So, one of the scariest things when starting a health and wellness journey is the thought of dieting and knowing what you “can and can’t” eat while trying to start or maintain a healthy lifestyle. We talked with Haley Hughes over at RDRX Nutrition, seeking her advice as a Registered Dietitian, on what some of the best ways to approach food in a healthy manner, without having to worry about starving yourself or following the latest fad diets.

Welcome and thank you for joining us for an interview. Let’s get started, so who is Haley Hughes?

Well, I am a registered dietitian, CrossFit coach, a crazy dog mom who loves being with her spaniels and loves being outside. During this time of COVID-19 I am trying to explore myself and find out what my hobbies really are. You know as an adult you kind of get caught up in your work and the daily routine.  I will never forget that I had a dentist cleaning a while back and my dentist asked me what do you like to do for fun? And I was like umm I work, and I do not have an answer for that.  That is when I realized if you do not even like what you do for work then you need to do something else and that really inspired me to open RDRX and do nutrition counseling. 

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So that will lead right into the next question, why did you create RDRX?

I was working at an outpatient clinic, and I was the only dietitian for about 27 providers, and I was not able to follow up with patients as closely as I would have liked. And you know it was more of a business ran health care setting and I wanted to make more of a difference in people’s lives more than a see you one time and out the door good luck way. So, I opened RDRX so I could provide that personal type of follow up and learn what they are really struggling with instead of just the nutrition element.

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That is amazing, so what inspired you to become a Dietitian/Nutritionist? 

I always kind of grew up in a hospital. My mom was a nurse so I would love to go to work with her on the bring your kids to work day and get a tour and see what other people did in the hospital. You know people go there to feel better and I have always wanted to be able to help people with their health and fitness and wellness and all of that. I was a runner in college and that is when I realized how much nutrition played a part in my performance. I was going to school for pharmacy, and early on I shadowed a pharmacist and realized that this was not for me. I realized it was a lot of just counting people’s medication and handing it off, and I realized a lot of these things can be fixed with diet and exercise. And that is when I realized that dietitian was a real job and started looking into it and started down that path.

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What is your favorite part of working with the community and helping them with their nutritional needs?

I love working with the community, as Alaskans are special. I do have clients in the lower 48 but it is not the same as when you say something like, “What about a moose pot roast?”, or give someone all these beautiful salmon recipes. It’s just that Alaska has all these amazing resources that not every place has, or even activities that other people don’t get to do or experience. And a big thing is networking, I have met so many amazing small business owners that have been more then supportive and help build each other up. 

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 How do you get out and interact with the community as RDRX the company?

So I am on the board of the Alaska Dietetic Association. I am president-elect this year, and we do a lot of really cool things. Right now, we are working on helping with a collection for the local food banks and bringing awareness to what dietitians do. There are so many different aspects to the field. We have inpatient, outpatient, ones that work in a small business setting, there are so many types out there. It’s really cool to see what they are doing in the community too. 

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Now I want to ask you about the pandemic and ways that Alaskans can stay healthy. 

That really is a great question. So working from home can be such a great blessing, that’s what I keep trying to tell my clients.  Yes, your routine is a little bit changed up, well maybe a lot changed up but you can stretch between meetings and have no one looking at you, you can take a nice walk during your lunch break, you can meal prep in the morning, and have something going in the crockpot during the day. There are so many wonderful things that can come out of people being at home a little more. First, people’s budgets, as you might not eat out as much, and if you do don’t forget to support local by ordering take-out or getting gift cards to use later. Or while your home learn some new cooking skills. Now that people are home a little more that makes it a little more reasonable. 

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That is an incredibly good point, what are the top five or so reasons people come to you when they find you?

I would say most people start with weight loss. And I teach a little bit differently, I do not focus on the weight loss itself. I really do not even have a client weight themselves unless it’s for something that the client needs to do for other reasons. Generally, I focus more on the intuitive eating council. So yes, people come to me for weight loss or athletic performance. Another reason people might come see me is if people have had significant events like for the first time, like having a lab value of elevated cholesterol or being told they have pre-diabetes and need to do something about it, that’s a big one. Lastly, I would say people who are doing a great job already but want some validation that the nutrition changes they are already doing are good for them. 

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Now with having people come to you as new clients or even existing clients I am sure you hear some crazy myths about nutrition, what are some of the biggest myths you hear from people?

Oh my gosh the crazy things I have heard people say, I should write a book on that one. I would say people being scared of things like blueberry or banana and saying no one should be eating something like meat for reason xyz. There is so much out there in the media nowadays that you have to be careful with these biased opinions and you have to really step back and look at the big picture and what you need.  I had this one person who would only eat raw protein powder because they were scared to pair it with anything due to not knowing if it would still be okay. There are these crazy myths out there and make it scary sometimes and it does not need to be that way at all. You do not need to be doing these crazy diets, extreme cleanse, and fasting at certain times. I could go on and on. 

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With your background and training what does health and wellness mean to you?

Well, when I was a 1st year dietitian, I understood the science behind things and how to manage stuff like chronic diseases with nutrition and now that I’m working with clients, I realize that there is so much more to the mental health side of eating whether or not you believe you have an eating disorder or you are burnt out on dieting. So, health and wellness to me is bringing those two things together. I am learning from my clients that a lot of their nutrition comes from other things going on in life. They might not be setting a boundary on their time, or they are coping with stress by eating, there are so many other aspects that my little calorie counter is not going to take into consideration, so we have to fix that first. Health and wellness, I would say, is figuring out what ideal eating looks like for you and what makes you feel your best! 

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Mitchel Howell has been a nomad his whole life. He ended up in Texas for 10 years, where he met his wife. While in Texas he started training to become a chef and eventually he started working for himself, cooking at game ranches and hunting lodges. Those opportunities gave him the chance to learn and cook all different styles of food. In 2015 Mitchel came to Alaska to cook in the Denali area. The Alaska bug bit him and a few years later in 2017 he packed up his family and moved to Sitka. While living in Sitka Mitchel really started to fall in love with the Alaska way of life. In 2018 Mitchel and his family moved to Palmer where he took a job on the Alaska railroad as a dining caption. Speaking with tourists and locals about the unique food Alaska offers got him thinking and in 2019 he started the 49th meal podcast. Mitchel enjoys traveling the state with his son and finding hidden gems to interview.


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