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Stefanie's Wisdom...

Chronic Illness And Its Inherent Roadblocks

Shed the BreadI have a client, let’s call her Lucy (I just love that name!), who has Diabetes Type II (DMII). And that is only a part of her picture...

When a person comes to me, I have to look at their entire health “landscape” including (but not limited to) clinical diagnosis, symptoms and medications (and who comprises their current “care team” be it doctors or other health practitioners); I look at their family health history; their relationship with food from a behavioral perspective; what they eat; their food likes and dislikes; what they need and want to accomplish by working with me; and most importantly I need to understand, through this all, what they are truly willing to do and able to do so I can help set them up for success.

Lucy is a vibrant, loving and incredibly optimistic woman whose “suffering” struck a deep chord with me for many reasons. After listening to her story, I wanted to do anything and everything I could to help her. Calling on my personal experiences (and professional ones), I felt that she had been gravely misguided in much of her “care”.

In a nutshell, she lived most of her teens and twenties on and off antibiotics due to recurring strep throat, then a horrible bout with Lyme’s disease. What followed? The DMII diagnosis in her mid-30’s and what defined the next 10 years of her life—medication for diabetes; terrible acid reflux; rapid weight gain; failed attempts at weight loss; the emotional challenges that go along with living with chronic illness (let alone life); a pancreas that is ceasing to work (meaning she now has insulin dependent diabetes—Type I); and a medical team who told her that gastric bypass surgery could be her only “solution” for care.

As Lucy was highly motivated and ready to use diet, exercise and more alternative approaches to care (meaning the idea that meds and surgery weren’t the ONLY option), it was clear what I needed to do to help her:

  • 1. Get her on an overall diabetes supportive diet (while she was managing her blood sugar through food to some extent, she needed to do a much better job)
  • 2. Get her on a candida diet—because of Lucy’s long history of antibiotic use, she most likely has an overgrowth of bad bacteria (candida) in her gut. This is thought to be a contributor to chronic illness thus reclaiming her gut health could help her overall picture
  • 3. Teach her how to make healthier food choices (shopping education)
  • 4. Encourage her to “get moving” with exercise
  • 5. Help her complement her team of medical doctors with those who are more open minded to alternative care—when working with complex (and often not-so-complex) clinical cases, I ALWAYS collaborate with other practitioners whether a registered dietitian (a nutritionist who is clinically trained) or doctor
  • 6. And give her some much needed love and support

Lucy is amazing! She followed the program I created for her, exercised, started trusting her care to other medical practitioners, started losing considerable weight and was feeling great!

But, a couple of weeks ago, she developed abdominal pain, moderate to acute. While she wanted to brush the pain off as a stomach virus, after conferring with a colleague, I encouraged her to call her doctor for immediate care. This was out of my league! She did and thank goodness for that—she had an inflamed gallbladder (cholecystitis) and she very well may need gallbladder surgery. Based on guidance from her doctor, I modified her program to a “plain foods diet”—easily digestible, refined foods. The only catch—while supportive of the cholecystitis, it is contra-indicated for diabetes. Ugh!!!

Even with this kink in the road, Lucy remains positive and is ready to get back on track as soon as possible. The big question is—if she was eating so healthfully, why did she develop this complication? Answer—there is no simple response but we do know it wasn’t the healthy diet she started eating. Chronic illness is very complicated and there will always be roadblocks. It boils down to how to manage those obstacles and whom you choose to handle them with. With the uncertainty inherent in illness, it is important to have a support system that you are certain about.

My work has humbled me over the years. If there is one thing I know best—it’s that I know what I know and know what I don’t know. A person’s care should always be collaboration among practitioners.

What's Cooking...

Stefanie In The Media

Food Show that Focuses on Health

Finding Inspiration from a Culinary Nutritionist

Chew On This

Check out the newly uploaded shows, and download the accompanying 'toolkits' from my website!


