Staff profile: Donna Poe

Wellness Center members have access to the services provided by Nutritionist Donna Poe, who has been with the Center since it opened 10 years ago. She can provide individualized nutrition counseling via a service called Nutrition Connection. She also helps participants in the SmartWeight program, who may or may not be Wellness Center members. Typically, she sees folks who want to manage their weight, their cholesterol/lipids, and/or their blood pressure. [In the photo, Donna sits with her food models, all them displayed in appropriate portion sizes.]

In her role, Donna has seen people make huge changes in their eating habits and, hence, in improving their health. Poe counseled one woman who was trying to lose 15 pounds in order to meet a goal required of her by her doctor before he would perform gastric bypass surgery. Once the woman lost the 15 pounds, she realized she didn’t need the surgery and now had the skills to do it on her own. She went on to lose 80 pounds through healthy eating and exercise. “She is no longer considering surgery, she is able to move, and has more energy! Her confidence has grown ten-fold,” Donna said.

Another Wellness Center member sought advice after feeling extremely fatigued during and after her workouts. “Through simple nutrition strategies, including having a homemade yogurt smoothie in the morning, we helped her feel better immediately and improve her workout,” Donna said. Donna sees her job as helping members obtain a healthy relationship with food. One of the most common missteps she sees from the people she counsels is that they have set up rigid “food rules” for themselves. “The word ‘diet’ implies that it is something you go on and off of, rather than making gradual, lasting changes that are livable,” she said. “When people over-focus on perfectionism, it often leads to challenges down the road when they are unable to live up to their extremely high ideals.”

Instead, Donna helps members focus on keeping track of what they are eating by keeping a food journal. Studies show food journals work. She also encourages them to pay close attention to how they are feeling each time they think about eating–to become “mindful” eaters.

“We encourage them to ask themselves ‘Am I hungry? Am I full?’ always,” Donna offers.  Just paying attention can make a real difference. She also reminds people to slow down the pace of their eating, in order to pay better attention to all of their body’s signals.

Part of nutrition counseling includes education on appropriate portion sizes and strategies for meal planning. “We need to take the time to plan and have good, healthy food available. Keep ingredients for quick-to-pull-together meals on hand.”

Donna is an advocate of eating “close to the ground”—meaning an emphasis on whole foods and natural foods, rather than highly processed ones. Processed foods often contain things we don’t need and don’t contain the things we do need.

“Here again, making slow, gradual changes is the key to making them permanent ones,” she said.

Donna has a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from the University of Vermont and a Masters of Science from MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston. She also completed a dietetic internship at Mass General Hospital.

She’s worked with many of the Cardiac Rehab patients that come through the Wellness Center. “Witnessing their change in diet and exercise habits, and the resulting reduction in lipids, blood pressure, and in some cases, medications, is very gratifying,” she said

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

5 Responses So Far... Leave a Reply:

Comments are closed.