Guest – Sandrine Brubaker – Cayenne Pepper Studio

Sandrine - headshot

Sandrine Brubaker, of Cayenne Pepper Studio, is a food and architecture photographer. Sandrine comes from a family of amazing cooks and chefs and grew up around food. Her love of cooking made this career choice a natural fit.   Says Sandrine, “I love to cook. I love architecture and interior design. Food and architecture are very similar. They both have leading lines. They both have different structures to them. There’s different textures within a room, or within a [dish].”

Cayenne Pepper Studio only “officially” opened in the Fall of 2017. Since launching her business, she has worked with familiar local clients such as Ford’s Fish Shack, French Hound Brasserie and Layered Cake Patisserie. In her earlier photography years, Sandrine was into a little bit of everything… headshots, families, senior portraits. Being afforded the opportunity to work in several different photography genres, Sandrine got a good taste of what her strengths and interests are.  She shares, “I think it’s really important to find what you’re really good at so you can be really good at it.” (A BRILLIANT philosophy. Love.)

Sandrine - plated croissant

She loves to work with restaurants as she often finds that their photos on their menu or website are not a good representation of what their food actually looks like. She says, “I want to help restaurateurs, chefs, and bloggers, elevate their food.” Her desire to produce great photos for the restaurants is twofold. She says, “There’s a chance of me helping [the restaurants] gain more of a following, and there’s also a chance for people to be willing to try something that they’ve never [eaten] before and that they might be afraid of having. Like escargot!”

Sandrine’s giving spirit and enormous talent was a natural fit for It’s Sandrine’s true desire to help the restaurant community that inspires her the most. She says, “I just want to help them. They come to me with a problem and they’re afraid. They’re often reluctant to spend money on good photography because they don’t always think it is necessary or they may not have the budget. My job is to help them understand that it’s not scary and that I can help them get to where they need to be. I’m trying to make it so it’s not stressful. You just have to find a way to relate to people and you have to be genuine.” She goes on, “I heard that from [industry renowned] photographer, Thomas Ramsay. He told me, when I first started, ‘You don’t have to be the best at what you do, but you do have to be consistent. You do have to care and you do have to be genuine. And if you are all these things, then your clients are going to stay with you. They’re going to be loyal to you.’ That’s been really true. I have been fortunate to work with really great clients who have been with me from start.”

Life before Cayenne Pepper Studio was very different. Sandrine graduated with a marketing degree from Temple University. She shares, “I always thought I’d be in marketing and then I realized that marketing was not just marketing. It was sales. I don’t like sales, so I got out of it and got a job as an executive assistant. After that, we had our child and I started staying home.” When her son was little she began searching for something that she could do that would help her family. She quickly landed on teaching. Sandrine started volunteering at the neighborhood elementary school. She then began subbing and then transitioned to working as a teacher assistant. Shares Sandrine, “I thought, oh this is awesome! This is what I’m going to do. I’m going to be a teacher. I’m going to go back to school and get my degree.” While she was researching schools for her teaching certification, she was offered a Kindergarten Assistant position at a neighboring school. She held that position for two years, but during the second year, Sandrine got extremely sick.

Sandrine - family

Sandrine has chronic kidney disease. The grueling pace of assisting in a classroom of kindergarteners for two years took its toll. Says Sandrine, “I was tired all the time. I would go in and out of the hospital and my levels all plummeted. [The doctors] finally said that it was time for me to get a kidney transplant.” Relieved to hear that she was now eligible for a transplant, Sandrine quit teaching.

The plan was to go through Johns Hopkins Kidney Paired Exchange Program. The program allows a family member who is not compatible to donate to another patient who would be a match in exchange for the same. It took some time to get an appointment. During that waiting period, Sandrine was home resting. She shares, “I was in bed all the time. By the time I got to that appointment, my levels had somewhat [improved].” Because of that slight improvement, Sandrine was told that the surgery must wait as the risks of performing it too early were significant. Sandrine returned home and spent the rest of year in bed due to extreme fatigue and pain. It was an awful year for her.

