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Joie De Vivre: Living with a Ravenous Thirst for Life, with Kristin Koskinen

Let’s just go with the low-hanging fruit: social media. It is the world stadium where people play the comparison game. What used to be good, good enough, or even great, now falls victim to being compared to the likes of Pinterest and Instagram perfect pictures. This isn’t just about how people look, though that’s a […]


Let’s just go with the low-hanging fruit: social media. It is the world stadium where people play the comparison game. What used to be good, good enough, or even great, now falls victim to being compared to the likes of Pinterest and Instagram perfect pictures. This isn’t just about how people look, though that’s a significant part of the problem, but about most every aspect of their lives. There is always a better yard, cuter cupcakes, more sculpted abs. You name it, someone (and perhaps their staff) is creating everything to a degree we certainly admire, but may or may not be able to attain. It creates dissatisfaction. The bar is raised in every area of our lives in the media. If we are able to stay on the side of inspiration and not slide over the very thin line into comparison, social media can be great. If not, we may end up shifting our time and energy resources to keeping up with the ideals we see on our phones, and away from our purpose. When we chase other people’s ideas, we too often leave behind our purpose and our joy.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristin Koskinen, RDN, LD, CD, a registered dietitian and performance nutritionist based in the Pacific Northwest. Kristin is the owner and director of Eat Well, Live Well, and the performance nutritionist for Mid-Columbia Ballet. At home, she is the chief operating officer of her own team that includes one adoring husband, 5 beautiful children, two dogs, and a cat.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to creating Eat Well, Live Well?

I created Eat Well, Live Well in response to student-athletes asking me to help them with their nutrition as they aspired to the next level. I struggled with eating issues as a young dancer, so I’m familiar with their issues and concerns. I grew up to be a dietitian who saw that those struggles can have a long-standing impact, so I extended my practice to include professionals with demanding lives who were asking to work with me to improve their performance. They were no longer competing in athletics but knew they could feel better and perform better in their lives.

I take a holistic approach to my practice and emphasize long-term health and wellness. I bring emphasis to how foods make my clients feel. Sometimes the emphasis is more physiologic, other times more emotional, but always mindful.

Eating well isn’t just about nutrition. It’s about caring for ourselves and our families. Food isn’t just about sustenance or performance. Food embodies traditions, culture, and personal history. The entire spectrum of food, what and how we choose to eat, is part of living well.

What does it mean for you to live “on purpose”? Can you explain? How can one achieve that?

For me, living on purpose is developing and sharing my skills and talents, whether as a professional or as a parent. Living on purpose is how we choose to spend the minutes of our lives, in every season, as they become the days and years. Sometimes you find your purpose, and sometimes your purpose finds you. I try to stay open to each possibility.

When we live on purpose, we are living into our full potential. We all have a purpose, no matter our age or stage in life. Our purpose may evolve or change as we go through life, and we may be called in different directions during different seasons.

We all have unique perspectives that come from everything that has happened in our lives, every choice that has been made for us or by us has an impact. Just like our DNA, our perspectives make us unique and are our place markers in the world. There is always the process of trial and learning in life, and there is as much benefit in sharing what we’ve learned from our challenges as from what we’ve gained from our successes.

Do you have an example or story in your own life of how your pain helped to guide you in finding your life’s purpose?

I was in college when my parents found out I had an eating disorder. They took me to a local hospital near the university I attended to meet with a dietitian. They really were doing their best, and I commend them for seeking qualified help for me. Unfortunately, the dietitian’s strategy was to put me on a diabetic meal plan. I wasn’t diabetic and a diet was definitely working in the wrong direction. She just didn’t get it. I’m sure she was doing the best she could with what she knew, but I left the meeting realizing that I was going to have to figure it out on my own.

Fortunately, I am quite resourceful and very resilient, and eventually, I did figure the eating disorder out. It was a big part of my decision to go into the field of nutrition. I carried that experience with the hospital dietitian when I saw myself as broken and felt so misunderstood, tucked away for many years. The memory only really came back to me recently when I was discussing how to talk about nutrition to dancers with an artistic director and a ballet teacher. Each had examples of how adults had thrown diets disguised as nutrition at dancers. They had experienced it when they were dancing, which left them, confused, and more driven toward disordered eating. My purpose is pretty clear: I want to be part of the solution that helps others to avoid these traps and the lifelong damage that comes with it.

In my private nutrition counseling practice, I work with professional women who have spent most of their adult lives prioritizing their careers and families, placing themselves as a distant third. By the time they come to see me, they have health conditions that are compounded by stress and some level of disordered eating. Often times, they come with a lifelong history of dieting. It’s not uncommon that their moms dieted and had unhealthy relationships with food and body image. It becomes a generational pattern that needs to be disrupted and reworked. Not only do they live with the pain of being unhappy with their bodies, they inadvertently pass that pattern of dissatisfaction to their children. I feel for these women. They feel uncomfortable in their bodies. They feel ashamed and undeserving because of how they look. Their self-abuse through dieting and stress has often left them with physical ailments. Together we work not only at the “hows” to get them well (therapeutic nutrition) but the “whys” that got them there, which are the eating habits and food beliefs that they acquired as part of our diet culture.

