I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Amy Ruth Finegold [Penn ‘02] to learn more about her personal and professional journey through the nutrition jungle. I first met Amy Ruth at the November 2015 Trustee’s Council of Penn Women conference where she was sitting next to me at the opening lunch. When you first meet Amy Ruth, you are struck by her quiet elegance – she’s fair, blond and fine-boned, and she moves with a gentle grace that I always secretly envied because it is so calming and innate. She introduced herself then as a cookbook author studying to become a nutritional therapist and we talked about what that meant and how she arrived at the profession. Amy Ruth has continued to advance her practice since then and shared some great insights and what she’s hoping to achieve.
What made you start your practice?
I struggled as a child with poor digestion that led to incredibly low energy and various other health issues. I wasn’t able to find many resources on how to help myself and had to do a lot of self-discovery on the remedies that made a difference. Medication was the only option offered to me. It wasn’t working and I felt like it wasn’t the right solution. Once I found natural and biologically based solutions, I worked to refine them. While in London, I created my own gluten-free baking mix made of superfood grains and seeds and wanted to share those with others. I ended up distributing to Whole Foods, local stores and as I did so, I met more and more people who needed support as they made healthier food choices for themselves and their families.
More recently, I wrote a cookbook titled Super Grains & Seeds: Wholesome ways to enjoy super foods every day to share my favorite recipes that make good food choices easy for everyone to cook and delicious to enjoy. For me, the passion to help people has further led me to become certified as a nutritional therapist. This has allowed me to tie together all of my knowledge, from the underlying biology and chemistry to how to coach them to make the changes that will create a life where food truly nourishes and does not hinder their experiences. I take a functional and holistic approach to nutrition and wellness.
What’s been the most challenging part?
To have a successful business, especially one where you are the brand and the service, you have to spend some of your time marketing and packaging your service. What I love most about my practice is working with my clients, so it makes these other elements (working on my website, social media presence, packaging and pricing) a lot harder to prioritize. If given the choice, I’ll always spend more time on working through what a client needs over my business needs.
What advice would you give someone who is toying with the idea of becoming an entrepreneur?
Similar to the most challenging part, they need to be prepared to juggle multiple things and not let one thing ruin your day. Like any big project, there is often more than one goal and more than one way to achieve each them. For me, the most important thing I can do to allow myself to manage it all is to know how to shut it off so that I can rest. When I was manufacturing my baking mix in London, it was much harder to create rest time because the product had to be physically made and distributed on a schedule. In a consulting business, which is what I do now, it’s much easier to schedule my time and still meet the needs of my clients.
I know, you must be thinking, so what do you do? There isn’t much mystery to my method – it’s all about simple, but consistent strategies. For example, my husband and I don’t have any serious conversations after 8:30pm. It is important to reduce stimulation early enough in the evening so that you can decompress. I also try to prioritize and segment my days: some days are work days, some days are kids days. As a wife and mother everyone wants you. The only one who can create the structure you need is you. Setting rules about when and where you tackle each task, including rest, will make a big difference in your productivity.
What is your next big move?
More recently, I’ve been called in by producers at some major TV networks to be a nutritional expert on timely topics like how to pack a healthy lunch. My practice is still my first priority, but I would love to be a network TV consultant. My passion is helping as many people as possible get the nutritional information they need and TV has a tremendous reach. There is so much information that is still not widely known and I would love to help increase that awareness. We need to help parents understand that food may be the culprit as they try to work through what is driving erratic or bad behavior in their kids. For example, most parents don’t realize that sugar is poison and that fats, especially healthy fats are not the enemy. As a result, they are making food choices for their children that can result in more than 30g of sugar being ingested in one sitting. By making relatively simple changes, parents can make an immediate positive impact on their children’s lives. For example, there is evidence that that ketogenic diets can reduce seizures and yet most parents aren’t aware of this as an option. I can give so many more examples, but the key is broad level education and TV is an excellent way for me to reach a wider audience and help that education movement.
What do you consider your super power? And how did you discover it?
I really love being able to have someone come to me looking to lose weight and instead, helping them with something much deeper and more meaningful. They might think the solution is just reducing what they eat, when it in fact, it’s changing the biochemistry of what they eat. When you get at the root cause, the benefits extend far beyond weight. In fact, for many people, reducing calorie intake either doesn’t work or doesn’t work for long because it doesn’t address the real problem. For most of my clients, we work together and often discover it’s a digestive issue. It could be a sensitivity to gluten or dairy that causes bloat. It could be adrenal fatigue because you don’t have enough acid in your stomach. What I help them build into their day to day is a high nutrient diet that makes them feel full, reduces their sugar cravings and leads to better wellness overall. I don’t help clients lose weight — that can be a nice by-product. My super power is that I help them address the foundation of digestive health and create a long term, sustainable solution.
What skill do you wish you had or want to develop?
I really wish I was better at Excel. My husband is a math guy and seeing what he’s able to do in 2 seconds makes me wonder what else I could do if I invested some time in it. In truth, I don’t think it’s affecting my practice, but I know I’m capable and somehow this particular skill got lost in the shuffle during and after my time at school. The ones that I probably should invest in learning more about is social media and maximizing search engine results. Marketing my business is important, but I consistently choose client work over business building.
What is your fondest memory of Penn?
I was a theater arts major at Penn, and I really enjoyed it. Funny enough, I didn’t pick it just because I liked theater. In college, I picked career paths that I knew my body could handle. Part of me wanted to be a doctor, but I knew I didn’t have the stamina to withstand the time commitment. I had to choose a major where I could attend classes half the day and then go to sleep. In some ways, it’s sad that I had to make so many decisions because of my unresolved digestive health, but I think back to my studio theater experience and only have fond memories of the fun I had.
What excites you most about being part of TCPW?
It’s been such an honor to join such a fantastic group of women. The best part is the amazing conversations with so many different, passionate people from so many different fields. They all bring something different and I feel so much more enriched for having met them. It’s great to be a part of an organization that is helping Penn and helping each other — especially women! I’m looking forward to many, many more of those conversations.