She soon realized that she needed to do something with her life. She wanted to find something that she was really passionate about that would get her out of the house. That “something” was photography. She started taking classes in Leesburg and loved it. Through these classes she met some great people and outstanding professional photographers. She became a photographer’s assistant and slowly worked her way up. She was getting out of the house more and her health improved. Says Sandrine, “I got physically stronger. I could be out more and I started healing.”


Sandrine - ocean

One of the photographers that Sandrine met was Jeanette Burkle. Jeanette had her own business and was a multiple award-earning photographer and as Sandrine describes, “Is just a wonderful person.” The women hit it off, and Sandrine became her assistant. They worked together until Burkle relocated to Denver leaving Sandrine to take over some of her accounts.

This new role left Sandrine in a discovery period. She describes, “At that time, I hadn’t developed a style yet. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It was so scary to put myself out there. It was so much easier to stay home and think it’s just not for me, then to actually go out there and [potentially] be told, ‘Oh you really stink.’ For a long time I [decided] not to do anything. It was a really hard time.” But Sandrine continued to work on her craft. She would spend days at places like Harper’s Ferry and just shoot photos and try different techniques. She would conduct photographic experiments discerning the affects of the manipulation of light. It was a great learning period.

Sandrine found another photographer who needed an assistant. At this point she thought, “Ok, maybe I should just be an assistant for a while. I’ll keep working on the business side of it, but be somebody else’s assistant so I can learn more.” That relationship lasted until mid Fall of 2017 leaving her once again wondering, “What am I going to do now?” Sandrine shares, “I said, that’s it. It’s time. I know what I’m doing. It’s time for me to just go out there.” Cayenne Pepper Studio was officially open for business with a confident, educated, and talented CEO at the helm.

Sandrine - food snowman

In the short-term, Sandrine would like to open a studio outside of the house. A must have for the space would be a kitchen so that she could cook and create her Facebook food photography videos. Since that’s where the industry is headed, she would love to have a better space for beginning to end production.

In addition to her studio dreams, Sandrine is working on a fantastic *project that has implications of helping a lot of people. In this fresh season of Cayenne Pepper Studio, Sandrine was searching for a way to help local restaurants and chefs and make an impact on the restaurant community. She understands that it’s a very hard industry and that many do not have the budget to put into marketing.   She says, “I was trying to find a way to give back in a way that would also help showcase [the restaurants] and put them on the map a little more. I thought a cookbook would be really great.” The concept of the book involves the public nominating local chefs or restaurants via Cayenne Pepper Studio Facebook page. After compiling the nominees, Sandrine has already begun interviewing the chefs, photographing them, photographing their creations, and will put it all in a cookbook.

Here’s the lovely “icing” on this project, the profits from the book sales will benefit Tree of Life in Purcellville, VA. Tree of Life avails meals on the weekends for kids who receive assistance from the county by having breakfast and lunch provided for them at school. She explains, “You don’t think about these kids going home on the weekend. What do they do for food? The Tree of Life in Purcellville really helps a lot of the kids in the community get food when they don’t have access to school.” She is targeting Thanksgiving 2018 timeframe to have the book available. A perfect Thanksgiving Hostess gift (you know I love my hostess gifts) or an excellent Christmas or Hanukah gift for anyone. I feel the need to point out the amount of people being served by this project: the chefs and restaurants, Tree of Life, the beneficiaries of Tree of Life services, you as the gift giver, and the recipient of your gifted cookbook! And just imagine the trickle down of benefit from having successful restaurants in our community!

Sandrine - profiterol

Interestingly, staying true to her original plan, her long-term goal is to, once again pursue teaching. Says Sandrine, “I’d love to help other photographers who are coming up in the industry. I’d like to be a teacher, and maybe even be a mentor!” She explains, “There’s a lot of misinformation in the photography industry. I would like to be a voice where I could inform photographers and future clients, not just for me, but for others. I belong to the Virginia Professional Photographers Association, an organization that provides educational resources to photographers who are brand new, as well as to photographers who have been in the business for years. This group has been amazing at helping me become a better photographer, better business owner and through it I have made great friendships. That’s how I see the photographic community, one where we help each other grow.”

