NYC Registered Dietitian Discusses Food Equity and Food Environment

Access to Healthy, Inexpensive Nutritional Options is a Challenge for Many

If there’s anything Covid-19 has taught us, is that there are egregious problems of inequity not only in the United States but around the world. In America, the CDC reports “a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.”

Inequality is also prevalent in nutrition. The USDA (US Department of Agriculture) studies consumption patterns for Americans. Lower-income households consume foods higher in salt and sugar content. These dietary patterns are related to chronic disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, among others. Add food insecurity to the mix – which is something very real that low-income to middle-income houses experience – and this leads to higher incidences of health problems related to blood-sugar control, as skipping meals (even days of meals) can be common.

 

Food equity, food environment, and access to healthy, inexpensive nutritional options is challenging. This affects not only physical and mental health. Good nutrition plays a big role in academic success as well. Today, I want to discuss food equity and food environment, sustainable eating and waste reduction.

Food equity “is the concept that all people will have the ability and opportunity to grow and to consume healthful, affordable, and culturally significant foods.”

Food equity, then, depends on food environment.

 

Food environment is access and distance to food stores or places where healthy food options can be obtained. It depends on:

  1. The physical presence of food that affects a person’s diet. (What’s in your fridge?)
  2. How close a person is to store locations to access food.
  3. The location of food stores or entities (restaurants, shops etc.) where food can be obtained. (This could be proximity, but it could also have to do with safety. How close can someone safely go to access healthy food options?)
  4. A connected system that provides people with access to food.

Many people’s knee-jerk reaction is, “Buy an apple.”

It’s not that easy.

Everything from densely populated neighborhoods whose only access to food is a convenience store (not a mecca for fresh fruits and vegetables) to the real need to get sufficient calories on a low budget ($1.00 spent will buy 1200 calories of cookies and snacks compared to 250 calories of fruits and vegetables), influence food choices consumers make every single day.

 

Moreover, the food environment of the United States is often considered toxic because, though the foods are normally safe to consume, making good food choices can be really difficult because of the myriad of shiny packages and unhealthy options available as well as lack of nutrition knowledge.

So, what can we do?

  1. Understand that not everyone has access to healthy food choices and food choices made are based on real needs.
  2. Pay attention to food equity platforms. Policy makers need to understand the food chain – from supporting small farm, urban, and community agriculture initiatives to bigger policies that affect, and improve, consumption. Moreover, policy makers must work with community leaders to find viable solutions to making healthier, better food environments. Every community is different. Remember food equity also includes culturally significant foods. This will change drastically from community-to-community.
  3. Nutrition education is critical in schools, community centers, factories, workplaces and more in order to influence behavior and have consumers choose differently. This has to do with everything from understanding food labels to how to prepare different foods.
  4. Affordable, healthy options must be available.

One of the first things we can do to chip away at inequality is to fight for food equity and improved food environments for everyone.

Some organizations to look out for and support are:

Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners
Chef Ann Foundation
DC Central Kitchen
Dreaming Out Loud (DOL)
Edible Manhattan
Feeding America
Food Corps
Grow NYC
GrubTubs

Tips to Reach Exercise and Nutrition Goals from NYC Registered Dietitian

Healthy Living is Just a Step Away

What do almost all fitness, health, and diet advertisements have in common? The end result. Sculpted bodies and magnificent testimonials: The recovered addict who runs marathons. The stressed out corporate executive that changed their life through meditation … the list goes on.

Americans love these dream stories, as they define what is something that we believe is essential to our national character – any adversity can be overcome, anything is possible. I’m not being a downer and trying to negate it. It’s just those huge success stories (end results) fail to talk about setbacks and struggles. (Unless there’s a cool documentary – which is even tricky because all hurdles are overcome in a very condensed two-hour timeslot). More importantly, the great nutrition, health, fitness success stories fail to emphasize the importance of small steps to get there.

So, inspired, I’ve had many clients embark upon a road to better nutrition and fitness only to stumble and fall, feeling overwhelmed by information and seemingly insurmountable hurdles – feeling more demoralized about their bodies and health than when they began. The problem is they were focused on that image – that advertisement – and forgot there’s quite a road to travel to get there.

But you can’t travel that road if you don’t take the first step.

Small steps can make a world of difference in your health and life. Here are some tips on how to eat and exercise better, one step at a time.

