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Sherie Nelson Of Elior North America On The 5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve a Healthy Body Weight, And Keep It Permanently
Source: Sherie Nelson Of Elior North America On The 5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve a Healthy Body Weight, And Keep It Permanently
Medium, August 9, 2023
So many of us have tried dieting. All too often though, many of us lose 10–20 pounds, but we end up gaining it back. Not only is yo-yo dieting unhealthy, it is also demoralizing and makes us feel like giving up. What exactly do we have to do to achieve a healthy body weight and to stick with it forever?
In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve A Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently” we are interviewing health and wellness professionals who can share lessons from their research and experience about how to do this.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sherie Nelson.
Sherie Nelson, MBA, RDN is a registered dietitian and nutritionist with over 25 years of experience. She is the Nutrition & Wellness Director of Elior North America where she leads and integrates all company-wide wellness initiatives and program development.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and both of my parents and grandparents were dairy farmers, so farming was part of my childhood although I was a fairly picky eater. I was raised on meat and potatoes, which is very common in the Midwest, but I really didn’t like it. I discovered vegetarian eating sometime in high school and became very curious about it. I also ran cross-country in high school, so I was really exposed to how food makes you feel.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I learned about nutrition in a high school health class and to this day, I remember the moment that I learned about nutrition and told my mom all about it — and she remembers my excitement! After high school, I went to a community college for two years where a career counselor reviewed my interests and suggested I become a dietitian. For me, it was a no-brainer, so I have him to thank for leading me to the nutrition path.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Hands down my mother — she’s always cheering me on and telling me to go for it! Additionally, while I was in college, I had a college professor and dietitian who challenged me in her classes, which helped me learn a lot. As I was finishing up my last class with her, she told me I was a big-picture thinker and so passionate about what I do. Her words stuck with me and guided me when I needed it the most.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
When I did clinical rotations at an acute care veterans hospital as a clinical dietitian, I was in charge of assessing patients’ nutritional status and suggesting medical nutrition therapy recommendations. Part of my job was to ensure patients were getting the proper nutrition to heal their wounds. While my assessment didn’t require me to look at their wounds directly, the patients would deliberately remove their covers or bandages and show me their injuries. This quickly taught me to properly communicate with patients about why I was there — because I certainly did not need to look at multiple open wounds!
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“Life is 10% what you make it and 90% how you take it.” Reaction is truly what defines us and how we feel and perceive things really determines everything. I always try to look for the positive messaging in every situation. We work in a very virtual world, so it’s very easy to read into things and get lost in the negative and take things the wrong way.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
The one project I’m very excited about is shifting our plates to have more plants. I’m currently working on ways to give Elior North America and all our operators new ways to put this plan into play. The main reason why is the positive impact on health and the environment. All the evidence points out that it’s better for us, our climate, and our Earth.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field?
Largely because of my credentials. I am trained as a registered dietitian and nutritionist, and I’ve been working in this field for nearly 25 years. With that said, I also live it and it’s who I am. I tend to use myself as testing grounds for trying new things. It’s more than my career and credentials, but who I am as a person.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about achieving a healthy body weight. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Healthy Body Weight”?
The weight at which one has optimal health and well-being, and this can be different for all.
How can an individual learn what is a healthy body weight for them? How can we discern what is “too overweight” or what is “too underweight”?
Historically we tend to lean on Body Mass Index (BMI) since it’s easy for people to calculate. We have used BMI in the medical field but there’s a lot of caution with BMI. It’s not the best indicator, because it doesn’t really consider people with more muscles, larger bone frames, where the weight is being carried, and doesn’t discern between men and women or with ethnic and racial groups. I caution against using BMI but it’s a great place to start!
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons why being over your healthy body weight, or under your healthy body weight, can be harmful to your health?
We hear a lot about the overweight piece — we know as our weight and BMI climb, research suggests that we are at greater risk for chronic diseases. Some of these include heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and even mental illness, osteoarthritis, and many types of cancer.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few examples of how a person who achieves and maintains a healthy body weight will feel better and perform better in many areas of life?
The underweight piece is perhaps not thought of as much. With being underweight, we’re concerned about malnutrition, certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, things like anemia, and an even greater risk of osteoporosis because there are concerns that a person might not be getting enough vitamin D or calcium in their diet. There’s also a decreased immune function, a risk of fertility problems, complications following surgery, and certainly some growth and development issues in anybody that’s still growing and developing, so that would apply to children and teens.
Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve a Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently?”.
- Make it your lifestyle vs. your diet: While one tends to lose weight on a fad diet like keto or paleo, when the diet ends, people tend to gain the weight back or even more. Diets are very difficult to maintain so making it part of your lifestyle makes it easier to maintain.
- Slow and steady wins the race: Losing weight slowly and steadily tends to keep it off. One to two pounds a week is the general recommendation as it allows the body to adjust to the new weight and helps lower strong cravings.
- Having a support system: One’s environment completely influences the choices you make. Having a support system that allows you to live a healthy lifestyle is critical.
- Learn and practice intuitive eating: Listen to your body and respect it. For example, pay attention to bodily cues that tell you are hungry versus eating just because food is present or because you are bored, angry or sad.
- Stay active: While this may not be about healthy eating, it’s critical to stay active to maintain weight as you lose it.
The emphasis of this series is how to maintain an ideal weight for the long term, and how to avoid yo-yo dieting. Specifically, how does a person who loses weight maintain that permanently and sustainably?
Make healthy eating and regular exercise part of your lifestyle — as an extension of yourself. When it comes to eating, continue to explore and learn how to make new healthy, satisfying dishes. Listen to your body, honor it, and respect it. When it comes to staying active, find something you love and make it your hobby and develop a social circle within that activity to continue that engagement in that activity. And if all else fails, get a dog. Most dogs need a lot of exercise, so you’ll have to regularly walk that dog.
What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to lose weight? What errors cause people to just snap back to their old unhealthy selves? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?
Study after study shows that when a diet is too restrictive, it’s too difficult to follow. Trying to minimize restrictions in the first place or even too many changes at once will go a long way.
How do we take all this information and integrate it into our actual lives? The truth is that we all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
If the people around you are all eating unhealthily, then you’re likely to eat unhealthy as well; people’s surroundings are important. Additionally, I think food availability is a true issue across the U.S. and even obtaining healthier foods is hard. One example is food deserts; these are places where people can’t obtain fresh fruits and vegetables. Cost is another blockage worth mentioning. Healthier eating is known to cost a little bit more. People can help manage costs by buying frozen vegetables and fruits versus fresh all the time, shop sales, clip coupons and buy at a local farmer’s market (which can be less expensive than a store). Lastly, how do you make that healthy food taste good? Healthy eating does need to be bland and boring. It’s really all about learning how to make that healthy food taste delicious.
On the flip side, how can we prevent these ideas from just being trapped in a rarified, theoretical ideal that never gets put into practice? What specific habits can we develop to take these intellectual ideas and integrate them into our normal routine?
The first one is purchasing healthier food for your house. If it’s not there, you can’t eat it. Even thinking about when you have that good-for-you food, where is it in your kitchen? Is it accessible? Is it visual? If there’s a fresh fruit bowl that’s beautiful and attractive on your countertop, you’re more likely to take that fruit. So, it’s important to think about the smaller things like the placement of where those items are in your kitchen. Additionally, portion control is a great habit to incorporate into your routine. When you do have the foods that maybe aren’t as good for you, I would encourage you to take a bowl that’s an appropriate size and portion it out. Read the label, read that serving size — that can help control a little bit of your intake. But it’s very, very important that you put it away then. So, portion it out, put it away, then leave the room and go eat it somewhere else. Prepping food ahead of time is also great! After a visit to the grocery store, set aside some time to cut up some fresh vegetables maybe some fresh fruits you know can’t be eaten whole, so that they are easy for you to take as a snack.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Promoting a flexitarian diet — so we’re thinking a little bit more plant-forward, getting people to adapt to eating a little less meat and maybe sometimes no meat or animal protein. I think the flexitarian diet is such a great way of doing that and that means you’re really just flexing how you eat at each meal. You might not eat meat every time or you might just eat small amounts of meat in that dish. It’s a really great way for people to start adapting more plants into their diet without going fully vegan.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)
Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S. R.D.! She is a registered dietitian nutritionist and she’s an investigative nutritionist. She has a podcast called ‘Food Sleuth.’ What I love about her podcast and her experience is she is really thinking beyond the plate and is focused on connecting all the dots between food, health, and agriculture and really finding the truth. She’s doing a deep dive into the food industry and everything that’s around it. I think she’d be very interesting to sit down with and talk to because she has interviewed so many people on her podcast and I think I would enjoy a conversation with her.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers can follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sherie-nelson-mba-rdn-a7b5a7100/
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.