Heath Knut wakes up at 6:30 a.m. for his morning run. He munches on a granola bar while tying his shoes.
“It’s always good to eat a carbohydrate before working out,” he thinks as he shoves the rest into his mouth.
He walks for five minutes, jogs for four and walks for three. Studies have found that interval training boosts people’s metabolism higher than regular running, and muscles get more of a workout. Heath’s neighbor Jeff sees him while getting into his car.
“Hey Heath! How’s the fruit and veggie world treating you?” Jeff says.
“It’s great. I’m getting ready to start training for a marathon for next month.”
“Man, you already look in shape. How about coming over and watching the game tomorrow? Plenty of beer and pizza to go around.”.
“Sure, sounds good… I’ll bring a quinoa salad and some poached salmon,” Heath says while jogging away.
Heath has a reputation in the neighborhood for bringing the most inappropriately nutritious snacks to get-togethers. He looks great, but it’s not winning him a boatload of friends.
By 8:30 a.m., Heath pulls into his office. He tells the receptionist that he brought in a vegan angel food cake topped with fruit for the other dietitian’s birthday.
She looks up from her Shape Magazine, “Ok, I’ll just throw away the ice cream cake I brought in.”
“We can have both. It’s important for people to feel like they have choices,” he says.
He looks over his first patient’s chart. Rhoda Fry has high blood pressure and diabetes. Heath suspects that her diet includes a lot of salt, fat and protein. When Rhoda comes into the office, he asks about what she eats on a daily basis.
“I’ve been on a diet. I’ve limited myself to eating only Raman, smoothies, granola and sushi,” she says.
“Hmm. Ok, all of those foods are bad for you. Raman noodles are loaded with calories and sodium, smoothies have a lot of calories and not enough fiber, granola is full of sugar and sushi is good for protein, but bad for fiber. The white rice doesn’t really have much in the way for nutritional value.”
Rhoda looks dejected, “I’ve been trying.”
“It’s ok. We’re going to work together to create a meal plan that feels right for you and lowers your blood pressure.” Heath says reassuringly.
Before Rhoda leaves, Heath asks her to keep a food diary. Food diaries help people stay on track with their diets. It also helps the dietitian figure out how many calories someone is consuming in a day. The amount of calories that a person needs to eat depends on their weight, height and age. For instance, a 34-year-old woman, who doesn’t work out needs 2,200 calories to maintain her weight. To lose weight she, must either work out or change her diet.
Heath checks his appointment book, “Oh, good, it’s Herald.” Herald has been seeing Heath for six months. During that time, he has taken off more than 25 pounds. The weight loss has helped him get off insulin and other medication. However, Herald gained a couple of pounds over Easter. He has a serious Peeps and Cadbury Egg problem.
“Hey Herald. Wanna get up on the old scale for me?” Heath asks.
“Not particularly. I think I’m gaining my weight back,” Herald says stepping on the scale. “Hot dog! I think I only gained five pounds!”
“Hmm. Hot dogs on the brain, I see. Let’s look at your food journal. Oh, lookee what we have here. You have indeed been eating hot dogs,” Heath says disapprovingly.
“Yeah, my sister left them at my house after a barbeque.”
“If you want to eat hot dogs, pick healthy franks. They make veggie franks, chicken franks and turkey franks. However, once a week is probably good when it comes to eating hot dogs. They have a lot of sodium,” Heath says while handing Herald a shopping list.
They discuss other hot dog related meals that Herald could try. Heath makes a large note on Herald’s chart that reads, “Loves Hot Dogs.”
It’s noon and time for Heath to eat lunch. He sits down at a table with a couple of doctors from the clinic. Both are eating tuna fish sandwiches.
“So Heath, how did we do on this lunch?” one of the doctors asks laughing.
“The tuna’s a good choice. Protein city. The mayo, not so much. Fatville. But you’re eating it on whole wheat, so good on you. Not bad overall. By the way, how’s your crappin’ going?”
The rest of the afternoon is filled with appointments. Heath checks people’s weight, assesses their Body Mass Index (BMI), develops meal plans and gives them workout advice.
He checks the time to see if there are a few minutes to look at his lecture for a local high school. Health is giving a lecture on the dangers of trans fats called “Trans Fats in Snacks” (It’s actually a rap that he has been working on). He tries to make his nutritional advice interesting for young audiences. Because millions of adolescents are overweight, Heath feels like education will be key to stopping the obesity epidemic.
His receptionist peeks her head into his office, “Ready for birthday time.”
Health lights the candles on his angel food cake. The banana catches on fire, but he puts it out with some of the non-dairy icing. The cake is a big hit at the party. Most of his coworkers can’t believe that the cake is vegan. Even the doctors go for seconds.
Heath leaves his office feeling pretty good. While not everyone is open to changing their lives with nutrition, health advice and foods will be waiting for them when they’re ready.