We all have days when we don’t want to go to work. We’re tired, there’s things at home to deal with or we just don’t *love* the tasks ahead of us. Even as a consultant, I have days like this. Maybe it’s a difficult client I am working with, or a day that I have a food demo with lots of things to schlep, and it’s pouring down rain. Today was not one of them.
About 10 months ago, I was contacted by a convent, (of all places) to help a 70-year old, wheelchair bound, binge-eating nun lose weight. I’m not making this up. She had struggled with her weight and health for years. She’d steal treats from the other sisters, sneak food from locked kitchens and pile her plate at meal times. At nearly 300 lbs., her diabetes had gotten out of control to the point of needing insulin. Her kidneys were showing signs of damage. She’d seen therapists for depression and had tried multiple diets, but nothing worked. She was also showing signs of dementia. She’d convinced herself she’d never walk again due to arthritis.
I thought to myself, “how am I going to help this woman”? Most of the clients I see are younger, able-bodied adults with full access to gyms, walking paths and tennis courts. Most have families, friends or co-workers to encourage them. Few have deep-seated depression and overt binge-eating behavior. I was worried I couldn’t help her, and would be a disappointment to her, the staff that hired me, and myself. She surprised me.
With the help of the convent chef, a few caring nurses and a will of steel, my client has lost almost 40 lbs. It has been so fulfilling to see her chip away at her old ways of thinking to become a healthier person. She recognizes that stress and anxiety make her want to eat. She realizes that the candy she takes from another sister is not only stealing from a friend, but robbing her of her own chance at a healthier life. She is stronger physically, emotionally and spiritually.
About halfway though her treatment, I told her I’d love to see her walk. She continued to say she couldn’t due to the pain in her knees. She surprised us both today by standing up out of her chair, walking towards me and hugging me. She prays for me and my family and we talk about cats. She smiles more. She’s proud of herself. She should be.
This is my “work”. And I am so very grateful.
For anyone that’s interviewed for a job or been nominated for an award, the word ‘vet’ conjures up interviews, background checks and interrogation of ones’ philosophy. You may not think about this, but you can also vet your healthcare providers, and they may vet you as well. It’s kind of like a little dating game.
For me as a clinician, there is no better feeling than meeting with a client and clicking with them. It’s great when I know what the client expects of me and I can make good on my deliverables. It’s important to me for clients to be happy with my service. I reach out to my clients after their visit to see if they have questions, comments or feedback. When I don’t hear anything, I think they are either busy or disappointed with my service.
Over the years, I have gotten better at vetting my clients. I don’t want to waste a person’s time if I don’t think I can help them or have them waste my time by cancelling or no showing at the last minute. If an individual asks for diet and health advice that I am not familiar with, I refer them to another clinician. I want to help people, not pretend I know something that I don’t.
Often times, I am the one being vetted. A potential client may call and ask my philosophy or knowledge about a certain diet or health condition. If I don’t think I can help them, the best advice is to let them go and send them to another dietitian. This happened to me earlier today. A woman called and asked if I performed genetic testing for food intolerances or knew much about functional nutrition. This is not my forte. Nutrition is not a catch-all field. Just like any other discipline, there are general practitioners (like me) or specialists that focus on eating disorders, cancer and so on. Kind of like in medicine- you have pediatrics and adult medicine and specialties from there. Attorneys practice different types of law. Athletes use different equipment for different sports. You get the drift.
Many times in our lives, we are asked to roll up our sleeves and pitch in our time and talents. It’s what makes the world go round. Some people have artistic or musical talent. I have neither. Beyond coloring, I would not consider myself artistic. While I love working with kids, I have to rely on my sense of humor and love of nutrition to keep them entertained.
This summer, I was asked by Design Impact, (www.d-impact.org, a Cincinnati based non-profit agency that fosters social change), to participate in culinary camp- a 5-week camp to help feed homeless kids in our city. This project really struck a cord with me. Did you know that Cincinnati ranks SECOND in childhood poverty? And with poverty comes food insecurity- the sinking feeling of not knowing where your next meal is coming from. Along with food insecurity comes malnutrition, stunted growth, and decreased ability to learn. We all know that our basic needs (read FOOD and shelter) need to be met in order to succeed. In our land of plenty, no kid should go hungry.
The point of culinary camp was not only to feed homeless kids, but to teach them how food affects their health. It was meant to empower children to feed themselves and others with what they have. This involved a trip to the Free Store Food bank, who helped sponsor the program, to find out what foods these kids may have available to use. Design Impact and I developed a survey to find out what tools (appliances, etc.) kids had available to prepare meals, what foods they were allergic to and what foods were available that they would enjoy eating.
I developed a few recipes and got to teach the last 2 classes of the 5-week camp. We made black bean roll ups, which the majority of kids really liked. The last class was a competition, where the kids were challenged to make the most creative pizzas. For a dietitian, it was a thrill to see kids trying mushrooms and peppers. I loved seeing them becoming confident in their cooking skills and learning about nutrition. What struck me most was a sweet, 10-year old boy named Julian. He told me he loved food and wanted to become a chef some day. At the end of class, we provided the kids with measuring cups and spoons. Julian in particular, was SO excited to receive them. For kids that have so little, this gift truly meant something to him.
