Take Charge of Your Health

By Janis Gibson – Published in Wrap, April 2006, reprinted with permission of Hersam Acorn
Newspapers, Ridgefield, Connecticut.

Many people who have been through a serious illness or medical setback will later say
that as difficult as it was at the time, they have been changed for the better; that the
experience allowed them to look at their lives, reprioritize, and they are now happier and
healthier than ever before. One such person is Renee Simon of South Salem.

In 1992, she was a businesswoman on the rise, putting in long hours, often running 20
to 30 miles a week … and ignoring the signals her body was sending to slow down. Then
one morning she woke up with “the worst sore throat I ever had, large swollen glands and
fatigue that barely allowed me to get out of bed.” After weeks of low grade fever, foggy
brain and debilitating fatigue, her illness was diagnosed as Epstein-Barr virus.

After doing some research, Renee knew, “I would have to take a holistic approach to
get better and I sought out practitioners that would support me.” In addition to changing
her diet and taking supplements, she began meditating and journaling. She also cut back
on her work hours and, with her husband, adopted a child.

Through the process of regaining her health, she shared what she learned with others
and discovered a new career direction. “Once I was healthy again, I knew I wanted to
help others in a preventative way. Today I work with individuals and families to get them
on a path to better health.”

She returned to school and earned a master’s degree in clinical nutrition. “It felt great
to be clear about what I was passionate about already; it formalized my knowledge and
enabled me to be licensed and certified to practice.”

Today she is a licensed dietician-nutritionist and a certified nutrition specialist, seeing
clients at The Center for Health & Healing (which is affiliated with Northern Westchester
Hospital) in Mount Kisco plus seeing clients in South Salem and Ridgefield as well. She
regularly conducts seminars on various health issues and speaks at hospitals, universities,
health spas, corporations, schools and large not-for-profit organizations. Renee is also
part of a districtwide committee for developing healthy food programs for schools in
Lewisboro, which is required by the New York State to develop a wellness policy by the
end of June.

To reach even more people, last year Renee formalized her philosophies and approach
in a book, Take Back Your Health: A Total Wellness Guide For You and Your Family.

“This book is like having a nutritionist at your side,” she said. It outlines the four key
steps in her practice — diet, exercise, supplements and stress management and self-care
— and provides a guide for helping individuals and families to restore the body’s natural
balance. It includes a 14-day balanced food program, exercises and information on stress
management. The book is easy to read and provides client health makeover stories from
the inside out for most common health concerns. It can be purchased through her website,
totalwellnessnutrition.com, or amazon.com.

“Everything is interrelated, mind-body-spirit,” she said. “In traditional practices,
patients are often looked at as diseases, rather than a whole person. Instead of treating
symptoms, I test for imbalances that can be corrected with an integrated approach. Some
examples where this approach is particularly helpful are: digestive issues, hormonal
imbalances, weight-loss resistance, unexplained fatigue and chronic disease.”
Renee sometimes tests for food sensitivities, which is similar to allergy testing.
Sensitivities are a lighter reaction than allergy, so they are harder to pinpoint and some do
not show up for up to 72 hours after ingesting a food. After a period of abstinence, many
of the foods can be slowly reintroduced.

“There is no quick fix to good health,” she continued. “The goal is optimal health for
whatever your conditions may be, to get on the right path, physically and mentally. As
part of my practice, I work with an energy balance system called reconnective healing
and teach breathing and tai chi techniques for stress reduction.”

She works with individuals, special needs kids — ADHD, autism, sensory problems
— as well as whole families, helping with kitchen makeovers, providing samples of
snacks kids can try, and also using computer games to help teach children to make better
food choices. “You have to make it fun to keep them interested,” she noted. She also has
a program for teens.

Her experiences play a large role in her practice. “When people know that I’ve ‘been
there, done that’ with many of their issues, it opens the door. Much of this is very
personal for me; I can empathize with many problems and the fact that I’ve recovered
connects me with people. Better health is a personal mission; mine is a heartfelt
approach. My clients know I am there for them; this is definitely my calling.”

