Interview: Healthy Discoveries
The Boulder-Denver area holds a strong blogging and social media community, which became evident to me two years ago at a gathering where I met women from all sorts of backgrounds. That is where I found Jolene Park, nutritionist and founder of Healthy Discoveries.
Over time, Jolene and I connected over several interests, most notably is how we help people with chronic illness, particularly type 2 diabetes. What I do through writing and advocacy as a patient, she does through patient contact. Her practice and business has evolved this year, and I thought it was about time for me to showcase what she is doing.
(Disclaimer: Please note that although she does work with patients, Jolene is not a licensed medical professional. What may work for some people under her care may not work for you. Remember to check with your own licensed medical professionals before making any treatment decisions.)
What is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist (in the United States), education wise?
A registered dietitian (RD) must meet the following requirements:
- Bachelor’s degree in dietetics from an accredited four-year college or university.
- A completed internship of at least 900 hours and a passing score on the RD licensing examination.
- In order to maintain their license, RDs must earn at least 50 continuing education credits every five years.
On the other hand, the requirements for becoming a nutritionist vary greatly, but
nutritionists are not licensed and they adhere to different requirements depending on which state they reside. Some states have no licensing requirements for nutritionists, while other states recognize nutrition certification from various professional associations, but nutritionists are not recognized or connected to the American Dietetic Association.
In general, dietitians tend to supervise menus and food management services in restaurants, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, military bases and other institutions.
Nutritionists tend to work primarily with individuals and assess symptoms through a complete initial nutritional intake (60-90 minutes). Nutritionists consider overall health goals, diet, lifestyle, and family history. This is ideal for those with challenging or chronic health ailments. They customize eating and supplement plans with specific food suggestions including snacks, beverages, and meals.
Nutritionists encourage whole food choices over processed food. They consider blood sugar, gut health and brain chemistry issues along with the mind/body connection of cravings, over-eating, chronic dieting, fatigue issues, metabolism and stress.
For a thorough explanation of “what to do if you want to become a nutritionist” read a thoughtful and comprehensive article from Sally Fallon, president of the Weston Price Foundation.
Tell me about what you do (and have done) as a nutritionist.
I received my B.A. in Communications from Colorado State University and then I certified in nutrition from the American Academy of Nutrition. I completed most of my nutrition studies through distance learning.
Yet the bulk of my nutrition training has come from 13+ years of continuing education at functional medicine conferences. I have studied with some of the best cardiologists, endocrinologists, psychiatrists, gynecologists, neurologists, oncologists, etc. who are incorporating nutrition and cutting edge mind/
body medicine into their private practices. I have learned an enormous amount from these accomplished physicians.
I have since built my career in sharing this comprehensive health information with others. For the past 7 years, I have taught on-site employee health classes for a Fortune 500 company.
I utilize my functional nutrition background and facilitate 1.5 hour, half day and full-day corporate workshops. My topics include effective weight loss techniques, facts about diabetes, heart health, stress management, eating on the run, and more.
I also work with an internal medicine physician in Denver. I work with patients on an individual basis and provide nutritional coaching and support for weight loss, diabetes, cholesterol, hypertension, and digestive disorders (including celiac and gluten-intolerance).
Whether I’m working with an individual or a group, I believe it’s important to look at the “whole person”. Food is nourishing and important but so are relationships, relaxation, movement, play, service, etc. I promote individual responsibility and I believe in the power of providing healthful resources. I want the people I work with to feel empowered so they can begin to chose healthier experiences and options as opposed to me always telling them what to do or not do.
How is your approach as a nutritionist different from that of a dietitian when it comes to type 2 diabetes?
When working with diabetic patients, I focus on the positive effects of foods and the abundant food choices that are available to them. I encourage a balance between lean proteins, healthy oils (Omega 3 fats) and non-starchy carbohydrates at every meal. I also try to steer people away from highly processed, refined foods that are full of preservatives. I investigate and try to find out if people might be intolerant to a certain food because things like dairy can often have a negative impact on people’s blood sugar.
But there is no one size fits all approach, it definitely depends on the person, their
individual biochemistry, family history and medications. Cravings, lack of sleep, daily routines (when and what they eat, or how they exercise) can give me big clues as to what is happening metabolically.
What is your best advice for someone who is stuck in the belief that eating real food is expensive (as opposed to processed, pre-packaged food)?
Well, I would say processed, pre-packaged foods that are loaded with artificial
sweeteners, chemicals and unpronounceable ingredients can be expensive too.
Try buying generic over brand names and buy in bulk (things like nuts) to save money. Grocery stores often discount meats up to 70% when they approach their expiration dates so buy several pounds of meats and poultry to store in your freezer when they mark down prices. Drink filtered tap water instead of sodas, juice, bottled water, alcohol, and coffee shop drinks, they are all a huge annual expense.
Buy from one store, gas is expensive too, so find one or two places where the prices are reasonable and and then buy everything there. Clip coupons, plan ahead and check the unit price, big packages are often (but not always) cheaper than small ones. Check out your local farmer’s market for seasonal, fresh and local foods.
And finally, prepare your own meals and plant a small garden if possible. You’ll save hundreds if not thousands of dollars every year by eating at home and not eating out at restaurants or a fast-food drive-thru.
2011 has brought change to your practice – and with it, you are offering Skype consultations to supplement your other income. Can you explain how these work, and might work, for people with type 2 diabetes?
Yes! I have now added Skype consultations as part of my practice. I talk with individuals over the phone or we can video chat via the computer. I usually work with people for a minimum of three sessions, but it depends on each individual and their needs.
In the initial consultation I get a complete history, I look at recent blood results if they are available and then I make recommendations for them to implement for the next 10-14 days.
In the second visit we reassess things, take a look at their food journal, morning blood sugar numbers and discuss the challenges or successes they’ve had in making some changes.
Overall I have found that making one or two changes that are do-able and realistic to the person’s lifestyle and routine can have a dramatic effect on their blood sugar regulation.
(For more of Jolene’s insights, please visit the Healthy Discoveries blog or contact her directly.)