Wednesday, March 31, 2010

RDs at BU- Sarah Butler and Laura Thompson of NFC

BU is lucky to not only have an excellent nutrition program for Dietetic students, but also provide RD services to the entire university through the Nutrition and Fitness Center. Founded in 2004 by Stacey Zawacki to provide nutrition, health and wellness education for individuals, and groups within Boston University. Their website is full of excellent links, and nutrition information, as well as a calendar of things going on at BU.

I recently was given the chance to interview Sarah Butler and Laura Thompson, two RDs with Masters of Nutrition who now work full-time for the center. They give private counseling within the university, work with dining services and teach 2-credit nutrition courses.

Sarah [SB]specializes in vegetarian nutrition, disordered eating practices and weight management

Laura [LT] is interested in nutrition for exercise and sports performance, weight management, and overall health and wellness, Laura is enthusiastic about teaching and helping individuals make sense of confusing health messages.

And without further ado, I'll let these ladies take it away!
  • Briefly, could you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do?
SB: I work at Boston University and spend half of my time counseling and nutrition education and the other half is a mix between administrative tasks and working with dining services on Sargent Choice
LT: We also teach classes at Fitrec such as vegetarian nutrition and healthy eating on a budget. I also do a lot of work with the athletes at BU.
  • What drew you to the field of nutrition?
SB: In high school I had a friend who was an emotional eater and that’s what drew me to it-the comfort and solace you find in food.
I didn’t want to be a biology major in college, ran cross-country one of my teammates was a nutrition major and loved it, checked out one of her classes, fell in love with it. Dietetics really interested me and aligned all of my interests.
  • Talk to me a little bit about NFC and Sargent Choice. I'm, obviously, a huge fan. What has been your biggest successes and struggles within the university setting, trying to implement healthy eating practices?
LT: NFC is a unique place, few universities have any dietitians let alone 4, who offer free nutiritonal counseling to their students.Besides counseling we teach classes on healthy dieting, vegetarian nutirition, healthy cooking on a budget. SC dining program complements these-we can’t tell students to eat more whole grains if there are no whole grains in the dining hall. We have set up a community for success, and create habits and patterns for when they go out into the real world, and how to be mindful. We are so busy right now, we want to expand SB:This center has been very successful. We’re working within the student population, before there’s a disease problem. Often there is no well-visits in nutrition so this has been very rewarding. Making a difference even if it’s just stopping someone from gaining the Freshman 15 by giving students a healthier option, helping them figure out proportions, and showing that nutritious foods don’t have to be bland or boring. Funding is always a challenge, making sure we don’t overwork ourselves to the point that we don’t provide the needed services. With more funding we could expand our services.
  • What is your favorite part about being a dietitian?
SB: Helping people solve problems. “I know I should eat more fruits, how do I do this?” Showing them that eating healthy food does not have to be a challenge.
Oftentimes you can see instant results. You can give someone a recommendation, they realize it’s working for them, and say "oh I get it now." Or taking miskewed ideas about food and correcting them, Nutrition Mythbusters!
  • What's the most frustrating part of your job?
LT: Even though we are nutrition experts very rarely are we the ones that people call for nutrition advice, there are a lot of crazy people who think they know a lot about nutrition, and just advertise diet pills. As RDs we need to face this challenge by using one voice and message about what we say about food.
  • How can we, as current and future dietitians, find more respect and recognition in the medical community and general population?
SB: Get paid more. It’s one of my regrets of being in this field. I think we need to be better advocates, and stop giving services away for free. You can’t, because people associate value with quality and will devalue the service if it is for free. Working with the media can also help us.
LT: The more we can explain the messages the media gives, then we can teach people while being in tune with the media and population. Interviews with media are great ways for a dietitian to debunk some of these myths. Looking at evidenced based research is definitely a top priority as is translating them into something that everyone can relate to.
  • What is one thing you wish you could get every American to do to make our country healthier?
SB: Worrying about your weight and body image could possibly lead to emotional consequences which could even be more detrimental to your health than being slightly overweight. Just make steps, to care for yourself, which includes eating nutritious foods and exercise moderately. If you continue to worry about your weight and whether or not you are healthy, seek the advice of a registered dietitian in your area.
LT: The more you move the more you get to eat. If you want to eat a lot, then exercise a lot. oh and Don’t eat special k

I really like what Sarah said about Body Appreciation. Emotional eating and the relationship between love, food and self-esteem are very interesting, and close to heart for me. For one example, I work at an artisan bakery and see some very interesting relationships between people and their pastries. While I could go on and on about the characters I’ve interacted with, this day, a man came in, got a loaf of bread, glanced over at the other tempting items, and said “No. I’m watching what I’m eating-It will either cure me or kill me. “

While I don’t suggest that you go on a butter and sugar binge, there is something to be said about excessive worrying about food and how good it is. Orthroexia, or the obsession of eating only healthy and "pure" foods, is now an "official" eating disorder. While it's important to eat your fruit and vegetables the majority of the time, treats are ok in moderation, especially if you're active!

Like Laura, I also enjoy being a Nutrition Mythbuster, and am a firm believer in moving more to eat more!

Thank you Laura and Sarah for being inspiring young RDs who are making a real difference in an university setting!

How is/was the food at your university? Were there healthy options?


OneCraftyFox said...

Very informative, thank you! :)

Healthy, Easy, Ono! said...

Thanks for this post! I am just finishing my dietetic internship and this gives me some great ideas about career paths.

paul said...

It's really good to know more about nutrition from the experts. Thanks for sharing that Q and A.

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