The story of a young woman who quit her job and ended up somewhere she never expected.
In 2007, Kath Younger took a leap of faith from an unfulfilling desk job to pursue something that made her happier. She decided to go back to school to study nutrition. But she had to find the money to make it happen somehow. And even more intimidating was that she had to “start all over,” as she described it, by taking required courses that she dreaded, and attending classes with brand new freshman who were in much different places in their lives than she was.
But she did it. She quit her job, enrolled in school, and started down a new path. And then she found something completely unexpected and incredibly rewarding along the way. She found something that she didn’t set out to achieve, something that has not only changed her experience of returning to school, and has supported her financially while she studies, but something that has also changed how she views her potential career as a dietitian and nutrition expert. Kath Younger, who quit a job she disliked in search of something greater, has become a nationally renowned food blogger and freelance writer.
The first photo I ever saw on Kath’s blog was of a bowl of oatmeal. I remember it well – it was a creamy cup of luscious looking oats topped with blueberries, granola and – is that peanut butter? This girl is after my own heart, I thought, remembering the sideways glance my boyfriend had given me that very morning while I ate a tablespoon of chunky organic PB right out of its jar.
It’s fitting that my introduction to Kath’s website would include a bowl of her classic multi-topping oatmeal because she is, after all, The Oatmeal Queen of the Blogosphere. (That’s not an official title.)
Breakfast-creator and blogger credentials aside, Kath is a young woman who lives in Charlotte, NC, attends Winthrop University in pursuit of becoming Registered Dietitian and achieving a masters degree in human nutrition, and lives with her husband, Matt, who is a baker and a beer-maker. (He writes about his love for making bread and beer on his blog Brew and Bake.)
You don’t need to spend much time on her site, Kath Eats Real Food, to understand what she does. (Although, once you’re there, you won’t want to leave!) Kath blogs about every single thing she eats. From a bite of a banana before a morning run, to an incredible looking Christmas dinner with her beautiful family, to the wine and cheese picnic she and her adorable husband laid out for their friends during an outdoor summer concert. She takes photos and writes a bit about each meal that passes her lips.
I discovered Kath’s blog through a “weight-loss friend.” Having lost 115 pounds during my early twenties, I’d gathered a group of online girlfriends, women I didn’t know in real life, and wouldn’t have otherwise known if we hadn’t all had one thing in common: We’d all once been heavy, were in the middle of our journeys to lose the weight, and we’d chosen to share our daily struggles with each other on the internet. My online friendships with these women were a huge source of strength and support for me as journeyed through my weight loss.
So I was always interested in finding inspirational personal websites about healthy living, exercise or eating naturally and organically. But until one of my internet weight loss friends linked to Kath Eats Real Food, I had no idea an online space existed that combined all of those elements into one beautiful photo and lifestyle blog. The moment I happened upon Kath’s site, I was hooked.
Her blog is a fascinating glimpse into the life of a health-conscious woman who strives to eat natural, organic, “real” food, and who enjoys exercise, nutrition, cooking and married life with a partner who’s very talented in the kitchen himself. It’s also inspiring to see a fit woman who occasionally allows herself pizza, beer, wine, sweet treats and plenty of other mindful, wisely chosen indulgences along the way. Her philosophies on eating a balanced diet and maintaining a balanced life are an inspiration to thousands of people who have concerns about their weight, or even people without weight struggles who enjoy eating real food and living healthy lifestyles.
And to think – this history major from Davidson College who began her career in publishing and public relations ended up becoming one of the web’s most popular food and fitness bloggers, all because she decided to quit her boring desk job!
So of course, I had to get in touch with her and ask her a few questions about her experience as someone who has not only survived quitting her desk job, but someone who has found great success by doing so.
I began by asking Kath if she was always interested in nutrition and she said she grew up eating healthy foods and exercising, having always been athletic. But she chose a history major in college, “because it was open ended,” she said. “I used to hate history, I ended up in it by default. I should have picked science, but I didn’t want to be in labs for twenty hours a week.”
