Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Food Mentor, Saskatoon

Giving People the Tools and Skills to Make Healthy Food Choices

Cathy Langdon enjoys food. In fact, she’s been selling homemade cheesecake and focaccia bread at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market for the past few years. But she’s also aware of how many people struggle with their weight. “It’s really hard,” she says. “You have to make a conscious decision to eat healthily.”

Cathy is a Registered Dietitian with a university degree and 14 years of experience. After taking some time off to raise her children, she is now returning to her work in nutrition and has established The Food Mentor to help people achieve a healthy weight.

Cathy doesn’t offer a quick fix, because she says that diets and food plans just don’t work in the long run. “It’s very difficult to lose weight unless you change your habits,” Cathy explains. We don’t just eat because we’re hungry. 80-85% of why we eat is based on learned habits, food triggers and emotional eating.

Our environment makes it even more difficult to eat sensibly. There are cup holders in our cars, food on offer everywhere we go – even hardware stores, and we sit in front of computer screens instead of doing physical labour.

Changing our Eating Habits
Cathy is aware that it takes a long time to change your eating habits and that nobody else can do the work for you. As a result, the Food Mentor offers a combination of group programs and individual counselling in order to provide a long-term, cost-effective approach.

The Food Mentor offers programs for women, men, couples and parents. The women’s program includes an eight-week group program with hands-on activities and real-life scenarios to help participants identify their personal food triggers. Homework will consist of taking one or two of those behaviours and switching them from a food to a non-food form of nurturing. Participants will also be offered an individual counselling session and will be able to attend classes on a drop-in basis for six months following their program in order to receive ongoing support and accountability.

Cathy emphasizes that her program isn’t for everyone. It won’t be a simple matter of following a menu or only eating certain foods. Instead, participants will be asked to identify their food triggers and change their behaviour. “I want clients to come out of this with enough food and behaviour knowledge to make their own choices,” says Cathy. It requires individual effort, but the result will hopefully be a healthy weight for life.

Raising Healthy Children
Cathy becomes especially passionate when she talks about helping children to develop a healthy relationship with food. Cathy says that Ellyn Satter is the “guru for feeding kids.” Cathy has followed her advice in raising her own children (ages 8, 11 and 14) and really believes it works.

Cathy plans to offer three different workshops for parents of children ages 6 and under, 7-12 and teenagers. The workshops will help parents to establish stress-free mealtimes and to ensure that their children eat nutritious food. “There is a division of responsibilities,” explains Cathy. Parents have the knowledge to choose healthy, age-appropriate food and snacks and to offer it on a consistent schedule. Within those parameters, the children are responsible for choosing what and how much they want to eat. “If you start bribing or forcing kids to eat, you’re setting up negative feelings about food.”

The Food Mentor
Cathy is both knowledgeable and compassionate. As she explains on her website, “My approach is to walk with you as your advisor, coach and support person as we work together to empower you with knowledge, techniques and tools to address what you eat as well as why you eat so that you can change your relationship with food and achieve long term lasting weight loss.”

It sounds like a winning combination, and I wish Cathy and her participants well as they journey together.

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