One Family’s Health Makeover
Wendy McLean began seeing Renee about a year ago at the suggestion of a neighbor.
“She said Renee helped her immensely, taught her all kinds of new things — and she’s a
nurse!”

Wendy was sleeping about 10 hours a night, but not well, and was always tired. She
figured that was because she has two small kids, five and one-and-a-half at the time.
More bothersome, however, “I was constantly bloated, often feeling like I was five
months pregnant, and constantly had a stuffy nose.” Renee started her on supplements
and suggested testing for food sensitivities.

“The test results were amazing!” said Wendy. “I showed a sensitivity to about 25
foods, including lemon, garlic and broccoli. I was also sensitive to cucumbers and grapes.
My reaction was, Oh, wow … well I guess I can give all of them up for a week … I was
stunned when 48 hours later I felt better than I had felt since before the kids were born —
and I could smell again! The gas was gone and I could sleep eight hours and feel
energetic. And I could instantly feel it when I ate any of the foods by mistake.”

Thrilled with the results, Wendy had her children tested as well. Sarah, the five-yearold,
had severe mood swings and Katie had eczema. While Katie also had a long list of
sensitivities, Sarah had only two — blueberries and soy. “And here I was trying to work
more soy into their diets,” Wendy laughed. Sarah’s mood swings lessened and Katie’s
eczema cleared up but recurs if she eats the “wrong” foods. Sarah’s mood changes were
further reduced by the addition of zinc drops to her morning drink, “and we can always
tell if we forget them,” said Wendy.

Finally, Wendy’s husband consulted Renee for reflux and related pain. Renee
recommended herbs that helped heal the esophagus, provided eating tips and instruction
on stress reduction. Within a month he “was eating like he did when he was in high
school and delighted that pain was gone.”

The family is much healthier and happier now, but “holidays are tough,” Wendy
admits. “But the knowledge remains and we get back on track because the rewards are
worth it.”


Renee Simon, MS, CNS, can be reached at 914-763-9107 or RSimon312@aol.com.
View her website, www.totalwellnessnutrition.com, for more information about programs
and services.

Simon Says Integrated Medicine is Best

NCNLocal News + Information Services, JUNE 29, 2011
SOUTH SALEM – A bout with Epstein-Barr virus in the early 1990s changed the course of Renee Simon’s life, and has ultimately helped her to change the lives of many others. Although she was a vegetarian and ran more than 30 miles a week, she found that her high-stress corporate job and poor food choices were making her sick. She became extremely interested in the various components of nutrition and began to study the topic extensively.

“In 2005, I wrote a book ‘Take Back Your Health: A Total Wellness Guide for You and Your Family,’ about my personal journey to health,” Simon said. “I got into [the nutrition] business because I was sick and what got me better was changing my diet and lifestyle.”

Now the president of her own private practice called Total Wellness, with offices in South Salem, Katonah, and Ridgefield, Connecticut, Simon specializes in aspects of women’s and children’s health and offers nutritional counseling for infertility, weight loss, hormonal imbalances, menopause, digestive disorders, ADD, autism, and learning disabilities. She focuses heavily on integrated medicine, which takes into account the total mind, body, and spirit connection.

“I really work on treating the whole person – I no longer just focus on nutrition, but on holistic healing for the individual. What that involves is coaching [clients’ on wellness, which could include everything from spiritual counseling and healing work when necessary, to fitness programs and teaching clients about breathing and meditation,” Simon said. “Some people come in and they want to focus on losing weight but there is a real heaviness about them that has nothing to do with weight. It’s emotional heaviness, so we get into that.”

She has lectured at universities and colleges, public schools, hospitals, corporations, health spas, and not-for-profit organizations and has a few workshops coming up this summer. Starting on July 7 and running for three weeks from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., she will host a Webinar focused on cleansing, which she said does not involve fasting but rather teaching participants to eat healthily and rid inflammatory foods from their diet. On July 14 she will host the workshop “Boosting Your Immune System and also Healing from Lyme Disease” at 7 p.m. in her Ridgefield office, and starting on September 14 and running for four weeks she will co-present the lecture “Tending your Inner Garden” With Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Stacy Raymond, during the day at her South Salem practice and in the evenings in Ridgefield.

