Do you use food as comfort or a reward? Do you feel like you're eating the right things but don't feel the benefits of making "healthy" choices? Do you consume portions that could feed a whole family?
If you've answered yes to any of these, you're not alone. Sharon Goldner, certified health counselor, chef and founder of South Avenue's Recipe for a Healthy Life, knows first-hand how it feels to have an unsatisfying relationship with food.
Sensitive to many ingredients, including gluten, Goldner said she used to suffer from fatigue, weight gain and poor digestion. After changing her diet and her habits, she began to feel and function better.
Inspired by her own discoveries, Goldner said it is her goal to empower others with knowledge that could help them take control of their health and happiness.
I first learned about Recipe for a Healthy Life when Goldner spoke during the "Westfield First" portion of a December Town Council meeting. As a health counselor and someone who has struggled with food intolerances, Goldner explained that she doesn't just "talk the talk," she "walks the walk."
When I reached out to learn more, the business owner got right back to me and offered me a hybrid of her free 30-minute consultation and her one-hour office visit.
She then sent me a form to complete. The questions were simple enough: "If you could make two to three changes in your health what would they be?" "If you made those changes, how would your life be different?" and "What are the challenges that prevent you from improving your diet and health?"
Then I came to: "What’s your food like these days?" Uh-oh! True confession time. Was I really going to have to 'fess up about eating large portions of leftovers for lunch just to clear out my fridge? And what about my nightly cashew and Cabernet habit? And put it all in print no less?
Luckily Goldner has a gentle "we're all human" approach that made me feel more comfortable revealing that sometimes I shun the produce aisle because of the time involved in finding a good recipe not to mention the minutes spent chopping and dicing. Yikes!
Goldner explained that her free 30-minute phone consultation really helps to "break the ice" and get answers to some of those questions. Also, she said it is often easier for people to open up over the phone in a way they might not feel comfortable doing in person.
Another question "Why now?" is one Goldner asks because she said often someone comes to her with a deadline in mind. For example, someone with high cholesterol may seek her services prior to an upcoming doctor's visit. She also has clients who are training for athletic events.
During the phone consultation, Goldner said she is listening to see if there's a fit and to see if she can really help them.
"My most important question is are 'you open to change?' I'm not in the arm-twisiting business, you've got to want to," she said. "After we do that and then they get a feel for me and I get a feel for them, the next step is to come meet in person, and we look at your food and dig a little deeper and I'm going to connect the dots between what you're eating and what you're feeling."
Goldner's office, located on the second floor, is a space she shares with the studio. Eliminating potential excuses and barriers to cooking new, healthful alternatives, the office boasts a functional kitchen cart with hot burners, a cutting board and tools.
The chef uses it to perform short cooking demos and create simple dishes with clients as needed. Goldner is also armed with quick recipes and will not only supply the ingredients during the visit, she will even send them home with those looking to expand their choices.
A mom of two grown daughters, Goldner has realistic expectations, and said many of her recipes take 15 minutes or less.
"If it's not happening in your house, it's not happening in my house," she said.
My chief complaint when I visited Goldner was that I would like to have more energy and reduce my dependence on caffeine. After looking at the foods I was choosing, Goldner recommended that I add more nutrient-rich vegetables to give my body the natural boost that I was looking for in my bottomless cups of coffee.
Because I didn't come in with any symptoms of food sensitivities or any major issues, Goldner diagnosed my problem as a common one: lack of time. But she assured me, with a bit of willingness to change, I could substitute water for coffee, kale for potatoes and probably feel a lot more energetic. I could also plan ahead and carry a short list that could have my shopping cart full of "super-foods" in a flash.
The health counselor also said she is willing to shop with her clients to show them the world of ingredients they might not be aware of or know how to prepare.
"It's an investment of time and money but it can change your life dramatically," Goldner said.