I find it very interesting that she wants to go into teaching. That theme of mentoring somebody else makes her story come full circle. Sandrine has been so blessed to have extraordinary professional mentors in her life. She says, “I was very fortunate to meet so many great photographers and business people who have helped me along the way. I want to give that back. We need more of that.”

When asked what she is personally most proud of, Sandrine answers emphatically, “Starting something that makes you afraid, but that you really love and have a passion for. You just push through because you just really want to do it. I’m showing my kid that you can do it. That anything is possible if you just work.”



1 Sandrine is part of the Virginia Professional Photographers Association and enters prints into their competitions each year.  This photo of the ocean won 3 awards at the State and International competition last year.  She has others that won as well, but this is a personal favorite of hers.

*At the time that this interview was conducted, I had no affiliation with the Tree of Life Cookbook project. Sandrine has since approached me and requested my assistance with writing the book. I’m excited to be a part of a project that has the potential of helping so many people in our community.

To contact Cayenne Pepper Studio visit, or email Sandrine at  Be sure to follow Sandrine on Instagram at @cayennepepperstudio and on FB @cayennepepperstudio.

Who Wrote the Book of Love?

wedding bands

As my 30th birthday came and went and I was still very single, I began to think that I would never get married. Although always trying to remain hopeful, I’d all but given up on the prospect of marriage and having a family.  At the time, it just didn’t seem to be in the cards for me. A good friend of mine kept reassuring me that God had a plan for me.  He was making someone really special just for me.  And you know what?  She was so right.

rocks with heart

At the age of 31, you can well imagine that I had kissed many a frog, so when I met my husband I proceeded cautiously.  But I was quick to discover that he really was special indeed.  Like no other.  And for that reason, I let my guard down and we began to write our book, or in this case, books, of love.

book of love

I actually stole this idea from my sister, so bear with me as I give you the backstory to our books.

When my sister had her daughter, she decided that she and her daughter would keep a journal for her husband and write sentiments to him in the book instead of buying greeting cards. I loved this idea.  And in our brand new romantic relationship, I thought this might work for Chris and me.

scrabble love

I had found, so often in relationships, you forget why you were together in the first place.  You forget what your initial draw was or how you felt about each other when things were new and exciting.  These journals would be documented proof of our feelings.  We could always look back and read how we felt about each other.  I could read how he felt about me, but I could also go back and read how I felt about him.  And likewise for him.

our books

We write to each other in our books for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.; really any time we feel compelled.  (Infact, Chris proposed to me in my book!) We don’t write in the books as often as we’d like, but from time to time, we’ll surprise each other with a new entry.  I’m happy to say, that we are still crazy for each other, with or without the books, but it is so lovely to be able to reminisce and relive beautiful moments and very meaningful letters of love just by picking up our books.  And we still get a thrill when one of us has thought to add an entry.  So, may I suggest… get a blank journal for yourself and one for your S.O. and just see.  Maybe you will find that it is you who wrote the book of love.

love me notebook


Guest – Nikki McNutt-Thiem – Full Out Fitness LLC

Although Nikki and I never officially met, I have known of her for years and years. Her son used to participate in an after school club that I assisted in when he was in second or third grade. He is now a freshman in high school, so it’s been a long time that Nikki has been on my radar. She also happens to be very close friends with my former next door neighbor, Kathy Garcia of Kathy G Designs (Guest – Kathy G Designs published on 11/23/17). Although we have traveled in similar circles all this time, it wasn’t until this interview that I really got a chance to sit down and get to know her.

