Braving the impending snow, I trekked to Alexandria on Saturday morning for the Northern Virginia Whole Food Nutrition Meetup. NHS Heroes And although the drive back home took about three times longer than it normally would, the trip was worth it.
The meet-up was held at Food Matters, a restaurant in the Cameron Station section of Alexandria, and whose motto is “eat, drink, shop & learn.” The restaurant serves local, in season food and was the perfect setting for a group whose focus is on better living through nutrition.
About 40 people attended the meet-up, which was organized by Alana Sugar, and Kimberly Hartke was there representing the Weston A. Price Foundation . The featured speaker was Paula Bass, PhD (on the left) an integrative and holistic licensed clinical psychologist who infuses the traditional psychotherapeutic approach with nutritional wisdom. She was a compelling speaker, with about 30 years experience as a psychologist, she was able to illustrate the importance on nutrition on mental health with case studies from her own practice.
She told several stories about patients — young and old — who had come to her in distress and were able remedy their problems by changing their diet. A second-grade girl, for example, who had always excelled in school but had recently been having breakdowns, crying and screaming, lashing out at friends and family. It turned out this little girl, who up until recently had been eating a whole-foods breakfast with plenty of fat, was now eating sugar-cereal and skim milk because of the morning rush at her home. Paula recommended to her parents that someone take the time to cook her a proper breakfast — eggs, soaked pancakes etc. — and when the parents followed her advice, the symptoms disappeared.
“Food can directly influence a child’s brain,” Bass said.
She spoke at length about eating disorders and how deadly this particular mental illness is. But even those who do not have full blown eating disorders can do their bodies and mental health terrible harm by denying them much-needed fats in the misguided effort to lose weight. Bass explained how the brain needs fat to function well, and fat-deprivation can lead to mental illness.
“When you take the fat out, you’re taking out all the good nutrients,” Bass said. “Symptoms can mimic a psychiatric illness and then you dohave a psychiatric illness because that’s the way you’re feeling every day.”
Mental illnesses and disorders, everything from depression to ADD, are on the rise, Bass said. It’s a phenomenon she partially attributes to the lousy Standard American Diet most of us eat.
“We’re not eating what we should eat and what we are eating damages the manufacture of healthy cells,” Bass said. She recommended pastured meat, organic fruits and vegetables and a strict avoidance of sugar, vegetable oils, white flour, soy and chemicals such as MSG. If it sounds a lot like the Weston A. Price approach that’s no coincidence. “I could have gotten up here and said ‘If you want to eat well, just eat the Weston Price way’ and sat down,” Bass joked.
She was speaking from personal experience. Bass described her own struggles with bad health after being on a strict vegetarian diet, one that she believed would help prevent the cancer that had stricken her sister.
“I ate low-fat, vegetarian, a boatload of soy and boy, was I sick for about 10 years,” Bass said. Thanks to friends, including Alana Sugar, and some insightful doctors, Bass kept inching toward a more whole-food, high-fat diet. She eventually radically changed her eating habits. “But not soon enough,” she said. “I had destroyed my thyroid and ended up having it removed.”