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Bring ‘real food’ to the table

Nutrition: Dietitians aim to change relationships

Posted: February 3, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 3, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Dietitians Lisa Dixon, left and McKenzie Hall have founded Nourish RDs to help people find a better relationship with food.

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A new dietitian duo, half-based in the Santa Clarita Valley, is on a mission to share their motto to those who want to get healthier: “Eat real food, and share it with those you love.” 

Nourish RDs, made up of registered dietitians McKenzie Hall from Valencia and Lisa Dixon from Bellingham, Wash., are trying to change the current mindset many people hold that to lose weight or get in shape, one must cut out an entire food group or heavily restrict one’s diet.

“I think food can be a really wonderful thing and I don’t want people to fear it,” Hall said. “It can be a very hard issue for (people) and I just want to be that person who can make them feel good about their relationship with food.”

For Hall and Dixon, that means running corporate and private workshops, personal nutrition counseling and talking with media outlets to share their motto and message with youth and adults.

The dietician said people have been flooded with messages that they must take extreme measures to look a certain way.

Hall set her sights on nutrition when she attended College of the Canyons eight years ago and took her first dietician class.

“I really fell in love with it and realized that body image was a really big issue,” she said.

Hall and Dixon met during a nine-month dietician internship at Bastyr University, a private university near Seattle that focuses on natural medicine.

“We just completely connected and realized we had very similar objective in terms of long-term career goals,” Hall said.

So after the pair finished their schooling this summer, Nourish RDs was born. Hall returned to Valencia and reconnected with staff at the College of the Canyons and set up multiple workshops on body image and nutrition in conjunction with the school.

“I just thought of it as a really great place to be, and I had started good relationships with people that are like-minded,” Hall said. “I really feel like I could be a voice here in terms of promoting a healthy realistic body image,”

Even though Hall came back to Valencia and Dixon settled in Bellingham, Wash., the two coordinate to speak with the media and set up workshops all across the country, including a recent event in Atlanta, Ga., for elementary and middle school girls.

“I think our overall goal is to be spokespersons for real food and promoting real food,” Dixon said, adding that services like the workshops and counseling complement that mission.

The climate around health and dieting — now a $117 billion industry — is very different now than when the two were growing up, they said.

“The atmosphere around food was really different,” Dixon said of her youth. “It wasn’t talked about as much as it is now.”

Hall has seen many people in workshops and one-on-one counseling who have learned — and now believe — restrictive diets and extreme measures are the only way to lose weight.

Many people also take as gospel certain trends, such as cutting out all gluten or going vegan.

Some people can live with these restrictions, but for most people, it’s not possible to do so permanently.

“I think that people have that mindset —  black and white — all or nothing,” Hall said. “You have to ask, ‘How has that worked for you?’ For most of them, it doesn’t work long-term.”

The nutritionists share with clients and workshop attendees how to get full and nourished with “real foods” — which they define as food one can imagine growing (like an apple on a tree) with its only ingredient being itself (like an egg).

Hall said she teaches people how to pick out fresh produce in-season and how to prepare it so it tastes good — giving you the nutrients you need while making sure you don’t feel hungry.

“We don’t say cut out any food groups,” Dixon said.

The duo’s blog shares recipes for foods people typically try to restrict, such as pizza, cookies and muffins. But they are all made with real foods and unprocessed ingredients.

What people seem to feel is they can’t have things like sweets, Dixon said, but there’s a place for all foods in one’s diet with moderation.

“Learning moderation is something (people) really struggle with,” she said of clients and students.

The pair is working to halt these misconceptions about food among children, who are growing up with more technology and avenues for negative body image messages.

“These young girls can relate to negative body images,” Hall said, adding that boys and men feel similar pressure to be in shape.

But luckily, Hall said, the topic of body issues and healthful habits is becoming more commonplace in schools and in households — where children are influenced the most.

Dixon commended schools with anti-bullying programs that help create a safe environment “where people aren’t pointed out as being different and aren’t ostracized,” she said. “That certainly helps with the issue of body image.”

But parents have the biggest opportunity to teach their kids to be active and eat well for the sake of nourishing their bodies — not to simply exercise and diet to look a certain way.

The best strategy is to set aside time to be active as a family, so the child can see their parents being active, as well.

“That’s one really beautiful thing about the SCV,” Hall said. “There are a lot of activities here.”

Ultimately, Hall and Dixon said, they hope to bring families together again around the dinner table — preparing and eating real recipes together and shifting the mindset away from using food as an emotional gateway or even as a scary thing.

“Children are listening all the time,” Hall said. “You really need to focus the family conversation on things that broaden their horizons instead of making them think about food and obsessing.”

“Good food is not complicated and is very simple,” Dixon said. “Get back to the whole idea of appreciating your food and gathering around the table.”

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