DeliveryRank chats with Holly DeLong, the founder of Food & Mood, and a dedicated Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a unique background in Psychology and Research. Her personal journey with the transformative effects of food on overall well-being motivated her to become a dietitian. Embracing a holistic approach, Holly overcame her health crisis and now empowers clients to achieve similar remarkable results. Food & Mood offers comprehensive nutrition counseling, mental health support, and advanced laboratory testing, aiming to identify the underlying causes of health concerns. Holly's expertise lies in integrative and functional nutrition, specializing in gut health, mental health, heart health, bladder health, and intuitive eating. Passionate about inspiring change, she conducts corporate and community wellness programs, striving to create tangible improvements in the lives of her clients by collaborating with a network of skilled holistic practitioners.
In my late 20s I was struggling with a chronic bladder condition that forced me to take heavy rounds of antibiotics repeatedly. The antibiotic use destroyed my gut health and that lead to depression because mental health is intimately linked to gut health. I began a journey to find different answers and went from doctor to doctor undergoing all sorts of testing and spending thousands and thousands of dollars. I knew there had to be a better way. I knew I had a brighter future than a life of pharmaceuticals and side effects.
I began doing my own research and becoming my own health advocate. I intuitively felt that nutrition was the key to helping my body and mind heal itself. Using food as medicine as well as mindfulness, I was able to climb out of the darkness and into the light of health and vitality. It was not an easy journey but one I would not change for the world. It was this experience that led me to want to help other people find the same results. From there I decided to make a career change to become a registered dietitian with a focus on gut health and mental health.
Nutrition and mental health are so closely linked, so integration is essential. Nutrition affects mental health and mental health affects nutrition. Addressing both together involves creating health goals that nurture a healthy relationship with food, and addressing physical causes that may be impacting mental health. For instance, nutritional deficiencies, poor gut health, disordered eating, and blood sugar imbalances can all directly affect mental health.
I often use specialized testing to help clients identify any of these issues and develop targeted interventions. Similarly, mental health issues can impact our ability to make changes and feel good about them. In my practice, I help clients address mental health through stress reduction practices, such as mindfulness and breathwork. I also find the use of nutraceuticals to be helpful as an addition or substitution to pharmaceuticals. They can be a powerful way to support the body’s ability to handle stress and balance mood.
With this approach I have been fortunate to witness many amazing transformations. I have seen people go from yo-yo dieting and hating their bodies to balanced and fulfilling relationships with themselves and food. I have seen people able to stop medications they have been on for decades, gain more energy, achieve mood stability, overcome chronic diseases, and find freedom from diet culture. I am so grateful to be able to help guide people towards happier, healthier lives.
Research is discovering more and more the way that gut health impacts our mental health and we are only at the beginning of fully understanding this connection. Our guts contain trillions of microorganisms known as the gut microbiome, that have a powerful influence on the way we feel. Much of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin, is made in our guts and when imbalances are present this can negatively affect serotonin production. Poor gut health can also impact our ability to absorb nutrients from food that play a key role in regulating mood and energy levels. In addition, imbalances between good and bad bacteria can disrupt hormones, worsening mental health.
In my practice, I use comprehensive gut health protocols and laboratory testing to get to the root cause of poor gut health. But this relationship is not one sided. The gut-brain connection goes both ways. Mental and emotional imbalances can negatively impact gut health as well, both short and long term. For instance, stress and anxiety can affect the amount of time food takes to move through the digestive system, creating symptoms of constipation or diarrhea and increased inflammation. Even chronic dieting can negatively impact mental health, gut health, and our relationship to our bodies and food. I help clients work towards health goals in a body-positive way using intuitive eating.
Reconnecting with the messages our bodies send us through this mindful approach can help people learn to love their bodies again. Intuitive eating is a wonderful way to develop a relationship with food that focuses on nourishment vs. deprivation. When we approach food choices and health goals from this more positive approach, it not only changes our attitudes but also affects the way our bodies assimilate energy and nutrients from food. The mind has a powerful influence over the body and the intersection between nutrition and mental health that Food & Mood focuses on strives to maximize this relationship.
My corporate and community programs aim to provide engaging and effective wellness education, but more importantly, ways for practical application in daily life. Information is powerful, but information is readily available these days. I strive to clear up misinformation that is out there and show that living a healthy life does not need to be complicated or confusing. I do this by providing participants with tools and resources for translating information to day-to-day life.
Creating opportunities for discussion and Q&A is key to helping with engagement. Education topics are wide ranging with an aim to always draw the connection between lifestyle choices and how someone feels. We all want to be healthy, but warnings of health consequences, numbers on a scale or bloodwork have their limitations. How we feel in our bodies and minds day to day is really what provides the greatest reward for making positive change. Topics that emphasize the connection between how we live and how we feel include: promoting better sleep, reducing stress and anxiety, nutrition for energy, and developing more mindfulness.
The Food & Mood lens is applied to all topics to help participants understand the connection between mood, diet, and lifestyle choices. Good nutrition cannot be separated from the kitchen so I provide a popular and powerful education tool in the community setting through cooking demonstrations. Here I help people discover the robust flavors of nutritious foods and give new recipes to add to their toolboxes. I give demonstrations that involve healthy living instruction and show attendees how to create nutritionally dense and balanced meals. These are always crowd pleasers!
When working with clients I try to take a broad look at all the factors affecting their overall wellbeing. Often there are areas of health that fall outside of my scope of practice, so I believe it is important to develop and maintain a network of providers that offer other amazing services. For example, if I am working with someone on creating goals around physical activity, but an injury or chronic pain is standing in the way, I may refer to a chiropractor or acupuncturist. If I am working with someone on mental health and they need additional support outside of what I can provide I will refer to a therapist or psychiatrist. No one provider can address all areas of health, so being able to refer my clients to other services helps me guide them towards greater levels of healing. In some cases, integrated care is necessary to create a team approach working together for the client’s most comprehensive and best outcome.
If you would like to find out more about Food & Mood, please visit https://www.yourfoodandmood.com/