“If I had gone to a school with a nutrition major as an option, maybe I would have picked that,” she added. “I was always interested in it. But I also never knew there were jobs in nutrition. It never crossed my mind.”
She went on to explain that once she graduated with her history degree, she’d planned to get into the public relations field. She thought that such a career would afford her opportunities to plan fun events and maybe even take interesting trips. “But I couldn’t get a job in PR right away,” she said. So she ended up finding a publishing job, a job that she didn’t really like. Eventually, though, she used that job as a stepping stone into a public relations role. Finally, this was what she’d wanted.
But the PR job left a lot to be desired too. It certainly wasn’t what she’d expected. “If I’d ended up at a cool PR firm with local clients I probably would not have left my job,” she confessed. But that wasn’t the case. She described feeling isolated when working at the PR firm. “It’s a good company,” she explained, “but I was unfulfilled, bored, and had little work to do…I was able to do some cool stuff a few times, but that was, like, one weekend over the entire year.”
Totally disenchanted with her situation, she felt stuck. “I didn’t want to be trapped in an office building,” she said. “I’d go out for a doctor’s appointment during the work day and stop by Starbucks and I’d see these people who were living life during the work week. And I said to myself, ‘What do these people do for a career?’ I always assumed they were bartenders or waiters and that they worked until late at night and hung out at the coffee shop during the day.”
“Then,” she went on, “I started reading the ‘Eat Like Me’ blog.” Eat Like Me is a blog written by a woman named Cristin who also writes about diet, exercise and her daily meals. Kath says it dawned on her that the people she saw at Starbucks on their laptops at 10am weren’t necessarily night-shift employees, but that they were also probably people like Cristin. “It opened my eyes to switching careers.”
Kath started to do some research about becoming a nutritionist. “I looked into the different certifications, but I had some people on the internet tell me, rather rudely actually, that I had no business telling people about nutrition if I only had a certification. Then I thought about being a personal trainer. I got all the materials for the fitness certification. And then I realized I wasn’t into muscles.” So she started to consider getting a more in-depth degree as a Registered Dietitian. “Over a month long period I figured out that it was going to take two and a half years to get my RD and I thought, ‘I can’t do this.’” Her distaste for science lab courses was on her mind, plus she’d already been through four years of undergrad. “But then I realized, I would rather be in Chemistry class than at the office. Anything but the office.”
According to Kath, her goals at the time were simple. She wanted to leave a job that she didn’t enjoy, be her own boss, and have a flexible lifestyle. When I asked her if she was scared that she’d be broke or that making ends meet while she going back to school would be tough, she said, “I knew this was bigger than the money.”
During her days as an office employee, long before she went back to school to study nutrition, Kath first began blogging about her meals in a private web community on a site called Calorie King. Other users followed her posts about her own personal mission to lose the weight she’d put on during college, which Kath says was due to an unfocused diet and a foot surgery that caused her natural athleticism to take a back seat.
(You can read more about Kath’s weight loss journey on this page of her blog.)
A year and a half later, her friends and family encouraged her to start a public photo blog of her meals and recipes, and she did. As the months passed, and she began her nutrition courses, her new blog began to gather more and more readers. She was getting a lot of well-deserved, positive feedback. “I was really excited!” she said happily. As her readership grew, it was only a matter of time before she started making money from her hobby.
The popularity of Kath Eats Real Food continued to expand as foodies, bloggers and healthy-living fans across the internet caught wind of the blog, linked to her site, and passed her posts around to their friends and families. Eventually, Kath’s blog became one of the most well-known healthy food blogs on the internet. She writes on an “about” page on her site, “Starting with only five loyal readers, I am shocked and excited by the success of the blog today!”
