Heather DiBiasi is a registered dietitian with a passion for helping women reach a healthy weight via a low-carb lifestyle!
Having struggled with her own weight issues growing up, Heather knows all the traps and pitfalls that can plague trying to lose weight on your own. After falling in love with nutrition her undergraduate and graduate studies — and learning about all the things she had been doing wrong in her weight loss journey! — she found a sustainable low carb lifestyle.
Now, she’s dedicated her life (and her business) to helping other women achieve truly healthy weight loss and healthy balance in their lives!
In this installment of Ask an Expert, Heather answers all our questions about her personal health journey, her passion for nutrition, the ins-and-outs of eating a low-carb diet, and the biggest dieting mistakes and misconceptions people fall prey to!
This is part of Nutrishatives’ Ask an Expert Series where we chat with movers and shakers in health, wellness, nutrition, and medicine about their careers, their current work and their expert opinions on… well… their area of expertise!
You clearly have a passion for helping people reach their optimal health through eating healthy foods! Could you tell us a little bit about how this passion developed and what inspired you to become a registered dietitian?
I started to gain an interest in healthy eating (or what I thought was healthy eating) when I wanted to lose a few pounds back in high school.
I tried and suppress my appetite with caffeine, ate super low-calorie and low-fat foods, and partook in juice cleanses. And there was even a time where I only ate fruits and veggies to lose weight!
So, fast forward a few years when I went to college. I had to take a science class and I thought Biology of Nutrients sounded interesting. During that class, l quickly fell in love with nutrition. I learned how horrible those previous habits I’d had were even though I’d thought they were part of a healthy lifestyle because… well… Google said so.
That is why now I am so passionate about helping young, working women lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way! No drastic measures necessary!
After you completed your degree and your boards, you went back and got a graduate degree in sport’s nutrition and exercise physiology. These are fields related to dietetics, but definitely not square on the money! What motivated you to pursue a Master’s degree in an exercise-nutrition-related field, rather than sticking to a “pure” nutrition degree?
The typical route dietitians go is to focus on clinical nutrition. But I knew before I even graduated I didn’t want to work in a hospital or any other clinical setting. I wanted to be in the community helping people prevent chronic illnesses, not trying to help them once they were already sick.
A big part of helping people stay healthy is helping them stay active. So, I felt that was the missing piece to my career puzzle. I really wanted to understand more about the types of exercises and sport’s nutrition.
Plus, I wanted to learn something new and different! And I always found the research on the topic fascinating!
You promote balance and whole-life wellness above everything else, which we absolutely love! Could you tell us a little bit about how you developed your wellness philosophy? Was balance always a part of your view of health or has it evolved throughout your studies and career?
When I first started thinking about my health and my body, I went to Google, as most people do. Of course, this really only sends you down a rabbit hole of quick fixes, fad diets, and extreme cleanses.
So, at the beginning of getting into nutrition, I was trying all these extreme detoxes like juice cleanses or eliminating everything except fruits and veggies. That only lasted a short period of time. (Luckily, lol!) I soon realized that was not sustainable and it was making me feel very unwell.
So, through my studies, diving in nutrition research, working with clients, and my own trial and error, I came to terms with the fact that all or nothing does not work.
I started to focus, instead, on:
- what does my body need
- how can I nourish it
- how can I eat in a way that makes me feel full, satisfied, and energized
That’s when I started to adopt my low-carb lifestyle — which is not “no carbs”, by the way. It’s just about emphasizing fats and protein to balance my blood sugar, manage my weight, decrease food cravings, and feel amazing.
With this lifestyle, there are no foods I do not eat and it is not about depriving myself. It’s about mostly eating to fuel my body but still knowing I can enjoy more indulgent foods when I want. It has provided my mindset with so much balance!
While you don’t promote a strict keto-style diet, you do generally recommend a lower-carb diet (at least for weight loss). Could you share with us why this is your preferred way of eating for weight loss and healthy living? Do you think there are situations that a more strict, traditional keto-style diet is more appropriate? What about a more (healthy)-carb-heavy diet?
I grew up saying “I need something sweet” multiple times a day. I’m Italian, so, my meals were often carb-heavy and I’d constantly feel tired after I ate. I also always had an extra 15 pounds on me that made me feel sluggish and not as confident in my body.
So, after doing multiple research papers in school on the benefits of a ketogenic diet for weight loss I figured, “Let me decrease the carbs in my diet and see how I feel.” (I never went full keto because, by this point, I already knew sustainability was key.)
When I made the switch, I lost those extra 15 pounds, kept it off easily, and I felt amazing. My energy levels got so much better, my food cravings drastically decreased, and I stopped feeling the need to take a nap after every meal!
When it comes to weight loss and optimal health, though, I truly believe people are individuals. Certain approaches are better for certain people.
I do think, as a society, we eat way too many carbohydrates, especially from processed foods. And I believe everyone can benefit from learning how to balance their blood sugar. However, some people can find health with a higher-carb diet, as well, especially if they are very active.
