Health counseling offers nutritious guidance

Many people are on a diet that Michele Enter calls SAD — a Standard American Diet. If the phrase doesn’t ring a bell, it consists of a lot of fast food.

Sound familiar now?

Enter has been a health counselor in Chattanooga for the past couple of years, working in the profession part time as she studies for her master’s degree in marriage and family counseling.

“I think more people need to be aware that there are health counselors,” she said. “A lot of people just don’t know where to start. They hit a wall and they’re overwhelmed.”

Enter’s clients are not already self-educated on nutrition and want to have a healthier lifestyle, she said. She’s seen everyone from near-diabetics, to people with special conditions or food allergies, to moms who want to make sure they’re feeding their kids what they need to be healthy and strong.

Enter meets with each of her clients once or twice a month for six months in a row. Since she works out of her home near the Chattanooga Riverwalk, she often meets her clients in places like Earth Fare, Nutrition World and Whole Foods. She said that way she can directly show them the produce, meat and more they should be buying.

“Every time I meet with them I give them more information. It ends up being an entire packet,” she said.

Her clients also come away with a cost analysis comparing local grocery stores. Enter even creates a recipe book over the course of their six-month health journey that is tailored to her client’s preferences.

She emphasized that the whole experience is catered to each client. For someone who has been eating unhealthy food their entire life, Enter starts small, gradually adding more things like water, fruits and vegetables into their routine.

“I’ve always been kind of interested in health and well-being. I started out in the medical field and realized there are many correlations to our health and diet,” said Enter, who trained with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. “We’ve become a society that relies on pharmaceuticals for our health. We could get away from that and use our food as a first line of defense.”

Enter also looks at the way her clients’ emotions affect their diet, including work- or family-related stress, grief and more. It’s easy to reach for unhealthy comfort food during stressful or hard times, she explained.

“When I first started out I didn’t believe it held much value in what you ate, but I’ve realized more and more there’s a much larger component there,” she said. “People kind of revert to the way they were brought up when stress enters the life.”

To find out more about Enter’s work, visit optimalnourishment.com.