“When what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony” -Mahatma Gandhi.
After seven long years of college, I began practicing as a conventional dietitian. In the last three years, I have worked in an amazing amount of job settings — skilled nursing, homecare, subacute rehab, freelance blogging, corporate wellness, and childhood nutrition education. In my pre-dietitian years, I gained valuable life experience working at a chocolate factory, florist, horse stable, CSA vegetable farm, golf course, college maintenance, front desk receptionist, and psychiatric hospital… I played basketball competitively from age six into college, and I have been hiking trails in the Adirondacks since I was old enough to carry my own backpack stashed with my plush friends. When I wasn’t dribbling a basketball, I was in the woods.
Year 28 has come and almost gone. I realize wasting time doing things I don’t love is no longer an option. Accepting that I didn’t love all of the above took longer, and has at times, been harder than I can express in writing.
Working with the elderly population in conventional medicine only further fueled this mental shift. Too many lonely individuals entering skilled nursing to live out the rest of their lives under the care of others. Too much memory loss, muscle atrophy, and chronic disease. Even with all the state standards and documentation demands I found myself creating a vegetable garden for my patients. I found myself feeding people in my office behind a closed door. Dietitians, by state standard cannot feed people — something which has always seemed contradictory to me. I once washed my quadriplegic resident’s dusty van (that he will never drive again) in a clown outfit, with a sign on my back that said “KICK ME” because I had offended him by accident.
I found myself giving up on the documenting. I want to be present. I want to be there for my patients. In a real and honest way. Time spent feeding someone, or sitting with a dying resident, or having a pointless conversation about nothing that makes sense with a demented patient are FAR more important than documenting someone’s weight changes over the course of six months.
I believe in people. I believe in whole foods grown from the earth. I believe in animals. I feel more connection from passing a field of cows grazing then I do walking through a crowded bar. I can stare into a horse’s eye for any length of time and lay across their backs feeling them breath and feel connected. I am riding by a farm and I see a pony playing with a pig! Unlikely pair… I find myself immediately giving these two human personalities and I instantly have feelings for them.
Realizing there is no time to spend on unloved things, I am brought back to the mountains. Back to the farms. Back to the horse stable.
When I see the peaks of Algonquin, Marcy, and Haystack I feel grounded. I imagine the rivers and streams cutting through these mountains. Remove the trees and water and it would look much like the wrinkles cutting into my aging residents’ faces. Avalanche Pass, the rock slides, the smell of damp leaves, and that sound…. The sound of the woods.
I am good at identifying problems. It is a problem that my past residents, these frail, sick, and chronic disease harboring individuals are not provided nutrient rich fresh foods. It is a problem that the poorest people believe eating healthy is expensive. It is a problem that in our country we have an overabundance of food, but more people don’t know what to do with these whole foods than people that do. It is a problem that there is hunger when so many edible plants grow in the wild. I am good at identifying problems, and now I want to help in solving them.
The Essex County Experiment
Being happy and fulfilled are high on my priority list. I want to help the people and animals I believe in. That is why I am undertaking the “Essex County Experiment” – or that’s what I have coined it.
I am going to buy farm shares from the farms in Essex County and eat fresh food, only. I will write regularly about my experience with these foods (successes and failures). I will include the recipes of what I cook!! I plan to include the nutritional break down of the meals and diet. Looking at the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines and comparing this to what a CSA offers. Consider it the “dietitian’s dilemma”. Jargon like – evidence based, holistic, traditional, conventional… I want to break it all down, take it apart and give people — myself included — clarity. Peace of mind. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard and nutrition is more than food to me.
On top of this, I will be moving FoodFeasible LLC to Essex, NY for half the week!! My office will be located in the eclectic space underneath the Pink Pig. I offer nutritional consultation to individuals, families, and businesses.
I won’t live in Essex…yet….consider it a gradual migration including camping, farm stays, and maybe a room rental here and there to get a hot shower. Trying to fit this all into one post is a lot — maybe your confused with exactly what my goal is…. It is clear to me. I am in for what appears to be the best summer of my life.
See you soon in the mountains, on a farm, or by the lake under the Pink Pig!
Lela R. Niemetz,