Notes from a Clinical Dietitian
I racked my brain for a month or so debating what to write here. I find guest posts so challenging. With my own blog, I have a million chances to re-win an audience. If all else fails, at least there is always my killer banner and backdrop to convince you that I am all at once interesting and professional, fun yet just serious enough. But here, I have only this post and a word from my roommate:
Me: “I can’t decide what to write for Mary Ellen’s blog. Ideas?”
Roomster: “Write about that thing you told me, how health is like 70% diet, 20% lifestyle, and like 10% your genes.”
Me: “I actually like that idea.”
Roomster: “Then you could tell them about how it’s better to weigh more.”
Roomster: “Like…muscle weighs more than fat, so potentially it’s better to weigh more, right?”
Listen up, folks. I am never going to type out the words “it’s better to weigh more,” unless it’s directly preceded by the statement “I’m never going to actually type out the words…”, BUT his first idea was a genius one, and one that is near and dear to my heart.
In America, we are obsessed with health. Everybody is an expert. We have companies built around fitness programs, motivational techniques, computerized calorie trackers and online support groups, all in the name of being healthy. Throw into the mix billion dollar athletic wear companies, and we have ourselves a straight up empire built on the premise that health has a dollar amount, something to be achieved with just the right mix of technology and will power.
It has been my observation that the exact opposite, in fact, is true.
I work as an inpatient clinical dietitian, and I will tell you right off the bat that the healthiest people are not those with long lists of at-home supplements. They usually have no idea what kombucha is, and the idea of an Iron Man competition elicits a mental image of a well-endowed male steaming the creases out of a pair of pants.
I’ve compiled my observations of the healthiest, most fantastically old, feisty patients. They rarely have Beyonce booties or Jane Fonda legs, but they live long, happy lives, without the curse of diabetes, obesity, or heart disease.
They share the following traits:
1. Family is in the room.
Not only is family in the room, but 9 times out of 10 I am paged back at a later time for diet education because their daughter does all the grocery shopping, their husband does all the cooking, etc. Healthy people surround themselves with love, and consider eating a group activity.
2. They light up when telling me about the types of fresh fruits and vegetables they like.
Eating healthfully does not take an expert sense of knowledge or a will power of steel. Rather, it involves a true, deep-rooted appreciation for the vibrant goodness that fresh, whole foods bring to the mouth and the body. They don’t choose to not eat crap food out of guilt, but out of a real disgust for anything other than whole, natural foods. If this genuine commitment does not come naturally to you, I urge you, do some research. Watch some videos, like You Tube, and find out where your food comes from. Find a cause other than weight and will power to internalize your own healthy food philosophy.
3. They have a plan for daily movement that they follow religiously.
ALWAYS. They’ve “been walking every morning for the past 35 years.” They “work outside in the yard for an hour every day.” My grandfather, one of the most fit men I know, has done 50 situps and gone for a walk every day for the past 30 years. If your goal is to sculpt a magazine ad body, hire a personal trainer. If your goal is to be a healthy weight and lead a long life, just move. Thirty minutes every day. Start now.
4. They have a daily eating routine.
Every healthy person I interview can tell me their typical daily food routine without batting an eye. “Every morning I have coffee and oatmeal.” “I always have yogurt and fruit before bed.” Variety is the spice of life, but eating consistently at the same time every day and choosing many of the same foods leads to less eating out, less binge eating, and less guesswork.
5. They are grateful.
Even if I haven’t an ounce of wisdom to offer, they smile and wink a “thank you” as I leave the room. The conclusion from this could either be “Health contributes to a sense of gratitude,” or “Having a sense of gratitude contributes to health.” Either one works.
My main point is that as a nation, our health does not depend on our fancy gym memberships or on being blessed with movie star genes. These things are icing on the cake. In the end, our work is to drop the anxiety that comes with a pressure to “obtain health.” We were born with health; it’s already there. Vitality, then, is something we already own; we just need to cut through the stress, anxiety, and bad habits to uncover it.
I encourage you to lend your energy to the simplicity that comes with focusing on loved ones, fresh foods, daily movement, consistent eating, and gratitude for the miraculous machine that is your body.
Health, and maybe even the Beyonce bootie, will follow.
Peace, Love, and Veggies,
Britt Wright, RD, LDN
As a former competitive gymnast, Brittany understands the connection between nutrition and performance. A motivated goal-setter, she was drawn to dietetics based on the concept that by eating well, she had the energy and motivation to lead her best life.
Graduating with honors from University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, she completed her clinical rotations at Ingalls Memorial Hospital and also picked up a Raw Foods Chef certification at the Raw Gourmet Institute of Chicago (why not?). She now works as an inpatient clinical dietitian and private consultant offering cleanse programs and nutrition counseling for individuals, small groups and businesses.