The Holistic Nurse: Nutrition and Health

Photo by Andrea Hubbell Photography

Today’s Holistic Nurse words of wisdom come from Kath Younger, a registered dietitian (RD) and popular food blogger at Kath Eats Real Food. Fun fact: Kath and I are both part of a large Davidson College family – we graduated two years apart! Today she lives in Charlottesville, Virginia where she owns Great Harvest Bread Co. with her husband Matt Monson. I asked Kath to share her thoughts on the relationship between health and nutrition and she graciously took time out of her very busy holiday schedule to contribute. Thank you Kath!

What does it mean to be healthy, in your professional (and personal) opinion?

To mean healthy means that decisions that impact your health in a good way out number decisions that might be detrimental to your health. I think it’s more about effort than a number on a scale and more about what you put in your body than what you don’t. Health to me means choosing to be educated on which food, exercise, environmental, stress, sleep, etc. factors make you feel good and lead to a long happy life.

What inspired you to become an RD?

After graduating from college, I lost 30 pounds through calorie counting, exercise and a focus on eating real food. To be honest, the weight melted off of me. Once I set my mind to it, losing weight was so easy. I reached my goals in about 15 months and learned so much about myself and healthy living along the way. Despite how easy I found weight loss, so many people struggle with their weight. So many yo-yo diet and starve on sugary granola bars and iceberg lettuce. When I set out to become an RD, my goal was to someday open a business where I could show people how easy weight loss can be – and how delicious real food is. Little did I know then that my practice wouldn’t take shape in a office building, but online through creative photography and cooking!

What kind of educational process did you go through to become RD? What kind of continuing education do you need?

Although I had a bachelor’s degree, which was good, I had nothing else needed for the RD requirements, so I had to start from scratch in my program. This mean taking Chemistry 101 – the periodic table, acids and bases – all the boring stuff I learned in high school. But at the same time, I started on my nutrition track and loved the curriculum so much that the sciences were less painful. My 2 years of studies went by SO fast (including a whole summer of summer school). I really enjoyed being a student again, although I’ll admit I had it easier than a few of my classmates who had children or full-time jobs. My internship was most definitely the most challenging part of my degree. It was 6 months, full-time with no vacation days. It was extremely intense, especially since at this point I knew when I finished I would be working for myself as a blogger and opening a bakery with my husband in a different state. But I charged through and am very glad I completed the internship and passed the RD exam!

How can the foods we put in our body affect our health? 

Nutrition is such a young science. Scientists have only touched the tip of the iceberg of all there is to know about the relationship between food and health. There are many epidemiological studies that link whole foods to good health (I did an entire research project on real food while in school!). Yet scientists have trouble isolating nutrients and getting the same effect. I believe that there are hundreds – maybe millions – of nutrients that we have yet to discover, and moreover, processes and interactions between them that work in magical ways. Since we don’t have the answers yet, the best thing we can do for our health is to eat food in the state nature grew it.

What are your short- and long-term goals as an RD?

In the short term I’m hoping to continue writing my blog, which serves as an example of how I fit healthy eating into a busy life and provides recipes made with real food. I’ve written a few science-based articles on nutrition since becoming an RD, and I’d love to find ways to do more of that. Long term, I’m dreaming big with a TV show on healthy living – perhaps a collaborative effort with some of my co-bloggers dedicated to fitness and food. And maybe one day if the blog dries up I’ll open that brick and mortar private practice – or open up on online weight loss consulting business. As of now, though, the blog and bakery eat up most of my time.

Where can people get more information about becoming an RD or about the relationship between food and health? 

Other than Katheats.com you mean!? 🙂 I actually do have a whole post dedicated to becoming an RD and it includes a list of a bunch of other RDs online at the bottom. Eatright.org is the American Dietetics Association’s (soon to be renamed the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics! ) main site and there a lot of information hidden inside. From Q&As about becoming an RD to research blurbs and position statements on topics, you can find a lot of information inside.

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