The Company You Keep: Q&A with Jae Berman

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Every month Jae Berman answers your nutrition questions in our monthly column “Ask the R.D.” We chatted with her to find out more about her interest in nutrition and what her path to well-being looks like.

1.)  How did you first become interested in nutrition?
I really started to pay attention to food and nutrition when I lived abroad during University. I grew up a very picky eater and only ate a handful of foods. When I traveled to Africa, Europe and the Middle East I was thrown out of my comfort zone. I explored different foods and for the first time, noticed how much food plays a role in culture. I ate fresh, local, homemade food for 13 months and enjoyed every moment–all of a sudden foods I was once revolted by were now my favorites. When I can back to the states the low carb craze was in full force and I did not know what to do. Not eat bread? Ever? Steak and bacon for breakfast? Really? It just didnt make sense. I really started to notice all the crazy fad diets and unhealthy relationships we have with food. Many of my peers had eating disorders and no one around me felt good about their bodies or how they looked. I started to get interested in nutrition because I wanted to learn the science behind it all. As opposed to believing magazines, commercials, claims of celebrities or urban myths from friends I wanted to learn how food and exercise affects our health, weight and behavior. I wanted to learn why we do what we do. It is now my passion and I love every minute of it!

2.) When did you decide your interest had become a career you wanted to pursue?
I have always been good with numbers so the logicial choice was to go into finance after college but I just could not do it. My last year in college I got into yoga and went to a yoga teacher training shortly after college. I became a vegetarian ( of course–because that is what yogis do right?!?) and because I was not being a smart vegetarian, I almost had to be hospitalized due to poor nutrition and dehydration. One day in training, I was sitting on a couch and asked a fellow yoga buddy, “Do you think you could go to school for nutrition?” and she responded, ” I know you can because my best friend got her Masters in nutrition.” From there it all fell into place, I started teaching yoga, got certified to teach Pilates, went to graduate school at Columbia University for Applied Physiology and Nutrition, completed my Dietetic Internship at UCSF Medical Center and now counsel individuals on nutrition and am a personal trainer. I had no idea a career would come out of all of this. I went back to school because I was fed up with following fad diets. I now spend my days debunking myths and teaching people how to have a positive relationship with food. I am a lucky gal–I love what I do each and every day!

3.) Nutrition-wise, what would you say is the one thing you hear people struggle with?
It is hard to narrow it down to one but I would say it goes back to why I got into this career—people are following myths and fads rather than science. People are disheartened and frustrated when things do not work but the truth is they were never going to work in the first place because the original claim was never true! I work with my clients to learn what they are really eating so they can properly nourish themselves. When you gain awareness towards food and health it makes everything a lot easier—believing in fads is exhausting! The number one mistake people make is not eating enough during the day and overeating at dinner. I work hard with my clients to plan their day out so balanced meals fit into their hectic lifestyle. People have better energy, increased metabolism, lose weight and feel much more positive about food when they don’t end every night bingeing.

4.) How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle?
I practice what I preach. About a year ago I was working with a very overweight client who said that I did not understand what she was going through since I am not obese. I found that comment fascinating because while I do not know what it feels like to be 100 pounds overweight, the advice that I was giving her to improve her nutrition is the same advice I give myself. I eat small, frequent, balanced meals and negotiate on calories all the time. If I decide to eat dessert then I wont have an extra portion of something else. It is a constant balance that never ends but in time it becomes routine. It also requires being a little high maintenance—putting yourself first so nutrition works for you. I am a very talented orderer when eating out! I make sure I am eating what I want so that I can enjoy my time out. Mastering that makes life a lot easier!

5.) What is one final tip you’d like to share?
YOU ARE WORTH IT!! Simple acts like asking for dressing on the side, leaving work for 5 mins to eat a snack, saying no to that extra glass of wine or bringing your own dish to a dinner party are all examples of you telling yourself that you deserve to reach your goals. It seems silly but all the positive changes you can make in your day add up. Remind yourself over and over again that you are fantastic and worth it all!

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Jae’s diverse background and extensive education in nutrition and exercise provide her with the unique ability to implement simple strategies and useful tools to create powerful results. In addition to heading Jae Berman Nutrition, Jae serves as the Regional Registered Dietitian of The San Francisco Bay Club and clinical Dietitian for the UCSF Medical Center. In addition, she is a certified ACSM Health Fitness Specialist and has been a personal trainer, yoga teacher and Pilates instructor for eight years. Jae earned a master’s degree in Applied Physiology and Nutrition from Columbia University and completed her dietetic internship at UCSF Medical Center. Her specialties include nutrition for weight loss, wellness, sports nutrition, cardiovascular nutrition, digestive disorders, eating disorders and blood glucose control.

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