As January comes to a close, I wanted to round out the month with a spotlight on being intentional about nutrition. So often we focus on counting calories or working out, but are met with mediocre results on the scale. What gives? Why don’t our efforts seem to be rewarded? In this interview with Stephanie Machacek, we focus on how nutrition – the fuel we put into our bodies, impacts how efficiently or inefficiently we function. Stephanie is a board certified clinical nutritionist and owner of SuperMama by Design. She offers personalized nutrition coaching for busy men and women. Each body is different, and so are your nutritional needs and lifestyle challenges. Stephanie works to figure out your concerns and goals. Let’s dig in to learn a little about nutrition!
eplife | How does aging influence our body’s ability to maintain a healthy weight?
Stephanie | A big one is lifestyle- things like sleep habits, stress, activity level– all of these can shift as we get older. We may start sleeping poorly, maybe our job or family situation becomes more stressful, maybe working longer hours or taking care of family now becomes the priority and we no longer “find the time” to exercise. Another factor to weight gain is hormones. Humans go through a number of hormone shifts at various points in our life. Teenage years, pregnancy, pre-menopause, menopause are all fairly well known, but most people don’t understand that when there’s a shift in hormones, the metabolism is also impacted. A third impact to weight as we get older is the gradual loss of muscle mass. Muscle mass is metabolically active. The more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism is (even at rest). Due to shifts in hormones, lifestyle, and eating habits, our muscle mass naturally declines as we get older, which lowers our metabolism.
eplife |Tell me more about hormones, especially the difference in men and women. Is there a test to know if your hormone levels are out of range? Explain what hormones communicate to the rest of our bodies.
Stephanie | Women and changing hormones seems to be a commonly known occurrence with prominent symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, bouts of anxiety, hair loss, etc; but men can also experience hormone imbalances as well which can impact body fat. We all have hormones and if they are out of balance (due to disruptors such as chemicals in our environment, beauty products, and food), we all can experience metabolic changes and mood shifts. Hormones are our body’s chemical messengers and serve to help regulate the function and physiology of different cells and organs. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your hormones being out of balance. Depending on your symptoms, they can test for different hormone levels such as thyroid or testosterone.
eplife |What are three food myths you’d like to debunk?
Stephanie | Oh I have so many! The biggest one is “Weight loss is simply about calories in vs calories out”. I always explain to people that weight gain or not being able to lose weight is a symptom. It’s not the problem. It’s the symptom of the problem. Until you determine the problem, it’s going to be very hard for the body to regulate its weight again and sustain it. In my experience there are 4 causes of weight gain/not being able to lose weight in most people. This is what I break down for my clients and we target which of the 4 causes is their root cause.
Another food myth is: “There is a magic number of calories to eat if I want to lose weight.” This is similar but slightly different than the first myth. How many people have tracked calories perfectly, hit their “magic number” and STILL saw no weight loss? The number of calories you eat is a factor but what’s more important is what your body does with those calories. You could get 1500 calories (for example) of greasy fried food vs 1500 calories of nutrient dense food and you KNOW your body will be impacted differently by it. Quality over quantity is a good motto but also, aiming for the right foods for YOUR body is even more important. If for example, your body was sensitive to apples, even though it’s a “healthy” food, it causes symptoms in your body so it’s not right for you. We have to stop eating how other people eat and eat for what works for us.
And a third one is: “Artificial sweeteners are a better alternative to sugar”. Artificial sweeteners are really toxic and have been shown to cause or contribute to a number of health conditions, one of which is weight gain! Just because something has no calories doesn’t mean it has no impact on your body. Sugars, whether artificial or not, have a big impact on what goes on internally. Although I believe in balance when it comes to treats, depending on symptoms and conditions someone has, I would definitely have sugar high on the list of things to monitor, especially when it comes to gut health and hormones.
eplife|How can people develop sustainable healthy food choices?
Stephanie | This is a great question! For me, it’s more than just the food choice. We can all learn the proper way of eating but the key is the implementation and forming it into a habit. Longevity of a habit comes down to behavior change strategies. Pretty much daily I hear someone say “I know what to do I just need to do it”. Living in the age of Google, it’s not hard to find WHAT to do, the challenge is to find the way to DO IT that fits with your lifestyle. For this, I’d say, start small, set achievable goals to help build momentum, and have an accountability partner or coach who can help you stay on track.
eplife|What are examples of lifestyle changes you might recommend to someone?
Stephanie |This totally depends on the person. After we figure out the root cause of the symptoms, the next step is to set goals around removing what’s aggravating their system and replacing it with healing and beneficial foods. We can break it down as simply as “add a veggie at lunch”, to more advanced things like “how to meal prep for the upcoming week”. It’s helpful to work with someone who can encourage appropriately paced progress with your goals.
I also have a holistic approach when it comes to health so we would want to make sure that all aspects of their life (sleep, stress, nutrition, movement, etc) are in check. If one is off balance it throws the others off. Setting goals such as, “shut off screens 1-2 hours before bed” or “do 10 minutes of stretches before bed” would be examples of goals that can help in a few areas.
eplife|Tell me more about your free 20-minute strategy sessions.
Stephanie |During one of my free 20 minute strategy consultations, I get a feel for what you’re struggling with, what your concerns are, and whether or not we would work well together. Sometimes personalities clash, sometimes someone needs a higher level of care, and sometimes a person simply is not in the right stage of change or frame of mind to do well in coaching, so to ensure we are on the same page, I like to talk with you and understand more about what your goals are and if you are ready to take action. There are also conditions and situations that I do not work with but I can refer you to someone who does to get you on the right track.
eplife|Tell me more about your group programs for clients.
Stephanie | Sure! I run group programs throughout the year on various topics. These usually run for 4-6 weeks and we focus on a specific topic such as stress eating or meal planning.
I will walk people through how to identify which foods are causing symptoms and how to eat to support their specific needs. During this program, members will get feedback from me on their food and symptoms, get a plan of action to start making different and more supportive food choices, and how to go forward with creating a lasting habit of eating properly for their lifestyle. It’s very hands on and I make sure that people get all of their questions answered and get put on the right path before the end of the program.
I have a 7 day challenge and program coming out that addresses sugar, how it impacts our body, how to spot the sneaky sources of it, and how to start reducing it in our diet while living in a sugary society. This will be available in late February. Sign up for my weekly wellness tip email to be notified of the enrollment for that program: https://www.supermamabydesign.com/group-coaching.
To learn more about Stephanie Machacek and the nutrition counseling and lifestyle coaching she offers, follow her:
Facebook @supermamabydesign & @supermamanutrition where she discusses helpful nutrition tips, root cause info, recipes, and most of all, delighting and entertaining with memes and gifs
Stephanie Machacek, MS, CNS, CPT, CHC, TTS
Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist and Owner
SuperMama by Design