Nikki pic with logo

Nikki owns a fitness business called Full Out Fitness. Her class offerings include Zumba®, Cardio Kickboxing, High-Intensity interval training (HIIT) and Smash-Up which is an alternating combo of dance fitness and kick boxing. Her classes are $5 a class! You can’t even get a coffee for $5 these days! (I should know.) So if you’ve already dropped the ball on your fitness goals for 2018, now’s your chance to pick it back up and get in the game. When asked how she would describe her business Nikki replied, “In a nutshell, is just a bunch of us getting together and sweating… leaving everything at the door.”

Before dance fitness, Nikki was a dance teacher. She explains, “It sort of happened quick. I was graduating from George Mason [University] and I had a dance degree and a graphic design degree. It was the summer of, ‘should I go into the city and try to audition for jobs’.” But instead Nikki and her high school sweetheart decided to get married that summer and start a family. Due to her upcoming special deliver, dance auditions were off the table, but dance instructor was not. From dance instructor, Nikki became a fitness instructor. In the early years of her career and starting a young family, Nikki had a couple of jobs. Her husband worked the 9-5 and she worked the 5-9. She says, “It was like slap (mimics hi-five hand off). Ok, you have the two kids. That was our early life. I would work at night part-time teaching classes; teaching dance.”

Nikki pic 1

Full Out Fitness came from working in the gyms. Nikki was working in all of the large local gyms, driving all over the place, and teaching two to three classes a day. She shares, “You’re working, pretty much anywhere from $25 – $30 /hour. I called it my Target money, [as] it really didn’t contribute to the household.” After five years of this Nikki began to realize that some of her classes had grown up to 180 people in a class! Working out such crazy space demands, Nikki ultimately began utilizing the gym’s basketball court for her popular classes. During this time, she explains, two things happened. She digested the fact that Gym A people couldn’t go to Gym B. Gym B people couldn’t go to Gym C, unless they were willing to pay $20 at the door for a walk-in, on top of the membership fees they were paying at their home gym. One gym let her do a $5 walk in fee for a little bit, but the members started getting upset. She recognized that friends and followers couldn’t travel with her to other classes in other gyms if they wanted to take more classes. She began to do the math. She’s got 180 people her class and yet she was only getting paid $30+/hr. You see where she’s going? She says, “Even if I had a quarter per head, that’s something worth pursuing.” At the same time of this revelation, there became more of a need at home for Nikki to step up, or at least change her game.

Nikki is the proud momma of two GORGEOUS children. Her son Jacob, who we’ve already established is in high school, and then two years after he was born, Nikki gave birth to their daughter, Bella. Within Bella’s first two years, she was diagnosed with autism.  It was at the time of Nikki’s growing pains in her professional life, that Bella’s therapies needed to ramp up. With those therapies came a huge expense that the “Target money” wasn’t going to cover. Nikki was also filling a need in the community. She wanted to create a safe space that anybody could come to for a fitness class that would be affordable.

Nikki and family

The seed for Full Out Fitness was planted and the hunt began for a space to sublease to hold her fitness classes. Says Nikki, “When I started it, I wanted some place to sublease so I didn’t have to pay a high overhead. [I wanted to create a place] that people that still belonged to [one of the local gyms], could afford.” She understood that a lot of these people had family members who might be taking lessons at the bigger gyms. She goes on, “They’re already paying $40, $60, $80 at these gyms. Plus I don’t have the luxuries of [the large gyms]. We don’t have any of the amenities of a [large gym]. I’m just a warehouse gym. So, $5 a pop.”

To her detriment, Nikki has been forced to move several times since the opening of Full Out Fitness. It causes her to lose followers each time she has to relocate. But things are settling down in that department and the tides are changing in her favor. Serendipity found it’s way in, as serendipity does and Nikki was availed a fitness space at the very place where her daughter had done therapy. The autism therapy company had moved from Herndon to Sterling and had unused gym space with an adjacent conference room with a window so the children of the folks participating in the fitness class can be in there with the Wi-Fi. Says Nikki, “It’s nice. We’ve become a more intimate group of people.”

