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Nutrition with A 2 Z Living Well Solutions

Welcome to the Ascend Health show. I’m Nick Angelis. I’m a Nurse Anesthetist and the Owner of Ascend Health Center in the Akron area, and I’m here with Bridgette from A2Z Living Well Solutions. We’re going to talk all about food and what people are doing wrong and how to eat better.

Nick Angelis: Welcome to the Ascend Health show. I’m Nick Angelis. I’m a Nurse Anesthetist and the Owner of Ascend Health Center in the Akron area, and I’m here with Bridgette from A2Z Living Well Solutions. How are you today?

Bridgette Zmorowski: I’m very well. Thank you. Thanks for having me, Nick.

Nick: And we’re going to talk all about food and what people are doing wrong and how to eat better and okay, I guess we won’t really do all the guilt trip.

Bridgette: Right. No guilt tripping.

Nick: Right.

Bridgette: We want to keep it a fun thing.

Nick: Especially since this is the fall. So this is when every article is about, how you can eat better during the Christmas season, and then I’m like, two dozen in at a cookie party, like forgot about that article, so. But I did want to ask you a little bit more about your background because you know, as a nurse anesthetists, I am a nurse, you’re a nurse like how did you journey to starting your company.

Bridgette: Yeah, absolutely, thank you. So from my earliest memory I’ve always wanted to become a helper or a healer of some sort and it just kind of flowed naturally for me to become a nurse. Every female role model in my family is a nurse or in some sort of healthcare position, and so I just wanted to follow in that footsteps of like helping people. And it really started — my understanding really started to develop that food can actually help or herbs can actually us on a further level. When I was 17, I really understood that herbs have more power and that’s when I got into essential oils for more than just feeling good and it actually helped. And when I worked in the nursing field on the floor when I was in the clinical setting, I realized that the food that they were serving was food that I didn’t want to eat personally. I was packing my own foods and whenever they would, you know, recognize the nursing stuff, what did they bring? Doughnuts? Pizza?

Nick: And not any pizza like usually the worst pizza money could buy.

Bridgette: Yeah, like-

Nick: Or you calculate out like I am losing money because I’m not taking no lunch, I’m wolfing down this pizza that cost three cents to me.

Bridgette: Yes, exactly, exactly. And I felt terrible, I really did. I felt sluggish. I felt I wasn’t, you know, drinking enough water and, you know, I realized that it made me step back and say, wait a second, I’m really getting far away from where my roots are and my roots are food is — food is fuel. And if I’m filling myself up on junk food, I feel like junk.

Nick: You know, you’re right, because I remember the same thing. So I was working and the patient had Stouffer’s meatballs for lunch. This is community access television, so we can make fun of national brands, it’s fine. This is awful like, how is this patient going to get better? I think they might crash by the end of their shift with all these like weird meatballs in their gut, and just like the food they get for lunch or dinner. And I’m not someone who lets food go to waste, so I knew it was bad quality food but I was like, I would never eat this, what’s wrong with these people. Like I felt like all day long, I was caring for this patient and I was like okay, here is the cheapest ingredients that you could ever have.

Bridgette: Yeah.

Nick: Good luck.

Bridgette: Yeah, here’s your $10,000 bill for all the top notch care and you know all the technology put into it but the fuel that your body is using to make yourself well, you know, let’s give you-

Nick: And the Jell-O is probably build out, it’s like gelatinous food source, 35:67 or something, anyways. So did you get to a point where you’re just like okay, I’m kind of done with this whole nursing floor type environment?

Bridgette: Well, you know, I never — I wouldn’t say I quite signed it off completely. I have much respect for my fellow nurses and care practitioners in the field. You know, they’re right at the front lines. I mean, you being a nurse anesthetist, you’re right there, and you’ve got a ton of other things that you’re battling with beyond no breaks and eating horrible food, you’ve got a ton of stress. So, you know, I’d like to say that I retired from floor nursing.

Nick: Okay.

Bridgette: I’m not necessarily renouncing it or anything. But, you know, I’m — I’ve always looked at myself as I need to forge a path for my fellow nurses because we all got into this field to care for people.

Nick: Right.

Bridgette: You know, most of us anyways, and you know, I think it is really important that we just recognize that there are fellow nurses on the floor are struggling with things as well, maybe they just don’t know.

