Happy Thursday! Today is my very last day on my Oncology, Hematology, Bone Marrow Transplant, and Palliative Care Unit. It has been an incredible 3 years. I learned how to be a nurse, and SO much about life through caring for people at the end of theirs. I’m grateful to have met some lifelong friends, had tremendously supportive coworkers, and had the pleasure of taking care of the kindest and most courageous patients one could ever ask for. Next week I start my new job in the Carbone Cancer Center. I’m excited to continue on with the population I love to take care of.
Without further ado, I’m SO excited for you to read this interview today! I saw that my friend Alison had started a new business and I was excited to jump on the opportunity to help spread the word plus ask her some nutrition questions for all of us! Alison and I went to high school together and ran on the same cross country team. Ya’ll she is the sweetest and has always been such a great example for those around her. I’m excited to see where her new venture takes her! Plus she just welcomed the most adorable little one 🙂 I’ll let her tell you more.
Ames: Introduce yourself for the readers:
Alison: Hi Everyone! Thank you for having me here at BalancedAmes, Amy!
I am Alison. I am blessed to be able to say I am now a mother to our sweet baby girl, Eleni. She is 14-weeks old and just the perfect addition to our family. I am married to the most amazing man and my college sweetheart, Patrick.
Professionally, I am an outpatient, board certified, oncology dietitian. Additionally, I have a M.S. in Nutrition and Fitness. I am a food and nutrition nerd and have no shame about it! I enjoy all sports but grew up playing ice hockey and softball, which both have their own special place in my heart.
These days, you can find me in the kitchen, with my head buried in a nutrition book, at the gym/yoga studio, hanging with my twin, Lauren, or family and friends.
Ames: You work as an oncology dietitian, a population very near + dear to my heart. What do you love about this job? What are your challenges?
Alison: The moment I decided to go back to school to become a dietitian, I knew I wanted to focus on oncology. (I actually also have B.A. in Business Administration).
My passion for oncology and job truly comes from working with the patients. Unfortunately, many cancer treatments can make it difficult to obtain the nutrients our body needs to fight, heal, and recover. My job is to help patients with symptom relief, during treatment and recovery, while ensuring adequate nutrition.
Thanks to an abundance of research, it is no longer a question that proper nutrition can help prevent cancer. It can also help patients better tolerate treatments while complimenting their medical treatments to assist the fight against cancer.
With that being said, empowering and educating my patients to give them control during treatment is one of my favorite parts of the job. Even with the smallest nutrition adjustment, I have seen so many patients live their lives to the fullest even while fighting cancer. Most importantly, being able to share the joy when a patient receives good news is what I love the most about my job. Ames: YES to all of this Alison! You do amazing work, thank you!
As you can imagine, this job does not go without its challenges. What I find most challenging, yet most rewarding all at the same time, are the relationships you build with your patients. In the outpatient setting, you get to know your patients really well. Not only do our consults consist of discussing nutrition, but also their families, sports, hobbies, what they did over the weekend, etc. You share the patient’s joys, their difficult times, their sadness, and unfortunately too often, a passing.
All of the above is why this job is amazing. I have the opportunity to impact patients during their cancer journey by helping them feel better with food. I get to see it every day…food is medicine!
Ames: SO many big things going on in your life right now, let’s start with Eleni! Congratulations on your first baby! How did pregnancy go? Delivery?
Alison: Yes, thank you! We are so blessed with the arrival of our baby girl, Eleni. She is everything we could have dreamed of and more. We dealt with infertility for some time so the moment we found out we were pregnant was one of the most amazing moments.
The pregnancy went really well. I had some nausea between about 7-14 weeks. I never had morning sickness, but rather evening sickness! It was almost as if 5 o’clock struck and I was immediately nauseated. Luckily, nausea faded away and I was able to have a complicated free pregnancy.
The only real issue I dealt with was pelvic floor pain. It started being uncomfortable around 16 weeks, but progressed to pain with walking and exercise around 20 weeks. At about that time, I started seeing a physical therapist board certified in women’s and pelvic floor health on a weekly basis. I noticed a huge difference with therapy, however, the pain continued to progress throughout pregnancy. In result, I had to modify my workouts, but I was able to continue my weight-training workouts with a trainer 2-3 times per week until about 37 weeks. Ames: Goodness! I’m glad that you went to a women’s health PT!
As for delivery, it went well! From my water breaking to delivery, it was less than 12 hours. I was actually dilated one centimeter at 32 weeks. I went into the doctor for some side pain, which ultimately ceased, which is how I knew I was dilated. The Thursday before delivery (Eleni was born the following Wednesday), I was already 4 centimeters dilated. Thankfully, I had some of the hard work done already. My doctor and PT contributed this to my active lifestyle during pregnancy; in addition to weight-training and prenatal yoga, I walked at least 10,000 steps each day up until delivery.
My water broke at 12:45 a.m. My husband had just made it home after work–I was always so worried he would be at work when it happened since the hospital and his work are about 45 minutes away from each other. After calling my twin sister to let her know I was in labor, my husband and I left for the hospital with him asking me, “How fast should I drive?” Haha. I was not having contractions yet, so I just laughed and told him to drive normal.
Once getting to the room, the contractions really started to be intense and very close together. I started pushing around 7:30 a.m. and delivered Eleni at 11:17 a.m. Although I pushed for about 3 1/2 hours, I felt really good. I was again thankful I had exercised like I did throughout pregnancy which I believe allowed me to have the endurance to push for such a lengthy time. I had a few grade 2 tears from the delivery, however, I healed relatively quickly and was going for my first short walk around the neighborhood on Sunday! It was a very slow and short walk, though, nothing close to 10,000 steps!
I am happy to say that Eleni is a happy and healthy baby. We just love her to pieces!
