Today we’d like to introduce you to Juli Keene, BSc, CN.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Juli. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I began my career wanting to be a child psychiatrist. I got my first degree and was working as a mental health technician in a child psychiatric unit and realized how profoundly food was affecting the patients. There was a Dr at that hospital who tried limiting the sugar, artificial coloring and chemical intake of a few of the patients and the change in behavior and mood was profound. My other jobs were for the County of San Mateo teaching DUI offender classes and working with teens in recovery from substance abuse and alcoholism. The director of the clinic I worked at was doing a study on alcoholism and diet changes. She essentially had the multiple offender DUI patients volunteer to quit eating flour, sugar, potatoes and rice and to eat more protein and vegetables. She found that the recidivism rate was much lower for those who cleaned up their diet in this small way. I was getting serious messages that food and diet were a huge part of health, behavior, cognition and mood.
I moved back to Los Angeles and was not sure what I was going to do. I had a few jobs that I liked but they were not my passion. I worked for a non-profit subsidiary of the LA Mayor’s office doing work with the DARE program and LAUSD but the grant ran out and I wanted to stay in the South Bay vs Downtown LA.
I wound up managing a vitamin store in Manhattan Beach CA for some new friends. My family members were early pioneers in the dietary supplement industry back in the late 70s -early 80s. I had always loved learning about herbs, vitamins and nutrition.
I had seen the effects of food on brain chemistry first hand in both of my jobs I was even more convinced that the food we ate held answers to our health and mental health issues. I went back to school to become a clinical nutritionist. I got a strong background in biochemistry, and what was called alternative health at the time, because I really wanted to understand exactly how those foods were influencing behavior and health. I wanted to know how to use diet and targeted nutrition to balance brain chemistry and encourage optimal health. I purposely did not get a degree in dietetics (to become a registered dietitian) because I did not agree with what they were teaching about nutrition. I still do not. I was told I would never work in a hospital without that RD degree but I had already worked in one, and I wanted nothing they had to offer the patients. In fact, the “diets” those RDs came up with are the foods that were making those kids so sick.
For example: green Jello, Coca-Cola, donuts and nitrate-filled bacon for breakfast were being served cafeteria style, to 5 to 10 yr olds in a hospital where they were sent to get help. They were making them sicker! I hardly ever saw anyone get better and stay better. We know now that many of those kids had Autism. We have Dr. Bernard Rimland to thank for the biomedical view of Autism spectrum disorders. I started to follow him early on, as well as Dr. Mary Ann Block who went to medical school to fix her 7-year-old daughter who was horribly reactive to foods and chemicals. It was not easy to follow thought leaders like these, in a pre-internet world. We used snail mail and phone. Dr. Block sent me a VHS tape of her daughter reacting to foods and that was when I knew I had to learn how to help somehow. I managed that Vitamin Store and went to school every night until I had 2 more degrees and became a licensed, certified nutritionist.
I interned with a couple of local dietitians who were more nutrition-minded and one nutritionist, and with my prior counseling and mental health experience, started my private practice in 1996 in Manhattan Beach Ca. I began to work with children with autism and I volunteered my time to work with drug addicted men from a local halfway home. They were all in early recovery and really appreciated the help with mood balancing using diet, nutrients and amino acids. Programs like AA are amazing, but they encourage sugar, cookies etc. to newly recovering people and while that is OK when you are detoxing from severe and chronic alcohol use, it’s not good nutrition for people who are already detoxed and trying to stay sober. Alcohol is basically sugar and many alcoholics and addicts go on to have serious food addictions long into sobriety.
