A brief Question and Answer session with Paul Webster, the founder of Serving Healthy
Q: What type of diet do you recommend for your clients?
A: My clients need to be comfortable with the food they eat. I don't recommend a "diet" per se, but I do work with clients to make sure they are getting the proper nutrition. I always work with clients on various levels, teaching them how to cook and enjoy an un-processed, whole food diet and how to get enough physical activity to maintain health.
Q: What foods do you eat?
A: I am focused on an un-processed, whole food diet.
I am a classically trained chef as well as a nutritionist. I have attended culinary school in France and Italy as well as the United States, so I know how to cook great food, even if some of the foods I have cooked may not be the healthiest options.
Without going into too much detail, I have eaten everything from the top of the animal (brains) to the bottom (pig's feet - aka "trotters"). I have also eaten my share of insects, and even some fruits that would make many people gag (durian).
Over the course of my lifetime, I guess I would technically be placed in the category of omnivore, or the more current popular term of "flexitarian". For maximum health benefits, I have chosen to avoid animal products as much as possible.
From my client's perspective, it is extremely beneficial for them to know that I have "been there and done that", which helps them understand how they can transform to a healthy nutrition plan.
Q: Does that mean you classify your current diet as "vegan"?
A: I do not classify my current diet as vegan, and here are some of the reasons why:
Let's take a look at two words in that question, "diet" and "vegan".
Thanks to the marketing efforts of companies that sell weight loss programs and nutritional supplements, the word "diet" now lends itself to a definition of an action that is taken when someone wants to lose or gain weight. That definition implies that a diet
is something you start and stop, which is why people have trouble maintaining a healthy weight. Although the word "diet" slips into my vocabulary through normal conversation and writing, I don't use the term as an action that is started or stopped at specific
times. In educating my clients, I help them understand that a true "diet" is actually a nutritional lifestyle change that carries on throughout your life. There may be times where you slip out of that nutritional plan, and that is understandable. The focus of
a nutritional plan is to stay consistent with your goals over time, not to start a new plan when your weight has changed and stop the plan when you are satisfied with your weight. The ultimate goal is to become healthier, not necessarily to lose or gain weight.
The terms "vegan" and "healthy" are not synonymous, they have very different meanings, and here are a few of the reasons.
The dictionary definition of the term "vegan" is simple, stating that a vegan is a strict vegetarian that does not consume any animal products, including eating honey and wearing leather.
The definition from the Vegan Society goes further to define a way of living that seeks to exclude exploitation and cruelty to animals.
Neither definition clearly defines or even discusses the "healthy" aspects of an un-processed, plant based whole food diet.
A vegan diet is not necessarily healthy. Many vegetarians and vegans eat too much fat and salt, neither of which are healthy (think french fries). Fats, such as palm and coconut oil are frequently used in vegan foods and are very high in unhealthy saturated fats.
Many commercially available vegan products at the grocery store are processed foods. Most people, not just vegans, eat a large amount of processed foods. Processing food removes nutrients, and the FDA requires some of those nutrients to be added back. Enriched white flour is the main example of a processed food where the processing of the flour not only removes the fiber (bran and germ) from the wheat,
but it also removes key nutrients. The FDA requires the addition of iron and four B Vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid) to be added back to flour to "enrich" the flour. Due to the loss of the fiber, your body processes the resulting "enriched" flour much in the same way it processes pure sugar.
Many vegans rely on processed foods from the grocery store. I teach people how to read nutrition labels to help them make the best possible choices. I am fortunate to have the knowledge and skills to create great food from simple ingredients, which is what I teach my clients so they don’t need to rely on processed foods.
Take a look at the ingredients list on packaged "vegan" foods from the grocery store and you will understand. Not too long ago, I was at the grocery store and I picked up a package of soy based cheese that appeared to be vegan. I was shocked at the amount of saturated fat, but I was more surprised to see casein as an ingredient. Casein is a protein that is found in animal milk, which meant the product was not vegan. Although the packagin led me to believe the product was healthy, it was clearly a poor option for anyone who is looking for healthy food.
Many products labeled as "vegetarian", "vegan", or even those that are marketed as healthy are not what they appear on the surface. For that reason, I don't classify my "diet" and lifestyle, as vegan. I focus on whole, un-processed foods, and I teach people the same strategy where they learn to create healthy and flavorful meals from whole foods.
Q: Why have you chosen an un-processed, plant based whole food diet?
A: Many people choose to eliminate animal products (vegan) because they believe it is helpful for the environment. For me, it is not necessarily about saving the environment; it is about saving me, my health, and enjoying my life.
If the result of my nutrition choices improves the health of the environment, then we all win.
My college education was funded by an athletic scholarship, I grew up an athlete and always considered myself very healthy. I always took care of myself and thought I knew what foods were healthy. After spending time in the restaurant and culinary world,
I realized I had gained a considerable amount of weight. A visit to my doctor revealed that my blood pressure was at a dangerously high level and my total cholesterol was well above 200, it was then that I realized that I had ignored my health for the
passion, glory, and rewards of the culinary world.
Q: What happened after that doctor visit? Were you put on medication?
A: Well... I am not the type of person that likes to take medication, so I took matters into my own hands (and stomach actually). I backed off of the glorious and fatty food around which the culinary world is enamored, and I used my culinary skills create wonderful whole food meals.
I also started researching the latest evidenced based studies on nutrition. As most people realize, the world is in a constant state of change. For example, a study from a few years ago may suggest that coffee is bad for your health, but a similar study this year may suggest coffee has health benefits.
When I was a competitive athlete in college, animal protein and whatever carbohydrates you could get were considered healthy, but there has been a considerable amount of research done since my college days.
Q: Did a change in your eating patterns help?
A: Yes! Within three months I had lost 30 pounds, reduced my total cholesterol to under 150, and lowered my blood pressure to an optimal level.
Keep in mind that I didn't do it with diet alone; it did require a change in my exercise behavior as well. I view it as a lifestyle change. I changed my lifestyle from "getting ready to die" to "I am living and thriving again!"
Q: Was this lifestyle change difficult?
A: The change was fairly easy for me. It may not be that easy for some people, and that is why I use multiple techniques and strategies to coach and motivate my clients to achieve their goals.
Q: Can you talk about those strategies?
A: I use a variety of motivational and counseling techniques, along with my fitness and culinary knowledge to guide them down a path for success.
My clients not only learn how to prepare healthy and nutritious food, I guide them to think and believe in terms of a healthy life and lifestyle.
Q: How would someone get in touch with Serving Healthy if they are interested in your services?
A: They can send a message from the contact page on this website, or call 303-403-9460.