Nick: Right. Well, a lot of it is related to trust. There is a report that came out a few years ago that said, okay, all these ergonomics that say, if you just lift patients this way or do this, then you’ll be fine. It’s all a lie. Like if you do what your employer tells you to do, you’re going to break your back. And it gets into very difficult ethical issues like flu shots, even with Covid vaccines of what do you do to protect others? And at what point are you like, well, there’s only one of me, there’s always going to be patients, so and there’s no easy answers for any of that. So now you’ve kind of turned food into well, let me help people so they can eat healthier, but when we talked last it was interesting because you thought that it’s people our age are really going to be into this, like let’s eat healthy. You know, especially those with young children, I got to have my energy. But then you realize, no, because still at our age and obviously we boast on the power of our youth, but still at our age, we can recover if we have those Stouffer’s meatballs that I think I’m going to bring up as many times as I can in the show. So I can eat the meatballs and I might have a little indigestion but the next morning my system is like, alright, we made something edible out of it, we’re going to be fine. But you’re saying as we grow older that our bodies are slowly like, no, I’m not doing this anymore, I’m over this.

Bridgette: Yes, exactly. It’s just like, I like to think of our bodies as related to a car, you know, when you put fuel in the car, gas in the car, the car is going to go somewhere. And you know, if we put consistently watered down fuel in the car, the fuel injectors are going to get clogged up and you know, things are going to happen down the line that you’re going to start to see in the car. And the same thing with our bodies. You know, if we put junky fuel in our bodies over time, it is going to show up in the form of a weakened immune system, inflammation, increase in weight. And you know, we want to avoid that first, but just like you said, the trust issue, you know, hey, I can eat my Stouffer’s meatballs, and I wake up the next morning and I can still do my job, you know, and it’s those — it’s that lack of awareness that that’s actually affecting you.

Nick: Right.

Bridgette: It is you know what, what I’ve seen that it’s just really hard to combat that at that level.

Nick: And sometimes it is different areas of our life like I eat healthy and — well, when I go to a restaurant, I tell them can I have gluten-free menu and then if the rolls are still there at the end of the night, I don’t want them to go to waste. But anyways, but in other ways, I’m not careful at all. Like your example of the oil, my car was down to 2%. I was like well, let me get one of those oil filler things from Walmart that’s supposed to be additives and I go with that way for a while until I was like this is dumb. If I’m wrong, I will wreck my car. I just need to make the time, so I am going to get an oil change. So sometimes I feel we can be very proud of ourselves for maybe you work out all the time or maybe your mental health is fine, but there’s these glaring areas where if we don’t at least put some effort, it’s going to wreck the whole system.

Bridgette: Exactly. And you know what I found with working directly with younger people with new families and starting not only was it like a trust issue with the food, although I can eat the food and I feel fine, you know, I don’t — I feel I think I’m great. Also I’m seeing with an older, more mature crowd, and when I say older I’m not necessarily saying seniors and I’m just saying, you know, between the ages of 35 and 55 or so, that population is very vulnerable to being put at risk for being put on a prescription or a pharmaceutical drug. And that’s where I want to come and meet them before they get to that point, you know, and if we make little shifts, you know, we’ll see big results.

Nick: Now that makes sense, because now it’s actually a pretty clear cause and effect. Like you’re at the point of your life where you need to choose healthy or you’re going to have to have a pill that decides that you’re going to be healthy. Like the patients I have where I ask, do you have high blood pressure; no, and they’re like, I don’t because I take a pill. It’s like well, you know, you still have the thing.

Bridgette: Right. Exactly.

Nick: Okay. Wow, that makes a lot of sense.

Bridgette: Yeah, we want to catch on before that because it’s amazing what herbs, food, different supplements, vitamins, minerals, how they can actually help our bodies and not to mention having support through therapy and different cognitive trainings and what you do with Ascend. I mean, it’s a total-total body experience and you have to look at yourself as a whole body. You’re not just a machine, a body machine with food and fuel. You’re not just an emotional, spiritual person, you also have logic and reasoning, so we have to encompass all these things.

Nick: Now, I’ve noticed that a lot with my patients with chronic pain, or they’ll tell me no, I don’t have anxiety, I don’t have depression, I just have this pain. You can just fix this pain and I’ve realized over the two-and-a-half years of having this business that in those cases actually I had to fix one. I had to fix the mental health aspect or the pain and the other one kind of crumbles, because we like to think in this society like here’s the issue and if I solve this issue I now have the perfect Instagram life. But a lot of times there’s a no, we just have to tweak this a little bit, a little bit of effort there. And it’s not some sort of show your results where you can tell your friends look, I lost 30 pounds, look, how good I look. Sometimes it’s a subtle thing that no one can really pinpoint as I’ve arrived, but that’s what really makes a difference.