I had some issues around eating and anxiety in my early 20’s and I found a therapist up in SF area who was using diet and aminos to help patients with eating disorders and mood issues like anxiety and depression. I took a few seminars she was giving and they were life changing! She later wrote the book The Mood Cure in 2002. Julia Ross was another pioneer whom I was so lucky to cross paths with. I also met a teacher and mentor of mine Dr. Harry Eidenier around the mid-90s. Dr. Harry taught me to really read blood chemistry in a way that we can figure out what is optimal for each patient. I was using blood chemistry analysis back in the 90s to help figure out exactly what each patient’s bio-individual needs were and what they needed. This is commonplace today, but back then my patient’s would say I was the first healthcare practitioner to ever explain their blood tests and how the values related to their diet and lifestyle. I was able to find things that primary doctors missed and (after double checking with Dr. Harry) I would send them back to have a liver ultrasound for example.
I have worked for the past 22 years in private practice and have had the privilege and pleasure of working with so many amazing people! I have worked with huge corporations and school districts helping them to create the best wellness and nutrition programs. I have worked with everything from Autism, to weight loss to athletes or celebrities getting ready for a movie role, tour, fight or match, so now I work with a lot of patients with chronic illness by helping them to fine tune that nutrition component. I believe that nutrition is actually the foundation of healing. If your diet is not healthy, you will not get well and stay well. I continue to work with natural mood balance and to help those in recovery from food and substance addictions. I also work with a lot of families with young kids. I think parents forget that they are in charge of healthy eating. I help families to reclaim and calm table and get their picky kids to eat healthy foods. We have to teach our kids what healthy eating is. With all the environmental toxins these days, they can’t afford not to be eating the best they can.
I am so happy to see that nutrition has become a trendy thing in the past 5 to 10 years! People are waking up to the value of eating well and I am ecstatic about it. A huge issue for me has always been the ridiculous amount of power that the food industries (I call them the junk food industries) have over the nutrition education guidelines in the United States. The food industry has been selling us lies about what a healthy diet means for decades. With the internet, we are finally getting some truth in this area. I grew up with television commercials being the only “education” we got about what we should eat. There were some government guidelines at the time like the Four Food Groups and later The Food Pyramid but they are both so biased and flawed. Still today, our kids are told that McDonald’s’ Happy Meals are they way to go. They are literally called “Happy Meals”
Today, the media is internet instead of always TV, the kids are still being taught the wrong information. Companies like this prey on our children. No wonder we have a childhood obesity epidemic in the US. This is where I have been putting more of my energy outside of seeing patients. Food guidelines. This is where most unhealthy eating habits start. Food companies, diet programs and people who write diet books all greatly benefit from the consumer being confused. There is finally a good book on food that I can recommend after all these years in practice. It’s called FOOD: “What the heck should I eat?” by Dr. Mark Hyman.
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?
It has not always been smooth, it was rough being one of the first nutritionists in LA when being a registered dietitian was the status quo. I was told I would not be successful by a dietetics professor at one of the local colleges. Ironically enough she has never practiced and quit teaching 15 yrs ago.
Twenty-two years ago, nutrition and eating healthy were not as well accepted as they are today. People who knew me, knew how clinically minded I am and I am a fairly serious person, so I think that helped me in building my practice and a following. It was a little rough having my daughter when my business was around 5 years old. Finding the balance between motherhood and entrepreneurship was a real struggle. Being a new mom was rocky for me. I had always defined myself but the things I did; I went to school, I got straight As, I exercised, I rode horses, I worked with my patients etc., and then suddenly it was like the rug was pulled out from under me. I can’t explain the feeling I had better than that. It was like the best feeling ever, combined with some of the worst feelings ever. all at once and intermittently. I had always prided myself on the illusion that I was in control of my life. Early motherhood shattered those illusions quickly.
The draw to stay home and be with my baby was so much stronger than I ever imagined it could be. I did not want to leave her with anyone, and since my husband is also a business owner, I had to make some hard choices. My daughter spent a lot of time in my clinic, doing her homework, drawing and I enjoyed having her around. I used childcare but only when I really had to. Maybe my business did not grow as fast as it would have, but my child has grown into an amazing teenager. Most of my long-standing patients know and love Emma and it I have no regrets about the way I chose to do my mothering. Can we have it all? I am not sure, but we can make compromises that work for us.
