We love sharing the stories of the providers who use Healthie to help their businesses grow. Meet Monica Auslander, MS, RD, LDN! Monica is a Florida Licensed Dietitian and owner of her private practice, Essence Nutrition. Her practice embraces telehealth and is open to clients nationwide! Monica is a food-lover who helps those around her embrace every food group.
We were so lucky to get the chance to hear from her about her fascinating career and what advice she has to share!
Healthie: Tell us about your path to becoming a dietitian.
Monica: I discovered the science of nutrition in 8th grade when I was curious about my mom’s frozen Weight Watchers ice cream. Plus, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in high school, which just added to my curiosity. I was too chicken to major in Nutrition at the University of Florida because of all the scary science classes. I majored in Linguistics and minored in French and Teaching English as a Second Language, but secretly kept track of all the nutrition courses to get into graduate school *just* in case I wanted to.
Turns out, I actually wanted to! I did my Master’s at FIU in Miami and matched into their 7-person internship program, miraculously! I originally only wanted to do GI [gastrointestinal] nutrition/Eating Disorders. However, once I became a clinical dietitian at Jackson Memorial, I became fascinated with helping healthy people change.
Healthie: What influenced your decision to start Essence Nutrition?
Monica: I started Essence Nutrition, a Miami-based private practice, in January 2016 (although it took me 2 years to create in my brain). I felt really “stuck” at my clinical job. There was no creativity, no mindfulness, no career growth, and no cultivation of relationships. I felt like a nutrition drone. My best work is produced in a high-energy work environment where I can be my own boss. Basically, I don’t like being told what to do!
I was also infuriated at the pay scale as a clinical dietitian. I really feel like I was part of a team that saved lives, and I made less than I did when I used to be a nanny! Now, I feel like I’m actually being compensated for my time, skills, and education.
All the while, I think living with a very nutritionally-relevant chronic disease makes nutrition a daily consideration and renders me more empathetic to clients.
Healthie: What is your approach to care?
MY NUTRITION PHILOSOPHY: A person who feeds his/her essence is someone who is very in tune with their nutritional needs, from a scientific perspective – but also uses intuitive self-guidance. My philosophy is actually borrowed from how the French eat!
I do not see any food as “bad” or “off-limits,” or demonize or glorify any particular category of foods. I don’t want my clients to feel restricted or hungry in any way.
In fact, I adore food. My clients develop an extremely healthy relationship with food because they have the knowledge, the confidence, and the skill to make great choices for themselves throughout the day and on weekends.
You will find them at happy hour, out with friends, dining in their favorite restaurants, and cooking dinner parties at home, while maintaining optimal weight and optimal health. No matter where they are, they have strategies and tools to design their meals in a way that satisfies and delights them. I believe that food is a gift. It literally becomes the ESSENCE of your body and spirit. Give your body the attention and love that it deserves. No matter what you’re eating, slow down to enjoy every bite of it. Notice how it tastes. The textures. The colors. The smells. And most importantly – how it makes your body feel to eat it.
You may even choose to write down your insights. You may notice that dairy makes you feel gassy. Or nut butters feel very satisfying. Without really connecting to your body, how will you make the choices that are best for you?
If you can afford to, see a dietitian.
The science doesn’t lie. Although everyone’s Krebs cycle is exactly the same, the way our bodies are wired – chemically and biologically – is drastically different. Your gender, age, body fat content, medical conditions, medications, body type, and genetics are highly variable and deserve a unique and customized plan for YOUR VERSION of optimal health.
I counsel private clients from a VERY broad variety of nutrition diagnoses. I produce corporate nutrition packages and programs, host community nutrition education workshops, and consult for local restaurants on their menus. Also, I volunteer and give free nutrition seminars,I’m developing an app for my business to generate revenue-building content, and I publish a blog, a newsletter, and run my own social media campaigns.
Recently, I launched my own brand of energy bars, food scales, measuring cups, and smoothie tumblers. I serve as a media resource for several national news/media publications and local ones as well. I am an adjunct professor of nutrition at the University of Miami (teaching a course in Spring full-time) SOMETIMES, I SLEEP! (Oh, and I have my dog in my office every day, because she’s obviously the cutest thing ever AND it’s a great therapeutic tool – she’s a registered therapy dog and we volunteer a lot within the community together). In the future, I hope to hire more dietitians to franchise the Essence philosophy and brand, to form a group practice. That way I can just do media/corporate/writing. 🙂
Healthie: Can you tell us a little bit about your line of nutrition bars?
Monica: I didn’t love any of the current bars on the market. It seems like my clients clamor for easy, on-the-go, packaged snacks, although I still think people should just eat raw nuts and fruit. So, I made my own bars!
I teamed up with a local licensed chef/catering kitchen, told her everything about what I wanted/didn’t want in them, and we did a lot of taste testing/experimentation. I wanted them to be vegan, gluten-free, and less than 6-8 grams of sugar (most of the ‘healthy’ bars run about 14 g of sugar from so much dried fruit).
Voila! Bars are born! Sadly, since there are no preservatives, I make them to order, which means shipping/delivery eats any profit from the bars! I don’t really market them because they cause me a headache! But I like to think that it was a nice example of me making a positive change, and they’re available if clients need them. Everyone who tries them has loved them!!
Healthie: What are three favorite aspects of your job?
- Creating my own schedule
- Seeing clients who ACTUALLY comply with recommendations to undergo major positive nutrition changes
- Having my dog in my office
Healthie: What tips or recommendations would you give someone looking to “think outside the office” as a dietetic intern?
Monica: First, you NEED to work in a hospital for at least a year. It’s the only way I or any other dietitian will EVER think you deserve to go private. You cannot substitute inpatient experience for anything else.
Then, figure out: What do you LIKE to do? Is it give lectures?Sit in your home and do virtual consults?Writing?
Next, find a way to make MONEY out of that! Turn your talent into dollars. Never feel like you have to copy someone else’s path; forge your own based on your time and talents. DO NOT copy other dietitians’ successes; you’ll become bored with yourself and realize that you have to hone in on your own talents and skills to become successful.
Never feel like you have to copy someone else’s path; forge your own based on your time and talents.
For example, as it turns out, I adore writing/public speaking and not 1-on-1 counseling. I’m trying to cultivate more corporate clients, group/organization clients, restaurant consulting, etc.
Healthie: How do you think technology is changing the way dietitians are practicing care?
Monica: Thank goodness for video and phone consults. People run late and cancel all the time because of “traffic” or some other minor excuse. There’s NO excuse not to hire a dietitian if you can sneak in a 30 minute call on your lunch break, or on your way home from work, right?
It also saves me SO much time. I’m transitioning to a shared workspace soon. Online charting is a must; I can barely hold a pencil anymore, plus it allows me to format my notes for clients and share them with them; instead of a crumply paper that will get lost/thrown out.
I love Healthie because I can customize my intake forms, check in on clients’ food logs (with photos!), manage billing, and it’s all HIPAA-compliant. For billing, I use Venmo/Square/PayPal a lot as well for corporate clients. I cannot bother with paper anything; in fact, I find it annoying when doctors request a faxed signature. I’m like, oh, should I bring my horse, buggy, and kerosene to your office as well? We need to modernize and keep up with technology or get left behind!
To learn more about Monica, visit her website.