Bridgette: Yeah, exactly. And you know, I’ve heard before that what truly makes somebody happy and brings happiness to the moment is seeing progress. And when the individual can see progress on their own self, you know, they’re-they’re going to continue on and then eventually the outside world will see all that they’ve done. And, you know, hopefully at that point, they’ve realized that, you know, hey, you could see that I’ve dropped 30 pounds, but what you can’t see I’m so much more happy about because that’s just an aftereffect of like, oh, and by the way, I dropped some weight too.

Nick: Right, and then helping people with nutrition. Do you see that as an issue where a lot of times we have goals for the wrong reasons. So I’ve known a few people who have actually met their goals of what they wanted in life or it’s usually not quite as concrete as I want to lose this many pounds, but you see people who they have this life script of this is why I must do this. I’ll make my parents happy or my children will be proud of me or something of that sort and then they finally get there and realize, nope, that-that wasn’t for me. This has nothing to do with what I wanted. And I’m not saying that we want to fall into the cultures desire to be, basically I almost feel like an American culture where if you’ve made it you’re kind of an annoying person to everyone else around you because you’re so self-fulfilled and you don’t take anything from anyone. It’s like, well, you’re great, but everyone else around you is miserable because of your attitude. So how do you find that balance of, okay, we, you know, you’re happier, you’re in better shape, but at the same time you’re doing it with the right motives, a more growth mindset instead of I’ve arrived on that 100%.

Bridgette: Yeah, what you’re mentioning is very important because a lot of people will achieve certain goals like dropping weight or you know, toning up muscle or something like that; but then once they get there, how do you stay. And if you don’t have firm whys, you know, why are you choosing to do this, if it is just for somebody else, that progress is going to — it’s going to go away and you’re going to be put back on that cycle. So with a lot of my clients, I see that they do want to lose a very specific amount of weight. Most people do come to me for that. And they realize that, well, that’s a goal, that’s not my why. You know, why am I truly doing this? What-what’s that real anchor here? And so I help people to understand that goals and whys are totally different things. A goal is something that we’re working towards and a why is why are you actually going to stick it out when it gets tough, when you’re going to be asked to do the hard work, you know, and say no to the cookie tray being passed around.

Nick: Right. So really if people answered their why, fewer people would need me, few people would need you because they have their own, this is why I’m doing the thing. I’ll just Google it or something, and that’s perfectly fine. Like I would prefer to have a smaller business and people in the community having the why of, why I want to be pain-free or why I want my mental health to be better. And again, it’s not because I’ll get this many likes if I lose 30 pounds.

Bridgette: Right, exactly. It’s just truly why are you choosing to lose the weight? Is it because your knees are hurting? Is it because you wake up stiff and sore? Or is it because you want to look good, you’re going on vacation in a month. You know, that’s not really a solid why.

Nick: And I think it helps when people realize which of their whys are legit, which ones aren’t. So in the short term, I want to look good for vacation and I realize that’s shallow. Good, like you have your motivation of what your why is and how far it can take you, and then you need the other why of like, okay, you’re back from vacation now much healthier rather than I want to look good and attract attention from people is so I can live a long healthy life with my children and grandchildren or so I can serve others in this way. So-

Bridgette: Exactly. And I think what you’re mentioning also is having a balance of your true why, you know, just really sticking in there and figuring out being real with yourself. You know, everybody is so walled up to who they actually are and what they are, and if you really just look in the mirror and face who you are, what you are, what you’re going for, it’s okay to be vulnerable with yourself. And I’m sure you see a lot of that.

Nick: Right, especially in those cases where you realize your motives are completely pure, like just realizing that, okay, this is something for myself that will not help anyone else. This realizing that allows you to kind of get beyond that, because so many times I see patients saying I want to be happy for my wife or I want to be less anxious for my kids. And then you get down to and it’s actually that they want to feel that they’re competent. They want to feel that they’re a good person and they’re not a burden. So even though it comes out as a very unselfish reason, like their true motives are a little bit disguised. And of course this isn’t saying that find your true motives, oh, you’re selfish, great, keep going that way. But the first step is certainly honesty because then you know how willing you’re with the steps that you’re willing to take to do that. Like if — so I have a 2018 Trax, it’s kind of a nice car. If I have a dent in it, I probably wouldn’t pay to get it repaired because it’s just a vehicle to take me from A to B. But if you see a Mercedes has dents in it and that isn’t washed, so like you might as well have gotten a Ford guy like what’s the point of it? So a little bit is, okay, how much of this is a utilitarian purpose of eating healthy and where — because that matters a lot different to people. Some people are really into prestige and they — if they admit that it’s a little bit of a better quality while other people it’s just completely practical. This is what I need like you said so my knees don’t hurt.