We will teach people how to nurture health relationships with food and their body and help them prune away old patterns and habits that block them from reaching their goals,” Simon said.


For more information, call Renee Simon at 914-763-9107, visit her website at http://totalwellnessnutrition.com or send an e-mail to her at rsimon@totalwellnessnutrition.com.

Losing Weight is Never Easy But Doesn’t Have to Be a Chore

Food & Drink – Jan 3, 2007
By Jeannette Ross

After six weeks of saying “What the heck, it’s the holidays!” January often brings with it a day of nutritional reckoning, and resolutions for more healthful eating.

Unfortunately, many people find their efforts at healthful living to be no fun at all, and soon enough these plans fall by the wayside like so much roadside litter.

Maybe what you need is a little help, a little direction, a little support. Renee Simon of South Salem, a certified nutritionist and author of Take Back Your Health, is a familiar figure around Fairfield and Westchester counties. She is offering a program called Six Weeks to Weight Loss & Better Health Using The Slow Down Diet. It begins Tuesday, Jan. 9, from 7 to 8 p.m., and continues though Feb. 13, at the Katonah Healing Alliance, 15 Parkway, Katonah, N.Y. The program combines nutrition education, accountability, and support while it looks at the emotional aspects of overeating and helps you boost your metabolism and eliminate cravings for sugar and other carbohydrates. It also uses the book, The Slow Down Diet by Marc David. The cost is $150. To see if there is still room, call 914-763-9107.

With this program, Renee will outline five basic points of consideration: quality of food, quantity of food, when you should eat, how you think about food, and exercise and movement. “We talk a lot about stress,” Renee said, and the benefits of meditation. Renee is also certified to teach tai chi and qi gong, and she will show you how to do some movements at home. “I’m not going to tell you to do an hour of aerobics a day,” she said. Instead she focuses on what is best for each individual.

I asked Renee what are the biggest impediments to losing weight. “Not being prepared,” she said. “People have junk in the house and not enough healthy choices. Time is another one. You don’t have time to cook a healthy meal or you eat on the road. Men complain about traveling and business meals.”

Even bigger issues are emotional. That’s where comfort foods and stress eating come into play.

“It’s my job to find better ways to deal with them,” Renee said. “All problems have solutions.”

What I like about Renee’s philosophy is that it’s not an all-or-nothing attitude. She has what she calls “the 80/20 rule. If you eat healthy 80% of the time, you should eat without guilt 20% of the time,” she said.

“A lot of people know what to do, but they might not have all the information. It’s not all just eat more fruits and vegetables, but how to balance them out.”

To that end, Renee has created her own food pyramid, with activity at the base. Then, she said, come “whole grain foods two to three times a day; healthy fats; vegetables in abundance; fruit two to three times a day; nuts and legumes one to three times; fish, poultry, eggs two times; dairy one to two times a day. On top is red meat, butter, and white (flour) foods.”

I also asked Renee if she had any overall tips for weight loss and she offered three. “First, think about the quality of what you’re eating,” she said. “If it has no nutritional value, think about giving it up.”

The second has to do with portion control. She suggested using a 12-inch plate and dividing it into quarters. Each quarter holds a protein, starch, vegetable, and salad. “That way,” she said, “you can’t overeat the starch or protein.”

Finally, drink at least eight glasses of water a day. “If you’re dehydrated, you might think you’re hungry,” she said.

If you want to take a different approach, later this month or next, Renee will offer an Integrated 21-Day Detoxification Program that is not a fast, but an “experience in eating well and cleansing toxins simultaneously. Common toxic foods – meaning they are often difficult for people to digest – include gluten, found in wheat, barley, oats, and rye; milk products other than plain yogurt; red meat; alcohol; coffee; and sugar. “The program opens your eyes to all the foods that are good for you,” she said. “After you take the toxic foods out, you add them back one at a time so you can measure your sensitivity to them. Most people lose five to 10 pounds during the program, but everyone says they feel better.”

In addition to her programs, which she also offers through local adult education programs, Renee counsels private clients and is available as a guest speaker. She has offices in South Salem, Katonah, and Ridgefield. For details, call Renee at 914-763-9107 or visit her Web site www.totalwellnessnutrition.com.


