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My Journey



Rachel Gustafson, BS, NTPIt began about 20 years ago in my early twenties, with what many women struggle with throughout their lives: distorted body image, self-identity and depression. I found myself looking in the mirror, with my dear friend staring at me, who said “you’re too thin Rach. Are you ok?” I was totally surprised, I thought I looked great! I listened and found myself in a physiatrist’s office being diagnosed with distorted body image. She wrote a list of foods (which I can’t remember) to eat so I would gain weight and get healthy. One of those food items that did stand out was “Carnation Instant Breakfast” with low-fat milk. Is that food? No! Yuck!

As the years passed I continued to experiment with diets. I tried being a vegetarian, but found I felt worse. During my vegetarian phase I had episodes of unexplained cramping and diarrhea, which slowly resolved after I transitioned from strictly vegetarian to eating some chicken.

Curious about managing illnesses and health concerns, I started to research holistic nutrition and natural medicine. Thanks to my community in Eugene, OR, I was introduced to the books: “The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal Guide: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies” by David Hoffman, and the “Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine” by Joseph E. Pizzorno and Michael T. Murray. Both of these books were like bibles to me.

I explored the idea of becoming a midwife, but after taking a Child Development class my path veered into Early Childhood Education. While I continued to learn about natural ways of healing I started my career teaching preschool children and supporting families. I worked mainly with low-income families through Head Start and various non-profit organizations. I supported families struggling with everything from housing, addiction and hunger. Those were difficult experiences, but I learned so much from the culturally diverse families I worked with, and kept those experiences close to my heart.

When I had both my babies, my husband and I believed deeply in providing them with a whole food diet. The only way we felt we could do this was to make ALL their baby food. We also re-learned how delicious simple whole fruits and veggies taste. Food, cooking and feeding healthful foods to my family was always, and continues to be my top priority.

Carrot face web

After I finished my BS in Human Development I thought I wanted to continue with a Masters in Nutrition, but whenever I researched programs I wasn’t impressed with the “Standard American Diet” model (SAD). So, I decided to put the idea aside.

When my son was about 6 years old we eliminated gluten from his and my husband’s diet since they had both experienced stuffy noses, upset stomach and diarrhea for sometime. After 3 days my husband found huge relief, and we observed our son having less frequent tummy upset and diarrhea. That went on for about a year. During that year I learned that cooking and living gluten free was a challenge, but not impossible. After that first year we decided to have our son tested for food sensitivities with an ND. We found that not only was he gluten sensitive, but peanuts were also on the list. For that past year he had been living off of gluten free bread and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! No wonder his tummy still was angry.  After pulling peanuts out also we started to really see a shift in his symptoms. This took at least 6 months to a year to heal from the constant inflammation he had been dealing with, but 5 years later he’s doing great. He deals with the fact he can’t eat “normal”, as he says of foods at parties, etc.. Of course he gets frustrated, but we’ve adapted, and he knows how it makes him feel if he accidentally gets those foods. We eat gluten free, but eating gluten free is not always healthy if you’re just substituting breads, cookies, crackers and chips out for gluten free ones. The balancing act of allowing your children to eat “junk foods” sometimes and healthful foods most of the time can be challenging, especially with a teenager! I’ve learned how to bake with grain-free flours, so chocolate chip cookies can be enjoyed. Dinner usually is some delicious meat, veggies and sometimes a starch (rice, potato, cauliflower). Cooking is exciting, and I love to try new recipes or make them up.


For the last 6 years or so I started looking into how to help myself battle that distorted body image always sitting on my shoulder. One of the ways I began to heal was I started to run. Running gave me, “me time” and space to breathe. You can learn more about my running journey on my “Minimal Mom” blog post, “My journey to finding my“healthy running self”. But long story short, I grew into running with many body challenges I never thought I’d bump into, but I persevered through them all and found my healthy running self.

Food has been a huge obstacle. The constant guilt I had with food made it an exhausting relationship. I was never happy with my body or my diet.   After some major life struggles, and career crisis, I was given the opportunity to start this Nutritional Therapy Practitioner program through the Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA). This program was life changing for me. At first I was totally overwhelmed by all the knowledge I was learning, and felt I wasn’t retaining ANYTHING. As the months went by, and I found my support network of classmates, the connections of eating nutrient dense whole food and how that supports and heals the body started forming, and BOOM it came together! What I love most about this nutrition and health journey is I continue to learn about myself everyday. I feel better emotionally and physically since I started incorporating nutrient dense whole food, adequate hydration, and customized my own diet to support my nutritional deficiencies. I am so excited to share my newfound wisdom of health, nutrition and wellness with my community.

In health,



Contact Rachel for your 30-minute Complementary Nutritional Consultation