Lesley Atkinson, KAHC Public Affairs Officer
FORT LEE, Va. – A dietitian duo has joined the Kenner Army Health Clinic team here, and they’re ready to share their knowledge of better nutrition and disease prevention to help community members improve their quality of life.
Alison Parchesky, part of the Family Medicine crew, and Raquel Bopp at the Active Duty Clinic are available by appointment. There is no need for beneficiaries to get a referral; just set up a consultation through the clinic’s usual scheduling system – the appointment line at 866-533-5242, option 1, or the Tricare Online patient portal.
“As registered dietitian nutritionists, we mainly help clients create an eating plan that has the nutrients needed to manage their medical condition or simply achieve a healthier lifestyle,” Bopp explained. “It’s all about understanding how nutrition can help someone achieve weight loss and weight gain goals or manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or gout (a type of arthritis). We can teach you how food choices affect overall health conditions.”
Bopp provided the following rundown of the consultation and recommendation process, which would be tailored to specific client needs:
• First identify, then address beneficiary nutritional needs in an outpatient setting.
• Work alongside clients to create weight loss plans tailored to fit their unique lifestyle.
• Help address barriers to lifestyle changes such as unhealthy eating habits and limited exercise opportunities, for example.
• Establish S.M.A.R.T. nutrition goals – an acronym short for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. All nutrition goals should be SMART for assured success.
• Assess nutritional status using measurement of the human body’s physical properties.
• Work closely with clients to develop and implement nutritional care plans to meet goals related to medical conditions and diseases in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.
• Counsel on various disease states/comorbidities such as obesity, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease.
• Discuss nutrition during pregnancy and post-partum, or the impact of dietary changes such as vegan or vegetarian.
• Foster Soldier accountability with consistent follow-up appointments.
The dietitians work closely with the Army Wellness Center, which provides a variety of related health education classes and has specialized equipment for metabolic testing and measuring lean mass changes. There is a two-minute test at the AWC, Bopp cited as an example, that provides a measurement of success regarding individual lifestyle modifications and how it changes the risk for major diseases such as diabetes, stroke, obesity and other ailments.
“AWC has great tools such as metabolic testing and the BodPod,” Bopp further emphasized. “They’re my personal favorites because they help me better determine the needs of my patients. I also view the center as a great resource for learning correct form for physical activity to prevent injuries. I highly recommend it to everyone; stop by and see what they have to offer.”
Again underscoring the educational purpose of their program, Bopp spoke briefly about the tendency for individuals to repeatedly rely on “fad diets” that are peddled throughout commercial media channels with promises of fast results with little or no effort.
“There are so many of them out there,” Bopp said, “and they all can be risky, especially if the diet calls for food elimination that the body benefits from. A lot of these programs are costly as well, and they don’t always make it clear that weight loss and better health requires a lifestyle change, not just a dietary one. At a minimum, I would recommend to anyone wanting to try a specific diet plan to talk with one of us so we can do the research to verify whether it’s sustainable for them in the long run.”
Reiterating an earlier point about nutrition being a factor in the management of a medical condition, Bopp shared the ways dietitians can help the following individuals:
Celiac patients: Education on gluten-free and lactose-free diets and detecting deficiencies in necessary nutrients.
Diabetes patients: Alleviating diabetic complications by educating patients on appropriate carbohydrate intake for both snacks and meals.
Hyperlipidemia patients: Developing a routine heart-healthy diet consisting of lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables to help lower lipids.
Hypertension patients: Helping clients incorporate lower fat and sodium intake in their diets with the goal of lowering blood pressure.
Weight Loss patients: Encouragement to maintain a healthy weight following well-established nutritional principles.
Those booking appointments with a nutritionist should expect the first session to take about 60 minutes, according to Bopp. Follow-up appointments are typically 30 minutes in length. “We do encourage follow-ups to re-assess where the patient has progressed as far as nutrition goes,” she said.
As a final thought about the importance of eligible community members taking advantage of their program, Bopp said she has repeatedly witnessed how people who choose to reach out and get help have typically achieved “a complete turnaround” with their health.