Pineapple Fried Rice with Maple Glazed Cashews

    • 1/2 cup cashews
    • 1/4 cup maple syrup
    • 2 Tbsp. sesame oil, divided
    • 1 lb. tofu, cubed
    • 2 tsp. chopped garlic
    • 2 tsp. ginger root, minced
    • 1 cup onions, medium dice
    • 2 cups carrots, medium dice, blanched
    • 2 cups celery, medium dice
    • 1 cup red peppers, medium dice
    • 1 cup bean sprouts
    • 3 cups pineapple, medium dice
    • 7 cups brown rice, cooked
    • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
    • 1 cup cilantro, leaves only

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cashews on a sheet pan and toast them four to five minutes. Coat nuts with maple syrup and return to oven for two more minutes.

Add 1/2 Tbsp. sesame oil to a hot saute pan. Sear tofu over high heat until golden brown.

Heat the remaining oil in a wok or saute pan. Saute garlic, ginger, and onions until translucent, add remaining vegetables, and cook for five minutes.

Add the bean sprouts, pineapple, seared tofu, and rice; stir well and season with soy sauce.

Garnish with cilantro and glazed cashews.

Quinoa Salad

    • 1/3 cup quinoa, cooked
    • 1 tsp. olive oil
    • 4 tsp. lime juice
    • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
    • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
    • 1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 2 Tbsp. scallions, finely chopped
    • 1-1/2 cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 2 cups diced tomatoes
    • 1 cup sweet red pepper, diced
    • salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine oil, lime juice, cumin, coriander, cilantro and scallions.

Stir in beans, tomatoes, and peppers.

Add the quinoa, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly.

Adjust seasonings and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Almond-Crusted Trout

    • 1 Tbsp. parsley, minced
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
    • 1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped
    • 2 tsp. canola oil
    • 4 4-oz. trout fillets

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine parsley, salt, black pepper, and almonds.

Coat the top of each piece of trout with the mixture.

Add oil to a hot pan and sear the bottom side of the fish, about four minutes.

Place the trout on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes, or until fully cooked. The fish should flake apart easily with a fork and should be a creamy white color.

© Copyright 2006 by Hersam Acorn Newspapers


Renee Simon is a Nutrition Consultant and teacher who lectures on a variety of health related topics and the mind and body connection. She specializes in helping clients make dietary and lifestyle changes to achieve optimal wellness. She has a private practice in South Salem, N.Y. and can be reached at (914)-763-9107. Her training is in Holistic Nutrition from the American Academy of Nutrition, and she is in the final stages of completing a Masters in Science in Clinical Nutrition from Bridgeport University.

Patent Trader Interview

by DANA NAIM March 10, 2005

Losing weight doesn’t have to be a never-ending battle
Healthy choices and smaller portions will keep off pounds

For Dorie Everin, being married to a chef for 26 years had proved difficult when it came to maintaining her figure. And at the age of 50, losing weight and keeping it off seemed impossible.

But after learning how to make better decisions and changing her lifestyle, Everin has lost 12 pounds in the past two months.

“I learned what to eat and what was good for me, such as what foods to snack on,” Everin said. “It’s a lifestyle change I’ve made, and by making these food choices and eating smaller portions, I have more energy and less fluctuation in my blood sugar.”

Like Everin, millions of Americans struggle with losing weight and maintaining their goal weights, especially at a time when restaurants have dramatically increased their portion sizes and fad diets become a temporary weight-loss solution, nutritionists explain.

More than 65 percent of adults are overweight, and 30 percent are obese, according to the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans released in January. About 16 percent of children and adolescents are overweight, a number that has increased significantly in the past 20 years.

Learning to eat

“In our society, there’s a super-size mentality,” said Renee Simon, a clinical nutritionist at Renee Simon in South Salem. “People tend to eat fast and don’t allow the food to digest properly.”

Simon, who leads a six-week program called “Eating to Lose,” said eating one meal a day slows down the metabolic process. She stressed the importance of eating three meals a day and two snacks in order to keep the blood sugar constant and the metabolism running all day.

