Nutritionist at Carillon Miami Wellness Resort
- I understand that it was your own health issues that inspired you to study nutrition and dietetics. Tell us about that.
From the time I was a child until the age of 24, I had digestive and skin issues, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, and hormone imbalances. It was not-so-obvious that foods were impacting me. There was no clear pattern in my symptoms. I often experienced bloating and gas, and had abdominal pain every once in a while. I had a really hard time in school because it took so much more effort and energy to accomplish the same things that my friends were able to do. I even thought I might have had a learning disability. As it turned out, it was mostly hormone issues and food sensitivities. I was also prone to acne and dermatitis and was on both oral and topical antibiotics for these conditions. When I was 18, I found out that my cortisol was very low, testosterone high, estrogen low, and my DHEA (which most people want more of) was through the roof! The doctor tried placing me on steroids for the cortisol (not cool), and birth control pills to help with the other hormones. Unfortunately, this was at the same time that I was going off to college, so I didn’t realize that the erratic emotions and weight gain were related to the medications and not the fact that it was my first time being away from home.
Eventually, I went back to the endocrinologist who told me that we could try another drug, “but none of this stuff is good for you. Just wait till you have kids and your hormones change,” he warned. These were his exact words. He did not have any tools in HIS tool belt that could help me and I am actually very grateful for this!
It wasn’t until I was gaining interest in nutrition and started working for an integrative doctor at the age of 24 that I started working with people who had tools that could help me. Even so, the herbs that worked for most people didn’t work for me. It was a journey, but that initial success of seeing a difference while changing my diet was a catalyst for my moving forward in discovering what other natural things I could do to heal myself.
- What is your philosophy regarding the importance of nutrition?
Most conditions people have today can be significantly impacted by diet, which is why I focus on a nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet for addressing and preventing disease. I think most of us know on a superficial level that what we eat impacts our health. However, most people have no idea the degree to which this is the case. For example, depression, anxiety, and ADD are unbelievably common today. Most people do not know that there is research linking inflammation to these conditions and that in order to make our neurotransmitters (which significantly impact our mood) perform as intended, we need certain nutrients. This is just one example.
- What is it about your approach that brings so much success?
I focus on lifestyle versus diet. A diet is strict, rigid, and typically followed for a certain period of time. And then what? Unless your goal is to only have benefits for a short while (like losing a few pounds before your 20th reunion), you need to focus on lifestyle. A lifestyle is flexible, enjoyable, and sustainable. If you don’t enjoy it, you can’t stick with it, and my job is to give people the tools they need to overcome any obstacles they have in order to make that lifestyle a reality.
- Your blog title “Staci’s Plate” is catchy. How did you come up with it?
Not so interesting of a story. Everyone told me I needed to be on Instagram. When I finally decided to open an account, I had to come up with my Instagram name and “Staci’s Plate” seemed fitting.
- What can readers expect from your book “The Meat & Potatoes of a Healthy Meal Plan…No Bun Intended”?
When I first started practicing nutrition, I was constantly creating handouts and tools for people. As time went on, the handouts were piling up. At one point, this “handout” was about 16 pages long, so I would staple it into a packet and tell people, “This is the meat and potatoes of what you need to get started…no pun intended.” Soon afterward, I realized the handout was getting too long and I needed to turn it into a book.
My book reflects my mission—to give people the tools they need to ease their transition into a healthy lifestyle. It is everything you would get from a fancy one-on-one consultation with a nutritionist, plus more! The table of contents is very detailed so people can use it as a quick reference guide. Handouts get lost. This books keeps everything together and organized.
I find that there are three types of people—those who want to take on change slowly, those who don’t want structure and just want lots of tips and ideas, and the type of person who wants to jump in head first with a firm plan in place. I created chapters for each of these people so they can take on change and gather information in a way that best suits them. The book does emphasize focusing on whole foods and gives both gluten-free and dairy-free food and product suggestions, as well as product suggestions for the healthiest of the gluten and dairy products for those without sensitivities to these foods. In the back, there is a research section with a summary of the research that reflects my philosophy with references to over 600 studies. I keep it in the back just in case people are curious.
- If you could leave our readers with just one piece of advice, what would it be and why?
It sounds so basic, but most people would benefit from eating more vegetables. Instead of being negative and saying, “I can’t have this” or “I can only have so much of that,” focus on increasing the amount of green and colorful vegetables in your diet. When you increase your consumption of these nutrient-dense foods, you automatically are more likely to eat less of the foods that are not so high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.