Leigh Delavan Joins the VIDA Nutrition Team!
Living in a city like DC, it can be tricky sticking to a clean diet with things like post-work happy hours and boozy brunches popping up all over the place. How else are you supposed to catch up with friends, other than over mimosas and pancakes on Sunday mornings? Luckily our new Registered Dietitian Leigh Delavan is a pro at balancing a jam-packed social life AND maintaining a healthy, clean diet while doing so!
Leigh grew up in Annapolis, MD, and is excited to return to the DC area after completing her education at schools all over the country. Her interest in fitness was sparked in high school, after years of playing field hockey and lacrosse. She realized she wasn’t into competitive sports as much as she was into her gym routine and community, and eventually started working the front desk at the Merritt in Annapolis.
“Working at the Merritt is where I was first exposed to a dietitian and what their job entailed. It was a very fun, supportive community that set the bar pretty high for any environment I’d want to work in again. Through that job, I realized how supportive the fitness community can be—something that I’ve now found at VIDA,” says Leigh.
After graduating high school, Leigh went on to the University of Pittsburgh where she explored a few different majors before settling on Nutrition & Dietetics. She dabbled in both anthropology and pre-law, but neither of them seemed like the right fit for her.
“When I was struggling with ‘what I should be when I grow up’ my mom gave me the advice to major in what you enjoy learning about in your free time. To me that was nutrition!” she says.
She finished up her B.S. in Nutrition & Dietetics at University of Pittsburgh in 2012, where she also served as the Vice President of the Student Dietetic Association and as a tour guide for the university. The next step was starting an internship program, which she decided to do in conjunction with a Master’s program at the University of Arkansas.
After her internship, and while working on graduate school credits, she worked full time at a children’s hospital and then at a weight loss clinic as their nutrition specialist.
“It was a pretty busy time in my life! At one point, I was taking 12 credits, working 45 hours a week and doing an internship. I didn’t have a lot of free time,” she laughs.
The hard work paid off though, and she received her M.S. this past April. When applying for jobs, she knew she wanted to find the type of environment she loved so much at Merritt again, and says she has found all that and more at VIDA!
“As soon as I saw the job posting I knew it was the job for me. It’s a young, hip and most importantly supportive community that’s always adapting to current trends. As soon as I was offered the job I packed up my Uhaul, drove across the country and moved to DC! This is my dream job and I’m very happy to be here,” she says.
As the new designated dietitian for Metropole, Leigh is excited about sharing her approach to nutrition with our members. She focuses on creating feasible long-term goals that work with a busy social life, rather than against it.
Let’s face it, we’re all going to end up at a bottomless brunch at some point, staring at a menu offering countless ways to consume three days worth of calories in one sitting. Leigh specializes in navigating that menu – so you can make healthy choices while still enjoying the experience with your friends! (Hint: her brunch go-to is eggs benedict with no hollandaise – even better if they can make it eggs florentine – and skipping the carbs on the side when you can!)
“I don’t expect an unrealistic lifestyle change with my clients. I like to meet them where they’re at, and try to encourage small, manageable changes. I’ll pull up the menu for the bar they’re going to later, and help them find the best option to order. If they’re going out drinking 3-4 times a week, I’ll see if we can cut it down to one, or at least cut back on number of drinks per outing. I know people aren’t going to stop going to happy hour, so I try to set realistic goals,” says Leigh.
She also knows that while many people have the best intentions for making good food choices, they simply don’t have the time to meal prep or grocery shop.
“I know that some of my clients just really can’t make a weekly grocery store trip. I’ll see if there’s at least a Trader Joe’s they can stop in on their way to work or home, or help them with menu options at the places they eat out at the most,” she says.
As for Leigh’s go-to meals, she says there’s nothing better than cooking at home. Her staples that she recommends always having in the fridge include plain greek yogurt (Faye 2% is her fave,) frozen vegetables (or fresh, if you can go through them fast enough!) and apples. She also loves string cheese and raw almonds for snacking throughout the day, and encourages you to opt for wine when happy hour-ing.
“I’m all about creating plans for my clients that will last long-term, even if it means allowing for a little more freedom. If it’s not realistic, it’s not helpful,” she says.
When she’s not meeting with clients or finding healthy brunches with friends, Leigh enjoys game nights, hiking, exploring the outdoors and cycling (you can find her teaching a few classes on the group fitness schedule too!)
Leigh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by her office next to the PT desk on the second floor to chat. We encourage all of our Metropole members to schedule a Nutrition Fit with Leigh if you haven’t yet, and join us in welcoming her to the VIDA family!