From working as a dietitian in corporate wellness to creating a practice as an expert in holistic health and recovery, we are excited to introduce you to Krista King, MS, RDN, LDN, CHC, NASM-CPT. As the founder of Composed Nutrition, Krista shares her journey and secrets on providing virtual, holistic nutrition and lifestyle counseling.
Tell us about yourself and what influenced your decision to become a dietitian.
Krista: I lost my mom when I was 18. She survived a heart transplant, and soon after that got diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, she was getting into holistic health and nutrition, which really sparked my initial interest. As a freshman in college, I switched my major to dietetics because I wanted to learn everything I could about preventative health, because I didn’t want anyone to have to go through what she did, or the pain of losing someone too soon.
My whole journey has led me to functional and integrative nutrition and using that approach to get to the root causes of the chronic diseases we’re seeing today. Also, through that I’ve uncovered the connection between food and mood, and how we can use food to improve our mood.
How has your background in corporate wellness helped you launch your practice?
Krista: When I was working in corporate wellness, I was in a management role, so I was already used to wearing a lot of hats. I was managing on-site wellness screenings, and handling everything from the clinical side to the operations side. So, I got a well-rounded view of working with clients, but also the business side.
I also implemented Healthie for our team of dietitians and did some virtual coaching, which is what I’m doing in my practice. Plus, I was involved in social media. All of these things have helped me develop the skills that are valuable to start a private practice.
Tell us how you decided to focus your practice on those recovering from alcohol abuse.
Krista: Last year, I found out that alcohol just wasn’t working for me anymore and decided to remove it from my life. I then also discovered the nutrition and mood impact of removing it. It impacts every system in our body, like our neurotransmitters, which impact our mood, so individuals recovering from alcohol abuse may need extra support.
I think it’s really important, especially as providers, to be clear on what we mean by “alcohol abuse.” In the DSM-5 it’s defined as “alcohol use disorder.” There are 11 criteria, which are questions (i.e.: “Have you had a time where you ended up drinking more than you intended?” “Have you experienced a craving or urge to drink or continued to drink even if feeling anxious?”). If you meet just 2 of those criteria (in the last 12 months) you can meet the diagnosis for alcohol use disorder.
Also, just to let people know, binge drinking is considered 5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more for women, in 1 sitting. Being addicted to alcohol means you’re no longer functioning in other areas of your life or you’re not fulfilling your obligations because of your alcohol use.
"I think a lot of times we think of alcohol as this black or white issue – either you’re labeled as an alcoholic or you’re not. We really need to look at alcohol use on more of a spectrum."
It’s estimated that 16 million people in the U.S. have Alcohol Use Disorder. But if we’re looking at it on a spectrum, like diabetes or heart disease, we know as dietitians you don’t just wake up one day with a chronic condition. It happens over time. The diagnosis is really the end of the spectrum.
If we’re thinking of alcohol in the same way, there’s this huge middle area on the spectrum that can be considered “grey area” drinking. You’re not quite at the definition of alcohol use disorder as a diagnosis, or maybe you haven’t experienced a typical rock bottom that we think of where you lost your job or impacted relationships, but it’s just not working for you anymore. The hangovers aren’t worth it, your anxiety is getting worse, or its just not adding anything positive to your life.
There’s a whole bunch of people waking up to the idea that, for them, alcohol is just not working, or they’re “sober-curious” or “early exiters,” meaning they’re removing it because they find it’s just not adding anything positive to their life.
For this group in the grey area of the spectrum, it can be hard. You feel like it’s not working for you, but you don’t know what resources are there to support you. If you’re someone who can seemingly handle alcohol, but it’s just not working, there are alternatives to a 12-step program or Alcoholics Anonymous, like Hip Sobriety, Refuge Recovery, or Smart Recovery.
Alcohol can have such far-ranging effects on our bodies: You may need some mood support supplements that can work to boost our serotonin or dopamine, or GABA, or support with vitamins, minerals, or electrolyte balance. Also, alcohol can impact the integrity of our gut lining, so some herbal remedies may be needed. These are actually things we are concerned about for anyone who drinks alcohol, on any level, especially if over the recommended amount.
So, one of my goals is to show that there is a way to live without alcohol, and how to support your body in doing so.
How do you use technology to help your clients in your private practice?
Krista: I like tracking metrics. My favorite metric to track is the food log. Especially when working with clients early on, it’s a great way to get an idea of what they’re eating. Plus, it’s a great counseling tool to make suggestions about what to add or replace and bring awareness to what they’re eating, and then bring in the mood component. How do you feel about this meal? I’m all about getting in touch with how foods are making you feel emotionally and physically.
On the client management side, I love that Healthie can just automate all of it, from intake flow to the calendar, and using messaging with clients to keep communication open between visits.
"If you don’t have that communication between visits, I think that’s where you can see fall off."
What are your main marketing channels as you launch your practice?
Krista: Because what I specialize in has this mood component, it’s really important for me to be connected to therapists and social workers in the field, especially in case anything gets out of my scope. I’ve been trying to develop relationships with therapists in the field in my area for cross-referrals.
I also developed a relationship with my own primary care office and chiropractor. Lastly, attending wellness events and networking events helps to get the word out.
Cross-referrals have been my main goal. I’m finding that many allied health professionals at these events are also looking for new clients, so swapping business cards and keeping communication open has been helpful. I try to find a time that we can meet, outside of the event, to find ways that we can work together. For example, creating a package of paired sessions with both a therapist and myself.
Tell us about the name of your practice and how you decided upon it.
My practice is Composed Nutrition. The idea is that our bodies are the composition of the foods we eat, the thoughts we think, the environment we surround ourselves with, and the community that we’re in. It really encompasses the holistic approach that I use with clients.
What piece of advice do you wish you knew when you just graduated from your dietetic internship?
Krista: I would say that you don’t need to have it all figured out right away. Your career will develop over time. We’re constantly receiving the message that we need to know what we want to do right away or we need to be further along than we are. But in my experience, everything that you learn in any job that you’re in, whether it’s what you ultimately want to do long-term, you will find benefit in.
"Take risks, get involved in things that you maybe wouldn’t normally do, and really put yourself out there!"
How do you find that work/life balance as a business owner?
Krista: I think it’s really important to set time that’s “work time.” Setting boundaries is so important when you’re working from home or a coffee shop because it’s really easy to get caught up.
One thing I’ve done recently that’s been so helpful is not checking my email right when I wake up. It’s so easy to scroll through social media or check my email, but I’ve been waiting until after I eat breakfast or get in a workout, so that’s been helpful.
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