Fall-ing into place

October was such a crazy month, that I didn’t get a chance to write a blog post, so consider this post an extended update.  In addition to starting another rotation of the dietetic internship (DI), I moved into a new apartment in October.  Needless to say, I’ve been a very busy girl these past few months!

I’ll start by sharing some updates about my latest rotations.  I’ve been interning in a long term care facility for the past two months.  My experience at this facility has been divided into two parts:  institutional food service management and clinical long term care.  The food service management rotation was surprisingly fun.  It takes a lot of work and organization to oversee the management of a food service department, especially in a residential/long term care facility.  I learned about forecasting, budgeting, purchasing, and how food is stored and prepared in this facility.  I also got to know the food service staff and presented an inservice on food sanitation and teamwork, which are essential in a food service kitchen.

My second rotation at this same facility has been in the clinical area.  I’ve been working on nutrition assessments of residents in long term care (LTC) while getting to know the residents, their health conditions, and and how to address health problems using evidence-based nutrition interventions.  I’ve found the clinical aspect of this rotation to be a little more challenging than food service, mostly because assessments need to be written in a very particular way and I’m still finding my voice when it comes to making recommendations and writing evaluations.  My advice to anyone else going into a clinical rotation of the DI is to learn from each preceptor and try to see everything as a learning experience, especially if you don’t have much clinical experience prior to starting the internship.

Like I mentioned above, October was super busy due to transitioning from one rotation to the next, all while moving my life into a U-Haul and changing homes.  I absolutely love my new apartment– it’s so roomy, light, and has such a great energy about it.  Growing up, I wanted to be an architect or an interior designer, so I’m having a lot of fun trying to make the best use of space and decorating (on a budget!).

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My new room 🙂

I’m hoping the rest of November will be a little more calm now that I’m settled into my new home and in December, I’ll get a short break from the internship (which is definitely welcomed, because every intern needs a break now and then!).  I’m looking forward to sharing more updates and info when I start my next rotation 🙂

-Jess

What Influences Our Eating? (an intro, for now)

my lecture notes from class (and my cool sparkly, animal-print notebook, because I like to embrace my inner child while learning).

my lecture notes from class (and my cool sparkly, animal-print notebook, because I like to embrace my inner child while learning).

Last week, I started another year as a nutrition student as the fall semester commenced. So far, I really like the classes I’m taking. One class called “Energy & Exercise” is going to be a favorite, I think. This class is focused on weight control methods, exercise physiology, and energy balance. We’re also going to learn about eating disorders and how to prevent eating disordered behavior through promoting healthy eating habits and fostering a healthy body image in our future clients’ lives.

In yesterday’s lecture, we discussed some factors that influence our eating. This topic is of particular interest to me because of my own experiences and my belief that mindful eating is the most natural, effective way to eat healthfully while maintaining a balanced approach to diet.

Most people think that hunger, advertisements, being around food in a social setting, and emotions/stress are the top influencers of food consumption, however, I’m learning that there is SO much more to it. Neuropeptides and hormones such as neuropeptide Y, galanin, agouti-related protein, prolactin, and gherlin all have an effect on our appetites. I won’t go into too much detail about the science, because we’ve only just brushed the surface in class, but so far I’m learning that it’s a common misconception that all it takes to control ones appetite is willpower. I actually think I always knew this, because I consider myself (mostly) strong-willed, but still cave into cravings. It’s interesting to have scientific evidence that our feeding and food intake is not always so cut-and-dry.

It’s helpful to learn that there are physiological factors that lead us to eat certain foods because many people who have not struggled with their weight are quick to judge those who are overweight. It’s not always as simple as “eat this, don’t eat that” because, as I’m learning, there are so many factors that go into weight and food intake regulation. It can be frustrating when you look to diet books or magazines advising you to follow a strict diet and then you fail (or perceive failure when you haven’t lost ‘x” amount of lbs), but I hope that as a (future) dietitian, I can help my clients understand that weight has many influences to it, and then help them make the best dietary choices to counteract some factors that may be out of their own control (genetics, hormones, etc). Keep reading and I’ll continue to elaborate on this topic in future posts. There’s so much I have yet to learn and can’t wait to share it with you! 🙂

-Jess

It’s Just Food, or Is It?

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To someone who has always had a healthy relationship with food, food is just food. Meaning food is simply something you eat to enjoy and to keep you alive, and yes, sometimes indulge in just for the sake of eating something tasty. But, for me, and for many other people I know, food is so much more than that.

For myself, food is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. As I’ve alluded to in earlier posts, a lot of people who get into nutrition have history of disordered eating (perhaps one day I’ll share more, but today isn’t that day). One reason why I chose to study nutrition is because I was so misguided as a teenager when it came to learning how to be healthy. I wish I had a qualified nutrition professional leading me in the right direction when I was younger, so now, I’m doing my part to help myself and help others in the future. But that’s not the only reason. I love cooking, I love creating healthy versions of recipes, and I believe proper nutrition is vital to living a healthy life. I’m also intensely passionate about science and scientifcally-based evidence when it comes to using nutrition to prevent and treat disease.

