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Meet Kristina Cooke of My Seasoned Soul

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristina Cooke.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kristina. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
My first memories of food go way back to my childhood, around the age of three or four. I remember being so small that my eyes couldn’t see over the table. I grew up living with my grandparents, or as I’d call them, my Oma and Ota. They’re German immigrants who grew up in Yugoslavia, and refer to themselves as “Donauschwaben,” or Danube Swabians. My grandmother’s cooking was a mixture of German and Slavic.

My Oma would start cooking dinner at about 9 a.m. every day. I’d scuttle around the kitchen, following her every footstep, tugging her apron, begging her to let me help. “Also, komm,” she’d say. (OK, come!) One of my favorite pictures sums it up perfectly – a picture of me circa 1995, curly sun-bleached hair, pulled back with a neon pink headband and geometric print culottes.

I was standing on a step stool forming faschierte kücheln, fried meat patties served with stewed cabbage and potatoes, thickened with a roux and copious amounts of paprika. By noon, the whole home permeated with a scent that, to this day, makes my heart warm and almost brings tears to my eyes. This is my favorite part about food. Despite my early exposure to distinct flavors, I was still the pickiest kid around.

Most of my diet consisted of spaetzle with butter and garlic salt, microwaved hot dogs, or McDonald’s that I’d sneak off to buy with the quarters I found in my dad’s couch. In high school, my friend convinced me to try out for the dance and drill team with her. I didn’t want to, but obliged. A few years later, I was so in love with the sport that I became one of the captains.

Using my body in this way made me realize that it’s truly a vessel that allows me to do what I love. Nourishing it with wholesome foods that make it run well is a way of showing gratitude for the gift it is. One of the dance instructors was into yoga and holistic health, and from there my love for nutrition kicked off. I graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2015, then headed to Keene, New Hampshire where I completed my dietetic internship in 2017.

In October of 2017, I became a Registered Dietitian. I started a clinical job working in a hospital and realized how much I loved talking to patients, getting into the “nitty-gritty,” as I sometimes say. I realized the best encounters I had with patients would stem from authentic moments, where the patient would open up and tell their story. Just as there are layers to people, there are to our nutrition history.

Having five minutes in a clinical setting isn’t enough, and I decided private practice was for me. Nutrition can heal in so many ways, not just physically. It asks you to take a look at your life and the choices you make for yourself, and this introspection is often a catalyst for incredible life changes that I now have the honor of being a small part of.

I opened my private practice in March of 2018. In my practice, I specialize in diabetes and weight management. I focus on one-on-one nutrition counseling in-person or virtually. I, also, provide lectures, consulting services, and am looking to offer classes. I have been fortunate enough to walk alongside my patients in their healing ever since.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road hasn’t been completely smooth. I underestimated how challenging it can be to run a business – lists that never end, not having an “off button,” and strategizing and re-strategizing for the best outcome.

In this first year, I’ve learned so much! Our nutrition education doesn’t include much about business, despite how many dietitians end up in private practice or running another business of their own. I have to seek this information on my own and take a real honest look at what I’m doing and what I can be doing better.

I’ve learned that having a niche places you as the expert in your area of expertise, and allows you to hone in what you truly love.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the My Seasoned Soul story. Tell us more about the business.
My Seasoned Soul is a business I started in 2018. The story behind the name stems behind, well, my own experiences. Growing up wasn’t easy – there was a lot of toxicity, abuse, addiction, death. There was a time in my life where I felt these experiences set me apart from others, in that I was broken or flawed.

As I got older, I realized that I liked how these things changed me. I was different, but the adversity I faced doesn’t make me broken, I just have a “little extra seasoning,” as I now say. We’ve all gone through shit, and that can be the best gift we’re given, if we so choose. My goal with this business is to help others find their own “seasoning,” if you will.

My goal is to help people work through the hand they’ve been dealt in a healthy way. For so many years, I wasn’t healthy. I numbed my pain. I wasn’t healthy physically, spiritually, emotionally. But nutrition was the starting point where I began to take a true hard look at myself and began to change. Physical health can be a starting point. It can be the tipping point.

You realize, if I can do this, I can do anything. That doesn’t mean meticulously restricting, but having grace with yourself. Learning. I’m most proud of the way I approach nutrition, and the holistic lens I look at the process through, by incorporating the various aspects of health that go beyond the physical.

What sets me apart from others is the empathy and the genuine connection I build with my patients. If it wasn’t through nutrition, I’d be doing it in some other way – as a writer or a therapist. I just know my purpose in life is to help others walk through life and make sense of the difficulties they’ve been through. Compassion is huge, and that’s what I’ll always lead with. Drop the veil of white coat professionalism that separates you from your patients, and be human. I value that, and I think my patients do too.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t believe in luck. I think luck is something we create by our thoughts, choices, and actions. Of course, opportunities present themselves, but the manifestation of the benefit only comes from our choices and actions in the presence of the opportunities gifted to us.

Like I said, I wasn’t always lucky in life. I made a decision and chose to go down a different path that I didn’t think I’d ever have the honor of walking. It’s funny how if you show up for life, life will show up for you. You might not see it at first. It might be a little pin hole opening. But if you’re headstrong on finding that little pin hole and fight hard enough, you’ll see it. I was blessed with a loving family and supportive friends. I wasn’t blessed with courage or fearlessness.

I learned courage, and I’ll always be scared. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do the scariest things you can imagine. Fear and doing difficult things can coexist. That’s where success happens.

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Image Credit:
Jessica Lynn Photography (Jessica Mendoza)

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