Once people reach the age of 25, their metabolism slows at a rate of 10 percent per decade, said Karen Hansen, a registered dietician at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco. In order to prevent weight gain, people should increase their physical activity and reduce their calorie intake.

Fad diets cause people to lose weight quickly, but they aren’t long-term solutions. In fact, people gain the weight back because they aren’t being taught how to make decisions regarding food.

“People are starved for being able to control what they’re doing,” Hansen said. “Fad diets are so limiting, people aren’t able to make choices. They follow crazy meal plans that don’t meet their nutrient needs. People think they’ve lost 12 pounds in two weeks, but it’s mostly water weight loss, not fat.”

She said healthy eating requires a variety of food groups, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains and starches, dairy, meat and fat. But the key is watching portion sizes and limiting the intake of fatty foods, sugar and alcohol.

Susan Pulling, a registered dietician at Nutrition Consulting Inc., in Mount Kisco, said it’s important to inform Americans about eating right and exercising often — especially now during
National Nutrition Month.

“The problem is that people have an all or nothing thinking,” Pulling said.

“They’re either on a diet or off a diet, and when they’re on, they’re very rigid. South Beach and Atkins (diets) eliminate whole food groups, and that makes it not nutritious.”
Rather than depriving the body of carbohydrates and other necessary nutrients, people should commit to a lifestyle that allows for occasional treats and incorporates the proper amount of servings from each food group.

A typical day should include four to five fruits, three to five vegetables, between six and 11 servings of carbohydrates, which include peas, corn and potatoes, and about two to three servings each of meat and dairy products. People should also make sure they consume 30 grams of fiber, which helps prevent many diseases, and limit their intake of fat and trans fatty acids.

Although olive oil is preferred over other types of oil because it’s considered a “good fat,” it still raises cholesterol and contributes to weight gain, Pulling said. Limit the consumption of any oil to three teaspoons per day, she said.
Depending on whether people want to prevent weight gain or shed some pounds, it’s important to start eating smaller portions, choosing healthier foods and participating in physical activity every day.

“Park in the farthest space at the grocery store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do something you enjoy,” Hansen suggested. “Every little bit you can add to your day that you weren’t doing yesterday is an improvement.”

Tips for a healthier Lifestyle

    • Don’t skip breakfast. Eating small portions throughout the day keeps metabolism running.
    • Eat on smaller plates and skip seconds. Allow your body to digest the food so you feel satisfied.
    • Don’t keep trigger foods, such as ice cream, chocolate and chips, in the house. Snack on fruits and vegetables.
    • Don’t eat while watching television.
    • Don’t deprive yourself of foods you love. Treat yourself occasionally.
    • Substitute whole grains and multigrain products such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta for refined grains like white bread.
    • Eat whole fruits instead of fruit juices.
    • Carbohydrates come from fruits, vegetables, dairy products, grains and starches. Spread out your intake of carbohydrates throughout the day.
    • Drink at least eight glasses of water each day.
    • Choose low-fat or fat-free alternatives for dairy products, and lean meats.
    • Keep a log so you can review the food you’ve consumed throughout the day.
    • Limit intake of fats, sodium, sugar and alcohol.
    • Participate in physical activity you enjoy. If you think you don’t have the time, start by parking your car far away and walking to the store, getting off a stop early on the subway and climbing stairs instead of using the elevator. Then work your way up to an exercise routine.
    • Don’t consider yourself on a diet. Call it a permanent lifestyle change.

Portion sizes
With restaurants and fast-food businesses super-sizing their portions, many people misunderstand the idea of serving size, experts say.

The Food Guide Pyramid recommends a certain number of servings from each food group, but many Americans don’t know that a serving is a half a cup of pasta rather than a plateful, or a piece of meat the size of a deck of cards rather than a 12-ounce steak.

“A New York-style bagel counts as four servings of starch,” explained Susan Pulling, a registered dietician from Mount Kisco. “You’re only supposed to have between six and 11 servings of starch (and grains) for the day, so if you start your day with four, you’ve already used up most of your servings.”

