Mom of the Week: Mindfully approaching healthy eating & weight management

Dietician Jennifer Smith with her husband and children at Lifexcel in Ballantyne. Smith says a healthy lifestyle begins with asking yourself “why am I eating this?” The only good answer is “because I am hungry.”
Dietician Jennifer Smith with her husband and children at Lifexcel in Ballantyne. Smith says a healthy lifestyle begins with asking yourself “why am I eating this?” The only good answer is “because I am hungry.”

Jennifer Smith, 38 of Ballantyne, became a dietician in 2001 and started with Lifexcel in 2013. Approaching their 2 year anniversary, Jennifer says it is clear that there is a tremendous need for a different approach in weight management. Lifexcel focuses on the personal and mental side of healthy living, offering services including nutrition counseling, behavior counseling, and fitness training, tackling individual barriers and personal lifestyles. Keep reading to find out how she can help!

Q. How did Lifexcel get started?

A. The owner, Sherri Clarke, lost her father when she was 13. She turned to food as a coping mechanism. Years later she saw a need for a place people could go to lose weight that would not only tell you what and how much to eat, but look at the mental aspect of eating as well.

It starts with asking yourself “why am I eating this?” The only good answer is “because I am hungry.” If you eat due to stress, boredom, habit, or because it smells good, that’s when you will get into trouble. We work with our clients to identify these self-destructive behaviors and change them.

Q. What all do you do?

A. We offer yoga, personal training, nutritional counseling, and behavioral counseling. As a dietitian, I am able to help people with all types of nutrition concerns including prediabetes, weight management, gastrointestinal issues, food intolerance issues. However, I specialize in helping individuals deal with emotional overeating. I promote mindfulness in making food choices as well as moderation, variety, and balance. I can develop a meal plan for individuals to help them gain a better understanding of the different foods that they need to live a healthy life.

Q. What types of goals have you helped your clients reach?

A. Examples of different goals that my clients may have are: losing weight to a more comfortable range, becoming more mindful in their eating practices, challenging distorted thoughts surrounding food, and focusing more on hunger and fullness cues rather than eating due to external cues, emotional reasons, or habit.

Q. What is your holistic approach to weight management?

A. I provide my clients with the basics of nutrition such as portion sizes, carbohydrates, protein, and fat, eating well in social settings, grocery shopping, meal planning, fiber, cholesterol, etc. I also help clients challenge food and other beliefs that might be preventing them from making lifestyle changes. I recommend exercise to help weight loss and reduce stress; we offer personal training and yoga to meet these goals. I also refer clients to see our in-house therapist when they are having a difficult time implementing changes. I promote mindfulness which allows clients to make lifestyle changes without judgment and helps them to focus on using all of their senses when they are eating.

Q. What can people expect on their first Lifexcel appointment?

A. I am client-focused and strive to meet people where they are at in their eating. At the first appointment, we typically discuss their concerns about their lifestyle and eating habits, we discuss what helped and didn't help in the past, we talk about their goals for coming to Lifexcel. After getting a bit of history, we discuss the process that might be most beneficial to them. Some prefer to have a meal plan, others might want to focus on mindfulness, and others might like to take it one goal at a time. I often discuss the reasons why we eat (physical, emotional, external, and habit) and discuss hunger and fullness cues.

Q. How long does it typically take for your clients to reach their goal?

A. Success means different things to different clients. Some may be primarily focused on weight loss; our plans promote a gradual weight loss of 1-2 pounds each week. Other people want to have a healthier relationship with food so their success might be that they can eat a cookie without feeling guilty or needing to eat more. Other people are looking to be more consistent so success might be going grocery shopping and making meals more regularly.

Q. What are the costs and what does insurance usually cover?

A. Many insurances cover all or some of the cost of nutrition coaching. Employees of Time Warner Cable, Wells Fargo, CMS schools have full coverage through BCBSNC. Self-pay rates are $125 for the initial appt and $90 for follow up visits.

Q. How have you incorporated this into your family's lifestyle?

A. Our family makes it a priority to eat meals together. I believe that often we are overscheduled in our hectic lives and family meals often suffer due to this. I think it is important to eat meals without distraction and at the dinner table. We eat breakfast together before we leave our house for the day and we eat dinner together and talk about our day. I am fortunate that my husband is a fantastic cook and prepares our meals for us. He makes sure that we have well balanced meals that include a protein, starch, vegetable or fruit, and milk.

I feel that the parent's job is to provide the child with a balanced meal and it is the child's decision what to eat. I know it can be frustrating when a child turns his or her nose up at what is prepared, but remember that it might take a child at least a dozen times before he or she decides if they like the food. I don't endorse power struggles at the table, but I do like to encourage a "no thank you" bite. I offer foods that my children might not necessarily like with foods that they do enjoy. I believe that all foods fit in moderation and don't like to label foods as "good" or "bad" so we do have dessert in our diets as well.

Q. What are some of your kids favorite meals?

A. Having 3 different daughters means having several different favorite meals. However, we are not short order cooks and what is made for dinner is intended for everybody. My kids definitely like the typical kid-friendly foods like mac and cheese, chicken fingers, and hamburgers, but we prefer to make them ourselves and add a cooked vegetable, fruit, or salad to make it more balanced. My children also like chicken stir fry, chili, and bean tacos. I have to admit that I have some issues with picky eaters, but it is getting better with more exposure.

Q. What are your favorite family activities around Charlotte?

A. Since we are relatively new to Charlotte, we love exploring new places! We love all of the local festivals, parks including Freedom Park, Romare Beardon park, Latta Park, etc, greenways, Discovery Place, Mint Museum, Carowinds. The family friendly atmosphere of Charlotte was the biggest draw for us to move here.

You can get more information or make an appointment with Jennifer Smith at: 704-995-3434