We feel very fortunate to be able to work with some very talented teachers. One of our newest instructors, Bari Mandelbaum, CHN, CN, has joined us to teach a number of our nutrition classes. Bari is a Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Holistic Health Provider, Herbalist, and Somatics Coach. Her areas of expertise include interventions for blood sugar dysregulation, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, hormone imbalance, low libido, digestive disorders, and autoimmune disorders.
Bari was in Boise last month and scheduled to be in Portland in November and December to teach two of our Fundamentals of Nutrition classes. There’s still time to register for Fall classes, by the way!
Check out the below Q&A to get a little more insight into Bari, the field of Holistic Nutrition and a true testament of how big an impact diet can have on health.
Q: How did you end up as a practitioner in the field of nutrition?
A: I ended up a nutritionist the way many folks end up as health care providers – I was sick and looking for answers. Back in 1998, my health began an alarming downward spiral. I had been a vegetarian, athlete, self-defense instructor and semi-professional dancer in addition to holding down a full-time job doing crisis intervention and volunteering in several organizations. In other words, very active, very busy, and doing everything I thought was the right thing, health-wise.
As my health got worse and worse, I started going to my medical doctor to try and get answers and relief. A year into it, I had only a vague almost-diagnoses, was on 9 prescription medications, and needed a cane to get around. I had to give up all of my non-work activities and was afraid I was going to lose my job, as every passing day seemed to bring more symptoms and less energy.
I was frustrated and frightened, so I began seeking out alternative health modalities. The first thing I tried that made any significant difference was a diet change. A friend who was in nutrition school at the time suggested I might be sensitive to gluten. So after grumbling some about how silly that sounded, I stopped gluten as an experiment. Lo and behold, a significant chunk of my chronic daily symptoms were gone within a week. I wasn’t “fixed”, but boy did I feel better.
I was very enthusiastic and very motivated to learn more at that point, not to mention in need of a career change, so I went back to school to study holistic nutrition. By the end of my first year of nutrition school, I’d successfully taken myself off all but one of my prescription medications. By the end of my second year, I was mostly off my cane. I’ve been in practice now since 2001 and while I need to still be mindful of my health and my level of activity, I no longer use any prescription medications and not only walk, but hike, dance, kayak, and teach nutrition classes among other things!
Q: What is it about your practice today that you find most surprising?
A: My clients are constantly surprising me, both in good and bad ways. Every time I think I’ve seen it all, someone shows up to the clinic doing something so incredibly outrageous with their diet or health, I am astounded that they’re still alive. And every time I start to doubt the effectiveness of nutrition and lifestyle interventions as a healing modality, the incredible healing I get to witness astounds and humbles me.
Q: How did you choose your areas of specialty?
A: When I was a student and just starting to see a few clients for pay, my very first paying client came in with a diagnosis I’d never heard of before: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). I was nervous to be working with someone with a diagnosis, and grateful that she trusted me even though I was new, so I wanted to “do right” by her. I began furiously researching her condition and discovered that PCOS is, at its heart, insulin resistance. My research became the basis for my student final paper, and then became a community workshop, then became my first article in a professional nutrition journal. In studying PCOS, I had the incredible fortune to dive really deeply into researching the role of blood sugar in hormone imbalance in women.
This set me up nicely to understand how to work with other manifestations of blood sugar related disorders, such as Type II Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome as well as other hormone related dysfunctions, ranging from PMS to Uterine Fibroids to Endometriosis. Further research showed me the connection between blood sugar, adrenal dysfunction and mood, which led to my work with stress, trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and depression.
Struggling to understand my own health has led me to do quite a bit of research into food allergies/sensitivities (and substitution cooking and baking!), autoimmune disorders, digestive disorders, fatigue, and the incredibly powerful interconnections between the thoughts, emotions, physical body/physical health, and spirit. All of these have also become areas of expertise for me.
Q: You’ve been working in this field for over a decade. What have been the most exciting changes you’ve seen?
A: I’ve seen many changes, certainly! Fats and fat-rich foods such as eggs, butter and coconuts are no longer demonized the way they once were; there is more intelligent conversation happening about the importance of each macronutrient in balance (carbohydrates, proteins and fats: we really do need all three to be healthy); there is far deeper and more compassionate conversation happening about weight, weight management, the role of obesity in disease states, and the physical AND emotional harm that dieting can cause.
Q: What have been the biggest disappointments?
A: Less encouraging has been the vicious legal fights that have cropped up over the years that threaten to take away our right to practice holistic nutrition. I was horrified to find out that one of my nutrition mentors Liz Lipski, PhD, CCN was barred from practicing nutrition counseling in her home State of North Carolina. Legislation was recently passed there limiting who is allowed to practice nutrition counseling to exclusively A.D.A. registered dietitians. It doesn’t matter that Liz has a PhD, has written numerous books and articles, and has taught nutrition courses in medical schools; she does not have a basic R.D. license and is therefore barred from practicing.
Q: If you could give any advice to someone wanting to enter this field, what would it be?
A: This is such an incredibly rich field. Every day there is new information, new techniques, new products, new recipes, new conditions to research, new books to read, new controversies or challenges to learn about and explore. If you are considering becoming a holistic nutritionist, begin by researching the laws in your state, to make sure you can legally practice where you’d like to be living. Get excited about the information – you are your own first client!
Those of us in the field MUST practice what we preach if our clients are going to trust us enough to try our recommendations. Try the foods, herbs, products, or lifestyle changes you are recommending before recommending them; see what works, troubleshoot to see where the problems may lie in the implementation.
Be passionate about what you are doing. I have been a holistic nutritionist for over ten years. I look forward to going to work and I truly love what I do. I practice what I preach consistently and joyfully, because I really believe that these techniques work. And I am a testament to the effectiveness of healthy diet and lifestyle interventions – with every passing year, my health gets better, my body gets stronger.
The best advice I can give to someone entering any field is this: do what you love. I love nutrition and wellness, I love being engaged in people’s healing journeys, supporting folks through their challenges and cheering with them through their successes. If that sounds interesting and exciting to you, you’ve come to the right field!
Bari received her Bachelor’s degree with Honors from Stanford University and her four levels of nutrition credentials—Nutrition Consultant, Nutrition Educator, Diet Counselor, and Nutrition Instructor—from Bauman College. Bari has been working in the field of holistic health and wellness since 2001.