Here’s a guide to recommended food portions according to nutritionists, dieticians and the Food Guide Pyramid.

    • Bread, rice and pasta group:
      six to 11 servings, 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup starch, such as rice, pasta or potatoes, 3/4 cup of cereal, 10 French fries, 1/2 English muffin.
    • Vegetables:
      three to five servings, 1 cup green leafy vegetables, 1/2 cup chopped vegetables.
    • Fruits:
      two to four servings, 1 medium fruit, 1/2 cup canned fruit or applesauce, 1/2 cup fruit juice, Milk, yogurt and cheese, two to three servings, 1 cup (8 ounces) of milk , 6 ounces of yogurt, 1 ounce of cheese.
    • Meat, fish and poultry: two to three servings, 2 to 3 ounces of lean meats and fish (size of a deck of cards) 1 egg, 2 egg whites, and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.
    • Fats, oils and sweets: Use sparingly.

New York Times Interview

SCHOOL LUNCH; What If Carrots Came in Chocolate? 
By KATHERINE ZOEPF (NYT)

“HOW about some veggies, sweetie?” Fran Cortina asked a little girl wearing a purple flowered bandana, who was carrying a single slice of cheese pizza on her Styrofoam tray. “Come on, try some!”

The purple bandana ducked and giggled, and whisked by a tempting array of fresh broccoli, carrots and cucumbers, cut up into child-sized pieces, to join her fellow second graders in the school dining hall.

Ms. Cortina sighed. A no-nonsense-looking woman with an angel pin on the lapel of her dark suit, she represents Fine Host, the corporation that provides cafeteria catering for Lewisboro Elementary School here. Ms. Cortina attends school lunch time at Lewisboro several days each month, and she has seen plenty of finicky eaters.

“You try to encourage them to eat healthy, but in the end it’s just up to the individual,” she said. What the purple bandana and her classmates eat for their school lunches — whether they choose a balanced meal, or whether they bypass the fruit basket and make a beeline for the ice cream freezer — has become a hot issue in the affluent Katonah-Lewisboro school district this winter.

The Lewisboro P.T.A. offered its second annual No Junk January program this year, a monthlong effort to teach Lewisboro’s 517 students about the importance of a healthy diet.
Lewisboro parents attended a panel on child nutrition with a dentist, a pediatrician, a nutritionist and a holistic health counselor, and teachers ran classroom discussions on diet and health.

A series of games — “Be a Bad Fat Detective!” “Be a Hidden Sugar Detective!” — were intended to teach students to read labels more attentively, looking for processed sugars and hydrogenated oils. For the first time this year, No Junk January also included a junk food blackout week, during which no junk foods of any sort were sold at school.

The No Junk January program and the junk food blackout week were organized by Renée Simon, a nutritionist in private practice who is chairwoman of the Lewisboro P.T.A. committee on health and safety.

“We based No Junk January on a similar program they ran in Chappaqua last year,” said Ms. Simon. “The cafeteria agreed to stop selling junk food items for a week, and we set up sample tables in the cafeteria so the kids could try the healthier choices. The point is not to take away all their treats, but we found that when we offered healthier choices, the children were happy to take them. And then they feel better, and maybe they perform a little better.”

Penny Constantine, the assistant principal at Lewisboro Elementary, said both the children and their teachers noticed an improvement in concentration and classroom performance during the junk food blackout week.

“I even had a kid come up to me and say, you know, ‘I’m not as jumpy as I usually am,’ ” reported Ms. Constantine. “That was his way of putting it, but by the end of the week, our teachers had really noticed a change.”

The elimination of junk food from the cafeteria was such a success that it had many parents asking why the junk food couldn’t be taken out of the cafeteria altogether. And that’s when the trouble started.

“Fine Host told us they wouldn’t — couldn’t — take the junk food out of the cafeteria for good,” said Martha Handler, who has four children who attend Lewisboro Elementary. “It never occurred to me that the cafeteria had to make a profit. They say they sell more when it’s chicken fingers day than when it’s baked potato day, for example.”

School districts in New York sign one- to five-year contracts with food service providers, who are selected through a competitive bidding process. Once such a contract is signed, the food service provider has a free hand in deciding what is served in school cafeterias within the district.

