Thursday, May 3, 2018

Expanding the Arena - May Edition

In our May’s edition of Expanding the Arena Interview Series,
we have Ashley Acornley MS, RD, CSSD, LDN who is also an
Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Certified Personal
Trainer. She works in private practice and corporate wellness with patients
of various backgrounds.

What is your educational background and how long have you been an RD?
Do you have any additional credentials relevant to your position?
I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences with a minor in
Kinesiology from Penn State University. I also have a Master of Science degree
in Nutrition and completed my Dietetic Internship at Meredith College. I have been
an RD since September, 2010. I have a Level 1 Certificate in Weight Management
through the Academy, a Certificate in Personal Training, and a CSSD board

How did you achieve your position/ how did you get started with
your current position?
I worked part time for my current private practice position in 2010 while in
grad school and have built my business and clientele there ever since.
In addition, I specialize with in-home personal training and contract
with several different corporate wellness companies. I truly believe that
if you spend time making connections with multiple companies and
partnering with a wide variety of people, you will be able to find your way
to any position that you dream of.

What key areas of knowledge/experiences did you need to have
before this job?
Much of my Dietetic Internship and graduate school experience involved
outpatient practice and private practice, so I was fortunate enough to hone
these specific skills once I graduated. Knowledge with weight loss, motivational
interviewing, coaching, and sports nutrition has really benefited my current
job position.

What are the highs and lows of your position?
I love working with my clients and being a positive component of their health
and fitness journey. I thoroughly enjoy working with athletes, diabetics, and those
seeking weight loss. Every day is different as far as schedule, duties and clientele
goes, so it keeps me on my toes and makes everyday challenging. I enjoy working
one-on-one with clients, and also enjoy doing team talks and lunch ‘n learns. I love
the flexibility of my job. The lows are I have to travel a lot, have an inconsistent
schedule/hours, and do not have a salaried position since I am a contractor.

What is a typical day for you?
I never have a “typical” day or work typical hours, which can be fun yet
challenging! I normally complete a workout at the gym prior to starting
my day. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I meet with my powerlifting
instructor, and on my off days I focus on running, core, and yoga. The rest of
my day varies between seeing clients at the private practice I work at, meeting
clients at their homes for in-home training, presenting for team talks or lunch
‘n learns, or consulting for a corporate wellness company. Occasionally I will
complete some telehealth visits. Because I essentially run my own business
and schedule, many of my evenings involve catching up on emails, scheduling
patients, marketing, and updating my social media accounts.  

What advice would you share with an RD (or RD2be) that is interested
in a similar career path?

Learn as much as you possibly can from other dietitians and mentors before branching off on your own. Dabble in as many different jobs and duties as a dietitian
so that you can truly find your passion and niche. As an entrepreneur, be prepared
for the inconsistent schedules and the highs/lows of private practice. Always have
several different “income streams” to support your business and schedule.

What is your greatest strength/weakness as a dietitian?
My personality fits private practice and outpatient nutrition perfectly. I am personable,
positive, and encouraging with my patients. I am also detail-oriented and a great
multi-tasker. However, I am a quiet and private individual and don’t complete as much
social media and marketing for my business as I should.

What are some of your interests outside of work?
I love being active, and it is a huge part of my life. I am currently learning how to
powerlift and olympic lift. I love to play tennis, softball, golf, lift weights, hike, and run
5Ks. I am a big animal lover and have adopted 2 cats. I also am the philanthropy chair
for my local Penn State University Alumni Chapter and am involved in planning food
drives and fundraiser events throughout the year.

What aspect of sports nutrition (or any other area of dietetics) interested you
to pursue it as a career?
I have always been athletic and involved in sports throughout my life. In high school,
I changed my diet and noticed a huge difference in my sports performance. Since
experiencing this change first hand, I became fascinated with the science of sports
nutrition and the body. I love learning about fueling the body before, during, and after

Why have you decided to work with athletes or similar groups?
Many times athletes have very busy and demanding schedules, and nutrition
is always put on the back burner. As a dietitian, you can greatly influence an athlete’s
outlook on their health, fitness, performance, and the overall way they feel. We can
simplify nutrition and become a problem solver for any obstacle that may occur.

How do you deal with the daily stresses presented to you in your career?
Stresses in your career ebb and flow all of the time, especially in private practice.
I try to take everything one day at a time.

Prior to getting your credentials, did you have any experience in nutrition
(ie. food service, volunteering, etc.)?
I gained much of my varied experience during my Dietetic Internship. I also
completed the last month of my internship specifically at a private practice.
Prior to my internship, I volunteered at my local hospital, nursing home, and
physical therapy clinic.

What do you love about your career/job?
I love learning the science of sports nutrition and how food can heal your body
and improve your performance. I absolutely enjoy being involved in my clients’
lives on a regular basis and being a positive aspect of their health and fitness

Is there a course you took in undergrad or grad school that has helped
you in your current role?

I truly think that every core course that I took for nutrition and kinesiology has
helped in some way. However, my favorite undergrad course was Sports Nutrition
with Dr. Kris Clark at Penn State. My favorite graduate course was Gastronomy
with Dr. Susan Fisher at Meredith College. Both of these classes and professors
played a huge role in my love for nutrition and how I view food.