Dr. Louis Aronne and Dr. Katherine Saunders talk with Dr. Mary VanNortwick about her work in nutrition science and how it help patients improve and understand their health.
In Dr. Mary VanNortwick’s experience, conversations about nutrition and diet often connect to deeper emotions, lifestyle factors, and pivotal moments in a person’s story.
Because of this, diet is ultimately a sensitive and complicated thing for many people, and she believes it’s important to personalize the treatment to the patient.
In this episode of Weight Matters, Dr. Louis Aronne and Dr. Katherine Saunders talk with Dr. VanNortwick about her work as the director of nutritional programs and dietetics at Intellihealth, her opinion on fad diets, and the importance of making peace with food.
Putting Nutrition Science in Context
A person’s diet isn’t created in a vacuum, so Dr. VanNortwick tries to start each patient interaction by learning about the individual’s personality and story.
“One of the practices I engage in is looking at their life on a timeline. With weight, where did it begin? Where did the struggle with it begin? It could be very early years or in pregnancy or with a move or with a divorce; grief is often tied up with it,” she explained. “As they begin to tell their life in a timeline fashion, it begins to open up some connecting points.”
With that context in mind, Dr. VanNortwick then focuses on small steps a patient can take to improve in the areas they’re most ready and able to focus on.
“For some people, it’s just an environment of clutter. And that clutter keeps them from doing a good meal plan, shopping to have the right foods around. Other people don’t really have a support system in place. There’s some things that are working against them, or even the people they’re sharing meals with,” she shared. “And then from there we can move toward the plate.”
Once the patient is ready for it, Dr. VanNortwick will start to share practical strategies like eating earlier in the day instead of late at night, or eating most of your protein in the morning.
The Problem with Fad Diets
For many people who have struggled with their weight for years, part of the barrier to great nutrition lies in their reliance on fad diets.
“I think of fad diets as being emotionally charged. I think it’s a little bit of a cry of desperation, because there’s something that needs immediate relief. They tend to be extreme, they most often are very temporary, and they’re sensationalized,” Dr. VanNortwick shared. “I’m not sure that they want to do another fad diet, but I don’t know that they know what to put in its place.”
To help someone stuck in the cycle of fad diets, Dr. VanNortwick tries to meet the person where they are while also sharing information that will help them develop healthier, more sustainable habits.
“I’m helping people connect the dots between the food supply, the way that the body is going to use it, how they’re going to feel about it; and, in this case, the end game we’re talking about is often around weight,” she explained.
Making Peace with Food
To create lasting change, Dr. VanNortwick believes people must first heal their relationships with food itself.
“My goal is to always make peace with food, and to normalize their experience with food. And so if we look at the origin of the word ‘diet,’ which means ‘way of life,’ I’m trying to put food back into a proper perspective in life,” she shared.
With this in mind, Dr. VanNortwick tries to help her clients understand nutrition science such that nourishment will directly correlate to changes they’re hoping to see in their lives, whether they’re looking for more energy, or the ability to play with their grandchildren.
“I’m just trying to help people embrace it, and it no longer has to be the center of their universe, but they can get about living and enjoying the other things that make up life.”
Follow Weight Matters wherever you get your podcasts to never miss an episode. To learn more about Dr. Saunders and Dr. Aronne’s work to transform specialized treatments for chronic conditions through the best in medical science and advanced digital technologies, visit www.intellihealth.co/podcast