The United States is currently rated at #18 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low?

Let’s just go with the low-hanging fruit: social media. It is the world stadium where people play the comparison game. What used to be good, good enough, or even great, now falls victim to being compared to the likes of Pinterest and Instagram perfect pictures. This isn’t just about how people look, though that’s a significant part of the problem, but about most every aspect of their lives. There is always a better yard, cuter cupcakes, more sculpted abs. You name it, someone (and perhaps their staff) is creating everything to a degree we certainly admire, but may or may not be able to attain. It creates dissatisfaction. The bar is raised in every area of our lives in the media. If we are able to stay on the side of inspiration and not slide over the very thin line into comparison, social media can be great. If not, we may end up shifting our time and energy resources to keeping up with the ideals we see on our phones, and away from our purpose. When we chase other people’s ideas, we too often leave behind our purpose and our joy.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We don’t always know the impact we make or if it hits our intended mark. I have role models from my youth and childhood who will never know the powerful impact they had on me. They would likely be surprised to know how I draw daily on the impressions they made and how they inspire me years later. Truly, if just one person benefits from your work, you have brought goodness to the world. My hope is that by working with these young athletes, they won’t go through the trials I did, and they won’t grow up to have the struggles I see in so many of my adult clients. Time will tell.

What are your 6 strategies to help you face your day with exuberance, “Joie De Vivre” and a “ravenous thirst for life”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

I start my day the night before. By planning what I can, I have a framework to accomplish the work that is that day’s purpose. Life happens, plans change, but when I have a goal for the morning, it generates excitement to get up and attack the day.

I get an adequate, restful sleep at night. We need rest to recover and recharge. When we are tired, we aren’t working at our best potential and we have less control over our emotions, which can drive frustration, negative feelings, and bad choices. Lack of rest works against our physiologic and mental health goals. That’s not good for us nor the people around us.

I take my golden retriever, Duke, for daily hikes. We live in an area that he can be let off his lead to bound around the terrain, flush out birds, and chase jackrabbits. He is in his element, doing what he was born to do, and I get total joy watching him do his thing. It’s a great reminder of the joy there is in living out our purpose.

I stop and smell the roses. Whether it’s in a market or alongside the road, I always smell the roses. You don’t achieve cliché status without a host of truth to back it up, which is why it’s a rule that I live by. Over the years, I’ve noticed that it’s only the thorny roses that have any true fragrance. When we take away the thorns, we take away the sweet smell, and what’s a rose without its intoxicating scent? A few rough edges in flowers or people keep things authentic and so much more interesting. I say, leave the thorns.

I take time to be grateful. Gratitude has been shown to improve our sense of happiness and well-being. Sometimes I text a gratitude message to a loved one, other times I write a thankful note onto a slip of paper and tuck it into a jar where we keep “gratitude” notes to be read at the end of the month or year. Often, it’s as a prayer. There is always something to be thankful for.

Coffee. There you go, straight from the dietitian. Even on the darkest, the earliest of mornings, there is coffee.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that most inspired you to live with a thirst for life?

The book that continues to give me the inspiration to live with a thirst for life is Toot and Puddle by Holly Hobbie. This children’s book beautifully illustrates how we all find joy in different ways. Toot is an adventurer, who takes the year to travel the world. His best friend Puddle is more of a homebody, but nonetheless, finds adventure and accomplishment within the confines of Woodcock Pocket, their quaint home. It reminds me to explore the world, as well as not overlook the adventures closer to home. Find the joy in every journey.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that relates to having a Joie De Vivre? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There is no greater joy than living the life you know you are supposed to live. Everything in my life has brought me to my current purpose which is summed up in the quote, “Be the person you needed when you were young.” If I could fold time and give my work to my younger self, I would. I can’t do that, but I can offer it to young dancers, their instructors, and parents. It’s important to include the adults as part of the equation, as they provide significant influences, and our collective resources can have a powerful impact.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am creating a workshop series for pre-professional dancers and the adults who work with them that will be available online. Unlike other programs, this one is focused on the specifics of performance nutrition, as well as habits that will translate to a post-dance life. It includes information on nutrition, eating behaviors, rest and recovery, mindfulness, and wellness. As someone who has lived through the process, I get it. As a health care professional who works with women who were once girls that felt the need to diet, I get it. Young people need adults in their lives who are looking at not just their athletic or performance was driven successes, but how all the current inputs will play out as these kids become adults. My program is aimed not just nutrition for optimal performance but includes modules for teachers, parents, and coaches to create a community that supports healthy eating habits. We want our young people to eat for performance, strength, and health, we want to promote balance and sustainability. We want them to grow up free of the shackles of disordered eating. The more broadly we can promote these messages, the more likely our kids will embrace them.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would stop before-and-after body shots. They are supposed to show success, but do they really? Was the “before” body so bad? What if things change, as they do 95% of the time, and the person eventually goes from “after” back to “before”? Are they now a loser? Are these shots truly posted as inspiration or as a cry for hollow admiration? I am all about a strong, healthy body, but let’s be honest, that’s not what before-and-after photos are really about. With few exceptions, our purpose is more than our physique. Dropping before-and-afters would be a great step away from diet culture, disordered eating, and toward contentment.

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