Bridgette: And as you’re mentioning that about the, you know, what are you doing this for? Is it more so a utility car, is this more so like a flashy type car, and that brought me back to eating. You know, some people choose to eat super, super clean. I mean, they’re only eating leafy greens all day long every day, and you know, just trying to get the best nutrition and whatever, you know, whatever else but they may — they might not necessarily have the flavor component and the excitement of food and how food can be enjoyable and not just power, power, power. This is a thing to celebrate. And, you know, that’s actually how Chef Cat and I got together with food is I used to be that person who was only eating food for fuel. I mean, I would not eat for enjoyment.

Nick: So the meatballs might not be Stouffer’s, but they’re sad, they’re like-

Bridgette: No, no, not necessarily like when I say that I was just eating for fuel, it was like I was going out in the garden with my uncle and juicing green juices and that didn’t really taste great but it was like I feel wonderful drinking this and you know I can get through the bitterness because I knew what it was doing in my body. But then Chef Cat came into my life and I realized that, hey, we could actually enjoy food. We can have flavor, we can have fun, and still it’ll still be good fuel.

Nick: Right.

Bridgette: What a beautiful thing that is.

Nick: So you’re saying like the martyrdom wasn’t that healthy that like, look what I’m doing, I’m sacrificing for them.

Bridgette: Yeah, and you know, in the moment I didn’t necessarily think of it that way. I just thought like, well, it’s just — this is how life is. This is just the way life goes. And when I realized that there was more to food and more to eating that I didn’t have to use MSG to flavor my food to make it flavorful, you know, I could use different herbs. It really opened up my eyes to that.

Nick: Yes. So you’re saying it doesn’t have to be this all or nothing where it’s either like I’m going to go out to eat at the buffet and the place and they’re going to cry when I leave. Or the alternative of like, you know what? These leaves-

Bridgette: Yeah, this looks pretty good.

Nick: I think I can do it. I think this is what I need.

Bridgette: Exactly. You don’t have to go from one extreme to the other. There is a happy medium.

Nick: Well, before we stop talking, we’ve probably in case anyone out there who is like, this is great philosophical debate, but let’s go back to those 30 pounds and how I can lose them. So, what would be your tips for someone who wants to lose weight or start getting healthy?

Bridgette: Well, first of all, I would say to them, we need to look at the food and read the ingredients. You know, the front of the package is very flashy. It’s going to tell you all the perks that you want to know like zero sugar, low sodium, low fat, you know, all these different advertising schemes. They’re marketing schemes. They’re designed to get your attention immediately. But there is a backside and when you flip over the package on the backside and you’re really reading the ingredients, you know, we have to really figure out what is flavoring it. What is making it low fat, low sodium, low sugar, sugar-free.

Nick: Right.

Bridgette: And so that that’d be a tactic for prepared foods. But another tactic is to, you know, just eat foods that are easily identifiable, you know, like a squash or zucchini or, you know, eat more of those foods and, you know, I guess we call them whole foods. That would be something, that would be a great tip to do. Also, when you’re going to like a party or something, let’s say for example, and you’re not really sure what’s going to be on the menu or, you know, it’s holiday time, cookies are going to be flowing everywhere and the pies. You know, if you know that’s what the environment you’re going into, don’t go hungry. You know, you’re setting yourself up for kind of failure like you’re going to eat that because you’re hungry.

Nick: Like those days working as a nurse we’re like that pizza is looking at you, you’re there for 12 hours, same with the doughnut. No matter what your willpower, at some point in those 12 hours, you’re going to be hungry and that doughnut hasn’t stopped calling your name. So-

Bridgette: Exactly, and you’re pushed to an extreme level. You know, when you’re hungry, your judgment goes down a little bit. You’re just trying to feel the body because the car is starting to run out of gas.

Nick: Right.

Bridgette: And you know, you’d have to get to fill her up.

Nick: So is that also because the example I use a lot is it’s much better to be 80% healthy than 100% in that 100% person is the one like here this interview is starting to fondle with the greens, they are off in the corner eating a stick of celery. So for myself I eat healthy at home and then when I’m out, I’m not quite as careful. So what’s the way to — I mentioned being a martyr, what’s the way to do that in a healthy way that also doesn’t make it awkward.

Bridgette: Okay. So another way to you know, let’s say for example, you’re eating out at a restaurant or something like that. You know there are food choices that you can make without being over-the-top ridiculous with, you know, I can’t have that, I can’t have that. You know, eating a burger is something that most of us like to do, right? Well, a simple switch of just taking the bun off and using a lettuce wrap, you know, that would be a good 80:20 compromise where you’re still getting your burger, you’re still out with your friends or whoever you’re with, and you can still enjoy. You just don’t need all that extra bread, processed food.