A ketogenic diet has been shown to be very effective for weight loss. Because of the sustainability factor, however, I don’t think it’s the best option for most people. There are situations (such as certain cancers, epilepsy, certain types of PCOS, and diabetes) where a ketogenic diet can be really helpful. But it is not something I typically recommend or practice with clients.
Browsing your recipes on your website and Instagram feed, we were floored by how many tasty recipes you have that are super easy (as in less-than-10-minutes-easy) to put together! Where do you get the inspiration for such simple, quick, but still healthy and delicious recipes?
My low-carb meal formula really helps me do this!
I honestly created the formula because I needed to find an easy way to get everything I needed in each meal while sticking to my low-carb lifestyle.
My formula basically just has you to put on your plate:
- a protein
- a fat
- (for 2 meals a day) a high fiber carbohydrate
By using this formula, you can easily throw a meal together by mixing and matching ingredients from these food groups.
Really, most of the recipes I create are me just simply playing around with foods I love using my low-carb formula. But, I also love getting inspiration from my Instagram feed, meals at my favorite restaurants, and recreating some of my mom’s recipes to be a little more low-carb friendly!
What is your personal favorite quick go-to lunch or dinner when you’re crunched for time?
I’m a huge fan of microwavable veggies like broccoli or cauliflower-rice.
While I heat up some veggies in the microwave, I quickly cook up some sort of pre-made protein in a pan with garlic and avocado oil or pesto sauce.
If I’m having a carbohydrate with my meal (I usually skip carbs at one meal per day), I’ll microwave a ½ cup of brown rice or have a piece of fruit for something sweet on the side!
In your experience as a registered dietitian, what’s the biggest mistake you see people making when they first start trying to eat a healthier diet?
The biggest mistake I see people making when trying to eat a healthier diet is trying to do everything right off the bat.
There is so much to learn when it comes to nutrition! And since nutrition is a science, we are still learning new things every day.
As amazing as that is, it means there is a lot of information being presented in the media about what you should be doing for optimal health. So, I see women trying to change their whole world overnight. Of course, they often get overwhelmed and it just feels impossible to them.
What I would suggest, instead, is just start building one new healthy habit at a time. Before you know it you’ll build that healthy lifestyle you always wanted.
I think a good place to start is making sure you are having a well-balanced breakfast to start your day off on a good note. This will most likely lead to better food decisions throughout the day.
What one misconception about healthy eating and living a healthy lifestyle do you wish you could erase from the world’s beliefs?
The biggest misconception I see is that “wellness” means drinking turmeric milk lattes and mushroom tonics all day long. Although I do love those things now and again, they are not needed for a healthy lifestyle.
The media can, unfortunately, overcomplicate nutrition. That tends to either scare people away from a healthy lifestyle or makes them too obsessive.
If you want to drink matcha lattes or add adaptogens to your coffee, that’s fine. But you do not need to for optimal health.
Balanced meals with lots of veggies, some fruit, protein, healthy fats, and some high-fiber carbs will do just fine! It’s more important to get back to the basics than anything else!
If you could get everyone in the world to make a single healthy lifestyle change, what would it be and why?
Ditch the sugar in your drinks.
It is really one of the first things I try to pull from my clients’ diets.
I’m all about a well-balanced low-carb smoothie as a meal. But the sugar in other calorie-rich drinks (i.e. fruit juices, sodas, sweetened teas, energy drinks, or non-fat vanilla lattes) is digested rapidly and absorbed super quickly into your bloodstream. So, it does not keep us full at all. Worse yet, constant sugar spikes also can lead to inflammation and weight gain.
Some people have a hard time giving them up, at first. But your taste buds will change after 14 days. And when they do it is super liberating! You will realize you do not need or even want those sweet beverages anymore.
What impact would you like to have on the world?
I want to help women feel empowered with their food choices so they don’t need to count calories, points, or macros all day long. Instead, they can simply focus on foods that will nourish their body and keep them satiated.
Food is really stressful for some people. I want to be the person to take that stress away from them. I want people to know they don’t need to live in a world where food controls their lives. They don’t need to be constantly battling food cravings or being hungry all day long.
Food should be enjoyable.
But it should also be used as fuel.
You should be able to walk away from your meals completely satisfied, losing weight (if that’s your goal), and ready to take on your day.
What one question have you never been asked in an interview that you have always wanted the opportunity to answer?
Question: As a dietitian do you ever feel like you’ve fallen off track with your normal health routine?
Answer: Yes, of course! I am a dietitian but I am still human.
Even experts or professionals sway back and forth from being totally on their game to feeling like they need to course correct a little bit.
Of course, my falling off track is not nearly what it use to be. (I no longer overindulge on cookies, cakes, and pasta non-stop or stop working out for weeks on end.) Now, I sometimes sway off the midline from my normal routine but I know how to get back on track pretty quickly.
That’s something I love to teach clients to do — course correct. This helps them not feel defeated if they’ve “fallen off track”. After all, it is really inevitable at some point!
Are you struggling to lose weight and keep it off? Want to improve your relationship with food? Just want to feel healthy and centered? Check out Heather’s website to connect with her for a consultation!