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Interview with a Dietitian - Ashley Acornley, Triangle Nutrition Therapy

by Bartley Creasman |

Part 2 of our "Interview with an Expert" Series features Ashley Acornley of Triangle Nutrition Therapy. Ashley is a Registered Dietitian AND a personal trainer, so she definitely knows her stuff when it comes to health and fitness. She has been working with us since the beginning - initially helping us to validate the idea, and then by providing the dietary guidelines for our meals. Off we go...

80Fresh: Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and why you became a dietitian

Ashley: I was born and raised in Philadelphia, and moved to the Raleigh area 7 years ago to pursue my Masters Degree. I received my BS in Nutrition with a minor in Kinesiology from Penn State University, and received my MS in Nutrition from Meredith College. I am a Registered Dietitian and AFAA Certified Personal Trainer. I became a dietitian and personal trainer because I have always been involved in sports and love learning the science behind how strength training and better nutrition can affect performance and health. I love teaching and motivating clients to make healthier lifestyle choices! 

80F: What is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?

A: The difference is mainly in the schooling/degree a person receives. In order to be a dietitian, you need to complete specific courses in your undergrad degree called DPD courses. From there, you need to complete a 1 year accredited dietetic internship program, pass your board exam, and complete continuing education courses through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A Masters degree in Nutrition is also preferred. A nutritionist typically takes a course or online material to receive a certificate. 

80F: Tell us about what you do, some of the services you provide, and why it is worthwhile to see a dietitian?

A: I provide individual and group nutrition counseling at our private practice in Raleigh, called Triangle Nutrition Therapy. I also provide in-home and private studio personal training services to clients. I also provide corporate wellness counseling and lunch n' learns. A dietitian is helpful in order to clarify some of the fads and myths surrounding nutrition and fitness, and to help create an easier/structured meal plan according to your specific goals. It is also great to visit with a dietitian for accountability reasons. 

80F: What's the most challenging part of your job?

A: The most challenging part of the job is more-so the administrative side of things, keeping on top of cancels/reschedules/projects, etc. It can definitely be a challenge to work with patients who are unmotivated and are not at the stage of change yet where they can actively make healthy choices. But with some motivational interviewing and persistence, we can always get a client going in the right direction. 

80F: What's the most rewarding part of your job?

A: It is so rewarding to work with clients everyday and walk with them through the struggles and successes of their journey. It is amazing when you know your work helped to save or improve a person's lifestyle. 

80F: In your experience, what are some common misconceptions about health/fitness?

A: Many people think that they have to consume gourmet foods, use fancy recipes, buy from expensive grocery stores, and stay on fad diets to achieve their results. Optimal health can be more simple than you think. It is more important to focus on a lifestyle change and have a positive mental outlook than anything else. 

80F: What are the most common issues that you see? Are there any solutions that seem to fit a lot of common problems, or does each client usually need a specialized solution?

A: I believe that each client needs to be worked with individually and needs a specialized solution. Each person lives a different lifestyle, has different medical diagnoses, and enjoys different foods. The most common issues that I see is a lack of time or energy to exercise or cook/prepare food, and increased frequency of fast food or convenience foods. 

80F: What are some of the biggest obstacles towards your clients reaching their goals, and what do you do to overcome those? Are there any tools that seem to work especially well?

A: The biggest obstacles I see are lack of time, energy, or knowledge towards diet and/or exercise. One of the many strategies I use with my clients is to identify the obstacle and create specific, measurable goals to overcome this obstacle. That way, the client becomes more motivated to overcome the obstacle and prioritize better within their lifestyle. Sometimes, simply talking through a persons obstacles with them helps them to feel more confident and make healthier decisions! 

80F: Tell us what your typical dinner is on a busy weekday

A: I will make a crockpot meal, or roast chicken tenderloins and broccoli/cauliflower, and pair it with quinoa. I love Mexican food, so chicken/black bean tacos are also a favorite. 

80F: What are some of your hacks/advice for maintaining a healthy diet (other than recommending 80Fresh, of course)?

A: Planning ahead is the biggest key factor when maintaining a healthy diet or exercise regimen. Simply organizing your week by figuring out which nights you are available to cook, which nights need to be leftover nights, and what recipes and ingredients do you need from the grocery store. Prepping ahead of time and freezing/batch cooking works wonders for a busy schedule. 

80F: What are some of your favorite cheat foods?

A: My absolute favorite foods are ice cream and pizza....in moderation!

80F: What has been the best advice given to you about fitness/health?

A: Keep it simple! Progress forward as you feel comfortable.