Monday, February 27, 2012

Spreading the word

For my Community Nutrition class this quarter, I was tasked with implementing a nutrition-related intervention within a community.  While most students assisted with already-existing programs, I decided to take a chance and design and implement my own intervention, with my nursing co-workers as the victims/beneficiaries (depending on how you look at it!).

I've been working with these amazing people for the past 4 years, and during that time, I've seen them lose weight on diets, and then gain it back again, all the while blaming themselves for their lack of "willpower."  To be honest, witnessing their struggles over the past few years is large part of what inspired me to pursue a career in nutrition, because they are precisely the type of people I feel can benefit from an intuitive eating philosophy, and it breaks my heart to see them suffer.   I often see my former self in them, and knowing how much intuitive eating has helped me to heal my relationship with food and my body, I feel that they, too, might be helped by it.

So yesterday I headed to the hospital and set myself up in the break room to present a PowerPoint introducing the intuitive eating philosophy to my co-workers.  I did two sessions-- one at 2pm and another at 3pm-- and a total of 16 people attended, which I thought was pretty good!  I think some people were a little weary of a "nutrition presentation," as they assumed I was there to tell them what to eat, how much of it to eat, and when to eat it.  I think a lot of people think that this is what nutritionists and dietitians do, and it's because of this that when I tell people I'm studying nutrition, they suddenly become very self-conscious about what they're eating, and feel like they need to justify it ("I usually don't eat like this!").  As a side note, that's one thing that bothers me about studying nutrition, and in fact, sometimes I hold off on telling people about it because the last thing I want to do is make someone feel bad about themselves!
My 3pm session
Anyway, I made sure I told my audience right off the bat that my belief, and what intuitive eating believes, is that we are all born with all the knowledge and insight we need to know what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it.  The trick is to get back in touch with that innate intuition, which is easily lost when you've dieted or listened to external messages dictating your eating behaviors for so many years.  I hoped that explaining this would disarm them a little, and make them more receptive to hearing my message, and I think it did.

Throughout the presentation I saw lots of head-nodding and "I-never-thought-of-it-that-way-but-that-makes-sense" expressions, which made me feel really good.  Of course, it could just be that these people are extremely nice and supportive and they were trying to make me feel good, but I'm hoping it's also that they were truly getting something out of it.

For the presentation, I brought along some healthy, but delicious snacks, including the Cranberry Orange Quinoa Salad that I've blogged about before.  I also tried a new recipe from CookingLight for Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies that I was afraid would taste too healthy (the trick is for something to be healthy without tasting healthy!), but were actually quite good and got rave reviews!  Here's the recipe:

Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies
1 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup dried cherries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used semisweet chocolate chips)
Cooking spray (I used parchment paper instead)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flours and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.
3. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat; add brown sugar, stirring until smooth.  Add sugar mixture to flour mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.  Add cherries, vanilla, and egg; beat until combined.  Fold in chocolate.  Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray (or parchment paper). Bake at 350° for 12 minutes. Cool on pans 3 minutes or until almost firm.  Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.

Even though it was a lot of work (and slightly terrifying having to present something to a group of people who might be totally against what I'm proposing!), I hope to be able to do more presentations like this in the future.  If I got through to even just one person yesterday, and made them consider giving this intuitive eating thing a shot, then it was well worth all the time spent preparing the presentation, as well as the nervousness I felt going into it.

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