Dara Godfrey is a registered dietitian who empowers her patients to lead healthy lifestyles. Attaining a Masters in Nutrition at New York University, Dara is a role model for all girls aspiring to receive a graduate degree in a STEM-related field. In addition to encouraging individuals to set goals for health and happiness, Dara contributes to many articles in media outlets such as Cosmopolitan Magazine and Self Magazine.
Check out Dara’s interview for her thoughts on women in STEM, managing health in college, and superb advice! For more, follow Dara on Instagram @daragodfrey for a vibrant feed of health/fitness inspo and adorable moments of her two daughters!
Do you have a major diet No-No’s when it comes to crash diets or other fads targeted at teens?
Anything that’s a ‘diet’ implies something short term and often something drastic. I’m not into any diet that cuts out any food group, is too restrictive or doesn’t allow you to chew your food (that means no juice cleanses!). Skipping meals, using laxatives and/or vomiting post meals are all big ‘No-no’s.’
And diets targeted at teens are especially scary. Dieting can create unhealthy eating habits and can ultimately lead to major eating disorders. Everyone needs fats, carbohydrates and protein as part of their daily meals to be healthy.
Teens should focus on eating a variety of food and realize that being healthy and fit isn’t a fad or a trend. It’s a lifestyle.
What’s your advice for turning the freshman fifteen into the freshman clean?
Going in with a game plan is key! I work with a lot of teens before they go off to college to help them prep for their freshman year. Many of them have never been grocery shopping by themselves. Going to a supermarket, getting comfortable with the environment, and giving them some basic ideas of good food choices (especially practical food items for living in dorm rooms), will help set them up for better eating habits while away from home.
There are a lot of potential food temptations in college – lots of unlimited fast food items in and around campus. Knowing how to navigate a typical cafeteria, food trucks and other meal spots around campus can help teens make better food choices. I always tell my patients – it’s about planning ahead and making some goals, but not beating yourself up for not eating ‘perfectly’ 100% time. It’s about progression, not perfection!
How do you prevent overeating stemming from school and workplace related stress?
Not having your ‘triggers’ around your dorm room, house or desk at work,
is the first step to helping avoid overeating. So that means throwing out any foods that may be eaten (often in excess) when you’re stressed, bored or not thinking straight. On the other hand, stocking your fridge and pantry with healthy options make it less likely to overindulge.
Another thing to keep in mind is to try and manage stress in a healthier way. Calling someone positive to help clear your head and relax may be a way to help decrease stress. A workout or even a quick dance party is another means to build endorphins, or the ‘positive’ feelings in your body. Just taking some time to do something for yourself (that makes you feel good and is non-food related) is crucial when you’re super stressed. You do NOT need to turn to food. That can often heighten one’s anxiety.
Also, if you tend to overeat, or eat more poorly with certain types of friends, try and make an effort to do non-food related activities with them. Don’t surround yourself with people who want to sabotage your healthy habits. They should be supportive of you.
If you could tell your 16-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
Don’t feel bad to be independent and take time for yourself. Being unique is a good thing. And make sure to do the things that truly make you happy.
Have you encountered any challenges as a woman in STEM? If so, what is your advice for combating stereotypes in STEM and for breaking the gender barrier in this field?
I’ve been fortunate to have had many positive experiences over the years as a dietitian, especially being a woman. I do wish dietitians, in general, had more respect as a field in science. We work hard to receive our accreditation (schooling, training/internship, clinical exams, etc.), and it would be great to be treated equally for our skills and expertise as part of the interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals.
Note: After a four week hiatus on this blog, I am thrilled to return with an amazing interview with Dara. Dara is so inspiring and sweet! I have been working on new projects and endeavors; in STEM and in journalism. If you have any questions or are seeking advice in STEM, fashion, writing, etc., connect with me on social media!