 

Goal: I want to get to a healthier weight.
First step: Increase your fruit and vegetable intake.

Make no other change. Pay attention to how your body feels when you replace, perhaps, a bag of chips with some chopped carrots, hummus, and cheese. Pay attention to your energy levels and gut health. And celebrate the small change until you’re ready for another.

 

Goal: I want to get in shape.
First step: Find ways to walk more.

Walk your kids to school. Walk to the grocery store. Walk to work. Take the steps to your apartment or office. Park at the last space in the parking lot. Pretty soon, those long walks will feel short. Then you’re ready for the next step.

 


Goal:
I want to feel more comfortable with my body.
First step: Write down five things you love about your body.

Improving body self-esteem in the era of photoshop and body hate is tough. It’s particularly hard for young people whose bodies are developing and they’re trying to sift through a barrage of pretty horrifying information from a billion-dollar industry that profits off body hate. Improving body self-esteem doesn’t happen overnight. Small steps to recovering body self esteem and building compassion, shedding shame from disordered eating take time.

Goal: Have better posture.
First step: Sit better.

Yes, you read that right. We have become a nation of professional sitters. So, sit well. Feet should be flat on the floor (or get a little stool for your feet. There should be a small gap between your knees and the chair. Support your lower back.

Small steps lead to big change when the focus is on each step of the road. Mindfulness and focus are keys to success. So, start today with that first step toward your health, nutrition, and fitness goals. You’ll be surprised about the changes to come.

 

6 Tips to Bring the Mediterranean to your Table from New York Nutritionist

Clean Out Your Pantry and Enjoy the Flavors of the Mediterranean

Many of us have had a lot of extra time on our hands these days. So, if you still have some at-home chores and are feeling inspired for even more spring cleaning, why not lighten things up with a taste of the Mediterranean?

May is Mediterranean Diet Month. The Mediterranean diet is touted as being one of the healthiest diets on the planet, high in fruits and vegetables, fish and pulses/beans, grains like rice and couscous and lots of olive oil. It’s recognized by the WHO as a healthy, sustainable diet as well as an intangible cultural asset by the United National Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

With some simple changes, you can replace the humdrum of a bland diet with pops of flavor, color, and bite-sized health. And, this can be done on a tight budget.

Clear the pantry and fridge and make way for some phenomenal flavor.

  1. Try something new like baked kale chips, baked pita triangles, homemade corn tortilla chips, with hummus and babaghanoush. Make a salad of feta, olives, cucumbers and peppers dressed with herb olive oil dressing to portion out in small servings. This will satisfy those snack cravings with something equally delicious but way more nutritious.
  2. Replace red meats with beans, lentils, and chickpeas in your soups, sauces, pasta dishes, and even as the base for veggie burgers. Pulses are less expensive than red meat and are heart healthier.
  3. Substitute ice cream with full fat plain yogurt topped with fresh berries and or other fruits. Drizzle with honey for a touch of added sweetness!
  4. Redefine fast food. It’s just as easy to make an omelet with spinach, feta cheese, and chives served with a crusty bread or pita as it is to drive to pick up some fast food. Simplify meals by saving time in the kitchen, having cut up veggies or baked pita triangles and yogurt or hummus dip on hand. Much of our eating habits depend on convenience. Make it easy to eat well.

  5. Replace salt with spices. Give a try at starting a little herb garden in your home! Pick started plants with your favorite flavors – thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, cilantro – to have them on hand to spice up your favorite dishes. Mediterranean diets are low on salt but big on flavor.
  6. Olive oil is a must! Olive oil is packed with healthy monounsaturated fats. Drizzle it on thick-cut tomatoes with basil and feta cheese, use it as a base for salad dressings and kale chips, drizzle it on toast, and sauté your veggies in it. It can even be used in some of your baking! Olive oil is a mainstay of the Mediterranean diet.

Finding smart ways to bring the Mediterranean to your table is not only heart-healthy but also better for your budget. Healthy, low-cost choices can turn your pantry into a nutritional, flavorful experience! It just takes a little imagination.

Since travel is pretty much off the table for most of us right now, why not bring the Mediterranean to you?

13 Tips to Eat Healthy on a Tight Budget from New York Registered Nutritionist

Stretch Your Dollars and Make Every Meal Count

Groceries on a Budget

Money is tight for everyone right now. Balance that with the need to keep our health – mental and physical – up, and it might feel almost impossible to eat healthy on such a limited budget.