Nikki photobomb

Nikki is inspired by music. She says, “Sometimes, I’ve been known to just pop on music and make up a dance.” She jokes, “Did someone record that? Did someone remember that, ‘cause that was a good one.” (LOL.) She adds, “Sometimes a song…I’ll literally be on the way to work, to class, and a song will come on and I’m like, BOOM, we’re going to do it today! [Even though] I have not prepared anything. Even my husband’s like, ‘I don’t understand how you can do that’. Somehow I have the gift to literally make something up on the spot. I can plug it in, and create right then and there.”

If you didn’t already love Nikki based on her super fun, engaging personality and rockstar appearance, just wait to you read about her long-term professional goal. Says Nikki, “It used to be something else a few years ago. It’s used to be moving up in the company of Zumba®, and that changed. That just seemed like an empty road of disappointment.” Nikki has become, to some of her personal training clients as, what she calls a “personal trainer autism whisperer”. She shares, “I had a young man and a 10 year old, [both] on the spectrum, [who’s caretakers] wanted me as their personal trainer. Not only could I understand and communicate with their child, but [I could] also get them to move. So I started to think, what am I going to do for Bella?” She explains that in five or six years from now, the autism population will increase and the resources are already scarce. Within the next 5 years, Nikki would like to research and develop her next business surrounding people with special needs. She says, “I don’t know if it’s going to be a gym? Possibly a café? But I think it’s becoming a trend. A great trend. There’s a carwash that opened because a family needed to find a job for [their] son. They made a car wash where most of the employees are on the spectrum. There are coffee shops and bakeries popping up all over the country. I think it’s becoming a trend because the population is only getting bigger. Not only am I thinking of Bella’s future, but I’m thinking of this growing population.” She adds, “I have friends that are great resources, so I think we have the pieces. My deadline [to get this done] is [Bella] graduating from high school. To have something for young adults and late teens. So five years from now, we’re going to have something awesome. We’re going to have something here in Loudoun County.”

Nikki pic 2

With her sights set on changing the lives of an entire population in the future, Nikki is excited about the lives she’s already changed. She shares, “It’s still weird when someone messages me. You never know how much you‘ve impacted somebody until they share their total personal story.” The people in her classes, yes they are her friends and they’ve all become close, but beforehand nobody knew each other. Says Nikki, “[Even though] we only know each other for that hour, it’s people going through life, struggles, postpartum depression, people going through parents being sick and [having] a total flip of their lifestyle… with this outlet we’ve in a way become therapy.” But she’s seen the transformations first hand. She says, “I see old pictures from four or five years ago of people [compared to now] and I’m like, ‘whoa, they’ve totally changed!’ And it just catapulted to other things. It’s not just the 20 lbs off, but they’re just happier people.”

Her parting words? Says Nikki, “I think, knowing the different ages, and different sizes, men, women… that I’ve come in contact with the last 10 years of being a fitness instructor, it’s never too late for, and I don’t want to say change, but evolution. It’s almost like you have to be selfish and just go and do it. No matter what it is. If it’s going to a class, or walking, or drinking more water.” She goes on, “When I have clients, and they want to just cut everything and go for a run, [I might have to remind them], that’s not your way of life.” Her advice? Try something for two weeks and just accomplish that. For example, drink more water for two weeks. Then the next two weeks add something else. She explains, “I think it’s these little steps [that breeds success]. Nothing got you to this point that was so dramatic like five things you did in one day. You have to be realistic and happy. Know the journey [can start] at any point.” Make yourselves a priority.

Nikki pic 3

Follow Full Out Fitness on Facebook at

Full Out Fitness locations and class schedule:

Monday / Tuesday / Thursday Evenings & Sunday mornings: 21680 Ridgetop Circle, Suite 100, Sterling, VA

Every other Saturday morning:  East Coast Edge Performing Arts – 44190 Waxpool Rd, Ashburn, VA


 Nikki's Bella

As an aside, Nikki’s daughter Bella, has already started a little home business of her own called One Small Piece where she makes scarves and jewelry. This venture, more or less, has been paying for her therapeutic horseback riding lessons. Says Nikki, “I had to think. What could she do with her hands that I’m assisting her with, but she’s actually making and really enjoying? So she has her own little small business with her wares hopefully offered at local boutique soon.”  Stayed tuned!

