Meet registered dietitian, Jessica Oosthuizen

ADSA_Jessica Oosthuizen.jpgWe chatted to registered dietitian Jessica Oosthuizen to find out why she became a dietitian, what being a dietitian means to her, the challenges she faces in her profession and her views on healthy nutrition:

Why did you become a registered dietitian?

I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was just 13 years old. I had always been a competitive swimmer and sportsman at school so healthy eating was always a way of life (although I did have the ultimate sweet tooth as well). After being diagnosed with diabetes, nutrition just became that much more important. Juggling diabetes with school, swimming and being a teenager had it’s up and downs. I became a dietitian because I am passionate about helping children and adults understand diabetes and the role that nutrition plays and I felt that having the personal experience and empathy can make such a difference.

How do you promote a healthy lifestyle as a registered dietitian from day-to-day?

I feel that a healthy lifestyle incorporates more than just nutrition and it includes aspects such as being physically active, practicing mindfulness, decreasing stress as much as possible, smoking cessation and of course following healthy eating principles. I feel very strongly about not being able to blanket the same message to all my patients because everyone is a unique individual and this always needs to be taken in to account. I also try to promote a healthy way of life on social media using my Instagram account dietitian_with_diabetes.

What does being a registered dietitian mean to you?

I like to think that this means that I am respected as a trusted healthcare practitioner. That I am someone who my patients trust to provide them with evidence based scientific information that I am able to translate into easy-to-understand language for the general population.

What in your opinion are some of the biggest nutrition-related health issues South Africa is faced with?

Overweight and obesity is definitely up there and something that I see on a daily basis. This of course increases the risk for a host of diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and stroke.

If you only had 30 seconds to convince someone to eat healthier, what would you say?

Start with a focus on quality, quantity and frequency!

  • Eat not too much, mostly plants
  • Include whole grains to ensure adequate fibre to maintain a healthy gut
  • Include lean protein sources with a focus on fatty fish to get in your omega 3’s
  • Include healthy fats daily such as olives, avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil
  • Don’t forget to drink water – the specific amount will depend on the person but 8 glasses (2 litres) per day is a good goal to aim for

What is your biggest challenge as a dietitian?

Dr Google is definitely right at the top! The general population can find an answer to anything in a matter of seconds on the internet so why would they believe me? Convincing patients that the latest fad diet is not the healthiest way to lose weight, or in fact is just not heathy at all, can sometimes be quite challenging.

What do you think are some of the most important skills or personal traits a dietitian should have?

A dietitian should be non-judgemental, a very good listener and they should not be too quick to give advice without getting all the information from the patient first. We need to have good time management and organisational skills. I also feel that a dietitian should be passionate about the work that they are doing.

How do you handle difficult clients/patients?

I put the ball in their court and try get them to understand the situation. I focus on trying to educate the patient because I often felt that a lack of education is the problem when they’re so set in their ways. I try to negotiate and come to a happy medium where both parties are able to understand and communicate openly and freely.

What is your opinion on fad diets?

There are so many fad diets around and if they are so successful then why are there so many different ones? Yes, of course fad diets will cause weight loss for most people at the beginning because you are creating a severe calorie deficit and often cutting out complete food groups. However the weight regain after stopping the diet is generally more than the weight that has been lost. This is because fad diets:

  • Are completely restrictive
  • Are unsustainable for most people
  • Can be anti-social
  • Are unhealthy and unbalanced
  • Do not teach you healthy eating habits around food
  • Are not individualised

 

ABOUT 

Jessica Oosthuizen RD (SA) obtained a degree in Sport Science from Stellenbosch University and furthered her studies at the University of Cape Town where she graduated with a Bachelor of Sciences Medical Honours Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics.

Jessica is registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in the UK. She is a member of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa and a Vitality Wellness accredited dietitian.

She has experience working in the clinical hospital setting as well as experience with a variety of chronic diseases of lifestyle such as obesity, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

Being a Type 1 Diabetic herself since the age of 13, Jessica has a special interest in the nutritional management of children and adults with diabetes. She also has a key interest in weight management and eating disorders.

Jessica is passionate about the ever-changing profession of dietetics. She enjoys helping individuals achieve optimal health through nutrition to live their best life as a healthy and happy individual.

