Alumnae/i Feature

Heather Zeman '19MS Empowers People with Intuitive Eating and Sports Nutrition

Tell me about the kind of work that you do.

I wear a few hats, which I love. My primary role is nutrition counseling at an interdisciplinary practice called Back Bay Health, where I empower athletes and active adults to blend principles of intuitive eating with intentional, performance-focused fueling. We are usually working through some combination of disordered eating patterns, health conditions, and digestive ailments while establishing fueling strategies for everything from recreational running to triathlons to powerlifting competitions. Ultimately, I teach my patients to nourish their bodies without following strict diets or short-lived plans. I mostly work with patients one-on-one, but I also have the privilege of hosting group workshops and presentations. My goal is always to give each person the tools they need to feel well in their bodies now and long-term.

And, starting this fall, I will be teaching an introductory nutrition course as an adjunct professor at Rhode Island College. I became a registered dietitian after my first 10-year career in university admission counseling, so returning to higher education and having the opportunity to work with future career professionals is beyond fulfilling to me.

How did you become interested in working in this area?

I studied biology as an undergraduate and was always intrigued by the bigger picture of wellness. I did not want to go to medical school, and an elective course sparked my interest in food and movement as important factors in health. When I began working in admission counseling and traveling on recruitment trips, I found myself having more fun figuring out how to prioritize my health by finding ways to prioritize my own nutrition and exercise routines. So, I returned to school to become a registered dietitian, knowing the entire time that I would pivot from counseling students to counseling fellow adults in this way. Being able to do so at Back Bay Health with like-minded practitioners is a dream come true.

Alum Heather Zeman sitting at desk talking with another person

How did Simmons prepare you to become a leader in your field?

I completed my DPD, my master's in Nutrition, my dietetic internship, and my certificate in sports nutrition with Simmons. I owe my strengths as a clinician, counselor, and future educator to these programs. Simmons challenged me to explore different pockets of the field. I was able to try things on for size, connect with a variety of professionals, and feel confident moving forward after graduation. As the only dietitian on my team, I am proud to show up every day as an ambassador to the field and the institution.

Were there any particular Simmons faculty members who inspired you?

I can't name one without naming them all! Every professor I interacted with at Simmons became a mentor to me. The advisors on my published research showed me how to read and write research papers. The internship program directors helped me make decisions that would impact the rest of my career and the rest of my life. Professors within the program taught me how to be a good clinician. It really goes on and on.

For example, Dr. Elizabeth Metallinos-Katsaras and Dr. Rachele Pojednic guided me through the wild process of conducting and publishing my first research paper. Dr. Lisa Brown and Dr. Sharon Gallagher expertly advised me on professional decisions that would impact my future career. I have metabolism concepts taught by Dr. Teresa Fung ingrained in my memory, and I still reference Dr. Kathrina Prelack's medical nutrition therapy text. I owe many of my clinical abilities to Professor Kate Walker, who quickly turned the spring 2020 "Virtual Hospital" into one of the most meaningful learning experiences of my internship year. My list could go on. All of this is to say that I am the provider that I am because of my Simmons professors.

Do you have any advice for current students wanting to pursue a similar path?

Say yes to new opportunities, networking events, and professional development programs. I feel strongly about this regardless of the intended path. Even if opportunities don't seem immediately relevant to you, you don't know until you try. The more exposure you get, the more certain, experienced, and well-rounded you'll be when you do pursue your goals. I also highly recommend introducing yourself and connecting with dietitians in your niche of interest. Some of my greatest growth moments and new career opportunities have come from simply reaching out and saying, "Hi, I'd love to learn more about you."

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