Subject: Margie Ruddick
Fatigue Factors: Trying to raise children, volunteer at her church, and run her own business—all while traveling for work at least two days a week.
Margie has two children (a baby and a 3-year-old), is involved in church committees, and owns a 10-person landscape design firm with clients all over the country and in India and Mexico. "It's ironic that I work on all these ecologically oriented resorts focused on reinvigoration," she says, "and I'm dragging around." She says she can pack her daughter's lunch every morning but has trouble organizing her own diet: "I'm trying to eat well, but I need a plan." Travel days are the worst, and she's likely to find herself eating highway-rest-stop fried clams for breakfast. Business meetings include catered lunches that look deceptively healthy but leave her feeling sleepy. "Those wraps are evil," she says. "They're just camouflaged mayonnaise." Weekends at home feature salads and grilled meats or fish, except when she and her daughter make pancakes or her husband cooks comfort foods from his native England. What would Margie do with more energy? "I would do nothing more. I would just be less tired doing everything I'm doing."
Margie meets with Molly Kellogg, who has trained as both a dietitian and a clinical social worker because of the overlap she sees between nutritional and psychological issues. Our culture tends to see food as either good or bad, Kellogg says, so if we make so-called bad choices, we feel we've failed. We blame ourselves for diet slipups, too many trips back to the buffet, and that second bowl of Häagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche. Eating, Kellogg says, becomes laden with guilt.
In their first session, Kellogg asks Margie what she eats and when, and how she feels before and after. Margie has been fairly strict in her avoidance of carbohydrates, although she admits that's only because she's heard carbs are bad. She avoids bread and pasta and rice, except when she succumbs to a craving. Then she not only feels guilty but has to deal with a big rush followed by a tremendous low. Does Margie take vitamins? "I own them," she says, as if she might earn partial credit with that answer.
At the end of the meeting, Kellogg recommends that Margie stop thinking all carbohydrates are bad. "That sets up a seesaw dynamic of avoidance and craving," Kellogg says. "I'm afraid that's been one of the spillovers of the Atkins diet in our culture. Extremes—deprivation or saturation—are not great. Generally your energy level is more consistent if you have protein along with carbohydrates, and if you spread carbohydrates evenly throughout the day."
Kellogg suggests Margie plan ahead so that she'll have protein and carbs at the ready. She recommends that Margie pack serving-size snacks for her road trips and stock her office refrigerator with yogurts (she can top those with granola) and cottage cheese (mixed with fruit) so that she's not left with pretzels or doughnuts or other staff leftovers as the only snack option. Margie likes the specificity of Kellogg's suggestions, and she loves the idea that she now has permission to eat more carbohydrates.
End Result: "It's a miracle," declares Margie after two weeks. "Everybody at the office says I'm not dragging around anymore." Margie has also stopped having sugar cravings, which Kellogg suspects were signaling a need for carbohydrates. "I was always running around grabbing something," says Margie. "Now I'm planning, putting stuff together in the morning. The diet changes have helped balance me out."
Try It Yourself: An initial hour-long nutritional consultation costs $60 to $120; follow-up visits are shorter and less expensive. The American Dietetic Association has a referral service of registered dietitians: Go to EatRight.org, or call 800-877-1600.
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