Growing up in Columbus, Ashley Koff ‘91 had big city advertising dreams for herself. “I wanted
to be Angela Bower on ‘Who’s the Boss.’” The high-powered ad executive played by Judith Light on the 80s sitcom was the height of self-empowerment for a young Koff. “I just thought she had it all. I wanted that for myself.”
Ambitious goal-setting led Koff, after graduating from Duke University, to a career in advertising in New York. The work was rewarding, but she found herself drawn to marketing health products in particular. Raised in a family in which nutrition had been discussed very little, Koff battled with digestive issues from an early age and tried just about every diet fad to combat what seemed like a lost cause. College was eye-opening for her, exposing Koff to many different people with a wide variety of approaches to eating and living. In an effort to be as healthy as possible, she became vegan, ran marathons, gave up alcohol, and even did a goat’s milk cleanse which, to this day, still makes her cringe to think about. Eventually, she met a doctor who helped her figure out the right wellness plan for herself, and Koff was able to combine her lifelong interest and personal experience into a successful career promoting better nutrition.
When she realized her true passion was in educating people about healthy living, Koff returned to school to earn a master’s degree from New York University. She completed her nutrition training at County Hospital in Los Angeles where she “really saw firsthand that there’s nutrition and better nutrition.”
The credo of Better Nutrition is the heart of Koff’s work now. Faulting absolutism and “one size fits all” diet plans for setting people up for failure, she works with clients to develop realistic goals that will get them closer to the results they envision for themselves. Better Nutrition, for Koff, is a statement, not a plan. She considers it an umbrella under which any other nutrition plan is covered, ensuring that you are meeting your body’s nutritional needs for good health. You can be vegan, paleo, vegetarian, etc. and still benefit from making better eating and living choices.
The first step, according to Koff, is assessing where you are today. She compares it to getting into a car and asking GPS for directions to a destination. You can’t be given instructions on getting to where you need to go without providing your current location. “We’re really good at dreaming and making resolutions,” Koff said. “The only real way to achieve a goal is to make a plan. To do that, we have to assess where you are now, keep what’s working, and act better, not perfect, more often.”
An author of two books, a nationally-recognized speaker, and a registered dietician expert for television shows like Dr. Oz and Good Morning America, Koff has made better nutrition accessible for virtually anyone interested in making a change. While her extensive client list includes many celebrities, and she admits to still being starstruck at times, Koff finds her role in coaching them to better health humanizes even the most famous faces. When asked what she considers the best part of her job, Koff did not mention the fame or notoriety she has gained over the years. “I love to help people,” she said. “I call myself a better health enabler.”
Koff currently lives in Washington, D.C., a city she immediately fell in love with during a business trip. She enjoys spending time outdoors, either engaging in an athletic activity or playing with her dog Rerun.
Taking up trumpet lessons recently has been a “game-changer” for her. The focus necessary in acquiring a new skill, including mastering the breathing techniques required for wind instruments, provides a terrific mental workout for Koff. The desire to continually seek out unique challenges for herself was intrinsic to her high school experience. “I was not good at a whole lot, but at Wellington I was able to try lots of different things,” Koff said. “The teachers had the right balance between educating students while also encouraging us to follow our passions, which ultimately cultivated great personal relationships with classmates.”
When asked what words of wisdom she would impart on current Wellington students, Koff shared, “Be nice to your parents. Be better to your teachers. Take risks and try new things. It’s rare to be in an environment where you are safe to try something new with very little risk.”
Following a bit of her own advice, Koff has a built a life for herself open to adventure and lots of play. Staying healthy and fit are the keys to being ready for anything that comes her way. She considers hemp seeds and wild salmon to be perfect foods and, honestly, loves broccoli for its lengthy list of health benefits as well as delicious taste.
Throw in some hard cheese, a little high-quality, dark, bitter chocolate, and the occasional organic espresso and you really begin to see how serious Koff is when she says better nutrition should be better tasting.
With two brothers who are also Wellington alumni following their own distinctive ambitions, Dr. Jonathan Koff ‘89 is a physician at the Yale School of Medicine and Corey Koff ‘93 is a fly-fishing instructor, Ashley Koff will undoubtedly continue on her journey following her endless curiosity. Living in the nation’s capital calls to mind the vast potential for advocacy on behalf of others. “Often I meet with people who don’t have access to the resources they need to make informed, healthy choices in life. In some future capacity, I would like to take my knowledge and connections and be of service to really help others.”