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Wendy Brooke

I come by it honestly.  I was walking just shy of 9 months of age. I was born to move.  Growing up, I was content to be in a t-shirt and jeans and took pride in being faster and stronger than the neighborhood boys.  At 10, I found my passion in gymnastics and quickly excelled.  I had the gymnast body type and developed a very muscular physique.  I’ll pause here to comment on an aspect of my past that I think is very important.  Dietitians lose either way – whether they are slender of overweight – due to common misconceptions.  We hear comments like, “Well, if you are overweight, how can you tell me how to lose weight?” or “You’re skinny, you couldn’t possibly understand!”  Well, I can tell you with great confidence that I get it.  I get it because I am a professional, but also because I was a gymnast.  Though I was not ever overweight, I thought that I was because of the multitude of messages I got that said so.  I weighed more and wore a larger jeans size than my peers, many of whom felt the need to advertise that fact. One day, my coach presented a general ideal weight for height chart that was obviously not appropriate for young girls that were so incredibly strong. It said I was 20 pounds overweight.  So, then came the dieting, largely by looking at calories and trying to eat as little as possible while maintaining a rigorous training schedule.  As you can imagine, that was a losing battle with a body that was screaming for protein and calories.  I would be hungry all day at school and then when I got home I was voracious and would lose control and eat too much. Sound familiar?  Fortunately, it never progressed into an eating disorder, but I certainly developed a very unhealthy relationship with food and I fought that into my college years.  I recall the euphoric feeling I had when my weight had gone down a notch or two and the disgust and self-loathing when it came back up. Believe me, I get it.

I’m Danish, so I got too tall for gymnastics, darn it.  But, I have not stopped moving.  I turned to dancing for some time and then discovered mountain biking, way back before it was cool – and before there was any suspension whatsoever!  Being born and raised in Bozeman, Montana, where I was flanked by two incredible ski areas, I took up snowboarding (back when nobody liked us!) Eventually, I also took up telemark skiing and skate skiing, which continue to challenge me to no end. I still do all those activities avidly, but with much greater emphasis on biking, where I been competitive in cross-country, enduro-style downhill and cyclocross racing.  I count myself as fortunate that maintaining a high level of fitness is a part of my being.  But, it still takes a lot of work and dedication.  I, too, am tired after work!

I completed my bachelors of science in food and nutrition at Montana State University and went on to a year-long internship at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, LA (pre-Katrina).  The mountains of the northwest called me back to Montana where I have worked in hospitals as a clinical dietitian working in dialysis, inpatient, outpatient, taught classes, did loads of public speaking, etc, etc.  For the past 13 years or so, I have worked at the Montana VA Healthcare system, doing mostly acute care, which I enjoy very much.  I have learned so much about our veterans and what incredible sacrifices they have made.  I have the utmost respect for them and am fortunate to be able to give back.

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