So when you sit down for your next meal, think of all the kids that don’t have regular meal or snack times. The kids that go to bed hungry. The kids in your own backyard that want to grown up strong, proud, contributing members of society. Think of Julian.
My girls have been off school less than a week and are already in an apathetic mood. Being pre-teens, I get it. They need their space. They’ve just finished school and don’t feel like doing anything but “vegging out”. But as a responsible parent, it’s my obligation to make them functioning members of society. I want them to know the value of teamwork and pulling their own weight. Let them work for food!
This morning I made the mistake of offering pancakes for breakfast. My mom would have done the same thing. She was a stay at home mom and that was what she did. She cooked, she cleaned, she took care of us. Yet, my own mom didn’t teach me any cooking skills. My sisters and I joke that she kicked us out of the kitchen. I don’t hold that against her. The kitchen was her domain. But I have to admit, I was pretty helpless until the age of 25 when I dated an older man that loved to cook. Do I want my girls to rely on others for food? Hell no! They are certainly old enough to do their own laundry and cook some simple meals. Or at minimum, put a sandwich together on their own. Or make pancakes.
So today I am taking a stand. If they want pancakes, I will teach them how to make them. Laundry? Bring it to the basement and I’ll show you how to sort and wash it. I love my ‘not so little anymore’ girls. I am not raising princesses. I am raising strong, independent women.
While you were out having fun this weekend, the FDA announced it has agreed to update the Nutrition Facts Panel on packaged food. This is big news for nutrition geeks like me, as well as consumers.
The food label has taken flack in the past for being too vague, or too difficult to understand. I remember nutrition labeling on a bag of chips that read serving size “1 1/4 oz”. How exactly does one measure a 1/4 oz. of chips?
The new label has a few big changes. For one, the calories will be in MUCH LARGER PRINT and with more normal serving sizes. A serving size for soda will no longer be 8 oz, but will be 12 oz. In addition, calories from fat will no longer be listed as science tells us it’s the type of fat that matters. More on that to come once all scientific and nutrition parties agree on which foods we can call “healthy”. Hint- nuts are the new black!
Vitamins A and C will be replaced with potassium and vitamin D. It’s not that these vitamins are no longer important in our diets. The change is meant to represent latest research on the role of adequate vitamin D intake in the prevention of various diseases (heart disease, some cancers, MS) and to get sufficient potassium in our diets as it is linked with managing blood pressure. If you eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, vitamins A & C and fiber are met as well as potassium. Include low fat dairy products in your diet regularly for adequate calcium and vitamin D. Calcium, iron and protein will remain on the label.
Probably the biggest improvement will be the addition of the line “Includes blank grams of Added Sugars”. This will be key in figuring out how much “added sugar” in your yogurt is coming from processed sugar and not lactose or fruit. Hint- every 4 grams of added sugar is equivalent to 1 tsp. That sweetened oatmeal you eat has about 3 tsp. per serving. You’re better off making plain oatmeal and adding cinnamon and less sugar.
Finally, there will be an additional footnote at the bottom of the Nutrition Facts Label to explain the percent daily value (DV). As a general rule, a food containing less than 5% of the DV for a nutrient is LOW in that nutrient. Foods containing 20% or more of the DV for a nutrient are HIGH in that nutrient.
The new nutrition facts labels won’t be unveiled until late July, 2018. In the mean time, keep your diet plant-based with less processed foods and keep reading your labels!
If we all knew how to lose weight appropriately (AND keep it off), we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic in this country. I see lots of clients for weight loss and my most successful are the ones that avoid the 5 biggest mistakes below:
1. Eating too few calories (especially carbohydrates). Your body needs enough calories to maintain normal physiologic functions. When you dip below your BMR (basal metabolic rate), your body’s instinct is to conserve calories, making weight loss more difficult. If anything, you’ll lose muscle, which will reduce your ability to burn calories even further.
2. Drinking calories in place of food. Chewing your food provides satiety (a feeling of fullness) that liquids won’t provide. In addition, you miss out on the thermic effect of food- the increase in metabolism after the digestion of food. If you have teeth and a small intestine, let your body do the digestion. Limit liquids like alcohol, soda, juice and smoothies. CHEW FOOD.
3. Skipping weight training. If you want to burn more calories, don’t just do cardio. Cardio exercises will use up calories during exercise and may prevent fat storage, but muscle will burn more calories at rest. Use some dumb bells or a medicine ball or stretch bands while watching TV or meet with a personal trainer for a program. Aim for 2-3 times/week for 15-20 min.
4. Not drinking enough water. Water is not only calorie-free, studies show that dieters that drink 16 oz. of water, 30 min before each meal lose more weight than non-water drinkers. In addition, water prevents dehydration, which may keep you from grabbing excess snacks because you won’t feel fatigued.
5. Rewarding yourself with food. Losing weight is typically easier than maintaining weight loss. Establish good eating habits VS “going on a diet” that has an end point. When you reward yourself with food, it can set up a pattern of emotional eating and give the food too much power. Set a small goal and pick a non-food reward like getting a manicure, pedicure or something else valuable to you. Food should not be the reward- better health should be!