October 08, 2009

Speaking Her Voice: Stefanie Bryn Sacks

Stefanie Bryn Sacks, M.S., a Culinary Nutritionist, works hands-on with individuals and groups in transition to a healthier way of eating as a food counselor, nutrition educator and chef instructor. She has been studying food and healing for twenty-five years, has her Masters of Science in nutrition from Columbia University and is a graduate of The Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. In 1999, she created Nutricook®, a program to help prevent illness and restore health through personalized nutrition therapy and culinary guidance.

In addition to her private practice, Stefanie conducts workshops for adults and children at community centers, schools and universities, corporations, medical organizations and health and wellness expos. She also works with many organizations on food and nutrition related projects. Currently, she is collaborating with Field to Plate, a company dedicated to creating and delivering innovative food education for health professionals and consumers; and Urban Zen, Donna Karan’s foundation devoted to patient advocacy and well-being. She also she speaks at nutrition focused health and wellness events; and is developing a food and nutrition related television show.

Stefanie contributed a 21-day meal plan and 70 recipes to The Source, Unleash your Natural Energy, Power Up your Health and Feel 10 Years Younger by Dr. Woodson Merrell and Kathy Merrell. She also offered her culinary nutrition expertise to Discovery Health’s National Body Challenge, ABC Eyewitness News—Seven On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg, ABC News, the TV Food Network and WOR-710’s nationally syndicated radio program Health Talk with Dr. Ronald Hoffman. In addition, she has contributed to Fitness, O Magazine, Body and Soul, Teen Vogue, Oxygen, Self and Red.

Stefanie lives on the east end of Long Island with her husband and two young sons. She practices throughout the Hamptons, New York City and vicinity. She travels throughout the country teaching and speaking.

Finding the Right Nutritionsit for You

I am now the proud mother of two young boys. Jack is almost four years old and Hunter is 9 months. After Jack was born I went through a major adjustment period, as do all new moms. However, after Hunter’s birth (that being NOW), I am finding this need to redefine myself both personally and professionally.

Many many years ago (like 25), I wondered why the doctors I visited (all too frequently) for my asthma and allergies never questioned if my food intake was affecting my health. Around that same time I started cooking in a local health food joint and happened upon a book, Food and Healing by Annemarie Colbin, PhD. I must say my world was rocked. I became convinced that what I ate had EVERYTHING to do with my health (Duh!). Thus, I said no more to these doctors and sought out someone who could not only medicate me if needed, but also look at my diet and other lifestyle factors to determine what was really making me sick.

So, at the ripe age of 17 I had my first appointment with Dr. Sherry Rogers, a pioneer in environmental medicine (what we now call integrative medicine). To make a long story short, she put me on a special diet (to address my asthma and allergies), gave me vitamin and mineral supplements (after checking for deficiencies), allergy shots (after testing for allergies) and one or two medications (rather than the 5 I was on).

Let’s talk about the diet. Thank goodness I worked at a health food store, was passionate about food and food products and loved to cook. Compliance was easy. And what was a necessity (food lifestyle change to support my health) soon became a bleeding passion (bordering on obsession at times) and the center stone of my personal journey.

But, what if I didn’t have that knowledge and interest? How could I have changed the course of my health? This question sat with me for many years. Fast forward to 1997 when I entered culinary school. Soon after I graduated a dear friend’s father became ill with lung cancer and asked me to cook for him. This led to others. But because I wasn’t a huge fan of private cooking (too isolating for me), I figured that there had to be another way to help those in need of food lifestyle change.

New business idea! Bridge the gap between a practitioners’ dietary recommendations and what the client can and will do to implement the suggested changes—bring the nutrition prescription to the living kitchen. I traveledv this road personally, so why not turn it into my profession? By 2003 I felt comfortable calling myself a culinary nutritionist. I was a professionally trained chef and had a Masters degree from Columbia University. So, this brings me to my question: What is a nutritionist and who is qualified to call themselves this?

In the process of redefining myself professionally, I have been asking myself this question daily. I am a chef with a Masters in nutrition. Does that qualify me? Would I have been qualified if I did a 6-month program in NYC? As far as many registered dietitians (those who study nutrition—Bachelors, Masters or both—then go through an internship with clinical, food service and community rotations) are concerned, neither is enough to wear the “nutritionist badge”. I beg to differ. I believe the answer truly lies with the consumer (yes, that is YOU!). But, you must be an educated consumer!!!

I always like to use this example: When buying a car, a person takes the time to research the make, model, take it for a test drive, look into financing options, etc. So, why don’t we take the same measures when seeking a nutritionist (or other healthcare provider for that matter)? Research a potential healthcare provider as you would a car. They work for you thus it is your job to seek out your best match and “hire” them to support you in the best way possible.
As a patient, I always follow these guidelines:

-Identify my healthcare need.

-Go to the people I know and trust (especially my current healthcare posse) and ask for suggestions.

-Research suggested provider on web (formal education—and you need to decide what is formal enough for you to make him/her credible; philosophy; scope of services).

-Make sure that the provider is doing what he/she is qualified to do (I once worked with a woman with cancer whose yoga instructor prescribed herbs for her that were contraindicated to the medication she was on for cancer—bad news!!!). You can find this out by speaking to potential provider, other patients on the web (if he/she has a website).
-Make sure provider is not claiming to be everything under the sun (which can be the case and is just not possible). Again, you can find this out by speaking to potential provider, other patients on the web (if he/she has a website).

-If possible, speak directly to provider prior to arranging appointment
In the end, it is up to you to decide whom you want to partner with on your road to wellness. An educated consumer is the best consumer. And, asking the right questions will ensure that you are working with the right person for you.

As for me, although I am always and will always be redefining myself both personally and professionally, I am comfortable calling myself a culinary nutritionist given my formal training. In the end, I know what I know and I know what I don’t know! (And when I don’t know, I refer out to tried and true colleagues).

(Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved).

For more information about Stefanie, her work and her amazing resources, please visit her website http://www.stefaniesacks.com/.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share Your Voice