Her daily stories about inventive oatmeal breakfasts, invigorating workouts, impressive study and homework schedules, well-balanced dinners and even her fear of bugs, her dislike for onions, her husband’s beer-making efforts, and her travels to visit family, friends or attend events as a blogger are all devoured by her readers, many of whom comment enthusiastically after each of her posts. She writes honestly and warmly, and one feels as if they know her after only a short time spent reading about her life. Besides getting to connect with so many different people on a topic she’s passionate about, what’s additionally rewarding for her is that she has been able to parlay this fun activity into an income stream, which has helped her to stay focused on nutrition and healthy living while she finishes up her degrees. “If I didn’t have the blog, I’d have to work weekends babysitting, or work a restaurant job,” she said, when explaining how grateful she is to have an income from her blog.
In fact, not only has Kath’s unexpected success as a blogger been a big help to her financially and an enjoyable and fulfilling part-time (sometimes full-time!) job, it’s also done something even more important for her: It’s changed the way she views her career as a dietitian.
“When I originally started nutrition school, I wanted to have a private practice. Now, with blogging and the freelance opportunities I’ve gotten through the blog, I still want to do nutrition counseling, but I see it as more of a secondary side business to being a professional blogger and a freelance writer. I’m definitely going be more involved in media than I ever thought.”
I asked Kath how it’s been for her to become ‘famous’ for her blog, if there are positives and negatives to being well-known online. “It’s been a pleasant, unexpected blessing. I didn’t set out to do this,” she said. “Sure, sometimes the grass is greener. Sometimes I wish I had a job that ended at 5pm. But I still wouldn’t trade it for a desk job.”
And then I asked her the question I like to ask almost everyone I talk to about career paths: If money was no object, but you still had to be productive for eight hours a day, how would you spend your time?
“Honestly, I would blog. It’s so much fun. I go through my entire life thinking ‘How can I write about this?’ Even when things are going badly I think, ‘This is gonna make a great blog post.’ If someone gave me 100 million dollars, I would still blog. Actually, I would go shopping, then blog,” she added, laughing.
It seems that Kath Younger, who set out to work in one field, and then took a risk by quitting her job to seek a career in another field, has ended up exactly where she should be. She’s doing something she loves, something she’d do even in her free time, something that fulfills her, and the money has, as they say, followed. Even though she could never have imagined she’d end up exactly here, she’s obviously glad that she did. And it’s all because she refused to be tied down to a life that didn’t make her happy.
She accredits much of her success to her supportive husband and family – her mom, dad, sister and her grandparents. When she told her parents that she wanted to quit her job, they weren’t critical of her choice. “My parents did not say, ‘Your first education was a waste of time now,’ or anything like that. They supported my decision.” And now that she’s become a famous blogger? “My mom is my biggest blog fan,” she tells me. “She reads every single comment. Sometimes she’ll email me before I’ve even had a chance to read them and say ‘Oh I really think you should respond to Jen because she was so nice!’ My mom’s a writer too and now she always says, ‘My daughter the writer.’ She’s so pleased with me.”
I asked Kath to share some advice for anyone who might be considering quitting their job to pursue something more fulfilling. “The big hurdle is the financial part,” she says. “But your happiness is more important than the material things you’d buy with that paycheck. If you want the change bad enough, your paycheck won’t matter. We’ve had to readjust our lifestyle (to afford this change), but it’s been totally worth it.”
When I hung up the phone with Kath, I was smiling. We’d had a nice chat about her story, and she’d even graciously asked me about my own plans, goals, and ambitions too. She was very encouraging and I left our conversation feeling inspired. Kath is not someone who has it all figured out, but she has made smart, strong choices along the way, and she’s now being rewarded for the risk she took in ways she never dreamed. And if that isn’t a lesson to all of us that we ought to seek out the potential that awaits us, I don’t know what is.
Thank you, Kath, for your inspiring story, and for sharing your life with all of us, every single day. And thank you, also, for your brilliant oatmeal recipes.
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