To find a dietitian in your area, visit http://www.adsa.org.za/Public/FindARegisteredDietitian.aspx

 

 


Diabetes in the Family, How to Cope

More often than not a diabetes diagnosis is experienced as devastating; not just to the patient but to their loved ones as well. Even though the condition is manageable, and it is possible to live a life full of well-being, a diabetes diagnosis comes as a shock and ushers in all sorts of changes. Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) spokesperson and registered dietitian, Jessica Oosthuizen describes it as a ‘rollercoaster ride of a diagnosis’, full of stress and anxiety for the whole family – and she should know, she was diagnosed herself with Type 1 diabetes when she was thirteen years of age.

A host of challenges faces the family when a member is diagnosed with diabetes. With more than 1.8 million cases of Type 2 diabetes in South Africa in 2017, the wider impact is significant in our country. “I think for most families shock is the first feeling,” Jessica says. “Family members are also faced with the emotional, financial and physical adjustments that need to be made with a diagnosis. These feelings can weigh on family members, and stress and anxiety are common challenges faced by parents, siblings and other family members who are involved. One of the biggest challenges is the confusion and uncertainty. It is very daunting being diagnosed with a condition that you don’t know very much about. Even though patients and family members should get a good explanation of what diabetes is and how it can be managed, this amount of information may be very overwhelming and often very little is taken in initially.”

Today is World Diabetes Day the focus is ‘The Family and Diabetes’. Jessica points out that the impact of a diabetes diagnosis is typically more acute when the patient is a child. “The challenges faced with the diagnosis of diabetes in a child is different,” she says. “The parent or caregiver will probably be much more involved with their day to day care as it may take some time for children to comfortably be able to measure their own blood glucose and inject themselves with daily insulin injections. For children who are of school going age, there generally has to be a third party helper involved which can cause added stress and anxiety for a parent or caregiver as they can’t have control over the situation at all times in the day. Parents may also feel frustration, guilt and anger, as their child’s hurt and pain is something that they are not able to fix.”

Young or old, Type 1 or Type 2, what diabetes does bring about are lifestyle changes. As Jessica points out: “With Type 1 Diabetes once you’ve had the diagnosis, there is never a holiday or break from it.” While the treatment regimens do differ between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, both kinds of diabetes demand discipline, constant thinking, planning and control. The patient and the family need to understand a number of things including how the medication works; how many carbohydrates they can consume, and how often. For some, these lifestyle changes can be completely overwhelming. In addition, having a chronic illness like diabetes is expensive and the family may well suffer from financial stresses, which brings a different dimension to the anxiety experienced.

Ideally, a team approach can deliver vital support to the family. Overtime diabetes patients may need access to various diabetes experts including an endocrinologist, a diabetes educator, a psychologist, a dietitian, a biokineticist, a podiatrist and an opthalmologist. As the family moves from shock to acceptance, regular touching base with the different members of their team helps them to gain a holistic view of diabetes care.  “If it is possible, regular follow ups with your doctor or diabetic educator are essential to fix any problems that the patient or family are facing in a timeous manner instead of trying to fix a problem months or years down the line. There are also diabetic support groups such as Diabetes South Africa and Youth with Diabetes, and social media platforms that patients and family members can join,” Jessica advises.

Perhaps, the biggest challenge is that of normalising life after the diagnosis, so that the chronic condition is well managed and does not get in the way of day-to-day life. “It is important for patients and families to know that while diabetes is a chronic condition that requires daily discipline, control and organisation; it is possible to still live a completely normal life,” Jessica says. “After diagnosis and implementing treatment, it is useful to note that everyday can be completely different as blood glucose readings can be influenced by a number of factors such as exercise, illness, sleep, stress, caffeine, alcohol, types of food and the timing of medication. By taking every day as it comes, you will learn something new that can be used to improve your control and become adept and efficient at managing your condition.”

Jessica advises those who are newly diagnosed to keep a diary recording blood glucose readings, the amount of insulin used and the timing of insulin doses, as well as all food intake and exercise. While it is time-consuming, this journaling doesn’t have to be done forever and it does help to provide a clear and accurate picture, as well as insights into what is working well for you, and what isn’t. This is important because every diabetic’s experience is completely individual. There are also mobile apps available such as FatSecret, Carbs & Cals, mySugr and MyFitnessPal. Strategies such as these empower the person with diabetes to set targets and chart their progress towards managing their condition in the most optimal way. Family support for gaining control over the treatment is vital for the person with diabetes, and helps them to get on the road to wellness and enjoy their life to the full.