Episode 4: Digestive Dramas


Episode 3: Bulk without the Blubber


Episode 2: Obscure Food Allergies


Episode 1: Growing a Healthy Child


Krazy Kidney Stones—Avoiding Recurrence with the Foods you Choose
Fighting Cancer with Food—An Infant’s Story
Cystic Fibrosis—Navigating Chronic Illness with Food
The Pains of Picky Eating—A Mother’s Challenge

If you are interested in being a guest on Chew On This, email info@stefaniesacks.com

Upcoming Workshops at Kripalu

A Wellness Retreat for People with
Parkinson’s and Their Care Givers
June 4-8
October 28-November 2

Medical Students Explore What it
Really Means to be a Healer

June 16-21

Nutrition and Cooking Immersion
July 15-20
October 14-19
November 11-16

Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease
July 15-20

Click here for more details on the following upcoming workshops

The Thriving Child

Parenting Successfully through Allergies, Asthma and Other Common Challenges by Erica Reid

Erica, a former client and fabulous woman, mother, wife and now friend asked me to contribute to her book. What an honor for me! You can check The Thriving Child out at Amazon NOW. It comes out in Spring 2012 but you can pre-order if you wish!!!


Check this out!

On the Future of Food: The Prince's Speech

Feeding the planet sustainably is one of the world’s most pressing challenges. In his keynote speech at the Future of Food conference, HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, sounded the alarm for an earth on the brink of agricultural disaster.

Need Help Getting Your Kids in the Kitchen?

Julie Negrin is a must! Check her out at julienegrin.com. Go Julie! Also, Julie is an integral part of Kids in the Kitchen at the International Association of Culinary Professionals Annual Conference—The Fashion of Food on Sunday April 1st.

Nutrition Facts

Nutritionfacts.org is a resourceful website that scours the world of nutrition-related research, as published in scientific journals, and brings that information to you in short, easy to understand video segments.  We also provide links to the original journal articles whenever possible so that you can source the information directly, if you so desire.

Parent Earth

Their mission of parentearth.com is to answer parents’ questions about food, and work with partners to create a world that nurtures healthy, thriving children. They create short online videos on everything from cooking and gardening to nutrition and behavior. They also highlight the best videos from other websites and invite you to submit your own. 

'What's In Your Food?'
Hosted by Mother Jones Magazine

An awesome fundraising event in NYC on June 7, 2012 at 6:30pm! Details are still being finalized. Please read a little more about the event here.

A mother's Challenge—My Boys and Food

Instead of “Jack and Hunter’s Favorites”, I have decided to share with you some of the struggles that I deal with when feeding my kids. Maybe you can relate!

Hunter wants pancakes every morning and he wants to cook them himself!!!

I give him pancakes three days/week and let him cook them (even on a busy weekday). The other days, despite his protests, I give him 2 choices (whether Greek yogurt with honey OR granola; toast with cream cheese OR apple with peanut butter). I have accepted the fact the he is a picky eater so instead of constantly pushing him to eat other foods, I work with what I know he likes and once in a while (2-3 times/month) I make other suggestions.

Seasonal RECIPE by Stefanie

Warm Shaved Fennel with Spring Onions

Servings: 4

- 6 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 spring onions (or scallions), thinly sliced
- 4 basil leaves, rough chop
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste

1. Heat oil in pan on medium and sauté fennel until slightly clear.
2. Toast pine nuts in a dry pan (watch carefully for they burn easily), on low heat.
3. Slice onions, chop basil and add to large bowl with fennel and pine nuts. Mix well and salt and pepper to taste.

About Stefanie...

Culinary Nutritionist

Stefanie Sacks, M.S., CNS is a Culinary Nutritionist who works hands-on with individuals and groups in transition to a healthier way of eating as a food counselor, nutrition educator and chef instructor. She has been studying food and healing for twenty-five years, has her Masters of Science in nutrition from Columbia University, is a Certified Nutrition Specialist and is a graduate of The Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. In 1999 she launched her private practice working one on one to help prevent illness and restore health through personalized nutrition therapy and culinary guidance. In addition to her private practice, Stefanie created Food Solutions: A Gateway to Healing—an innovative culinary nutrition education workshop series that represents a seamless translation of the most recent disease specific medical science to a client’s own plate with the kitchen as the centerpiece of education. It launched in 2010 at Donna Karan’s Urban Zen Center and will now be offered at the New York Open Center. Stefanie also speaks and conducts workshops for adults and children nationwide. Continue reading.

Email: sbs@stefaniesacks.com
Telephone: 917.686.3778
Website: stefaniesacks.com
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