Nick: And it goes to what your point is of recognizable food of you know, what is this thing? Because there’s probably a few restaurants like some of these sports bars where you look at the menu like, oh, this salad is actually probably less healthy. It’s a salad and I have all my other options. So it may be a little bit too realizing because we also don’t want to become people who are eating the organic Oreos like we spend two times as much money and it’s just a different type of sugar might not be the sacrifice that you need to be making.

Bridgette: Exactly, exactly. And that you know, I was just looking into organic cookies last night. Actually it’s funny that you mentioned that because it is such a conundrum. You know the organic movement isn’t necessarily for processed foods; it’s for the growing style of the plant.

Nick: Right.

Bridgette: And you know, I’m not really sure what vegetable may even be made out of. I mean like what could even be in an-

Nick: Well, the organic Oreo tree, obviously Bridgette like that’s-

Bridgette: You know what, you’re right.

Nick: And if somebody in a hand woven wicker basket and just way under the organic Oreo tree and-

Bridgette: To shake the Oreo tree.

Nick: Yeah. That’s exactly how that works.

Bridgette: Yeah, yeah.

Nick: They make organic maple syrup too. I never understood that part.

Bridgette: Yeah, that’s another conundrum. I mean, you know maple syrup is specifically, it’s sap from a tree. I mean, there’s no processing besides boiling out the water. So if it’s — if there is a company that is adding harmful chemicals to their maple syrup, and then they have the organic version from the same company, I don’t know if I would trust that as much.

Nick: I mean, I only get sap from free range maple trees. I’ll tell you that right now.

Bridgette: There you go.

Nick: If they’re not free range, I’m not interested. None of those caves maples.

Bridgette: No.

Nick: You can tell the difference, you can tell the difference.

Bridgette: You can. There’s stress involved in the tree.

Nick: Right. But that is what the issue is sometimes with nutrition that you know buzzwords like toxins and is this organic and farm raised. I mean, it becomes a joke after a while. Are these chickens happy and do they have names before they made these eggs?

Bridgette: Yeah.

Nick: So I think what you’re kind of saying is think of it as a car where you’re still very practical with your car. You’re not like, oh this is a really cool package. My car will love oil from this particular company. It’s just what makes my car run. So I guess you’re saying that’s kind of a balance there between utilitarian and okay, let’s not get too focused on I must have the best super foods every day.

Bridgette: Completely, completely. Because like we just mentioned the best super foods could just be marketing schemes like organic maple syrup.

Nick: Right. Well, before we end you mentioned a little bit about herbs and supplements. Is there any advice you have, and again, everything is highly individualized and I have a whole show called something about like, “Don’t use your toaster in the tub.” That’s all about how, all the medical advice I give here, you should not follow like come to my clinic if you have questions.

Bridgette: Right.

Nick: But is there any sort of basic herb or supplement that helps a lot of people?

Bridgette: Yeah, actually, one of my favorite herbs is called lemon balm, and it grows prolifically in Ohio. It’s something that we can actually grow inside in a little windowsill. You can grow it outside but you know, you could purchase it at tea stores, so it’s a widely used herb. And so lemon balm is from the mint family and it has a lemon smell, lemon flavor, but the key here is that it works in mental health and it relaxes our bodies. It you know, makes our mood get boosted, elevated but it’s also a really fantastic antiviral. So we should all again, you know, when I say “all” come — you know, come visit me before we actually take this advice. But most people, most people should be drinking lemon balm tea just to keep their immune system boosted up through this winter season and it boosts our mood too.

Nick: So if people want to visit you in Chef Cat whether it’s for business catering or just to get some advice on nutrition, what’s the best way to do that?

Bridgette: The best way to visit Chef Cat and myself is to go to our website And there you’ll see our little tabs there but there’ll be a tab called “Book a Phone Chat” and that’s the best way to get in contact with us. And for all of our viewers here today, I’d like to extend a free opportunity for a consultation with myself, and there we can get a little bit more personalized with each individual that calls in.

Nick: Absolutely. And for us at Ascend Health Center, it is mental health and pain management but we see many of the same people, just the puzzle pieces don’t quite fit. They know there’s something that held that’s been whether it’s their job or a specialist that missed it, and that is sort of the thing in healthcare right now like people are like I’ve been to the doctors, I’m on the medicines, why am I not better? So I think for both of us, we can just help guide them to what they can do for themselves to find that missing puzzle piece.

Bridgette: Exactly.

Nick: Well, thanks for being on the show.

Bridgette: Thanks, Nick.

Nick: You’re welcome. And thanks to all of you for watching.

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