Happy Spring everyone! Our April is off to a great start with some new and exciting classes on the horizon, including some nutrition workshops led by Registered Dietitian and all-around awesome human, Heather Ayala.
Heather's adorable, cozy office here at Doulas of OC is where she counsels clients on balanced nutrition and helps them set and meet any particular health goals they may have. Her compassionate nature and wealth of knowledge keep you focused as you make gradual, gentle changes that will impact your health for a lifetime!
We had a chance to sit down with Heather to learn more about her passion for nutrition, wellness, and what makes her unique!
Start by telling us a little bit about yourself… who are you, what do you do for a living, what makes you excited to wake up in the morning?
My name is Heather Ayala, and I am a wife, a mom, a book nerd, and a dietitian. I offer comprehensive nutritional counseling services in Irvine and the surrounding areas. I am absolutely passionate about people living their best lives. And if I can help someone get there, or at least be part of the journey, then that is what I’m all about!
How long have you been a Registered Dietitian and what inspired you to do this work?
I have been a RD for over 3 years. I got into this field because I saw first-hand how impactful good nutrition was at turning a life around. I experienced this first with my own father and then with my life as well. My dad has had two massive heart attacks but is now healthier than ever thanks to education about balanced nutrition and implementing the things he learned. In my own life, nutrition has played a huge role in helping me overcome a drug addition. With the knowledge and tools I have learned I have been able to fully recover my mind and my body, thank God.
Tell us a little bit about your education and how your training and experience sets you apart?
I received my Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition, completed my internship, and am in the final stages of completing my Master’s degree in Nutritional Science, all from CSU Long Beach. Dietitians from CSU Long Beach, at least in my cohort, were taught from an “all foods fit” perspective, which has helped me adopt a non-judgemental when it comes to people’s food choices. This approach is a deviation from the normal perception of dietitians and I love being able to provide that type of support, especially to people who have some fears or anxieties about being judged for their choices.
What is a common misconception people have about your profession?
A lot of people assume that dietitians, nutritionists, personal trainers, etc. are all the same thing. Interestingly thought “nutritionist” is not a regulated term, meaning anybody can call themselves one without any specific training, credential or certification. If you work with a dietitian, you are working with someone that has a degree, has completed 1200 practice hours, passed a comprehensive exam, and is required to complete continuing education on an ongoing basis to maintain their credential.
Another misconception is that dietitians have specific agendas that include weight loss and drastic changes. My services focus on the individual goals of each client that I see. Some people are recovering from an eating disorder and need accountability, reassurance, and guidance. Many of my clients are pregnant and working to optimize their and their baby's health. The goals I have for you are the goals you have for yourself.
What is the most satisfying part of your job? What is the most challenging?
The most satisfying part is helping someone discover the right motivation to make changes in their diet. I also think that is the most challenging part. Everybody is motivated by something different, and it usually takes a bit of work to figure it out.
What are three qualities that make you stand out as a dietitian?
Personal experience is the biggest one. I’ve struggled with my relationship with food for a long time. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like for food to be your best frenemy. Another is practicality. I’m not going to firehose you with education, because that is not effective. I’m totally down with taking it one or two steps at a time; whatever you think you can actually accomplish. And a third is love. I love people. Not in a “let’s be Facebook friends and talk all the time” kind of way, but in a namaste kind of way. I see your soul with my soul, and I truly, truly, truly want to help you live your best life. Not my version of your best life, but YOUR version of your best life.
What else inspires you in life?
My kids. Especially my daughter at the stage of life she's in right now. She is just now coming into herself as an individual, and it is so fascinating to watch her go through the stages of self-acceptance that I went through, but handling them far better than I did. I love being a mom to my mini-me. She’s got all this amazing potential and she just makes me want to be a better person so that I can steer her in the right ways.
What are you currently binge-watching?
This is Us on Hulu. And crying, like everyone else, every episode. It’s gorgeous.
What is your favorite place to relax in the OC?
Hidden House coffee in Santa Ana. Have you been there? It’s amaaaazing. The vibe is just right and the simple drinks and foods are perfect.
You can schedule a consultation with Heather on her website. She's a great person to have on your side whether you're trying to conceive, looking to optimize your prenatal nutrition, managing gestational diabetes, or making changes to your diet while breastfeeding.