The state requires that balanced meal options be available in each cafeteria, but whatever chips, cookies and ice cream bars are sold besides that is decided by the contractor.

This situation makes many parents uncomfortable, Ms. Simon said. “Fine Host supplies all food to Lewisboro Elementary, and they ultimately decide what they can and can’t bring in,” she said. “It’s unfortunate — they need to make a profit, and the big-ticket items, as they call them, are junk food. We actually need to get approval from the State of New York to change this.”

At Lewisboro Elementary, a hot lunch is $1.75; sweets and snacks are extra. About a third of the children bring their lunches from home, some buying a cookie or a snack at the school.
Ellen Keats, a spokeswoman for Fine Host, said that the company was committed to promoting good nutrition, but that what is ultimately served in school cafeterias is determined by many factors, including the preferences of the district, and the federal commodities available at a given time.

“Fine Host is very health-conscious, and we run a number of programs oriented to educating children on nutrition,” she said. “Often what is served depends on what federal commodities are available. If there’s a surplus of chicken, say, that will be made available, and that helps keep costs down for the district.”
Lewisboro parents cite concerns about juvenile diabetes, childhood obesity and body image.

They express frustration that the eating habits they are teaching at home are being undermined during the school day. They point out that when junk food was taken out of the cafeteria, the children didn’t seem to miss it, and ate turkey burgers and granola bars just as happily.

“I spent some time with the second graders — my son’s class — recently, and the children were talking about their New Year’s resolutions,” said Ms. Handler. “And already in second grade, a lot of the kids were saying they wanted to lose weight. It seems so obvious that the junk food should go.”

In the battle for a better school-day diet, however, elementary school cafeterias are just the beginning. In middle schools and high schools, vending machines are the subject of much consternation, as nationwide, Coca-Cola and Pepsi sign deals with school districts for exclusive rights to sell their products in school hallways, and put their logos on school score boards.

In a report to Congress in January 2001, the United States Department of Agriculture said that sales of candy, salty snacks and sweetened drinks sold in competition with healthier options were jeopardizing the nutritional effectiveness of school meals. And there are signs that lawmakers are starting to take notice.

For the time being, however, the chips and ice cream will stay in the Lewisboro Elementary l cafeteria, and the parents and teachers will have to encourage children to make healthier choices among them. Some of the children, evidently, are taking the message to heart. A pair of Lewisboro second graders hammed it up for a visitor, stomping melodramatically up to a trash can with a bag of corn chips: “Bad fats! Throwing away the bad fats — eewwwwww!”

This Nutritionist Knows Whereof She Speaks

Thursday, May 25, 2000, The Ridgefield Press By Hilary S Wolfson

Several years ago IBM corporate executive Renee Simon had a sore throat that wouldn’t go away. From there, debilitating symptoms ensued- everything from severe fatigue muscle aches and pains to depression and general malaise.

Eventually diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr Virus (commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), doctors told this South Salem resident, a vegetarian and marathoner-in-training, that antidepressants and a leave of absence from her high-pressure management job at IBM would be the best course of action.

But Ms. Simon felt empowered and motivated to take a different path. That path was a series of alternative therapy and approaches to natural healing and wellness that included everything from acupuncture, vitamin C. drips, and meditation and visualization to fasting, vitamin and mineral therapy and massage.

Now Ms. Simon is helping others follow that path, with a new practice as a nutritionist in Ridgefield.

Major changes
“The most important success factors were changes in my diet and lifestyle that were livable for the long pull,” said this a former self admitted high- stressed executive whose days on the fast-track of 70 hour work weeks have been happily replaced with “Renee redux” new – lease- on -life career as a clinical nutritionist and mom to a seven-year-old “light of her life”, daughter Rebecca.

Along with changes in diet and lifestyle, Ms. Simon participated in intensive vitamin and mineral therapy and with an amazing “mind over matter” determination, also achieved a positive mental attitude. She was able to do what most including herself thought would be impossible. She got well.

“And in four months” said Ms. Simon proudly “I had a complete recovery from this devastating, debilitating virus within four months’ time. Most people didn’t think it would EVER happen” she said smiling.

