Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Hnat.
Jennifer, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Discovering how food impacts the mind, body, and spirit has always fascinated me. My initial connect-the-dots moment that jump-started my personal health journey was in high school when I first discovered the varying effects of food on my energy levels. The powerful revelation, albeit a depressing discovery, was observing how fruit provided cleaner and longer lasting energy than my favorite Toaster Strudel. After taking a fundamental food class at UGA I switched majors to ideally pursue a career in nutrition. It made sense because I was a bit obsessed with learning how food affected how my body functioned. But as a social college student with unchecked depression, I experimented with what I was learning in class while struggling to strike the elusive balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. Healers heal thyself, right?
So clearly I was not on the same mindful trajectory as I am today. I tried a lot of different diets. I flirted with some unhealthy habits and food beliefs. My diet evolved from vegetarian to vegan (13 years!), to devout raw food with detoxing and cleansing to the nth degree. I just never realized I could feel so good in my body! My ultimate goal was to tap into optimal health, natural energy, balance, and peace. Looking back now I recognize that I had to experiment with a variety of food lifestyles to see what stuck and made sense to me, my nutrition goals, lifestyle, and biochemistry. Finding your personal sustainable health and nutrition lifestyle takes some time to explore before you can establish what is right for you. And that can change with certain life events like college graduation, marriage, pregnancy, child raising, career changes, loss of loved ones or divorce. We all struggle. It’s part of the human condition. But if you can become aware of your choices, and why you eat certain things, or not, learn why you do the things you do, magic can happen and you can start to heal and truly live.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my journey. It is exactly what I was supposed to endure to build compassion for myself and those who are wrestling with the process of creating a healthier relationship with food and their body. Building better habits takes time and patience with a healthy dose of evidence-based nutritional advice from a clinical professional like a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. After my extensive education, I must advocate for my profession. There is a significant difference, emphasis on significant, between a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a “nutritionist.” Dietitians go through rigorous formal education similar to pre-med, a competitive clinical internship and passing a national exam before becoming a dietitian. Just like any other clinical position, we must complete continuing professional accredited education to maintain our credentials. This is not even a problem since my love for nutrition and education will never die. I can’t imagine NOT learning and evolving personally and professionally.
My ever-present entrepreneurial spirit drove me to build a private practice while working in clinical settings like Shepherd Center and Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Bariatrics. Eventually, it got to a point where my private practice required my full-time effort and I’ve never looked back. It’s both rewarding and stressful but great to be my own boss.
I’ve created an online Mindful Eating program that helps clients build a healthier relationship with food and their body. I just finished a month-long program with a group of bariatric patients and they were blown away with their results. In fact, about 80% said they were disappointed that it ended because they learned so much about themselves and their relationship with food. Even though it wasn’t a diet and people ate what they wanted, participants easily lost 2-7 pounds over the course of the month because we focused on cultivating more awareness with how what and why they were eating. I’m very excited to move forward with creating more online programs to support optimal health and wellness to reach people everywhere, not just in Atlanta.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My path has definitely HNAT been a smooth road (my last name is pronounced “not” so I like to have fun with it). When I initially studied nutrition the only option was to work in a hospital or food service, neither of which wasn’t my ideal situation, so I graduated with a degree in Consumer Foods. I found myself in retail sales and management followed by a lucrative career in television sales before looping back around to nutrition.
I went back to school to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist later in life because I lacked the discipline and tenacity as an undergraduate. Dietetics is a highly competitive field and when I went back, I had a different level of dedication and motivation. Perhaps my biggest challenge was going back to school full-time, commuting to UGA from Atlanta, working, and having a home life. It wasn’t very balanced because my free time was spent studying and I lost touch with a lot of friends. But my focus was on the end goal and once I make up my mind about something, it’s a done deal. So establishing balance was a struggle but now that I have my nutrition and healthy lifestyle firmly established, it’s one less thing I have to concern myself with. That took awhile to figure out and root into a daily routine, but I’m grateful for the journey because I can help others navigate that seemingly impossible destination.
Please tell us about Nutrition Atlanta.
Nutrition Atlanta is a private nutrition counseling practice with a focus on the whole person, body, mind, and spirit, not just a symptom like diabetes or weight gain. My focus is to understand each client and their ultimate wellness goals from an emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual perspective so that I can guide them to the finish line using evidence-based information in a way that best supports them on every possible level. We go deep during appointments. I”m not afraid to ask the big questions so that we can really get into the flow of doing the necessary work together. Most people don’t realize how bad they feel. My goal is to introduce them to a level of health they may have never thought was attainable.
Because I struggled with food sensitivities for decades before identifying them, I specialize in digestive disorders that range from seemingly insignificant constipation (which is a problem that can lead to more serious GI complications), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colitis, Crohn’s, SIBO, and of course food intolerances. I love giving the GI tract what it needs from a nutrition standpoint so that it functionals optimally and clients heal internally and function optimally, have more energy and feel better in their skin.
Helping clients find their level of wellness is what drives me and gives me joy. I take the journey with them at a pace that is comfortable and do-able for them, not me. I educate, encourage and motivate each person to make their health a priority because you cannot put a price on it and once you have increased your quality of life, it’s a no-brainer and self-care becomes a must!
I’m most proud about the wellness accomplishments of my clients since they are the ones doing all the work!
What sets me apart from others is that for several decades I have cultivated a great blend of compassion, wisdom, and intuition regarding health and wellness. I’ve been on the weight loss battlefield and have scars to prove it. I’ve had to give up dairy and gluten to honor my digestive tract and health while my former toxic lifestyle and choices taunt me, hoping I’ll return. But I”m firmly established in my mindful eating habits and leading by example for my clients so they can see that living a balanced, healthy life is not only possible but imperative. Health care is expensive but health IS wealth!
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Of course, I naturally default to food since I have built a career around it! One of my favorite food memories was building kitchen confidence by making popovers from scratch that my whole family raved about and always requested! I hope everyone encourages their children to help with the prep process and getting them involved with their food.
- Address: 1801 Peachtree Street NE
Suite 250 Atlanta, GA 30309
- Website: www.nutritionatlanta.com