As a nutrition student, I’ve learned so much in my classes. My favorite courses so far have been Medical Nutrition Therapy, where we learn how to treat illnesses and symptoms like portal hypertension, ulcerative colitis, hepatitis, and others, and I also really enjoyed Cultural Aspects of Food. In Cultural Aspects of Food, we learned about how early man ate (surprise: the paleo diet, although very healthy, isn’t completely reflective of how cavemen ate), how different cultures eat, issues surrounding the global food source and how we’re going to sustain ourselves. Even though I feel like I’m getting a great education, I sometimes doubt myself when it comes to what I’m eating. Based on the recommendations in my Nutrition 101 class, I’m doing pretty well, nutritionally. I eat a lot of fruits and veggies, my grains are always whole and not refined, I limit sugars, and my protein is usually lean (I don’t eat meat for various reasons [but I completely understand that veganism isn’t for everyone] so I stick with beans, tofu, etc. which are low in fat). But, I also take in a lot of information from outside of my classes.

My MNT textbook, often found on my bed after a long night of studying.

My MNT textbook, often found on my bed after a long night of studying.

 

When you’re passionate, or dare I say, obsessive, about food/nutrition, you tend to want to learn as much as you can, and this can present some problems because it can be information-overdrive. Somedays I’ll read some article claiming gluten is the most harmful thing one could ingest, and the next, I’ll read a scholarly paper proving that whole wheat products are perfectly fine for non-celiacs. It can be really confusing to sift through information, especially because nutrition is such a new science. We’ve only been studying what we’ve been eating for a limited amount of time and in that time, there has been so much conflicting advice. In the 80’s and 90’s, fat (in all forms) was shunned. That did us no good. In the early 2000’s, Atkins was the boss. Low-carbohydrate diets have been shown to be effective for weight loss, but at what cost? Eating large amounts of meat, especially factory-farmed meat, has been shown to increase the risk of cancers and heart disease, and it’s unsustainable for our planet. Now, it seems like the focus is on eating is purity, or cleanliness. To be healthy means you must eat organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. While I can agree that a diet consisting of mostly unprocessed, whole, organic foods is best, it’s not healthy to obsess over how pure your diet is, especially if it limits your social life or mental wellbeing.

So what advice as someone studying nutrition can I give to you (and myself!)? I think the answer is to find a way of eating that is a) based on nutritionally sound advice (we need carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals to sustain ourselves) b) balanced, based on the individual (some people really do feel better avoiding gluten even without diagnosed Celiac Disease, some people do well eating only plants, some people need less carbs to thrive) c) an ongoing experiment. Meaning you might experiment with the ratios of your macronutrients and see how it affects you, or you may want to see if going gluten-free alleviates some stomach pain, or you may find that a moderate diet of whole grains, dairy, fruits, veggies, and meat is working just fine. The important thing is to find a way of eating that makes you feel healthy, have patience in the process, and focus on yourself instead of buying into every new piece of advice that comes along.

 

-Jess

Are Superfoods Superior?

If you read health articles, chances are you’ve come across the term “superfood”, but are these foods superior to others? Lets start with the basics. A “superfood” can be defined as any food that is nutritionally rich in a particular vitamin, mineral, or other substance that is beneficial to one’s health.  In recent years, the rise of health gurus advocating for the consumption of “superfoods” has increased and it can be difficult to distinguish whether someone is actually knowledgeable about nutrition, or if they are trying to sell you something that you might not need.

Can a cookie really be "super" in the health sense? I'm not sure, so I'll just assume they mean super-delicious!

Can a cookie really be “super” in the health sense? I’m not sure, so I’ll just assume they mean super-delicious!

The marketing of specially-formulated powders and supplements, even when they only contain “natural” ingredients, is something I’ve noticed recently, and it’s alarming, because something can be natural, and organic, but not necessarily healthy or essential for the body. Another thing I’ve noticed is just how many packaged items appear to be “superfoods”, when in reality, the most superior of foods are the ones you can find in a farm stand.  Fresh, seasonal produce is the definition of a “superfood” to me, especially if it is grown in nutrient-rich soil and doesn’t need to be imported or shipped from many miles away. The longer a food item is in transit, the more nutrients it loses. Comparing locally-grown blueberries to Amazonian-harvested açaí berries (a so-called “superfood”), it’s actually better to eat the local blueberries because not only will you get vitamins and antioxidants, you’ll be supporting local agriculture, instead of consuming an overpriced, nutritionally-similar açaí berry which must travel a great distance to get to your health food store. Of course, if you have the means to buy more expensive and exotic ingredients, be my guest, but if you’re looking for a nutritious, native source of antioxidants on the cheap, your local farmers market has a plethora of options.

In my opinion, there are no perfect foods. We need a balanced diet, and perfection isn't the goal.

In my opinion, there are no perfect foods.

So, besides supplements and açaí berries, what are some other so-called “superfoods”? Alternative-health experts will tell you to buy goji berries, maca, cacoa, among others, and while these foods definitely have benefits, you shouldn’t feel any less healthy by not buying into the hype. One does not need to have a diet full of “superfoods” to be super-healthy! Fresh berries, greens and other fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, dairy (if you tolerate it), and healthy fats are the things to focus on. My take is that a balanced diet based on whole foods is far superior than one based on supplements or packaged foods claiming to be “super”.

My idea of a meal full of "superfoods" is one rich in brightly colored, locally-grown vegetables.

My idea of a meal full of “superfoods” is one rich in brightly colored, locally-grown vegetables.

-Jess