Guest – Wellness 1st – Karie Zipper CCN

Wellness 1st logo

Karie Zipper and I go pretty far back.  Her oldest daughter and my middle child were in Kindergarten together seven years ago.  In truth, we met 2 years prior to that when the kids did a pre-pre-school class, but I had literally just had my third child and I don’t have many social memories from at least the first six months of 2008.  So for argument’s sake, and the sake of my mommy memory, Karie and I met in 2010.  We knew each other from the kids’ school and running into each other at the park.  We’ve been friends all this time, but it was three or four years ago when I enlisted her help with my own health and she delivered in a big way.

Karie is a board certified Clinical Nutritionist through The International and American Association of Clinical Nutritionists.  She launched her business, Wellness 1st, in 2004.  (Yeah, I was late to this party.  But, better to be late than not to show up at all.  Am I right?)  Her goal, through Wellness 1st, is to assist people in achieving optimal wellness.  And how are they going to do that?  Says Karie, “I’m going to look at the whole body, as a unit, and put together [a view of the current function of] your adrenal glands, your thyroid, your hormones, and digestion.  I love learning about hormones in women, and the thyroid, but it always goes back to digestion.  So much of [not feeling well] is because of diet. Most of everyone’s illnesses start in the gut.  We need to repair the gut and go from there.  We can make changes [to the diet] and help the Thyroid, Adrenals, etc., so all systems work together.” Although the majority of her practice consists of people coming to her for weight loss, it is through working through the weight loss program that she teaches her clients about the whole body and how to make it all work better.  Says Karie, “People say to me, ‘I have no allergies, I’m fine.  I just want to lose weight.’  [My response is] true, you don’t have an anaphylactic allergy, but you may have something that’s causing inflammation in the body that may be inhibiting you from having the weight loss, which [leads to you] now feeling tired and now maybe you’re spiraling into headaches, joint pain, bloating, and even a diagnosis of an autoimmune condition you didn’t have before.  Then they’re like, ‘Oh!’”

Karie whey protein

But let’s back up a bit and explain how Karie came up with the name Wellness 1st.  As Karie was becoming a nutritionist, she had been working with doctors in the field for 3 ½ years selling supplements and doing allergy testing.  She realized how much these doctors were moving away from insurance.   She explains, “People think healthcare, you use insurance.  As [the concept of] wellness was coming about, I felt like people [began to] think Wellness, it’s cash.  You’re going to make yourself well and you’re going to have to pay for it.”  In our traditional medical care industry, the insurance company allows you to see the doctors that are accepting the insurance.  Those doctors are going to look at you for ten minutes and will prescribe you a drug and move you on. Karie had in her mind that when she became ready to launch her business, she was going to name it something with “Wellness”.  She goes on, “I want people to know that it’s their opportunity to take care of themselves, work with a professional that will take time to meet with them and figure out the root cause, and it will be a cash based practice.”

Before starting Wellness 1st, Karie was working for an immunologist who owned two companies selling professional line supplements to other doctors, nutritionists, pharmacists, and chiropractors, in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and DC.  In addition, she was also selling and educating patients on delayed allergy testing which is when your body reacts to an antigen, or a food, or a chemical, within three hours to three weeks.  Karie explains, “A lot of people don’t realize that they have an autoimmune condition that’s due to inflammation in the body causing pain, or gut issues.  [Utilizing a] blood test, we look at the lymphocytes (white blood cells) under a microscope and it shows you what exactly is reacting.  [We] can test 40 antigens and up to 360 antigens.  Depending on how sick you are, you may [choose to] just start with foods.  When I do it, I do everything.”  She goes on, “That’s really what saved me from my illness and how sick I was.  I was actually reacting to everything I was eating every day and I had no idea.  I’m a huge proponent in my practice of figuring out what causes your body to have the inflammation.  I don’t run a lot of testing on my clients unless they really feel that they need it.  We usually can figure most of it out prior to needing any of the lab work.”  That professional and personal foundation of learning has given Karie the opportunity to utilize how foods really affect the body.

