncology, or sports nutrition, and every disease aspect. Each RD is unique and an expert in their own specialty.
What are challenges you encounter as a RD?
Keeping up with technology. I’ve been in practice for 24 years; I used to place ads in the yellow pages and local newspapers before social media and only worked four days per week unless I was working a local television spot or lecture. I never had to sell, and I was booked solid with cash paying clients. Today my practice is 99 percent insurance based, however I am no longer booked, and I work more days consulting in different areas while trying to keep up with social media and other avenues to book clients. It’s more difficult today because potential clients have multiple choices online for nutrition resources.
What do people think that you do for a living?
Some think I work with rock stars others think I hand out diets.
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
Teaching others prevention and motivating lifestyle changes relating to nutrition, and utilizing food as our source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals to live a healthier life.
What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals?
We are trained professionals in nutrition to look at it from a pathophysiology perspective, and non-diet approaches to using genetics or family history. We understand medication interaction, laboratory values, and we know how to truly calculate individual needs by breaking it down to simple terms for a client. I would also tie this into the question above “What would you like people to know about RDs?”
What is your favourite meal?
My weekend appetizer night that includes a spinach salad with multiple vegetables, and either fresh shrimp cocktail peeled before cooking with a touch of white wine vinegar, tarragon, and pepper, or grilled swordfish on the side with honey mustard, olive oil, rosemary or tarragon sauce (I eat salmon other times), and whole grain homemade bread dipped in balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
What tip(s) would you give to our readers?
Find a way to work your other passions into your career.
If you work with clients, stay positive, genuinely feel for them, and always smile on your worst day because as you brighten their day, yours just got better.
And live the lifestyle you teach.
More about Kathleen (Kathy):
Facebook: Peak Performance LLC
Instagram: @Kathleen LaBella