This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Charlotte LaGuardia, a 29-year-old certified nutrition specialist from the Hamptons, New York, about her career. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Being a nutritionist in the Hamptons means constantly having to say no to requests that go way beyond my job title.
It runs the gamut from ‘Can you babysit my kid?’ to ‘Can you pick my child up from day camp on your way over?’ to ‘Can’t you just do my grocery shopping instead of telling me what I need to buy?’ to ‘I know it’s after business hours but can you swing by my yacht in Sag Harbor for a session?’
In order to survive and stay sane, I’ve learned to maintain strong boundaries and turn down over-the-top requests.
I’ve spoken to fellow nutritionists and colleagues from all over the world and I’m the only one who experiences this type of stuff, so it’s definitely a Hamptons thing.
I launched Thrive East in 2018 based on the belief that people should have access to individualized nutrition. Everyone has different needs, so a cookie-cutter plan doesn’t always work. My job is to work closely with individuals by teaching them why we want to choose real food and then how to create sustainable lifestyle changes to improve their overall health.
I’m not interested in helping people lose five pounds by next Friday for a dinner party.
I also won’t walk someone through a three-day cleanse, which is a request I get all the time. When I get these types of inquiries, I just say I’m all booked up.
I want to work with people set on making a real impact in their lifestyle for the sake of their overall health, not hangry people looking to fit in a designer outfit for a night out.
Before COVID, I saw the bulk of my clients in person at my office in Water Mill but now it’s all via Zoom. In April 2020, I gave up my office and began working from my home in Southampton. Frankly, it’s been wonderful and even my clients seem to prefer it. I’m able to be in people’s homes without actually having to be there, there’s no nightmarish Hamptons traffic to endure, everyone is on time, and it’s more efficient all around.
I was born and raised in Southampton so I’m a local to these parts, but the term "local" has seen a dramatic shift lately. With more people spending the year out here since the pandemic, everyone seems to regard themselves as local now.
Pre-COVID, my typical busy season was early May through the end of September.
Business was steady and there was no time to breathe. Then it would get quiet until January resolutions kicked in and again in March around spring break. Now with more people living in the Hamptons year round, it’s always busy. .
I see clients five days a week beginning at 9 a.m. until 5 or 6 p.m. I limit myself to five sessions a day as the work can be emotionally draining, since we’re often tackling issues like anxiety and depression and how they play into someone’s overall health. These days people need more support and personal connection than ever before.
An initial 90-minute intake session with new clients costs $200, and following weekly sessions are $180 for an hour and $90 for 30 minutes. Often, clients eventually taper off to monthly appointments where we just make minor adjustments and fine-tune their regimen.
I create personalized meal plans for all of my clients, who are required to maintain and share food diaries with me.
Instead of writing down what they eat, I ask them to share photos of their meals so I can see how many colors are on their plate and get an accurate picture of their portion sizes. As you might imagine, I get a lot of Instagram-worthy photos of meals from some pretty nice restaurants. Some of my clients don’t and won’t cook and instead eat every meal out, so they often send me menus to review in advance too.
Photos of meals aren’t the only images I receive. The results of diet and lifestyle changes can affect one’s stool, so I use the Bristol Stool Chart as a clinical assessment tool and ask clients to review the seven types and identify theirs. Sometimes instead of telling me the number correlating to the image, they snap a photo of their own stool and text it to me. Let’s just say, I’ve gotten a lot of pictures of poop over the years!
I can get a lot of pushback and attitude when I work with clients’ personal chefs.
They tend to view my presence as an invasion of their turf. The kitchen is their realm and they are trying to satisfy their client’s palette and here I come, suggesting they cut down on their salt usage and recommend substituting cauliflower rice for grains. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to do our job.
I also create grocery lists for clients from a variety of different delivery services like PeaPod, Fresh Direct, Baldor’s, and my favorite, Our Harvest which sources local foods. I enjoy recommending local farm stands and often provide a shopping list for gourmet shops like Loaves and Fishes which clients typically give to their assistant or nanny to pick up for them.
While I may no longer physically be inside my client’s home and pantries, they still know I’m always on top of what they’re consuming. After all, nutrition never sleeps.
Jenny Powers August 23, 2021 at 07:12PM