Catching up with Bari, WNP Instructor

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We always love to hear from our instructors, whether they’ve just started teaching classes or have worked with us for several years. They bring their own insights to each of the programs and classes which is invaluable in showcasing the wide spectrum of experience and opinions that are present in the realm of holistic health. We recently caught up with Bari Mandelbaum, Wholistic Nutrition instructor. Bari has been teaching in the Wholistic Nutrition Program for the past six years, and practicing for the last fifteen. She’s seen a lot in the world of nutrition. Check out the below Q&A to learn more.


20150501_073945Tell us a little about what brought you to the field of nutrition?

Like many folks in our field, I ended up in the field of nutrition in order to improve my own health. In the late 90s, I had a rewarding but very stressful job as a patients’ rights advocate for abused seniors living in long term care. Between the stress and exhaustion of all-hours of the day crisis intervention work, an illegal asbestos removal in our office building, and black mold in my apartment, I found myself slipping further and further into an increasingly debilitating autoimmune disorder, until I was eventually too sick to work at my previous job. I tried everything to get my health back, from traditional western interventions to acupuncture, chiropractic, massage and more, with little relief. Finally, a friend who was a student at a local holistic nutrition school recommended I try eliminating wheat from my diet. After much grumbling, I did as she suggested, and much to my surprise found I noticed a small but profound difference in my overall health within a week. At that time, it was the first intervention after several years of care that made any kind of noticeable and sustained impact on my daily functioning. I came back to her and asked what else I should cut out of my diet. She gave me the contact information for her nutrition school. I knew I wanted to continue to work in a helping profession, and crisis intervention just wasn’t going to work for me anymore.

I began at the Institute for Educational Therapy (now Bauman College) in 2000. After the first year of my program, I was off 8 of my 9 prescription medications, and within a few years, I was able to get rid of my cane all together. I am humbled and thrilled to report that I have been in complete remission for quite a few years now. I love what I do for a living, and love getting to participate in my clients’ individual journeys towards their own health and well being.

Q: What makes you passionate about nutrition?

Everything about it! Food is life: the act of eating has the potential to be the most loving thing we do for ourselves. I love how layered the act of nourishment can be. Food allows us to physically nourish ourselves and our loved ones by providing the nutrients we need to support our health (and in some cases, improve our health, alleviate symptoms, and reduce long term risks for other medical conditions!). Food can help us to emotionally nourish ourselves and our loved ones, honor our cultures and ancestors, and delight our senses. Food can also give us the opportunity to make thoughtful choices around supporting and protecting our local economy, community, the land and environment. I have seen and experienced diet changes and the act of being mindful about one’s diet profoundly change people for the better. Nutrition gives me the opportunity to sink delightfully and deeply into both the science of food and bodies, and the art and care of the social, sensual, and emotional impacts of food. I love being a nutritionist.

Q: As someone who’s been working in the nutrition industry for 15 years, what have been some of the most interesting (good or bad) trends you’ve seen?

I have seen food fads come and go, and feel mixed about many of these food fads. Despite how such things are often represented, I do believe that as a culture, we have a strong desire to prioritize health and wellness, but we are easily confused and misled. Certainly, most of us are afraid of disease, mortality, and becoming socially less wanted or less loveable, and marketing departments know that and take advantage of these fears, desires and vulnerabilities when marketing food and diet plans, products and services. On the one hand, it’s always great to see folks getting excited about specific foods that I know to be healthy, like flaxseeds, chia, or kale. But there is always so much misinformation that goes along with these fads. Fads with regard to specific foods also often mean the food itself goes up in price, while also becoming more available.

I am heartened and encouraged by the excitement I’m seeing folks have around eating vegetables, thinking about the impact of their diets on communities and the environment, homemade food, and fermented foods. I am less excited about the pseudoscience I often see accompanying some of these trends.

Q: What do you think is important for potential students to know about the current practice of wholistic nutrition?

This is an exciting and growing field. If you are thinking of becoming a wholistic nutritionist, that’s awesome! New research is constantly emerging with new suggestions and ideas that can help us provide better and more targeted care to our clients, and often supports what traditional Eastern and Western food wisdom knew all along. But it is important to know that if you are considering this field, it is imperative that you stay on top of research and diet trends. This is an active and constantly shifting field, and this field will work best for those of us who enjoy following the shifting data. It is also important to remember that every client is an individual, with their own unique mix of health conditions, health history, flavor preferences, financial constraints, culture or ethnicity, food ethics, food access and eating context. It is important not to get too stuck in one single belief system about food, because there are no “one size fits all” diet plans – everything works for someone (at least for a period of time), and no one thing works for everyone, all of the time.

Wholistic nutrition can be a challenging field for a new practitioner. It can take a while to feel confident in one’s ability to assess and recommend appropriate diets and lifestyle interventions. For many practitioners, you would benefit from an entrepreneurial enthusiasm, and it’s important not to be afraid of running one’s own business. Many nutritionists end up running their own private practices or hooking up with clinics or small groups of other practitioners that require you learn to advertise yourself, network with others, take care of the administrative needs of a small business and be able to manage your books.

Q: Where do you see the field going in the next 5 years?

It’s hard to say. We will continue to see food trends and obsessions (lately it has been kale; I think cauliflower is shaping up to be the next hipster food obsession…). I am very interested to see that eggs have recently lost their status as a heart risk food, and are now being recommended by mainstream health agencies in moderate amounts for heart health. I anticipate that other foods that had previously been demonized by the various health agencies will slowly make their way back into favor, such as moderate amounts of saturated fats.

I think we will continue to see more creative partnerships between nutritionists and other healthcare and wellness practitioners. I believe nutrition is a fantastic complement to so many other health interventions, from nutritional support for cancer management to healing trauma to supporting lifecycle phases such as pregnancy and menopause.

Q: In your opinion, what does The Wellspring School offer that other programs may not?

The Wellspring School provides a quality and breadth of wholistic nutrition education that is unrivaled by any other program available. The Wellspring School curriculum gives students a strong and competitive background in Western evidence-based nutrition, while also providing students with a solid understanding of Eastern concepts of food, energetics, diet direction and health. Students get to do a deep dive into many aspects of physical bodies, food, eating, and health maintenance, from anatomy and physiology to Eastern energetics to recipes and food preparation to the sociology, economics and emotional aspects of food and eating. We also require students to participate in community based projects, so our students give back to their communities while gaining valuable experiences and community connections.

Q: What do you enjoy about teaching and working with The Wellspring School?

I am incredibly proud to call myself an instructor at the Wellspring School. Each group of students inspire me, help me deepen into my own knowledge of the field, challenge me to stay on top of shifting trends and get me re-invigorated about my own profession. I have gotten fantastic recipes from students, learned about incredible projects and local resources, and been inspired by individual stories of strength and healing. The program itself promotes a vision of wholistic nutrition that I 100% get behind – a program grounded equally in evidence based medicine and traditional Eastern wisdom. Rachael and Rylen and the other instructors are all as passionate about nutrition as I am, and it is wonderful to be able to work with such a wise, diverse, experienced and enthusiastic team of educators. And I always enjoy getting to spend a weekend in Portland!

Thanks, Bari!

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