An interview with a registered dietician: Sydney Wright

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Who’s hungry? Andrew Parry

Learn about your cake and eat it too

What is something all of us do 3-5 times a day? The answer is eating! Is this something that you feel guilty about doing? Is this something that you are trying to get better at? You are in luck. The Carillon decided to do an interview this week with Sydney Wright who has been a registered dietician for almost two years. A unique aspect of her work is that she takes a non-diet approach. Sydney works in Regina in private practice at “Food to Fit Nutrition,” and she works at “Bridge Point Center for Eating Disorder Recovery” in Milden, Saskatchewan. 

We are going to talk about healthier food options and a reason why you choose the foods you do, then we will look at how food sources can fuel us.

Where did you go for post-secondary education and how long did it take you?

I went to the University of Saskatchewan at the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, and to get into the preprogram you have at least one year of prerequisites. I started in Psychology at the University of Regina. That was two years at Regina and four years in Saskatoon.

What motivated you to be a dietitian?

Ironic story, but I was neck deep in an eating disorder around the time I discovered the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition. It was my own disorder that led me to wanting to be healthier. Then I went through school and it motivated me to become a dietitian.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

All of the work I do has to do with trauma. I am grateful for all my trauma informed training. The hard part is knowing [when] the issue is not something I can help with. This can involve no support system, no safe home environment, etc.

How does trauma relate to food habits?

Big or small trauma is almost always the underline of an eating disorder. Eating can be a way to cope with the trauma, and it can be about or not about the food when it comes to eating disorders.

What does a typical day look like as a dietitian?

Private practice: “Meeting with clients virtually, going to the office to see them in person.”

BridgePoint, in Milden SK: “I go on site and stay overnight. At Bridge Point we eat all our meals together and have morning, afternoon, and evening meetings.”

How do you feel about the term “cheat day?”

Implying eating as cheating does not work. You must eat food to stay alive, function, and enjoy life. Look at this scenario: if you were to hold your breath for as long as you can, eventually you will have to gasp for air, although when you do this no one would consider that cheating. Often with cheat days people try to restrict and it is a planned binge, which is a disordered eating behaviour. Cheat days are [a] slippery slope that can get you into a binge cycle, and I would not recommend cheat days.

What is a more affective way to lose weight? Do you restrict the “bad foods” to a limited amount, or do you cut them all out entirely and then have them occasionally as a treat?

With a non-diet approach, we do not promote weight loss. Instead of categorizing foods into healthy and non-healthy we try to keep all foods neutral. Look at chips: this thing someone would look at for being ‘bad,’ but when we keep it neutral you can look at what purpose the food can serve. They taste great, are a convenient snack, but won’t keep me full for a long time and don’t have a lot of protein or fiber. Knowing that, you can decide the best time to eat. I personally would not recommend restricting foods that we see as bad because the more we restrict, the more drawn we are to them, and the more power they have over us.

What oil is best to cook with?

So, it depends on what you are cooking or baking, although the more variety the better. Olive oil is a good source of Omega-9s, canola oil good for Omega-3s, and avocado oil has different fats.

What are some good brain foods that our students should know about?

Carbs [are] our brain’s best friend. Carbs get a bad reputation because they seem to be associated with weight gain, although this is not true. Our brain is one of the only organs that cannot store energy, and it likes to run on sugar. Having carbs is important to have your brain to function at an optimal level. Research is showing about 120 grams (Editor’s note: depends on the person) of carbs a day just for our brains to function at baseline to think, remember, move around, and have emotions is a sustained amount. If you pair carbs with fiber or protein they will last longer. Plus, omega-3s are good for brain development. An example would be fish, walnuts and flax seed.

What supplement should be taken regularly?

I would never recommend the same for everyone because everyone is different, although those of us that live in Saskatchewan should take Vitamin D.

Is going by your BMI accurate for everyone in our society or does it differ based on your lifestyle?

BMI is not accurate for most people. It was developed looking at White European men in the 1800’s, so it is not super accurate. Even if you are a White European man, the accuracy dates were only predicted body composition in 50% of people, which means it only had 50% accuracy rate even when it was first developed. It is not accurate, it does not consider how much muscle someone has, bone structure, variables of genetics. Even though BMI can be a tool to tell if they have dropped weight fast or gained weight fast for health reasons, I do not recommend going by the BMI.

I don’t know about you guys reading this, but I loved all of these answers and finding out how my body works. Thank you, Sydney, for educating us all about food with a non-diet approach, and I hope all you Carillon readers go eat some good food to fuel your bodies!

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