We are so pleased to chat with Carlin Dixon, an accomplished alumna of the undergraduate dietetics program in the Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) Department at the University of Florida (UF). Carlin is dedicated to her two passions: dietetics and ballet. As a professional dancer with Ballet Frontier in Fort Worth, Texas, Carlin is exploring her two passions in everyday life.
In this installment of the Discover FSHN Series, learn about her paths to dietetics and dance, her commitment to pursuing a career in dietetics, and the biggest key to her success. Thank you to Carlin for taking the time to talk with us!
How did you become interested in studying dietetics, and why did you decide to attend UF?
My journey to studying dietetics was intertwined with my journey in ballet. During high school, I was a part of a unique program that allowed me to take rigorous academic classes in the morning and then train for seven hours at the ballet studio. Since this daily regimen was so demanding both mentally and physically, I quickly became aware of how my body reacted to different foods. I was intrigued—and I had a hunger for learning more. I knew then that I wanted to study food and nutrition, and dietetics was the perfect career path for me.
Another aspect of dietetics that attracted me was also one of the reasons I pursued ballet: helping people. I genuinely enjoy being of service to others and sharing my talents in any way I can. Dancers do this by filling audience members with emotion and helping them briefly escape reality, while dietitians do this by improving people’s well-being through food choices.
Finding a program in nutrition or dietetics was my first priority when looking for a school. UF stood out because of its location in my home state, its stellar academic reputation, and specifically its great dietetics program!
I hear you decided to postpone the dietetic internship for a professional ballet career! What was that decision like?
Deciding to postpone the dietetic internship was an incredibly difficult and exciting decision. I knew both nutrition and ballet were my passions, and I wanted to do both. I realized, however, that I was going to take a big risk with either path I chose. Dietetic internship applications are due in February, which is the same time ballet auditions occur. Postponing the dietetic internship meant I was committing to getting accepted into a professional ballet company, which was far from a guarantee.
Applying for dietetic internships, on the other hand, would mean risking not having a professional dance career at all. I ultimately decided that I would regret more not taking the leap auditioning for a professional ballet company. A dancer’s career is very short and tough on the body, so it is normally better to pursue it while one is younger. Nigel Lythgoe, a former professional dancer and co-creator of “So You Think You Can Dance,” stated that about 3% of people training to dance actually make it to the professional level. A big reason I am even able to be a part of this statistic is because of the support and encouragement I received from the UF/FSHN faculty regarding this decision. I know my dietetics career is waiting for me when I am done performing, so in the meantime, I love being able to live my other long-time dream.
So far, what has been your favorite role you’ve performed in the dance world?
My favorite role I’ve rehearsed and performed this season with Ballet Frontier was Snow Queen in the Nutcracker. While we were preparing for the performances, I woke up each day and practically jumped out of bed because I was so eager to go to work! The performance was mostly comprised of advanced partnering work, which requires a great deal of communication and trust with one’s partner. Performing Snow Queen was an absolute joy and privilege to dance while with a professional company.
What kind of nutrition projects are you working on while dancing?
I have definitely been trying to stay involved with the nutrition world as much as I can while dancing. One project I’ve taken up is to spread more nutrition knowledge in the ballet community. I’ve been able to do this by meeting with some dancers individually to discuss their nutrition questions and guide them to more resources when deemed appropriate. Another activity is creating nutrition infographics and sharing them on Ballet Frontier’s social media. I am grateful to be a part of a ballet company that values my nutrition education and encourages me to help other dancers learn more.
What are your future plans in nutrition and dietetics?
I plan to pursue a dietetic internship and my registered dietitian credentials in the near future. After that, working with elite athletes is my goal. Whether that be professional sports teams, dancers, or Olympians, I find sports nutrition fascinating. A big part of this fascination is thanks to my amazing and informative experience working with UF’s football dietitians for my junior and senior years. Providing snacks and hydration to the players and coaches during practices was a big highlight of my time at UF and really ignited my passion for sports nutrition.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love traveling with family and friends and exploring new places, especially the outdoors. My most recent excursion was a road trip to Big Bend National Park with my dad. We had a great time hiking and admiring some of Texas’s natural beauty.
If I opened your pantry right now, what would I find in it?
Crackers are a staple food in my pantry. Triscuits and Simple Mills crackers are a couple of my favorites. They pair nicely with a variety of foods and make for great snacks!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
My family was a key part of my success at UF with their abundant amount of encouragement and support. The best way I would describe them is a group of travelers who love food as much as they love each other. Our family motto is: “life’s a journey—bring snacks.” It’s no surprise that I became a dietetics major. I am a strong believer in the importance of snacks, especially for the athletically inclined. Fun fact—you can find my family motto along with my name on a brick in front of Emerson Alumni Hall in Gainesville!
P.S. The Discover FSHN Series highlights the unique experiences of UF’s Food Science and Human Nutrition students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Want to read more about the amazing work going on in the FSHN department? See our previous features below:
Shannon Mai, Dietetics
Alex Colon, Dietetics and Jenny Duong, Food Science
Jackie Shannon, Nutritional Sciences
Jennifer Jordan, Food Science
Lily Tucciarone, Dietetics
Tim Cassella, Nutritional Sciences
Savanna Curtis, Food Science (M.S.)
Carley Rusch and Matthew Beke, Nutritional Sciences (Ph.D.)
Alexa Hosey, Dietetics (MS/DI)
Vicnie Leandre, Food Science (M.S.)
Rufus Theophilus, Nutritional Sciences (Ph.D.)
Amber Fritsche, Dietetics (MS/DI)
Amy Jones, Food Science (Ph.D.)
Melissa Perez Santana, Food Science (M.S.)
Dr. Naim Montazeri, Food Science/Food Virology
Dr. Jeanette Andrade, Dietetics
Dr. Zhiyong Cheng, Nutritional Sciences
Dr. Juan Andrade Laborde, Global Nutrition
Dr. Razieh Farzad, Food Science
Dr. Beth Gankofskie, Dietetics
Dr. Anne Mathews, Nutritional Sciences
Dr. Diana Taft, Nutritional Sciences
Dr. Rebecca Gould, Dietetics, Postdoctoral Research
Dr. Becca Solch, Nutritional Sciences, Postdoctoral Research
Hannah Cooper, Dietetics, Private Practice
Dr. Richie Li, Food Science, Product Development
Doctor Brian Barrow, Nutritional Sciences, Medicine/Physician
Luciano Junoy, Food Science, Product Development