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Chat with the Experts: Amy LaFalce, RDN

I met Amy back in 2019. She was one of the first neighborhood runners to sign up for a new group class I was offering. I was a novice coach testing the waters, and Amy, like many formerly serious runners (she once completed a 16-mile training run in 6-degree temps), was looking to rediscover her running mojo after injury (and three kids!). Many seasons later, she is one of the most consistent – and upbeat – members of this group, and I can pretty confidently say that she has not only rediscovered her running groove, but also forged some lasting friendships. And I’m no longer a novice but a grizzled grinch 😊.

Amy also happens to be a registered dietitian nutritionist who works at Virginia Tech – impressive credentials and especially relevant in today’s wellness-focused society. I thus thought Amy would make the perfect first victim – I mean….willing participant – for the “Chat with the Experts” blog series.


While Amy isn’t currently working directly with clients, she is happy to help readers find a qualified nutrition professional to meet their needs. If you’re interested in connecting with Amy, I’ve included her information at the bottom of the article. But you have to join her on a run before she’ll answer your questions 😊.


Tell us about how you got into the field of nutrition.

I found the field of nutrition and dietetics somewhat by accident. I started off as a biology major in college. When I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, I looked for something else that sounded interesting to me. That’s when I discovered the kinesiology department where I found classes such as human anatomy, physiology, and introduction to nutrition. So I graduated with a bachelor of science in kinesiology. Then I learned that becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist would give me the most job prospects if I wanted to work specifically in the nutrition field. To earn the “RDN” credential I had to complete another degree in nutrition and dietetics, finish a 1200+ hour internship, and pass a national exam. To maintain the credential, I have to meet continuing education requirements just like any other licensed healthcare professional. I’ve been a dietitian now for 17 years. I’ve worked in a hospital with adults and infants on tube feeding and IV nutrition, at a university health center, in consultation with sports teams and individual clients, and presently as a faculty member at Virginia Tech.


Why do you feel your area of expertise is important for others?

There is so much misinformation floating around about nutrition. It’s hard for many people to know what is credible and what isn’t. Also, nutrition science is quite nuanced. Research teaches us new things every day, and at the same time, demonstrates how much we still don’t know. I think that’s an exciting thing about the field of nutrition. But it also means that you shouldn’t listen to anyone who claims to have all the answers.

What is one thing you think people don’t know or understand about RDs? Registered dietitian nutritionists are NOT the food police! Specific foods do not have moral value so there shouldn’t be any judgment about what someone does or doesn’t eat. You are never being “good” or “bad” based on your food choices, whether that’s a kale salad or a cupcake. It’s true that food, and more specifically, your dietary pattern, is an important component of health and wellbeing, but it’s just one small sliver of the big picture. And the dietary pattern that works best for you may be different than what’s best for someone else. Isn’t that liberating?


What is the biggest mistake you see people make with their diets?

Under-fueling is common, especially among active women. Sometimes it is an intentional yet maladaptive strategy to try to lose weight, but often it is completely unintentional. Regardless of the intent, under-fueling results in low energy availability which can lead to chronic fatigue, poor sleep quality, reduced sports performance, delayed recovery, more frequent injuries, reduced immune function, and a host of other symptoms. Nutrition and energy balance are so much more complicated than “calories in versus calories out”.


What is the biggest challenge you see for people wanting to make positive changes in their diets? Many people see nutrition (or exercise) as an “all or nothing” endeavor. But it doesn’t have to be that way at all. Whether your goal is to add more fruits and vegetables into your regular routine, build muscle, reduce your risk of diabetes, or eat more family meals, it’s important to work toward that goal at your own pace through small steps that feel manageable to you. Small changes make a big difference over time! And small changes are the ones you’ll keep long term.


Amy LaFalce, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Northern Virginia Director, Internship in Nutrition and Dietetics

Virginia Tech

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