Hayley first imagined herself becoming a veterinarian, and then a surgeon. But, witnessing family members struggle with chronic medical issues related to their diet, she was ultimately inspired to become a dietitian.
When Hayley was in middle school, her grandfather began experiencing chest pains. His physician told him it was nothing serious. Three days after the pains began, he went to the ER. They told him he had had a massive heart attack, and speculated that balanced eating throughout his life would have made a difference. Eight years later, he passed away from congestive heart failure. Hayley asserts: “That solidified for me that nutrition was the way I wanted to go in school.”
Hayley dealt with health struggles related to diet herself. She engaged in disordered eating behaviors in college, and experienced negative body image for years afterwards. Her personal healing journey from these struggles now influences her work as dietitian and therapist: “I draw from my own recovery when I work with clients. I like to work with them on body image, self-esteem, self-acceptance, independence, setting goals, and taking ownership over where you want to go in your life, relying less on other people’s evaluations of you…” — all things she worked through with herself.
After graduating college with a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics, Hayley got her RD and then pursued a Master’s degree in counseling and eventually became a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Her studies supported her professional development as well as her recovery: “The more that I learned, the better off I was with my own recovery. I allowed my body to work for me.” Her dietetic training showed her “how nutrition doesn’t have to be black and white, how meal plans are different for different people,” which not only concretized her recovery but also laid the groundwork for her philosophy as a provider.
Hayley began work as a dietitian in a nursing home as a dietitian and as a therapist in a drug and alcohol program for addicts who had served time in jail for drug offenses. Then she dove into the world of eating disorder recovery, first as a dietitian for an intensive outpatient program and, once licensed, as a therapist at Renfrew’s partial and evening programs in Connecticut. Today, Hayley serves as the Assistant Director of Nutrition and Director of Care Coordination at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists, and recently opened a private nutrition practice in New York City.
As a dietitian, Hayley is committed to offering a nuanced and educational perspective on how nutrition works to her clients: “I like to give them information they can rely on, that’s accurate for them, because that helped me.” For example, she explains how the metabolism works, that everyone’s metabolism is different, and that all foods are okay. In eating disorder treatment, Hayley has found that what works best is “teaching clients more about nutrition, how to forgive their body, and to not see all bodies as the same.”
Health at Every Size is a movement that celebrates body diversity and challenges unrealistic body ideals promoted by the media. Hayley utilizes this paradigm in her work, and challenges common misconceptions that being a larger size means you will get high cholesterol or diabetes. She finds clients are hungering for alternative and inclusive perspectives on body and health: “They appreciate learning that research does not support the idea that you’ll only be healthy if you’re very thin.”
Positive body image advocacy is a priority for Hayley in her work and in her life. She loves coming up with body image exposures for clients, to offer alternative self-perceptions to what the media promotes. She constantly brainstorms: “How can we add different perspectives–from other countries and cultures–into the support we provide clients?”
Hayley feels excited about the creativity that EDRS fosters in their unique and wide-ranging approach to eating disorder treatment. She aspires to make art therapy more prominent as a healing modality: “I want to strengthen our art and expressive therapy program.” She loves feeling encouraged to “take my clinical experience and create a program from it. I really enjoy program planning, coming up with things that–as a recovered professional–worked for me. I enjoy being on the ground floor of a company that can bridge the gap between the eating disorder and recovery.”
If you or someone you know might be struggling with an eating disorder, contact EDRS. We are here to assist in your journey to recovery.