Nutrition For All: Interview with BIFMC Dietitian, Joanne Gallivan

Categories: Ask a Nutritionist, Blog, Health Check

Nutrition is critical to a primary care setting. BIFMC’s Resident Dietitian – Nutritionist, Joanne Gallivan, shares her tips on employing the first line of defense when it comes to your health- by taking control of your eating habits.

What prompted you to volunteer at BIFMC? I found out about BIFMC from other health professionals who were familiar with the clinic and its services. I met Dr Ulmer at a meeting and he told me that there were many patients at the clinic that needed nutrition counseling. He encouraged me to stop by the clinic to meet the staff and learn more about how I could be helpful to the patients who utilized the clinic’s services.

Nutrition is such an integral part of primary care. Do you feel it is addressed enough in most primary care settings? Nutrition assessment and counseling are necessities for all patients as part of primary care. It is just as important as any medical treatment plan and/or medication. The first line of treatment for many diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease, is making lifestyle changes that include developing a healthy eating and physical activity plan.

You work one on one to help patients develop a nutrition plan. What does this process entail? After reviewing a patient’s medical history and their doctor’s referral, the first thing I do is to ask a patient what their goals are and why they think they need to work with me on a nutrition plan. It’s important to set realistic goals for each patient so they can be successful in whatever goal they choose, whether it be to prevent themselves from developing type 2 diabetes or make healthier food choices for themselves and their family members. Once we establish a goal, we develop a nutrition plan based on factors such as their medical condition, their goal, and their current food and activity level. Then we begin to identify small lifestyle changes that can be made to help achieve their goals.

What success have you seen working with patients? Any examples? I have seen patients who are successful and working hard to achieve their goals. Several patients are following a meal plan to keep their diabetes and blood sugar under control, others are losing a modest amount of weight to help prevent type 2 diabetes, some patients have been reading food labels to lower their salt intake to control their high blood pressure, and others are focusing on controlling their portion sizes and eating more fruits and vegetables to follow a more healthy eating plan.

You offer Diabetic Education courses throughout the year with Clinic volunteer Diane Boyer, RN. What do these classes entail, and who is a good candidate to attend? We offer diabetes education classes several times a year. Any patient who has diabetes, either newly diagnosed or has been diagnosed with diabetes for a while, should attend. Family members are also welcome to attend- we open these classes up to the public.

Topics discussed in the classes include learning about diabetes, how it is diagnosed, how it affects your body, complications that can occur when diabetes is undiagnosed or not managed well, the importance of taking your medicines as prescribed, and how to make lifestyle changes to live healthy with diabetes, such as following a healthy eating  plan, meal planning, and the importance of physical activity.

What would be your single biggest advice to help guide people in their everyday nutritional decisions? My single biggest advice is two-fold: try to eat less processed food, and control your portion size.  Processed foods, typically found in many canned, boxed and frozen products, contain more unhealthy fat, salt and excess calories. Eat unprocessed foods with more fiber such as more fruits and vegetables, whole grains,  dried beans and peas, nuts and seeds, and drink more water. And portion control is key. To reach a healthy weight, how much you eat is as important as what you eat. Most people can eat a wide variety of food (including foods like pizza or ice cream) if they learn how to control their portion sizes so they are consuming the right amount of calories to keep them healthy.

Final Thoughts? It takes a lot of hard work, time and commitment to learn to eat healthy and be more physically active. If you are trying to change your eating habits to be more healthy and avoid diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure or heart disease, don’t give up. Make an appointment to see me at the Clinic and we will work together to help you get and stay healthy and reach your health goals.

Joanne M. Gallivan, M.S., R.D.N. is a registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She served as the Director of the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) in the Office of Communication and Public Liaison for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 1997-2016.  Previously, Ms. Gallivan has served as project manager for NIDDK’s Weight-Control Information Network (WIN), a national source of information on weight control, obesity, and weight-related nutritional disorders for health professionals and the public; as Contract Manager for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s National Cholesterol Education Program and Obesity Education Initiative, and as Director of the Prince George’s County Health Department Nutrition Division located in Maryland.

Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic is a free clinic in Charleston, SC, that provides free medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist. The Free Clinic serves uninsured adults living at or below 299 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, James, & Wadmalaw Island or Folly Beach, or serve the Hospitality Industry of Downtown Charleston. You can follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.