Hi everyone! I’m starting a blog series interviewing various eating disorder professionals in the San Diego area. I’m beginning with one of my favorite eating disorder dietitians to work with in San Diego—Dr. Megan Holt Hellner, RD. She and I have collaborated on many client cases, and she is conscientious, caring, compassionate, and thorough. One thing I love about Megan is that she has two advanced degrees in public health, and so she is especially good at working with people with challenging physical aliments. She also specializes in working with athletes.
Megan went to undergrad in nutrition at San Diego State University (SDSU). Her dietetic internship was also at SDSU. She has a masters in public health (MPH) in epidemiology (study of disease transmission) at SDSU. She also has a doctorate in public health from Loma Linda University. Her office is in Mission Valley, San Diego.
Why did you choose to become an eating disorder specialist in San Diego?
I became an RDN (Registered Dietitian) in 2002, and was much more interested in eating behavior at that time (versus ‘nuts and bolts’ of nutrition, though that was also important to understand prior to working with clients). It felt like a natural fit for me. I decided to focus on eating disorders/the intersection of nutrition and mental health during my internship, and the folks at Sharp Mesa Vista (shout out to Dr. Elise Curry, Dr. Santangello and RDN extraordinaire, Kelly Hunziker) were kind enough to take a chance on me. I was able to work with their ED population, and took a per diem position there when I became licensed.
What kind of treatment do you provide?
I work with an amazing group of clinicians at Potentia Family Therapy in Mission Valley, San Diego, which is led by Rebecca Bass-Ching. We offer outpatient therapy, though the therapists offer the occasional workshop or weekend intensive. As far as my work with clients, we begin with an assessment and follow up fairly regularly, depending upon needs. I tend to lean heavily on nutrition education, though experiential exercises are often a fundamental part of our work as well. Examples of that include grocery store outings, mindful/intuitive eating exercises, challenge meal outings/exposures, etc.
Do you only work with eating disorders?
I work with other issues in addition to eating disorders in San Diego. Early on in my work with the eating disorder population, I noticed that I was seeing a ton of athletes, and it became important for me to understand their unique needs and priorities. So I’ve been specializing in sports nutrition for nearly as long as disordered eating. I also worked in clinical nutrition (mainly at Scripps Green) for nearly ten years, and I really enjoy working with people who are struggling with issues that are more clinical in nature, such as diabetes, heart disease/high cholesterol, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s, etc. Nutrition interventions are often crucial for proper management of these issues.
How long have you been working with eating disorders overall, and how long have you been in San Diego?
I’ve been working in the ED field since 2003, and I’ve been living in sunny San Diego since 1997.
Who are your favorite types of clients to work with?
I love working with clients who are motivated to progress and make changes, regardless of how small. I especially enjoy working with clients who have a special interest in learning about nutrition and food science, and those who appreciate an evidence-based perspective. I am not going to be the best person to coach you through the ketogenic diet, for example. =)
What happens during a first appointment with you?
The first session will involve a lot of data gathering so I can conduct a thorough assessment. I pose many questions pertaining to health history, relationship with food/body/exercise, client’s treatment goals, hydration, sleep hygiene and eating behaviors, for starters. I also like to review blood work records, and food journals, if available. I hope to be able to begin to formulate at least the beginnings of a treatment plan by the session’s end, though often I like to first coordinate care with the other members of the client’s support team (psychotherapist, family members, significant other, physician, etc.). After that, we’ll devise a meal plan if needed, or I’ll work on getting together any other supporting materials that will help guide the client toward recovery, or a better place of health.
What do you wish people knew about getting treatment for eating disorders?
I wish people better understood the seriousness and pervasive nature of eating disorders, and I certainly wish these issues weren’t glamorized. It’s too easy to minimize the signs and symptoms, yet early intervention can be vital to one’s recovery and mitigating the consequences in terms of negative health outcomes. In our society, we applaud efforts to eat healthfully, and it can be challenging to recognize when your loved one has taken this to an extreme.
How can people learn more and contact you?
Share one fun fact about you:
My family is Australian, and we all seem to share an extreme love for animals, and a passion for animal welfare. =)
Thanks so much for reading my blog! Have a wonderful week! :)
If you are struggling to find eating disorder treatment in San Diego, give me a call for your free 15-minute phone consultation at (858) 699-3754, and I will help you get where you need to be!