The other struggles were about being a small business owner. Luckily, I did not have an inflated sense of entitlement. I have always been willing to do whatever I have to do to pay bills and reach my goals. Being new at anything means you have to be willing to learn, and willing to set aside your ego. I took side jobs whenever I needed to. If I had not taken that $8 an hour vitamin clerk job back in the early 90’s who knows if I would even be a nutritionist now. I took that job, even with a college degree and few good jobs on my resume, because I was interested in it. I did my job and took it seriously. When the owners of that store needed a manager they asked me, and instead of a big paycheck, they helped me pay for the rest of my school to become a Nutritionist. I made just enough to live, with roommates, by the beach, and I worked full-time and went to school at night. I found a way to get to my goals. My best advice for new nutritionists is to research your schooling. Don’t sign up for these myriad of “health coaching” schools just because you hate your job and want to be your own boss.
In my opinion, these programs are the multi-level marketing scams of the decade. They are selling you the idea that you will graduate after a few months or years and be able to fix people’s nutrition, health and life problems. The truth is you have to put your dues in. And while I realize the old paradigms about everyone needing a college education do not always apply these days, I am a strong believer that healthcare practitioners (even allied healthcare practitioners as coaches are being called) need to have some real, health-related college behind them. There has to be some kind of method that people seeking health care have to know if this person they hire is qualified or not. School is part of it. I got my foundation in school and the rest was volunteering to work with patients for free and reduced fees in the early days, and finding and working with mentors and putting in the time to get the experience. No school will give you clinical experience, nor will clinical experience make up for lack of foundation. You need to have a science background to be an effective nutritionist. This issue comes down to a problem with regulation of nutrition professionals and it’s a very unregulated field right now. If you are looking for a Nutritionist to work with, look for real university credentials in a science, and functional nutrition or functional medicine training. Having a lot of followers on Instagram or Facebook does not qualify someone to give nutrition and health advice.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Juli Keene, CN Licensed Clinical Nutritionist aka Nutrition Solutions – what should we know?
I probably covered all of this in the first paragraph. I work with complicated biomedical issues like autism, ADHD, alcoholism and mood balance. As well as patients with chronic illness like chronic fatigue also called CFS/ME and Lyme disease, as well as weight loss, diabetes, hypothyroid, kidney or gallstones, mineral balance issues, pediatric nutrition, cancer and metabolic issues. I do advanced specialty lab testing and work with many of the integrative doctors in LA. What sets me apart is my education and experience, as well as the fact that I was one of the first clinical nutritionists in Los Angeles.
We’re interested to hear your thoughts on female leadership – in particular, what do you feel are the biggest barriers or obstacles?
Nutritionists in the US are at least 70% female, if not more. I don’t think this is as big of an issue for my industry. I am not sure why. I now see more males going to school to do this but it has traditionally been more women than men. I have noticed a few millennial based “healthy” food companies, trendy stuff, like mushroom products and things where the executives and owners are all men and then they have these women that look like models in the assistant positions. This is patriarchal and silly to me, and I don’t support companies like this. I personally feel there are no barriers to women leading in this field as long as we decide we are going to like I did.
Women are the nurturers most of the time and we have traditionally been the ones who nourish and feed our families. I think that the issues we have with food corporations deciding what our family’s eat, will stop when mothers get involved with issues like transparency in food packaging, transparency in food studies and stop supporting companies and government officials who don’t do everything they can to stop GMOs, plastics, additives and pesticides like glyphosate from getting into our foods. We, mothers and women have to lead the way. The men will follow eventually. It’s already started.
- Address: 1007 N Sepulveda Blvd #441
Manhattan Beach, CA 90267
- Website: www.julikeene.com
- Phone: 310-503-0592
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