It’s not. It simply takes a little extra preparation and thoughtfulness.

  1. Plan ahead. Plan your meals out for the next week – including protein, carb, vegetables, and fruits. Plan meals using, first, what you have in your cupboards.
  2. Use what you’ve got on hand. It’s key to know what you’ve got in your pantry, freezer, and tucked on those shelves in your refrigerator before ordering or heading to the store. Make a grocery list, based on the meal plan, and stick to it, using pantry items first so they don’t get old.
  3. Don’t throw those mushy and bruised fruits away! When fruits and vegetables are starting to look limp, don’t toss them. Freeze vegetables (shredded zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower pulsed in the blender) to add to soups and sauces. Fruits are perfect for simple cakes, muffins, and/or fruit compotes to eat with plain yogurt or on top of wheat toast.
  4. Appreciate imperfections. Oftentimes that funny-looking fruit is less expensive. But it doesn’t taste any less delicious! Appreciate those imperfections and appreciate savings!
  5. Cook larger portions. This saves time and money. Freeze leftovers in family-meal sized Tupperware containers, or eat them the next day for lunch and/or dinner.
  6. Buy whole foods. Blocks of cheese are less expensive than sliced cheese. Uncooked beans are less expensive than refried beans, chili con carne, and other “already prepared” presentations. Yogurt is less expensive in a big container than individual-sized containers. And a bonus is these whole foods have less plastic waste and are more sustainable.
  7. Plant an herb garden. Every kitchen, every apartment, has space for your favorite herbs (rosemary, basil, thyme, spearmint). Plus, the aroma brightens up any home.Plant an Herb Garden
  8. Plant a garden! If you have a yard, take advantage of the space to plant a small garden. In just a month or two, you will reap the rewards. You can EVEN plant a garden in your apartment. Listen to this TED talk with Britta Riley to get inspired.
  9. Replace meat with a plant protein. Beans, lentils, chickpeas – all pulses  — are inexpensive protein supplements perfect for salads, soups, and sauces. Combine with quinoa, chia, or whole-grain rice. Going meatless not only saves money but also is a more sustainable way to eat. Just once or twice a week will make a difference in your wallet. Make a big batch of chili to portion and freeze for another day to save time and money!
  10. Buy in-season. In-season fruits and vegetables are less expensive and more sustainable. For those out-of-season cravings, look for frozen fruits and vegetables – that maintain the nutrition without the high price.
  11. Buy in bulk … as your pantry and/or freezer permits. Millet, brown rice, barley, and oats are often available, and less expensive, in larger presentations. Store in air-tight containers. Again, this is only a savings plan if you have the space and storage for them!
  12. Drink water! Flavored drinks, juices, and sodas are not only more expensive, but they’re also often high in sugar or sugar substitutes, neither of which are good for you! Slice up lemon and drink water.
  13. Treat yourself. Right now, our lives have been put on hold. Why not have your favorite “fun food” around? Schedule your favorite chips, ice cream, or other indulgence into your weekly eating in a way they don’t replace balanced meals and all of your snacks between meals.

Money is tight. But your health shouldn’t pay the price. We all can eat healthy without breaking the bank. Stay healthy during this time. Take care of yourselves.

 

Senior Exercise

8 Tips for Seniors to Keep Active in Quarantine from NYC Registered Personal Trainer

Stay Home, But Don’t Stay Still

Seniors Walking

There are four pillars to fitness, in particular senior fitness: strength training, cardio, balance, and flexibility. Many mistake fitness for preparing for the Iron Man or other sports events. Being fit comes down to one fundamental thing – independence.

During the last several weeks, even longer for some, many have been confined to a small apartment space. I know, from experience, how hard it is to get in a comprehensive exercise program, especially during such closed-in times.

Safety first. Always. But while you’re staying at home, there are many safe exercises to do to keep your body active. 

  1. Sit less. Move more. Talking on the phone? Walk and talk. During commercials, get up to do an active chore (wash the dishes, dust the living room, take out the garbage). If you can’t walk or stand, do seated knee lifts, arm circles, kicks, and foot slides.
  2. Take a walk. Some people are living in less populated areas. Pay attention to times when there are fewer people out on the streets. Take a brisk walk around the block … up and down the street. Remember, staying safe and following quarantine recommendations is most important.

