Nutrition is my passion that began during pregnancy in 1992. When my son was 9 months old I watched a news report on CNN investigating the increased incidence of childhood cancers. Cancer has affected 3 close members of my family as well as close friends of mine and has become the second most prevalent fatal disease in America. And like other top diseases afflicting us in this country, cancer often has roots in low grade malnutrition and/or obesity. I decided to follow up on my curiosity with some formal education enhanced strongly with research delving into complementary and alternative strategies for nutritional intervention.
From top to bottom every aspect of my recipes has a health promoting reason for being assembled and created with the ingredients and methods I use. I am not a formally trained chef but a degreed nutritionist who has studied food from several unique perspectives including clinical dietetics, food toxicology, naturopathy and metabolically as a personal trainer. I graduated from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (College of Allied Healthy) in 2001 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutritional Sciences and chose not to pursue a career in Clinical Dietetics for many reasons. In hospitals during my practicum and clinical rotations I was made keenly aware of my limited ability to bring any modicum of health to the very sick or dying which usually inhabit that setting. Even if the patients are receptive to your recommendations there is little time for teaching and often the audience is not coherent. Then there is the issue of drug/nutrient interactions...so many restrictions based upon the multifactorial dilemmas this population is often dealing with. And in a counseling career I would be seated most of 40 hours per week becoming quite preoccupied with my occupation. And I have always had a strong appetite, so this was not my solution to staying fit and healthy in my 30s and beyond.
Becoming a personal trainer was a perfect fit for me. This career gave me a well rounded perspective and clients who were choosing to become healthier--a much more fun and cooperative audience. Everyone has a unique story, often distantly seated in their physical genetic makeup. Strangely enough what begins as our individuality manifests into more general categories of injuries and/or disease over a lifetime, or perhaps less time. Unraveling the mysteries of nutritional deficiencies as they relate to health status (physical & mental) has become my passion.
The realm which surrounds nutritional sciences fascinates me literally from the planting ground up. After graduation from OUHSC I continued to study Horticulture, Botany and Soil Science in addition to ongoing research into every ailment my clients present. I believe that there is always a link to whatever a person is physically struggling to overcome and how they eat or how their parents, grandparents or ancestors before them ate. Even in advanced years beyond our ability to reproduce, research has shown that our genes still adapt and change based upon all inputs from our environment, especially diet. Because there is simply nothing more important to long term survival than sustenance, and the quality of foods chosen several times a day (optimally) playing a critical role in our performance, well-being and outlook.
I have designed meal plans for my clients with great success in weight loss and health improvement, that typically involved me hand writing, emailing or texting recipes until I began my blog Food as Medicine in 2010 which has now evolved into this cookbook. This is literally my life’s work. simplified and condensed into a model that I intended to represent my own struggles with being a single parent on a budget with limited time. It’s a “transitional organic” publication meant to inform but not overwhelm someone who is just learning to cook, shop and eat better. Most of the recipes are very simple and affordable with the exception of what I consider “weekend specials” and some of the holiday baking. And where there is a recipe too time consuming or labor/shopping intensive I will provide an alternate to accommodate the Monday through Friday schedule.
To best explain my rationale for the recipe ingredients just look at the big healthy picture with a focus on weight loss. Every recipe containing carbohydrates will be balanced with healthy fats and/or proteins to avoid sharp insulin spikes. Carbohydrates, and to some degree proteins, signal our pancreas to release the hormone insulin which shuts off all weight loss while it circulates in our blood stream. The counter hormone (or fasting hormone) to insulin is glucagon. This is your weight loss friend, on a basic level, and where the glycemic index of foods becomes critical. All of my recipes are designed to promote satiety while spiking insulin minimally and supporting even energy levels throughout the day by bringing glucagon back into your system relatively quickly. Additionally using fiber to slow down the absorption of starches and sugars in the GI tract will also minimize your insulin response and soon have optimal glucagon levels back in your circulating blood. Even if weight maintenance or body fat reduction without weight loss is your goal, these are still your recipes for success.
That is essentially the gist of me and my project here, with more details to come in future revisions or editions. Let me emphasize one word in summation: BALANCE. This is key to how I have learned long term success in the weight loss battle and overall fulfillment in life. Any diet or exercise regimen which is extreme in nature will likely cause some type of visible or unseen pathological chaos in the body, often hormonal in nature. So beware of omitting all carbohydrates or fats, use caution in veganism or strict vegetarianism and learn to listen to your body while being an observer in your own journey to well being, strength and vital life force.
GINA LYNN RYAN, NASM CPT
B.S. NUTRITIONAL SCIENCES, graduated 2001
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
College of Allied Health, Nutritional Sciences
NASM PERSONAL TRAINER & LIFE COACH
SEVERE TRAUMA SURVIVOR since July 31, 2012