Karie's supplements

I asked her, on average, what was the length of time it takes to pinpoint the cause of a client’s inflammation.  She answered, “With some people it’s right away; gluten and dairy.  You can tell right in the first week.  And they know.  They’re like, ‘Oh my gosh I don’t have bloating.  Oh my gosh, I don’t have my joint pain anymore.  How could it be?’”  She says with a knowing smile, “And then I’m like…welllll….”  Often times Karie finds that when a client is to reintroduce the gluten and/or dairy back into their diet, they prefer not too.  They’re scared.  Her advice, “You can always just try a bite.  You don’t have to eat the whole thing.  Just try a bite and see and then you’ll know if it’s bothering you.  But you’ve got to give it that three hours to a week in your system.”  Mostly people realize a relapse pretty quickly.  Of course it’s not an anaphylactic response, but the change is noticeable.  Clients complain of feeling “off”, or can’t understand why they are so tired or achy.

The catalyst that pushed Karie into her own business was her desire to have a family.  Says Karie, “I wanted to work with doctors and pharmacists in the area and when I was calling on them, they would say, ‘We need people like you Karie.  Can you work in our practice?  We don’t have time.  We’re spending an hour and a half [per patient], and then we have all of the test results that come back.  We need people who can sit down and go over the nutrition part.  We’re missing that link.’” For doctors who aren’t fully educated in nutrition, it’s a large time investment when you have a busy practice.  Added Karie, “So I thought I was going to contract out with a bunch of offices, and I ended up getting pregnant right before I started, so I decided that I was just going to do it for myself.”

weight loss for life system

She explains, “As I first started off, I was doing a lot of weight loss with my ketogenic diet program.  At the time, no one knew what ketogenic diet was, but I’ve been doing it for 13 years. I do it in a little bit of a different capacity than what’s out there today and what you’re reading about.  And now I have my own line of professional supplements that, [based on my education], I believe are the right structure of the nutrients for your body. I also have other professional grade supplements in the practice that I use. All supplements I use come from GMP standards (Good Manufacturing), top of the line nutrients, and are third party assayed so that you know what is on the label is actually in the pill you are taking. You want to get your money’s worth as well as have them do what they are supposed to do. You don’t want to pay for supplements that are not doing anything for you.” Karie believes that people are deficient and that we don’t have the nutrients from the plants and animals that we used to have years ago. Our farming has definitely changed and declined due, in part, to the use of pesticides. Adds Karie,  “And the use of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) is on the rise unfortunately. We need to go back to ancient grains and seeds for our nutrition. Not only that, we keep taking away farms.  I mean, where are we going to get our food?  Especially here in Virginia?  With all our growth here, the farms are disappearing! We need our local produce (hopefully not sprayed) as it has more nutritional value then non-ripened produce that gets shipped to us across the country or from another country.”

Karie meal

Karie feels like the field of nutrition is ever evolving.  You’re learning constantly. However, the core of what she was trained in, by the immunologist that she originally worked for, still remains.  Says Karie, “He really taught me so much of what I know and gave me that base.  It’s still what’s going on today.  I can link it all back to what he taught me.”  Karie is constantly continuing her education participating in weekend-long training courses.  She’s trained in many different curriculums, like homeopathy to name just one.  She might not use homeopathy regularly, but there may be times where she will draw on that training for a particular ailment.  She goes on, “But I’ve always learned that detoxification is huge.  So many people hear [detoxification] and they think they just do it for a week or two.  But once you do detox, [the real benefits come from] learning how to stay clean.  [Of course there will always be circumstances where] you’re not going to be at home and things are uncontrolled, but then how are you going to go back and clean up again?  Says Karie, “We want to always be protecting our liver and having our body detox us daily. We want to load up with the proper nutrients to protect ourselves and protect our mitochondria.  That’s huge.  That’s everything.  That’s what protects our cells.”

