Food & Fitness After 50: Life is a Balancing Act
I completed this interview with Becky Dorner before COVID-19 changed our lives. Her work in long-term care is well known in the nutrition community and she has developed a web page with free information on what we need to know about food safety and the virus. While we hear about the caring nurses, doctors, and health professionals during this pandemic, there are thousands of food service workers who make sure people in places like hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities are well fed. Becky provides training for facilities to ensure they are safe, as are the people they care for.
Running three businesses, caring for aging parents, parenting three children, doting over one precious grandchild, and volunteering for her professional organization, Becky does it all with grace and good humor.
Becky and I met years ago, sharing a cab on a cold, rainy Chicago day and we bonded over a mutual interest in healthy aging. But, while I came late to my interest in aging, Becky’s love of working with older adults started early. After graduating from the University of Akron in 1981, she did a clinical rotation in a nursing facility and fell in love with the residents. “I never had the opportunity to get to know my grandparents. This experience filled that void and I was able to help improve their health through better nutrition.”
A Novel Career Choice
Becky caught the entrepreneurial spirit when she was 11 years old, selling hand crafted dolls. “It was rewarding to create something that people valued. I realized early on that I wanted to work for myself, and was driven enough to make it happen.” A family history of heart disease led her to study nutrition and fitness.
When she finished school, Becky did two things that were not very common for dietitians in the early 1980s: she started her own nutrition business and focused on wellness. (Click here to visit her website, Becky Dorner & Associates.) “I’m inspired by young professionals who start new ventures – it’s not easy, but there is a lot of support available. When I started, we were non-traditional – and we were on our own. I learned a lot by trial and error, and found others who were willing to network, provide mentoring and support. It was tough, but what a great way to learn!”
Starting Small and Growing a Big Business
After starting her business, she discovered consulting in long-term care (LTC) facilities was stable, steady work. Within 6 months she had enough business to hire other dietitians. Thirty-seven years later, she employs 35 people, mostly registered dietitian nutritionists. Part of her business was developing materials and training for her clients. One day, her business coach suggested she sell these to other health professionals and her second business was born, publishing manuals and providing continuing education courses for health professionals. To date she has presented more than 500 programs for local, national, and international professional meetings in 5 countries and all 50 states, hosted more than 140 continuing education webinars, and published more than 300 health care articles, clinical manuals, and continuing education self-study courses. Her free monthly electronic newsletter goes out to over 35,000 health professionals.
Becky embraced Food & Fitness After 50 when it was published by inviting me to do a webinar, and has since developed a continuing education course on the book’s content.
This leads us back to the title of this post…. balance. Since she has spent almost 40 years taking care of others, how does she take care of herself?
“Daily exercise is my go-to for stress relief and life balance,” she says. Diagnosed with high blood pressure at the age of 42, exercise, especially walking, helps control my blood pressure and provides some quiet time.” As for her diet, she is careful about monitoring sodium and saturated fat, and she embraced pescatarianism about 10 years ago. (Pescatarians eat a plant-based diet that includes fish.)
Becky defines healthy aging as “being able to do the things I want to do, including the work I love, but also making time for exercise, relaxation and fun. To find balance, I’ve cut back on my work travel and put more time in to developing online webinars and courses that I can do from home.”
As we age, we all face challenges and when I asked Becky about her biggest challenge, she replied “Caring for the needs of elderly parents who have cognitive issues. It can be a long journey, but we try to provide as many moments of happiness as we can; and make sure that our parents get the best possible care.”
Becky’s 3 tips for healthy aging?
- Create balance in your life and find joy every day.
- Eat a plant-based diet; make vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and beans the center of your plate.
- Keep an eye on your numbers. Know your blood pressure, blood lipids, and blood sugar levels and do all you can to keep them in an optimal range.
Balance can be thought of in the physical sense, which is important to healthy aging, but balance in the psychological sense is just as essential.
Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.
Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.