Do not restrict yourself from everything that was and is enjoyable for you. If you’re restricting yourself from eating the foods you really enjoy, it will result in negative feelings, increasing the chance of bingeing or overeating. You can totally enjoy a piece of desired chocolate or a cup of delicious ice cream once in a while. The important thing is balance and moderation.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Zalnieraite.
Christine Zalnieraite is a head nutritionist at Kilo Health. She is also one of the writers of Beyond Body: The Personalized Wellness Book. She graduated from Lithuanian University of Health Sciences with a degree in Public Health.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
When I graduated from university, I got an offer to start working at a national public health authority as a Chief Public Health Specialist. I thought it would be the job of my dreams. But as time passed, I realized that it’s not the job that I’d enjoy and give all the potential that I have. I tried to find reasons to think otherwise, but I couldn’t. I gave it a lot of thought and second chances. But after a year, I realized that I couldn’t be dishonest to myself and decided to quit my job and work in another position.
I had my degree in dietetics and public health, and I knew that this was the field I felt the most passionate about and would love to grow as a professional.
After quitting my previous job, everything started to change. I began working with an innovative and young company that gave me a lot of opportunities and possibilities to grow as a professional, create, share knowledge and express myself in ways I didn’t think were possible. Every day I happily wake up to work and know that this is the way I should be!
I always remember the quote which says, “Find the job that you love, and you will never have to work again”, and I totally agree with it. The main takeaway from that story is to not be scared to make hard and sometimes uncomfortable decisions — they may lead you to the best places.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I started my first face-to-face consultations with clients, I thought I needed to give them all the possible information about nutrition, physical activity, and any other related topics. I was so excited to share all my knowledge.
To me, knowledge is power. I wanted to educate my clients as much as possible to help them make informed decisions. But I started to realize that each week, they came back with more struggles, especially when understanding the new things I’d teach them. That made me see how information overload can also negatively impact an individual’s decision-making. Some studies suggest that presenting clients with too much information can actually lead to worse decisions.
One of the dangers of being presented with too much information is the cognitive shortcuts that clients may utilize to handle the overload. When there is too much information given, individuals tend to consider only part of the information and it becomes difficult to understand an issue and effectively make a decision.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
Well-being is essential to everyone. It’s the state where you feel the most comfortable in your own body. However, getting to the state of well-being may feel unreachable for most people because their goals to get there are too large or overwhelming. Additionally, strict goals often set us up for failure; when you know that the goal will not be met easily, it becomes easier to stop seeking it. I think that the five most important “lifestyle tweaks” would be:
- Do not restrict yourself from everything that was and is enjoyable for you. If you’re restricting yourself from eating the foods you really enjoy, it will result in negative feelings, increasing the chance of bingeing or overeating. You can totally enjoy a piece of desired chocolate or a cup of delicious ice cream once in a while. The important thing is balance and moderation.
- Find new tastes, herbs, and spices. Improvise. Most of the time, healthy foods and fresh foods are associated with those that do not taste good. The idea of healthy eating never sounds appealing because we associate it with plain steamed vegetables or a bowl of flavorless salad. However, that’s not true; healthy food can also taste good and it’s something we have incorporated into our nutrition book, Beyond Body. Our analytics will create a customized meal plan based on the foods you like, so if you have a favorite carb or vegetable preference, the 28-day meal plan will include your favorite foods. Just adding this little zing to your healthy meal will make you more likely to stay on the right health plan.
- Find the most enjoyable physical activity. Physical activity improves health and overall well-being, but it also requires a lot of motivation and hard work to stick with. However, if you find the physical activity you enjoy, it will become your lifestyle habit. It can be dancing, jogging, walking, bicycle riding, swimming, or any other physical activity that you can follow in the long run.
- Take care of your mental health. Many people may not realize this, but our mental health is influenced by what we eat. If you are missing critical nutrients, your body will suffer and your mind will feel the effects. We tried to make mental health easier for everyone by including a chapter in our book on mindfulness and how to reduce stress. Taking care of your body also leads to stress relief, which in turn releases endorphins and boosts your self-confidence, reducing the chances of developing depression and anxiety. Create a healthy relationship with yourself, concentrate on your daily thoughts, and keep in mind that it is all about how you treat yourself and how you rise to become a better version of yourself every day. Set boundaries when it comes to negative people. Stop negative self-talk, pessimistic over-analysis, and self-criticism.
- Start from small changes and find the best habits that suit your goals. Each small goal leads you to a stronger and more confident version of yourself. Big goals require a lot of effort, and most of the time it de-motivates us to achieve them, so I highly recommend setting several smaller goals that would lead you to achieve the big goal.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
“No size fits all.” The latest nutrition science research finds that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to food and nutrition management. I feel like we have started a movement with our book, Beyond Body. It delivers a fully personalized health and wellness plan to women who have various body types and health needs and to date, more than 200,000 consumers around the world have bought the book. As to my experience, it’s completely true, and I apply that rule in my practice. Everyone is different and faces a variety of challenges that need different ways of resolving them. Even identical twins (who have nearly the same DNA), may respond to the same foods very differently. For example, foods that spike one person’s blood sugar would not necessarily do the same for the other person. Every person has a different response to the same exact meals. And that’s why you need to take into account a lot of different factors when you work with a client and try to help them to reach their goals.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Empathy is the key to success. Any problem immersed in empathy becomes soluble. Understanding other people’s emotions and struggles is a key skill in the workplace.
- Everyone’s success story is different and there is no one size fits all approach. As I have mentioned, recent studies show that the approach does not exist.
- Changing an old habit is the hardest thing, and it’s difficult to find the motivation to do it. But when you have empathy and find that key to turn it around — guaranteed you’ll achieve success.
- It’s not all about me. At the beginning of my career, I always took it personally when I didn’t reach a client’s goal. I used to think that it was my fault and I didn’t do my best in finding the solution for them. But that’s not true. I started to look at me and my clients as a team that is seeking the best possible result. It does not depend only on me, it depends on everyone’s effort, willingness and work.
- Your philosophies toward food won’t be the right fit for every client. As I have already mentioned there are a lot of people with different opinions, struggles, and goals. In some cases, you need to balance and be very flexible.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
It’s really hard to pick one because I think they are all so related to one other. But if I must choose one, it would be mental health. So many things depend on our mental well-being. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It highly affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. The mind and the body are connected — something we emphasize with Beyond Body. Many mental ailments cause stress, which lowers the immune system, affects physical well-being, and prevents us from taking care of ourselves.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can follow me on Instagram @dietitian_christine. You can also check out Beyond Body on Instagram @beyondbody_official, Twitter @beyondbody_me, or Facebook @beyondbodyofficial.
Thank you for these fantastic insights!