Nutrition initially wasn’t on Sara Upson’s career menu.
A flute player at Chapel Hill High School, she intended to pursue an education in music. She attended Southern Methodist University on a music scholarship before transferring to The University of Texas at Austin.
Her life changed her senior year in college, when she suffered a repetitive stress hand injury. She did everything she could to overcome it — physical therapy, acupun- cture to yoga — “you name it, I tried it,” she said.
Mrs. Upson, 30, was accepted to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, a top school, but had to decline the offer when she realized she could not continue her dream of playing music because of her injury.
She was lost and not sure what to do, she said. Because hot yoga was one of the things that helped her hand the most, she decided to become a yoga instructor.
During the year she taught yoga in Austin, she became more interested in the physiology of the body and the impact nutrition had on performance.
She went back to school to earn her master’s degree in exercise physiology at UT.
Mrs. Upson was interested in sports nutrition and decided to become a registered dietitian.
She worked as coordinator of a Nutrition Peer Education Program, leading 25 undergraduate students whose goal was communicating healthy nutrition initiatives on campus.
Mrs. Upson worked a lot with eating disorder prevention. That, along with working with a dietitian who specialized in eating disorders through her internship, Mrs. Upson said she found her niche.
She became fascinated with eating disorders and helping people create health relationships with food.
“It’s not where I planned on ending up, but it’s where my path has led me,” Mrs. Upson said of becoming a dietitian. “I love what I do, and I’m happy to be here.”
She said working with people with eating disorders is challenging but rewarding.
“When we can get them on the right track, we can really turn their lives around,” she said. “They become happy, satisfied; they get their life back.”
While looking for a job, Mrs. Upson had moved back to Tyler and discovered that there weren’t a lot of resources for people with eating disorders. Often, people were driving to Houston or Dallas for specialized care, she said.
She began doing nutrition counseling and helping people with eating disorders, so she decided to stay in Tyler and fill that need, she said.
About a year ago, she opened My Signature Nutrition LLC.
Mrs. Upson believes eating disorders are more common than people think — one in five women and one in 10 men suffer from an eating disorder or disordered eating, she said.
Only 10 percent of those are low weight, while the remaining 90 percent are normal or overweight.
Eating disorders affect all socioeconomic status, race and gender. She said 60 percent of patients have some type of trauma in their background, but a significant amount of people don’t. Mrs. Upson sees patients from all across East Texas, including Marshall, Mount Pleasant, Mineola, Frankston and Emory.
Although she specializes in eating disorders, she also works with athletes with sports nutrition — helping them plan for performance, improve times and recovery.
She also works with food addiction, as well as weight management, using a non-diet approach. People can diet and lose weight but often gain it back, as well as additional pounds, she said.
Mrs. Upson helps people create a healthy relationship with food and to make long-term changes.
Mrs. Upson hopes to grow her business by hiring other registered dietitians.
My Signature Nutrition, at 5620 Old Bullard Road, Suite 125, can be reached at 903-312-8906 orwww.mysignaturenutrition.com .