Next steps for Karie include getting into a little bit more lab testing and pursuing training in some genetic testing.  Karie shares, “This will really help people realize genetically why they’re missing things.  Why they’re not breaking things down, or why they’re not converting things in the body correctly that is causing issues.  So when you can figure that out I can support you with the right [treatment].”   Long-term, Karie would like to have an office outside the home for her nutrition practice that would include retail space to house a market featuring hard to find products. Ideally, the location would be in an area more accessible to allow her to grow her client base.  Incidentally, if you’re reading this thinking, this is great, but I don’t live in Northern Virginia, fear not.  Karie does offer consulting for clients outside of this area via phone or Skype.

Says Karie, “My big thing is, I don’t want people to think it’s expensive to come see me. I feel like my pricing is very different than a lot of nutritionist out there. I really want to work with YOU, help you, and educate you.  I’m not about the money.  So I offer a free 20 minute phone call to talk to people on the phone to see what they’re looking for, how I can help them, and give them pricing options so they feel comfortable.  They don’t have to come in the office and sit there and be like, ‘Ooh, do I tell her no, that I don’t want to pay for that?’  That’s nerve wracking.”  The phone consultations allow Karie and the potential client to clear the air and determine if they are a match for each other.  Adds Karie, “99% come. They feel comfortable talking with me and can tell my passion.  My goal is to help them.”

Karie Zipper headshot

Karie absolutely practices what she preaches.  She discovered her own dietary issues by removing them from her diet.  First to go was gluten which ridded her of her joint pain, knots in her back, fatigue, and some of her gut issues.  Next to go for her was dairy, which she says helped her to feel 95% better!  Karie is the most fit she’s ever been in her life.  She has managed her own gluten and dairy intolerance for 14 years and shares, “I’m 42 years old and I was at this body fat when I was in my 20’s.  Although I was really muscular then, there was fat on top.  Does that make sense? Now I’m leaned out, my muscle shows, I’m happy with the way I eat, and I’m not getting sick all of the time.  My gut is not getting irritated all of the time.  And I feel like, personally, I finally made myself who I should be.”  She has a routine now that she feels good about.  Karie adds, “People think I don’t eat.  I eat a lot.  I might not eat what you’re eating, the junk and stuff, but I eat a lot.  I’m eating a lot of protein and I’m eating a lot of fresh vegetables and healthy fat.”  She adds, “My gut’s never going to be 100%, I know that.  I’m sure it’s totally messed up from all the medicines and steroids for my asthma I was on years ago. I think my gut is always going to be sensitive, but I’m keeping it where I can manage it.”  She went on to explain that through her clean eating, she is no longer allergic to everything she was eating before as the immune system resets itself every six months.  (Who knew?!)

Says Karie, “I really feel, and not to be like a big head or anything, but I really have changed a lot of people’s lives.  They appreciate it and they thank me.”  She’s often told, “I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t found you.”  She goes on, “Usually the people that find me, they’re on their last wit.  They’ve been to all the doctors. They’ve been through all these tests.  People think they’re crazy. They don’t know what’s going on.  And they’re like, ‘But I’m not crazy.’”  Says Karie, “I was there.  I was in your shoes.  I did the same thing for eight years.  I’m here to help people.  I’m here to be an educator.  That’s my goal.  Because if I can get you off all of those drugs and make you feel better, you’re going to be living your life better and longer.  You will achieve optimal wellness!   You know, my slogan; Be Well Live Well Feel Well.”

Contact Karie Zipper, CCN at: 703-755-0769 or email at  For more information, please visit her website and follow Karie and Wellness 1st on Facebook at