Ames: What adjustments did you make to your diet while pregnant? Any postpartum adjustments?
Alison: I actually didn’t make too many adjustments to my diet during pregnancy. I had been eating a plant-based diet prior to pregnancy and continued that through pregnancy. I had minimal cravings during the first trimester for things I would not typically eat–ramen noodles and cheese curds! I did act on those cravings once or twice during the first trimester, but once I acted on those cravings, they never came back. My husband was actually disappointed I didn’t have more cravings during pregnancy–he wanted a good excuse to get ice cream!
I don’t remember having too many cravings through the 2nd and 3rd trimester, but once I delivered Eleni, I realized I ate an awful lot of whole wheat toast and chewed on crushed ice.
Overall, I ate to my hunger. I ate slightly more than pre-pregnancy and continue to postpartum as I am nursing. However, I still stick to eating a plant-based diet and eating to my hunger. Ames: YES! I know I felt SO hungry postpartum and so I listened and ate!
Ames: How is new mommyhood? What is your biggest//unexpected challenges you’ve faced?
Alison: Mommyhood is fabulous! Granted, it hasn’t been a cakewalk, but the wakings in the middle of the night and the challenges with learning how to care for your child is worth it 100 times over to experience the cuddles, smiles, and watching Eleni learn new things! She brings more joy and laughter to us than I ever knew possible.
As for the biggest challenge I’ve faced, it is learning how to restructure my day for showers, workouts, house to-dos, work, etc. while still trying to spend the most amount of time I can with Eleni and my husband. I have found that organization is even more important and isn’t as easy as it was before Eleni. But I’m learning every day and striving to make sure I have my priorities straight–my family.
Ames: Now, you just launched a new business. Tell us ALL about it!
Alison: Yes! I am excited to announce I officially launched Wholesome LLC. Wholesome has been a work in progress for some time. I have wanted to start my own blog and consulting business for some time now.
The purpose behind Wholesome is to educate others how nutrition can prevent, treat and/or manage many chronic illnesses. Many deaths in the U.S. are caused by preventable illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and stroke. In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research has identified that 50% of the most common cancers can actually be prevented by a healthy lifestyle. That’s where Wholesome steps in. Ames: Crazy statistic right there!
Preventing chronic diseases starts with a healthy diet and an active lifestyle. Thus, Wholesome is designed to help individuals manage their chronic disease with nutrition with individual counseling. The blog is an additional great resource for anyone to find recipes, lifestyle tips, and nutrition advice. Ames: I’m excited to do a consult with Alison to learn more about nutrition! As I’ve been mentioning on the blog, Drew and I really want to focus more on plant based foods this year.
Ames: What are a few of the most common mistakes you see people making in their diets?
Alison: The most common mistake I see is overemphasizing protein. Currently, protein is all the buzz.
You see foods marketed for their:
- Naturally high protein content
- Enriched (added) with protein
- Low carb/high protein
Doesn’t it seem odd, protein is encouraged for those trying to lose weight and also when trying to gain weight/muscle?
What most people don’t know is that too much protein in one’s diet is stored as fat in the body. Additionally, the body, specifically our kidneys, has to work overtime to excrete the waste products produced by protein catabolism (meaning the breakdown of protein).
Protein is the most common mistake most don’t even know is a mistake. Ames: YES. I wanted to emphasize that quote because I think it is SO important!
Ames: What is your favorite healthy meal? Snack?
Alison: I love black bean burgers as a healthy meal! I have an excellent recipe I will be sharing on the blog soon. They are so easy to make, includes simple ingredients, and are incredibly delicious. We love adding caramelized onions and avocado to these burgers and serve with a side salad.
All too often, snacks are easy-to-grab processed foods. But in our household, we strive to keep a homemade snack in the house so we can grab-n-go while knowing exactly what is in our food. Lately, both my husband and I are loving my Peanut Butter Banana Muffins. Not only are they an exciting treat to look forward too, right now we add 1/4 cup Brewer’s Yeast and 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to the batter to help with lactation. Ames: Making these! Yum! I love that you shared this recipe because I feel like people have become scared of eating carbs like muffins…but, the pro is telling us these are a YES!
Ames: What are staple foods that people should be eating often?
Wholesome encourages one’s diet to be focused on plant-based foods. This doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach, meaning you don’t need to eliminate all animal products from your diet. Research shows that if you simply increase whole, plant-based foods while decreasing animal products in the diet, you can have many positive health impacts. With that being said, the diet should be focused on getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes while allowing some room for nuts and seeds.
Ames: What does your workout week look like?
Alison: It took me about 8 weeks to get back to a more regular workout routine as I was recovering from delivery and still working on healing my pelvic floor. There are a few exercises I still need to modify for lingering pelvic floor pain, however, it is about 95% better.
“Back in the day”, my workout routines used to pretty intense as I was a collegiate softball player and play boys hockey for 13 years of my life. My workouts would include distance running and Olympic lifting. However, I was diagnosed with a disc disorder which has limited my workouts significantly. I may not be able to do all the things I once could, so I focus on what I can do, not what I can’t.
With that being said, my twin sister, Lauren, and I workout with a trainer 2x/week. The workouts are focused on strength training with “day one” focused on lower body and “day two” focused on upper body. If we are able to get to the gym for a “day three”, the workout is focused on full-body strength.
I love working out with Lauren as we motivate and push each other, especially on days where one of us might be struggling a bit more. Lauren and I also include yoga weekly, but have yet to get back to yoga twice per week — it is our next goal. Lastly, I walk, walk, walk! I do lots of walking. I mentioned earlier, I was walking 10,000 steps per day during pregnancy.
Thank you for having me, Amy!
Thank YOU Alison! Loved having her! So great to have professionals share their knowledge with us!