A Discussion With Cat Taylor — VIDA Fitness Nutritionist — Part 1
This Month we celebrate National Nutrition Month with a 2 part interview with VIDA Fitness Nutritionist Catherine (Cat) Taylor, RD. Cat studied Dietetics and Gerontology at James Madison University and in the process discovered a great passion for helping others improve their lives through nutrition. Cat believes in a total diet approach to healthy eating based on the principles of balance, adequacy, moderation, variety, and portion control. There is no “one size fits all” in nutrition and Cat wants to empower VIDA’s members to find their “fit.”. Cat sat down with VIDA Fitness blogger Paris Achenbach to discuss a wide range of topics related to nutrition. If you would like to find out more about VIDA Fitness’s Nutritional Programs you can email Catherine Taylor.
Paris: What exactly do you do as a nutritionist here at VIDA Fitness?
Cat: I’m an extension of the personal training department. They brought me on to fulfill the full package of health, because equally important if not more important than exercise for health is nutrition. You can’t out-train a bad diet. No matter how much you’re putting out in exercise, if you’re eating your exercise or putting the wrong things in your body you’re not going to get to the goal you need to be at. I also do consultations for clients, similar to purchasing a personal training package. So that consists of an initial consultation of an hour where we set a nutrition plan. It’s really catered to the individual, every session is a little different based on where people are at in their journey with nutrition, and what their needs are. Sometimes calories aren’t even pertinent, and we don’t even end up calculating calories. And there are follow-up sessions to ensure their success and keep them on track.
P: So you probably work with a variety of people with a variety of diets, such as vegetarianism and gluten-free. How do you deal with that? What is your background in?
C: My background is in dietetics, which is food science, and it’s very clinical. I worked in a hospital last year, and I’m taking that experience into the wellness industry. A lot of my clients are general weight loss who just need general healthful diets, not vegan or gluten free – just a basic diet that will fuel a healthy lifestyle. I have a few clients who are more strategic in doing nutrient timing, specific food pairings for different times of the day, what exactly to eat before and after exercise. Nutrition can get very detailed. It can go from very general to very complicated.
P: For general weight loss, is it just setting goals for what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and how to cut back on calories, and basic things like that?
C: Even before I get to calories, it’s “What are those calories made up of?” So I don’t like to do a whole lot of focusing on cutting back on calories. That’s never the first thing I bring up. I bring up, number one, what are you eating? What is breakfast lunch and dinner? More than anything, 1800 calories could be a really healthful diet, or it could be a piece of pizza. So I ask, what is a typical day? And not just what they’re eating, but what is their typical routine? So that I can understand challenges they face in the day, what kind of responsibilities they have.
P: Do you find any trends among your clients? Or is everyone really different?
C: There’s a lot of different, but I do see a continual theme of not eating breakfast.
P: …And not eating breakfast is bad?
C: Right. The idea is to fuel yourself throughout the day starting by first thing in the morning to start your metabolism going. A lot of people don’t eat breakfast and then maybe eat lunch. We live in a city where everyone’s working and it’s all about work. Everyone’s very busy, especially here in Penn Quarter, so a lot of people don’t plan for breakfast and lunch.
P: They probably just think their metabolism is getting started on coffee.
C: Right. So when they don’t plan for it, they don’t have breakfast, and most of their calories are happening at night when they go home. They eat a big dinner, or are grazing and snacking throughout the day. So the first thing I say is, if you don’t do anything different, eat breakfast. I don’t care what it is. Well, I kind of care what it is. And another the big thing is misconceptions on protein and carbs. There’s so much misinformation out there, or there’s so much information it makes people a danger to themselves.
P: How so?
C: Because they see something good about protein and they take it to the extreme and forget about the other nutrients you need. Or they read, “Dairy is bad for you! Soy is bad for you! Gluten is bad for you!” And they take it to the extreme, or they become confused. Without guidance, the information out there can be harmful.
P: What fueled your interest in nutrition in the first place?
C: It’s a funny story. My senior year of high school I decided to join a gym and become more conscious about what I was eating. I was always a healthy eater but I decided to not eat as many sweets, and fast food and stuff like that. So you know, I was eating just well, nothing crazy, I wasn’t cutting anything out. And I lost ten pounds, got toned up… but unfortunately that led to an obsession, and once it was summertime and I wasn’t working out, I gained the weight back that before I didn’t notice was a problem, but when you lose weight and you’re seventeen and there’s this whole body image issue, focusing on it became a good and a bad thing. Because it showed that I was interested in nutrition, because I thought it was so interesting how food really did make a difference in how you felt and looked. But majoring in dietetics at school helped me heal, and become healthier again with nutrition and exercise. It brought me back to that balance because it taught me what nutrition is really about.
P: What is nutrition really about then?
C: It’s not about depriving yourself, it’s not about reducing yourself to 1200 calories and seeing how few you can have in a day. It’s about fueling yourself and your lifestyle in the healthiest way possible, in the sense of eating healthy whole grains, lean proteins, vegetables and fruits, and healthy fats, drinking water. And fitting in those things you really like but in moderation, and learning what balance is, and learning what nutrition really needs to do for our bodies. There’s just such an interesting relationship with food in this country, it’s either over-indulgence or deprivation. So I really strive to help bring that medium back in, trying to pull people back into the center, as well as keeping myself that way. So still having goals, still keeping people accountable, but at the same time not killing yourself over it and keeping yourself sane.
P: So what do you think of diets like intermittent fasting?
C: I think it’s silly, and certainly not eating to fuel your lifestyle. That’s just in my mind one of those “different way to do things.” People aren’t ready to just accept that you just need to eat five groups in moderation and you’ll get there. They want something else. The only diet I do believe in is the Mediterranean diet.
Stay Tuned Next Week for Part 2