    Seniors Walking

  3. Take the stairs. If you live in an apartment building with stairs, walk up and down the stairs. BE CAREFUL ABOUT TOUCHING THE HANDRAIL. It’s important for balance, but you should avoid touching surfaces that many others have touched. 
  4. Pump up the music. Create a playlist of your favorite songs and move around the house until you get through 15 minutes. Add a song each day to build up endurance. 
  5. Get to gardening. If you have a small yard or garden, now’s the time to get to work. Being outside and active is good for both mind and body. Spring is here!
  6. Tai chi is a great, low-impact activity that can get your heart rate up as well as help you work your range of motion. Check out some tai-chi for beginners videos and 
  7. Sit up straight, stand tall. Great posture comes from a strengthened core.  Here are just three easy, at-home exercises to strengthen your core (warm up before doing these exercises and pay close attention to form).
    1. Semi-sits: Stand in front of a chair with your abdominal muscles tight. Move to sit down and stand back up before sitting all the way. Repeat five times.
    2. Leg lifts: Lie on your back with your legs flat. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift the right leg five inches off the floor. Hold it, then lower it. Repeat with the left leg. Do this five times each.
    3. Side bends. Sit on a chair. Put one hand behind your head and extend your other arm straight out to the side. Lean to the side, like you’re trying to touch the ground, keeping your abdominal muscles tight throughout the movement. Return to sitting position. Repeat on the other side. Do this five times each.

      Senior Women

  8. Join an online exercise class. There are so many people offering their services during this time – to keep people safe and connected and active! 

Staying home doesn’t mean staying inactive. Exercise is essential, not only for physical health but also mental health. 

No one should exercise if they’re experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms. Remember, safety and health first, but if you’re feeling like you’re going to crawl the walls … pump up the music and get moving. It’ll do you a world of good.

Variety of Vegetables

5 Foods to Help Reduce Anxiety from NYC Registered Dietitian

Gut Health = Mental Health

One of the most remarkable things about what we’re living through today is the uncertainty. It’s really hard for many to let things go, to realize that there are things way beyond our control. Many people have lost jobs, closed businesses, have loved ones who are far away, ill, or have died. The blank slate of tomorrow can cause anxiety.

Healthy Snack

Though access to many foods and products has been reduced, there are many foods that have been proven to ease anxiety. In all of this list, there’s definitely something you can get. In all of this, we do have, to an extent, our food choices under control. Gut health is directly related to mental health. So, give your body a much-needed boost to battle anxiety overload.

    1. Low-magnesium diets have been proven to increase anxiety-related behaviors. So, give your body a boost of magnesium found in nuts, legumes, leafy greens, Swiss chard, and whole grains.
    2. Zinc is not only great for the immune system, so, too, does it help battle anxiety. Liver, beef, egg yolks, and cashew nuts are packed with zinc.
    3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids have been proven to not only improve depression, but also ease anxiety. Fatty fish, like salmon, fish oil, and flaxseed all pack a punch of Omega 3s.Oatmeal
    4. I love prebiotics and probiotics. The former support gut health and come from plant fibers. Probiotics are naturally occurring bacteria in the gut but also come from naturally fermented foods. For maximum impact, you need a combo of the two:
      1. An apple or oats with yogurt (unsweetened).
      2. Kefir with oats.
      3. A mango and berry smoothie, using kefir, with chia seeds.
      4. Onions and feta cheese (on your favorite leafy greens for a great salad).
      5. Dandelion greens and Manchego cheese. Yum!
      6. Garlic roasted vegetables, green olives and aged cheeses.
    5. Antioxidants aren’t just for immune health. Research has proven that there is a correlation between anxiety and lowered antioxidants in the body. Now is the time to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Foods with high levels of antioxidants include beans, fruits, berries, nuts, and vegetables.

Nut Butters

 

We’re living in a time of interconnectedness and fragility. Self-care, starting with good nutrition, is one of the most important things you can do for you and your family today. In the next blog, I’ll talk about how to keep moving at home – how to get the most out of this – to keep your body and mind healthy.

It’s so important to know that you’re not alone. Here are some numbers to call in case you need to connect with someone.

The Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Helpline:
1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Citrus Foods Boost Immunity

NYC Online Nutrition and Dietitian Counseling Services

Connect for Health

We are living in a very weird time, and so much of that strangeness comes with the uncertainty of what’s next. And, I don’t doubt this will be something all of us will remember the rest of our lives. COVID-19 has affected everybody one way or another.

