Let's us kick start April with the Spotlight on Erin Williams MS CN LMP, owner of EZ Balance Holistic Nutrition and Wellness.
Erin first became interested in nutrition as she was having digestive issues and the advice at the time nutritionally was simplistic and unhelpful. Erin considers herself a curious person. When something doesn’t make sense she dives into it until it does. She healed herself by ravenously reading everything she could about nutrition and going back to school to learn more.
Erin's degree prepared her with the facts, but her experience really came from raising her 2 children. She had clogged ducts, mastitis, issues with trying to get both kids to simultaneously take both the breast and the bottle, supply issues that took fenugreek and pumping hourly to fix. Both were born with varied food sensitivities which took meticulous food journaling to figure out and eventually overcome. All this and she still somehow managed to nurse both kids for two years each. Now that her kids are older, 4 and 7, they are starting to see what other kids eat and not just what she feeds them. It’s very helpful that she was deliberate and purposeful with their diet. She talked to them about why sugar is unhealthy and why it should only be considered a treat. She openly discussed the harmful effects of food coloring and other food additives. She's proud to say that it helps them make good choices when she's not around.
As a Nutritionist, what separates her from others in the same field is that she's a holistically trained nutritionist with a Master's in Nutrition from Bastyr University, a Naturopathic Medical School. She sees the body as an integrated system. She has a bachelor’s in Chemistry, which also helps, as she's very technical and into the physiology more than most. Everything in your body is a chemical reaction; from blinking to walking, swallowing to laying down and the absorption of more minerals into the bone matrix. To make those chemical reactions work optimally you need the right ingredients and environment. Her job is to support others as they make small changes toward increased health, but she's unique as she understands enough science to uncover possible root causes of issues and symptoms that may be affecting their health and journey.
Erin's greatest achievement as a Nutritionist was being able to uncover the root cause of someone's symptoms and help them find the right diet to bring them back into balance. A balanced diet isn't always the panacea; Erin strives to create an individually tailored diet that will balance the individual. She has done this with people suffering from Hashimoto's, SIBO, and hormone imbalances and nothing is better than helping someone feel their best.
For Erin, there are 2 things that she consider as the biggest misconceptions she see parents make with regards to their children's nutrition.
The first big misconception is that cleanliness is best. Keeping a child’s environment too clean can set them up for a lifetime of issues later in life. We think that being clean and keeping our environment germ free is a way to help our children, but that sets them up for a lifetime of issues by not giving them the healthy diverse microbiome they need in and on their body. We have over reacted to dirt and germs and swung the pendulum too far. It’s ok to let kids play in mud and even eat it once in a while. The use of antibacterial soaps and chemicals creating a host of issues for us as humans and for the environment. You may wonder how this relates to nutrition, but our microbiome is directly tied to the health of our whole body. Our intestinal microbiome is a contributing factor in the obesity epidemic by influencing our metabolism, hunger and eating patterns. Additionally, the microbiome assists with resisting disease, depression and anxiety; all of which can impact weight. Our microbiome creates vitamin K2 helping us move calcium into our bones, and a host of other actions. When the microflora is disrupted and the harmful bacteria proliferate, overall health is impacted so it’s important to have a diverse variety of helpful microflora within our digestive tract and on our skin.
The second biggest misconception is that even though children may be thin, having daily consumption of sugar in the form of fruit, fruit juice, sugary yogurt treats, crackers, and packaged junk (which typically has a lot more sugar in it than parents realize) is setting them up for failure. Every dose of fruit, juice, or food with a sugary taste solidifies your child’s perception that food should be sweet and it makes it harder to introduce those bitter, sour, tart flavors that the healthful foods are made of. Carrots and peas, as their only vegetables do not help, and to be honest, corn is a grain, not a vegetable. Start children off with vegetables instead of grains or fruit. Feed your toddler sautéed kale, beets, asparagus … keep putting it on your plate and theirs so that they see what a healthy balanced meal should look and taste like from the very start.
We asked Erin what she hopes to achieve for this year and this is how she answered: "Good question. I’m making strides in numerous ways. Every time I come to a party with cookies, and the tray of cookies I made out of nut flour and sweetened with apples or bananas is empty, I count it as a win. I hand out recipes all the time to mothers who want healthier alternatives. I teach classes at our local community center and even though they aren’t all focused on maternal or infant nutrition, those lessons apply and make healthier adults and kids in the long run. I volunteer at my child’s school to help get more vegetables into school lunches. I encourage kids over on play dates to pull veggies out of the garden and eat them. I talk to my neighbors and friends about my chickens, garden, fermentation projects, and new research. You don’t have to be a nutritionist to have a passion about healthy living and to share it. If I help others feel encouraged to make a healthier lifestyle change than I’m helping and that feels good."
Her best nutritional tip is a quote from her favorite exercise guru, Tony Horton, "do your best and forget the rest". We are too judgmental as a society. We think that someone who is formula feeding didn’t even try breastfeeding or that someone with screaming toddler who hands them packaged foods is somehow not a good mom. Erin thinks the majority of parents want what is best for their child. We have to remember that progress happens one step at a time with support and kindness. It doesn’t help to criticize or judge yourself or others. Take things one step at a time. Do what you can with your diet or your child/s within the context of your life and if you strive to make improvements they will happen.
Finally, Erin leaves us with these parting words: "I think we are all different people who have been exposed to a different education and varied forms of comfort and nurturing. These aspects all affect nutrition. Nutrition is more than the science of calories, grams of carbohydrates, fats or protein. Attitude about nutrition is a huge part of the equation. No one wants to be told what to do, that something we like to eat is good or bad. It’s also more than individualism, it’s emotional on a deeper level. When we eat something we view as bad, and consume it with guilt and self-punishment, then the experience of the food will certainly be un-nourishing. I also think that the healthiest of foods may prove unhealthy if the motivation for eating them is based on fear of disease rather than love of life. It’s only when food is eaten with mindfulness and an understanding of the interdependence between ourselves and the rest of the word we are truly nourished on all levels."