For those who are newly diagnosed or who have family members that have recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you can get support from a registered dietitian in your area by visiting www.adsa.org.za.


Women and Diabetes in the Spotlight this November

Over the past decades, the rise of diabetes around the world has been so prevalent and extreme, it is sometimes referred to as the epidemic of our modern times. In 2017, the diabetes focus theme is Women and Diabetes. Globally, diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women, resulting in 2.1 million deaths each year. It is estimated that there are currently more than 199 million women living with diabetes, and by 2040, this total is expected to reach over 310 million.

Registered dietitian and ADSA (the Association for Dietetics in South Africa) spokesperson, Ria Catsicas says, “According to the latest mortality report for South Africa released earlier this year, diabetes is ranked as the leading cause of death in women, and the most important risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes is obesity. At this time, more than 60% of South African women are either overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk than men of developing diabetes in the future.”

Gender also means that women experience additional health risks due to obesity. As Ria notes: “Almost 17% of pregnant South African women experience gestational diabetes which is directly related to obesity. This condition puts them at risk of experiencing high blood pressure during their pregnancy, miscarriages and still birth. In addition, the babies of mothers-to-be with gestational diabetes tend to be large which can contribute to complications during birth and are themselves at a higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes later in life. Obesity also plays a role in increasing the risks of female infertility.”

Optimal nutrition is key for the person with diabetes; it is also crucial for those who may not have diabetes yet, but are insulin-resistant and those with a family history of diabetes, as genetics are also a risk. Optimal nutrition is also essential for all women – up to 70% of cases of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle.

Type 1 diabetes is managed by medication (injectable insulin and or tablets),a controlled diet and exercise; but when it comes to Type 2 diabetes, good nutrition along with other healthy lifestyle changes are usually the first line of treatment to manage diabetes, and if medication is required, a healthy diet can complement and often influence the medicine, to help avoid experiencing the life-threatening complications of diabetes. Tabitha Hume, also a registered dietitian and ADSA spokesperson, points out that common-sense healthy lifestyle changes can be a vital safeguard. “Balanced meals that are made up of a combination of high fibre, low-GI carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy plant fats with generous helpings of vegetables and salads and some fruit (in controlled portions) can be a general guide. However, plasma glucose control is very individual, depending on the severity of the diabetes, and the type and dosage of medication being used. Diabetics will need the help of a registered clinical dietitian who can support them in translating these guidelines into the practical meal plans that best suit their food culture, their taste preferences, daily routines and lifestyles.’’

ADSA spokesperson, Nasreen Jaffer agrees, “There is no ‘one size fits all’. In order to make a sustainable change to a healthier eating plan, all aspects of a person’s life must be taken into account. A working mom with kids at school does not have the same amount of time for food planning and preparation compared to a stay-at-home mom. It is the role of the dietitian to help tailor an eating plan that is healthy – as well as practical, affordable and do-able for the individual.”

All three experts agree that this year’s World Diabetes Day focus on women is relevant to the adoption of healthy lifestyles across South Africa’s population.   While many men play a prominent nurturing role in the home, and many are becoming increasingly interested in the impact of nutrition on health and physical performance, it is still common for women to take the dominant role in the nourishing of the family, and ensuring health and disease prevention.

Tabitha points out: “Since women are most often the home chef, the grocery shopper, and the planner of meals and snacks for children and the family, if nutrition education is targeted at women, there is a higher chance that healthy nutrition guidelines filter through the whole family and have the biggest impact. Family traditions, practices and cultures most often derive from the mother in a family which is why children often adopt the religion and language of the mother. This is where the ‘Mother Tongue’ phrase originates. South African women are encouraged to develop a ‘Mother Meal’ concept moving forward, helping to instil healthy eating habits in children from a young age.”

World Diabetes Day on 14 November aims to shine a light on the risks for developing diabetes; as well as the needs for regular screening, access to information, self-management education, treatments and support, which includes optimal nutrition.