Though we’re flooded with images of people buying toilet paper and eerie supermarket panic, I see how extraordinary and resourceful people have been, finding ways to alleviate stress, keep connected, and keep the wheels of life turning. For instance, overnight, teachers re-invented the way to reach students, redefining education, finding ways to create lunch drop-offs. Libraries, museums, zoos, the Met Opera, Broadway … all have gone virtual, providing the world with a way to explore collections and stay connected through art. We can travel to Versailles! Even Michelin chefs are providing cooking lessons, free-of-charge, on Instagram.

Immunity Boosting Foods

In this health crisis, all “non-essential” health services have been cancelled. Which can be scary. Women are pregnant and need to take care of their bodies, with accurate information. People continue to work through eating disorders and chronic illness. Every health issue begins with good nutrition. And it’s imperative to have access to accurate information.

I want you to know you are not alone.

As a registered New York dietitian, I work with clients from all walks of life, from all over the world. Nutrition is the key to health, and during times like this, we all need give our bodies and immune systems an extra boost. So, steer clear of the toilet paper aisle, and stock up on these super immune-system foods:

Citrus Foods Boost Immunity

  1. Citrus fruits are packed with Vitamin C.
  2. Papayas and kiwis have Vitamin C, potassium, folate and more.
  3. Bring on the broccoli. This superfood, though it lost a little of the spotlight to kale, is one of the best. Vitamins A, C, E, antioxidants, and fiber in these green stalks make this a no-lose choice. Steam it or eat it raw! (Wash well!)
  4. Garlic is proven to ward off infections. (Keep in mind we’re all in close quarters now, so you might want to make sure everybody indulges together!)
  5. Ginger is an anti-inflammatory (proven to help with sore throats) and can help with morning sickness (great in a tea for my prenatal clients), curbing nausea.
  6. Almonds are packed with Vitamin E, which is key to a healthy immune system. A half a cup of almonds provides your daily requirements of Vitamin E.
  7. Green tea has high levels of EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) … which is, in other words, an awesome antioxidant. This boosts immune function. It also is a great source of flavonoids and the amino acid L-theanine. Stew a thermos of green tea and sip on it all day long.
  8. Kefir, kombucha and yogurt give your gut a much-needed immune boost. Remember gut health is also mental health.
  9. Go frozen!Remember frozen fruits and vegetables retain their nutrients. Blueberries, strawberries, mixed berries, broccoli, mixed vegetables … all are packed with nutrients and won’t spoil.Immunity Boosting Foods

Eating well is the crux of health. It is an essential service you do for your body. Another piece of the puzzle is to keep moving. Many of us are homebound for the next several weeks. Below are some great resources to keep moving in the house. Being active is key to immune health.

Immunity Boosting Foods

Covid-19 has been a humble reminder of our fragility and connection. Life continues. As a registered dietitian, I provide online prenatal, post-natal counseling, as well as work with clients who need clinical dietitian services. We’re just a phone call or internet connection away! Contact me. We can connect and keep your nutrition goals on track.

Stay healthy. Stay calm.

Cosmic Kids Yoga: Learn yoga positions, get moving, while acting out a children’s story. (Really fun for younger kids or those who are young-at-heart.)

Yoga with Cassandra

7 Minute Workout

5 Tips from NYC Registered Dietitian on How to Put Yourself First

Nutrition, Exercise, and Self Care for Busy Women

The tiredness and fatigue are real. We’re stretched to the limits every day between work and family, social obligations and social work, and the pressure of trying to fit everything from exercise and PTA meetings to political rallies and Girl Scout cookie sales in a 24-hour time slot.

March 8 is International Women’s Day, a day to commemorate the ongoing battle for gender equality. This year’s theme is #EachforEqual – an equal world is an enabled world. My proposal, as a mother, a grandmother, and a woman always searching for balance, is that we begin this battle for equality in our homes and with some very necessary self care.

How?

It’s time to get a little selfish and put yourself first this Interational Women’s Month (and always).