Looking back
When Ms. Simon looks back at the “big picture,” the snapshots that, come clearly into focus are the ones of her taking allergy shots from the age of 5 through 20, inhaling nasal sprays, and taking oral steroid medications and antihistamines.

“This is what many of us do or did and like many of those people, I never thought twice about not doing them,” said Ms. Simon, whose private practice in South Salem and Ridgefield has many people who “have been there and gone that route,” walking through her door asking Ms. Simon for help.

When she realized she had been compromising her immune system from years of allergy treatments, high levels of stress and eating foods she didn’t know she was allergic to, she was inspired to help others avoid the pitfalls she had fallen into and help them take health steps towards “optimal wellness”.

“I decided to go back to school for nutrition,” said Mrs. Simon, “because I realized that preventive medicine is the key to optimal wellness. There’s so much we can do to keep ourselves healthy. Feeding the immune system optimal nutrition, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lots of pure water, and eliminating all processed foods, foods with high levels of saturated fats, fried foods, smoked meats, red meat and refined sugar, caffeine and alcohol, can put people back on the right path to health.”

“This was something I knew about from the inside so it made sense for me to help others recover from challenging health problems like the one I had,” said Ms. Simon who along with her master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition has done some postgraduate training in nutritional pharmacology.

Looking at the whole person
Using nutrition therapeutically to help prevent disease as well as treat disease, Ms. Simon looks at the “whole person” (rather than a set of symptoms or individual problems, hence the term “holistic”) from the inside out, and tries to understand what underlying causes may be affecting people when they come in with a particular problem.

“It’s about looking at the person and what they need to get back in balance,” said Ms. Simon who specializes in natural approaches to infertility, hormonal imbalances, weight loss issues as well as children with learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, immune system problems, allergies, asthma, migraines, digestive problems and chronic infections.

“To understand the root of the problem,” wrote Ms. Simon recently, it’s important to look at the interrelationship between the brain, and the digestive and immune systems.”

She talks about the importance of looking at psychoneuroimmunology, which refers to interactions between the emotional state, nervous system and the immune system, and how there is a growing body of knowledge that documents just how much the mind influences health and disease.

Children in particular, who are more susceptible to all sorts of stress are being diagnosed more and more with chronic digestive problems and allergies

“A lot of children that I see with learning problems have underlying digestive problems,” said Ms. Simon, who along with her extensive past history questionnaires, will often order stool tests, hair analysis and a complete blood work up to assess a patients biochemistry and mineral and metal levels.

Many of these children were treated with a lot of antibiotics over the years for chronic ear infections and bronchitis and their gut is totally destroyed by the chronic antibiotic use,” said Ms. Simon. “We have discovered that children who have depressed levels of iodine, iron, magnesium and lead, which is diagnosed through hair analysis, are prone to ADHD and other illnesses.”

“People would be amazed to learn that through appropriate diagnostic tools, such as food sensitivity tests and analysis of biochemistry, children’s immune systems could get dramatically stronger and they can become much healthier because now we have the information to help them get there,” said Ms. Simon.

Workshops
Ms. Simon also does workshops throughout the year on healthy eating and mastering difficult weight loss issues and will be offering a support group for parents of children on gluten-free/diary-free diet or other limiting foods.

“We will be talking about how to successfully implement an elimination diet”, said Ms. Simon, “and what symptoms and changes should be expected the first 30 days. We will offer alternative food strategies, recipe ideas and do some food tasting too. Most of all it’s about group ideas and strategies that work. That’s the beauty of support network, said Ms. Simon.”

“What I try to do is not give people a laundry list of what to do,” said Ms. Simon. Rather it’s more about taking small steps — dietary changes, supplements, stress reduction techniques–and after they see how much better they feel, they feel empowered to stay healthy,” said this “new lease on life” professional who doesn’t just talk about the mind — body connection. She embraces it with her “heart and soul”.


Renee Simon, M. S., clinical nutritionist, has private practices in both South Salem and Mount Kisco, NY and Ridgefield, Connecticut. She can be reached by calling (914) 763-9107.