Always a Nut Butter…a talk with Robyn Coale

Robyn Coale

She’s two days off caffeine, and she’s feeling fine.
“I thought I would have a huge headache, but I feel good.”

I met Robyn Coale after her talk at the Vegetarian Festival in Downtown Charlottesville a couple weeks ago.  Along with Dr. Katz, one of her colleagues at the Revolution Health Center in Scottsville, Virginia, she presented on eating a more alkaline diet.  More broccoli, more spinach, more fruit, less meat and sugar.  People were taking notes.  After talking for a few minutes, we discovered that we were not exactly strangers.  We attend the same early morning (6am!) strength training (ow!) class.  I’ll be honest.  She’s a regular.  I often miss it due to my ability to create dramatic excuses. Through our interview I got to the bottom of the many good habits of this local registered dietician that you might enjoy hearing for yourself.

What’s inspired you to quit drinking coffee?
It’s super-acidic for one. I haven’t quit for good.  I’d just like to get to the place where I enjoy a good cup of coffee out but that I’m not brewing and drinking a big pot at home.

Do you feel like caffeine is a factor in the habits of your clients/patients?
Definitely.

Do you tell them they have to quit?
Never.  I never tell them they can never have any particular thing again.  I educate.  I present the facts.  I meet them where they are.  I tell them I’ll go to the grocery store with them.  I give them grocery lists and other resources. I can educate, encourage, and be there every step of the way but they have to put it into action. I usually ask, “How do you feel about coffee?” This allows me to gauge their perspective first. Some people can let it go or cut back.  Some people are really attached.  If you want to follow an alkaline diet, you have to look at what acidic foods you’re eating and more importantly, how much.  Some people are drinking coffee all day and that’s a heavy acid load for just one food alone.

What do you eat for breakfast?
I always have a nut butter.  So, I might do oatmeal on the stovetop, like this morning was oatmeal with a banana chopped up and stirred in while it’s cooking with almond milk and then I added peanut butter.  Or I might do peanut butter toast with banana and maybe Greek yogurt.

What’s your work day like?
My day is mostly broken up between education and nutritional counseling.  When I’m in the education mode I’m presenting the facts, I’m explaining it all.  I’m teaching classes.  The nutritional counseling is the psychological piece.  I’m listening.  I’m giving feedback.  I’m such a talker that it took me a long time during my internship (Robyn became a registered dietician at UVA) to be okay with silence, and to just let people talk.

Can you talk a little about any nutritional transformations that you’ve gone through?
Well, I ran cross-country in high school.  My mom made traditional dinners — spaghetti, sloppy joes, that sort-of thing.  When I went to college, I got in a sorority and my eating got warped.  I got into a cycle of eating lots of diet food — lite yogurt, fat-free stuff.  It was terrible.  Living in a sorority gave little control over what we ate — I wasn’t enjoying food.  I was so far from health it was ridiculous.  I got into reading food blogs and the whole food blogging community. I stopped with any sort of diet or processed food. I started eating diet foods and went back to whole, real food.  I was so much more satisfied.  My digestive health got so much better.

What do you love about working at Revolution Health Center?
I’m part of the primary care team.  The first time a patient comes to the center they get 90 minutes with Dr. Bush, who is an endocrinologist, or 60 minutes with Dr. Katz, who is our general practitioner — who also specializes in sports medicine — and then they have 60 minutes with me.  That is SO MUCH DIFFERENT from working as a dietician in a hospital.  At Revolution, everything is centered around nutrition.

What do you feel like are the biggest challenges for people who are trying to make nutritional changes?
There are a few things: 1) Life gets in the way 2)They don’t make it a priority 3)They don’t have a supportive spouse or family 4)They give in to social pressure 5)They think in terms of all or nothing.  I’m never pushing for an all-alkaline diet or an all-vegan diet.  I’m encouraging them to move towards an 80% alkaline diet that is 80-90% plant based.  That 20% of acidity is just as important for optimal health. Life is about balance.  I went to a winery this weekend.  We were drinking wine, of course, but we also enjoyed a meat plate and cheese plate. I mostly eat a plant-based diet, but that day was enjoying wine and cheese with friends. I feel like that’s more realistic…and more fun.  Also, people sometimes don’t have accountability.  That’s why I always follow up.  I see them again.  I answer their emails and call them.  That’s an important part.

What’s next for you athletically and nutritionally?
I just ran the half-marathon here, the Cville Classic, and I think I’ll run the 10-miler this Spring, but I’d like to run the Charlottesville Marathon.  With food…um, I’m going to be working on “front-loading” my day.  My largest meals are usually at night and I’d like to shift that and fuel more/better during the day.

At 23, Robyn is already impressively established in the wellness world. She’s stylish.  She’s confessional: practicing what she’s preaching while never preaching perfection.  She’s considering her own self-improvement.  She’s checking her phone.  As we were wrapping up our interview, we touched on yoga and other interests.  Robyn’s just started a blog, www.therealliferd.blogspot.com.  After recently attending a social media conference, she’s ready to jump on Twitter…kind-of.  She wants to start juicing (oh, my heart flutters every time a new girl gets a juicer).  We confirmed we were both going to strength training class in the morning.  She went. I slept in…because my mother-in-law’s flight got delayed and I didn’t got to bed until after midnight (good one, right?).  Damn these motivated young people and their nut butters.

Go to www.nutshellnutrition.com to find out more about Robyn and to follow her blog.

What are some of your creative excuses for why you haven't been to the gym?

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