  1. Get radical at restaurants. When was the last time you opened a menu at a restaurant and chose what you wanted to eat? Almost all mothers will relate. Eating leftovers off everyone’s plate isn’t the ideal way to get your nutritional needs met. Plus, it makes restaurant eating not so fun. So, ditch the kids menu and choose something you’re excited about. This is also a great way to get your family to try new things. Pick a fun appetizer, something different, for everyone to try. Share entrees. This encourages adventurous eating for everyone and gives you a chance to eat what you want!
  2. Be mindful during meals. I work with many moms who scramble to fit everything in. It’s all too common to buzz around the kitchen, scooping in bites of salad, casserole … whatever … while helping a child finish a science fair project or sending last-minute texts to the office. Nutrition isn’t only about WHAT we eat, but also HOW we eat. Taking time out to sit to enjoy a meal is critical for health.
  3. Value rest. We’re in a mad society that values being busy over almost everything else. It’s become this all-American thing to always be busy. Challenge yourself to take a break. What does this look like? It could look like sitting down to watch bad TV. Reading a book. Taking a nap. Turning off your phone and computer. Just … sitting and looking out the window. Saying, ‘No.’ (This last one is a biggie.) Value down time because your brain and body need it. Don’t fall into the hamster, be-busy-at-all-costs trap.Relaxation as Self-Care
  4. Move… every day. Join a dance class. Find something that inspires you to move, whether it’s playing with your grandchildren in the park, gardening, joining a yoga class, or simply walking your dog. Movement is a critical element of health. Fall in love with your body again by valuing how it moves, how it works, and the magic of a machine it is.
  5. Improve your body self esteem. As women, we’re taught from a young age to hate our bodies. Turn off the 24-7 negative commentary in your brain. Celebrate your body, its beauty, and the amazing things it can do. You. Are. Beautiful.

International Women's Day - Beautiful Women

 

Valuing who we are as women is a critical first step toward the battle for gender equality. To do that, though, we have to learn to put our nutrition, our health, ourselves … first.

We deserve it!

Happy Woman

8 Tips to Train Clients with Kindness and Get Results from NYC Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer

#KindnessIsTrending in Personal Training

Last week I discussed how kindness should be an essential part of any fitness and nutrition program. Though the old school of personal trainers and dietitians are more akin to Terrence Fletcher in Whiplash than Danny O’Shea in Little Giantskindness doesn’t mean not doing our job. We must be able to help clients reach goals and get results.  

So, how can you train clients with kindness and still get results? 

  1. Be honest. A close friend of mine had stick-straight, long hair. She needed a change, picked a haircut she thought would be perfect, and went to an expensive salon. As soon as the stylist saw the picture, she shook her and said, “This woman has curly hair. You don’t. Your hair will not look like this. Ever.” Ouch. That honesty, though, saved my friend hundreds of dollars of disappointment. So much of what our clients want for their bodies doesn’t even take into consideration their body shape, their bone density, muscle density, stretch marks, sagging parts and more. Fitness and health are attainable for everyone. Fitting into a Size 2 dress by summer is not. 
  2. How can you be honest and not hurtful? 
    1. Shift the conversation from numbers to fitness goals. What does your client want to achieve? Instead of losing 20 pounds, perhaps they want to feel more energized, be able to go on carnival rides with their kids, feel better in their clothes etc. These latter goals are sustainable and real.
    2. If a client continues to focus on weight loss, be clear that your job isn’t to help someone lose weight, instead help a client build a healthy relationship with food and exercise. The by-product, of which, will often be weight loss.

  3. Build up body self esteem  Give clients tangible ways to build their body self-esteem. Have them keep a gratitude journal. Their goal is to write down five things they love about their body each day. (They can repeat). Invite clients to take a social media hiatus and note how they feel after the cleanse. Tell clients to be aware of their inner dialogue and judgements they make. Have them really listen to what their brain is telling them and make it shift its discourse.Happy Woman

     

  4. Help clients reconnect with their bodies Invite clients to reconnect with their bodies, the way they move, how they feel when they stretch, hold someone’s hand, to feel the cold of an ice cube in their mouth. We are often so disconnected, we’re not even aware of what our bodies are doing. Kindness training is about reconnecting with the essentials. This, also, will help clients learn to listen to their bodies and avoid injury.
  5. Influencer beware As certified personal trainers and dietitians, we’re competing with a beast of bad, and easily accessible, information. Many clients come in with some pretty far-out ideas about exercise and nutrition after scrolling through Instagram. Sit down with your client with a checklist. Ask them if they’d hire YOU without accredited qualifications. Provide clients with trusted websites and sources. Have them be critical of influencers, recognizing influencers are paid to promote. They’re human shopping networks, and oftentimes not smart. 
  6. Create thoughtfully structured goals with your client. Language is everything here. This will be your client’s North. It also is something your client has developed with you. These goals can be done monthly, and there should be real progression for each stage of the game. EG. By the end of the month, I want to be able to walk up six flights of stairs to my apartment without losing my breath. It’s specific. It has a realistic timeframe. It’s ACHIEVABLE. And not intimidating.Joy

