It's My Job: YMCA dietitian challenges people to invest in their health
FARGO-Registered dietitian Leah Roethel believes many people have misplaced priorities when it comes to investing in their health. "I think our mindset is in the wrong place. We are surrounding ourselves with all of these things and buying these ...
FARGO-Registered dietitian Leah Roethel believes many people have misplaced priorities when it comes to investing in their health.
"I think our mindset is in the wrong place. We are surrounding ourselves with all of these things and buying these new high-tech gadgets, but then when it comes to invest in your health by buying healthier foods or joining a gym or just doing anything that costs money that will help improve your health, we don't want to spend the money," Roethel said. "We think it's not necessary, but we really do only have one body, and I think it's so important to take care of it."
Roethel joined the YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties as its staff dietitian last fall. She leads several health and nutrition programs at the YMCA that are open to members and the general public.
Q: What got you interested in this line of work?
A: Being a health advocate is kind of my passion. How our society depicts health and how young girls obsess so much on the number on a scale or their body image, my passion is trying to change that thought in their mind. I want to teach what being healthy really means rather than that healthy equals skinny.
What are some of the programs you have initiated at the YMCA?
We started off doing one-on-one sessions, either half-hour or hour visits. I start by doing an assessment to find out what they want to know and what they want to change about their health and nutrition. I give them the tools and information to go out and make those changes. Motivation is a lot of it, too. Motivation and support.
We also just started a 12-week weight-loss program with one-hour visits each week. ... The first week, I set the foundation of planning ahead and setting goals. Those aren't in terms of the ultimate goal of "I want to lose 30 pounds," but what short-term goals can I make that will lead me to that ultimate goal. It's one thing at a time. It might be decreasing pop intake or eating breakfast. From there on out, it's a different nutrition topic every week. It might be talking about emotional eating, eating in social situations, understanding macronutrients, understanding food and what it does for our bodies so we can respect it and not look at it in an evil light. I think people think of food in terms of "it makes me fat" and not that "it's fuel and I need it to survive." That's where I try to change people's mindset from negative to positive. I want them to know that they can fit it all in. Just make better choices and focus on consistency, moderation, portion control, balance and variety. I try to keep it simple for clients.
I also do free monthly nutrition seminars. Today (April 27), I brought it back to basics. I talked about balancing nutrition and exercise. I talked about understanding what macronutrients are and what they do for us and then about balancing your plate. It's about having them all at each meal and then focusing on portion sizes and about adding color, fruits and vegetables.
I'm also excited because this summer we're also starting kids' cooking classes. ... Each week I will have a certain kitchen safety or skill topic. Then we'll make a food that uses that. It will be, of course, something on the healthier side. ... We're trying to teach them healthy habits and that it can be fun.
What are the challenges of your job?
The challenge is finding the motivation in clients. I have the tools and information to provide the client, but I don't have that control once they leave my office. I think the biggest challenge is that I want it to work for them, but I don't have that control.
What about the rewards?
It's when people do take my information and run with it. They are motivated and they work so hard. And to see their improvements. To see someone who could only do five minutes on the elliptical doing 30 minutes. The weight loss, of course, is always something that's a good tool for me to indicate it's working. I feel the pressure that if they don't lose weight it's my fault, but I have to remember it's not all up to me.
Contact: To learn more or to register for any of the programs, visit www.ymcacassclay.org .