     

  7. Do not be Mr. Miyagi. As dramatic as it is to fall into the mysterious ways of a coach like Mr. Miyagi, keep in mind this is much more successful for Hollywood than someone you’re training. Your clients must know the what, why, and how of everything. They will not wax your car or paint your fence (however tempting that may be). Explain the purpose of each exercise and how that exercise will help them reach the goals they set in number 6. 
  8. Get to the bottom of it. Understanding your clients’ underlying motivation is key to achieving goals. There are many layers to starting a fitness routine. If only every client came in and said, “I want to feel healthy and energized again.” Sigh. Some might be recovering from disordered eating and feel ashamed of their bodies and illness. Some might want to prove something to someone in their lives. Others might be using exercise and nutrition to make an ex jealous. Once you tap into these motivations, it will be easier to shift the focus to health and nutrition.  

Making your training sessions count. Tap into your clients’ needs, help them shift superficial expectations so they can reach attainable goals and develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise. It starts with being kind and helping clients realize how beautiful they are. 

Plus Size Model

How Kindness Should be an Integral Part of Training and Nutrition from NYC Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer

#KindnessIsTrending

I know. It doesn’t feel like it.

With a landslide of anger and negativity (yes, it’s an election year and we’ve ONLY just begun); with TV shows that make millions from the ugliest sides of humanity feeding off envy, vanity, competitiveness, and ire; there’s this overwhelming feeling of discontent … everywhere.

Enter social media.

A World of Perfect Lives (Lies). Perfect Relationships. And the perfect way to compare ourselves to thousands of strangers – friends of friends of friends – and it’s pretty easy to get lost in what’s real and what’s made up. We’re followers and likers and re-tweeters. We strive to be influencers. Because today the world is telling us that if we don’t have a public voice, we don’t matter. More is better. If we’re not more-liked, more-followed, more re-tweeted, we’re obsolete.

Plus Size Model

I see this with clients all the time. They come in with magazine pictures and “ideals”. They talk about friends who have lost weight and fit into those skinny jeans. They believe numbers define them (sizes, numbers on a scale, a BMI). As a dietitian and personal trainer, I’m often saddened by how much people hate their bodies. As if being human-shaped were a terrible, terrible thing.

A colleague and personal trainer, Andrew Schaeffer, recently wrote a beautiful post, I Want Mr. Rogers For My Personal Trainer. The essence of the post is something I’ve been talking to clients for years about: We are enough.

We. Are. Enough.

You Are Enough

And though the multi-billion-dollar fashion, beauty, and diet industries tell us otherwise, it’s true. It really is. By starting any new nutrition or exercise routine with this sense of wonder of what our bodies can do as they are; by sitting down and really assessing the essential, disregarding the noise of social media and falling into the comparison trap; by appreciating how truly miraculous our bodies are (our smiles, the wrinkles that show years of laughter, the c-section scars and stretch marks that show that life grew inside us) we will understand how beautiful we all are. At the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy (it is Valentine’s Day in two days, so perhaps you can give me a margin-of-cheese), I really believe the foundation of success is love. Love for what you do, love for who you’re with, love for who you are.

Body Diversity

By tearing down those paper walls of comparison, we will learn to celebrate body and age diversity. Eventually, we might just begin to understand that we are enough. And this acceptance is essential to change negative relationships with food and exercise.

Body Diversity 2

Last year, Mr. Rogers was re-introduced to younger generations. His kindness and integrity brought something retro to the table, something that, perhaps, many young people have been missing – authenticity, and a sense of calm. It’s uncommon to meet someone so absolutely okay with who they are. And okay with who they’re with.  I feel like these kinds of individuals work on a different wave than others. They bring something fresh and vibrant to conversations. They’re fully present. They actually listen. They shift expectations of what it means to be human.

Valentines Day

#KindnessIsTrending. (It is!) And the best place to start is with each one of us – our bodies, our health, and really celebrating the beautiful we are.

Happy Valentine’s Day.