Healthy Eating Habits for Caregivers

with Melissa Smith-Wilkinson &
Jillian Parkhurst
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Nutrition is a key element in dementia prevention. Join us as we chat with Jillian Parkhurst with Fresh Things First. Jillian is a Culinary Nutrition Educator, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and AADP Certified Holistic Health Practitioner from Santa Fe, NM.
 
Check out her website at www.freshthingsfirst.com.

Melissa Smith

Hi and welcome. I'm Melissa Smith and this is our inaugural podcast for Caregiver Wellness Podcasts. We're really excited that you've chosen to spend this time with us. And our first guest is phenomenal. I am honored to introduce you to Jillian Parkhurst, who is a culinary nutrition educator, an integrative nutritional health coach and she's an AADP certified holistic health practitioner. And she just has a passion for food. And not just that, it's really about how food makes her feel. You will be so inspired to hear her story of how caregiving has impacted her. You'll be inspired to hear how she's using food as medicine. This is not an episode you want to miss. So listen all the way through. And again, we're CaregiverWellnessRetreat.com and Jillian is with Fresh Things First.

 

Melissa Smith

All right, so I am live today with Jillian Parkhurst, who is with Fresh Things First, which is based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Jillian and I first met in yoga and I was really thrilled and excited to meet her. And everything that she stands for in terms of her health and nutrition and her way of being in the world is exactly what I value most. And I am really honored to have you here today. It is such a joy to have you.

 

Jillian Parkhurst

Thank you Melissa. I'm happy to be here with you.

 

Melissa Smith

My pleasure. Well, I would love to actually start if anyone follows Julian on Instagram or social media. She does a lot of breathing, which is fantastic. And I'd love for you just to start us out with just, just a breath.

 

Jillian Parkhurst

Yes, OK. Yeah, so it's something I do over on social media just to kind of remind us all to breathe because right now especially, I feel like we're holding our breath. So if you're in a comfortable place, if you're driving, obviously keep your eyes open. But if you're in a comfortable spot, you can place your feet on the ground, feel the ground below you, and you can place your hands over your heart center or over your belly, whichever feels better for you. And if you feel safe and comfortable, you can close your eyes. I'm just going to have you take that two, three breath, this inhale. Exhale through your mouth. Inhale. Exhale. And one more breath on your own. And when you're ready, you can open your eyes.

 

Melissa Smith

That was the perfect way to begin, I think that gentle reminder of the breath and her breathing is something that we all need and especially that the caregivers need just those gentle reminders that it's not that difficult to just turn it back, dial things fast, dial down, deescalate. And along those lines, I'd love for you to share briefly a little bit of your story. I know you're quite public about some health concerns that you have and that are going on in your life and the challenges that you've had and a lot of who you are and what you do and why you do it is because of those health challenges. So I'd love to hear a little bit more about that and how caregiving has played a role in your life.

 

Jillian Parkhurst

Yes, so for myself, about eight years ago, I came down with mono and pneumonia at the same time, and I had a really high viral load that I didn't pay attention to all of the signs leading up to it. Looking back, I do now, but I didn't at the time. And so afterwards, I just I never fully recovered physically with fatigue, body pain, swelling, a lot of inflammation, and moving forward. I now have just a cyclical flare where I can be in bed for anywhere from three to 12 or 14 days a month. So it changes every month, but it happens every month. So I can't be surprised. And amidst all of it, other systems in the body have started kind of, for lack of a better word, breaking down or being affected. And so right now, I have an MBA, which is also known as like a smoldering myeloma, which is the pre-cancer estate to multiple myeloma. I also have several other things going on, but for myself, the only way I felt like I could try to find some grasp of control or a way to help myself was to start changing my diet. And in the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing because honestly, Melissa, I lived like a happy hour diet of nachos and beer and whatever else I could get on special at the bar. Right. But now it's totally different. And so through the process, I found what has and hasn't worked for me. And so that kind of shifted my career path to support others as they change their diet to meet their specific needs because everybody is so different. And the caregiver aspect for me is not that I practice being a caregiver, but my husband tends to be my caregiver when I am really down and in bed. So he takes on a lot of extra work even when I'm feeling well and I look normal. Like, right now, you know, taking on grocery shopping or just walking the dog more. But also when I am in bed, he does a lot with food, providing meals for getting me drinks and cleaning and whatever else you caregivers do, you guys know. And so it's been an interesting dynamic for us, but it's really shown me just how much giving me a glimpse of what caregivers do. 

 

Melissa Smith

And it's really a lot. I think what's beautiful about what I heard you say is that the care and attention that he gives you, that you see it and that you recognize it. One of the differences in terms of someone caring for dementia and Alzheimer's, because it isn't reciprocal, there isn't this aspect of a caregiver being seen and understood by the person they're caring for. So there's just this constant outpouring with no reciprocation. And so there may be those moments, depending on their stage, their moments of, you know, of light or delight, but not always. And so, you know, I just want to acknowledge how beautiful it is that you all have that, that relationship and it's this mutual caring, it sounds like. So, yeah, that's really special. I'd love for... 

 

Jillian Parkhurst

That's a great reminder for me.

 

Melissa Smith

Yeah. Anytime you need it.

 

Jillian Parkhurst

Any more appreciative. I can be. You know I can.

 

Melissa Smith

Oh yeah. It's really interesting. There's, you know, the statistics of those that will that are unpaid caregiver workers are in the tens of millions in the United States. And so the likelihood of us becoming a caregiver at some point in our lives to someone else is very likely. And so how do we you know, especially that we're isolating? How do we hone in on not only gratitude but also this sense of community support? And it's just there's so much to it. And I think sometimes just having a conversation helps shed some light on, you know, you don't know what's happening. Like you mentioned, you know, you look great. You really do. And yet that's not an indication necessarily of what's on the inside. It's the same with someone who has dementia. And my stepmom, she faked her way through so much in those early stages, you know, she would laugh a lot and make you think things were all OK and it was, you know, this stuff inside. So let's talk a little bit more about the stuff inside. I would love to know. I know you were going to give a little bit of some of your best tips, so I'd love for you to share this with us.

 

Jillian Parkhurst

Yeah, one of the biggest things that I hear from a lot of people, caregivers or not, is I just don't have time. And while I appreciate that, I mean, a lot of people are very busy and especially caregivers, I feel like a caregiver role. I'm sure it's 24/7, right? There's not necessarily clocking in or out. So the one thing I'd like to encourage people to do is think of it as making time. And I know that's not a popular answer. Right. So let me explain it. So it would just start, I think, with like asking yourself, is this a priority for me? Right. Is it a priority for me to feed myself, and nourish myself and make meals? And I think if I'm going to camp right now, it's not a priority to me. And if it's not a priority, then maybe it's looking at what are your priorities? And then are you meeting those priorities? Right. And then asking yourself, revisiting the question again in a week because it changes. Right. It seems as change.

 

Melissa Smith

But, you know, it's interesting. I hear you say that. And I think my response is always, yes, my health is a priority. And then you mentioned the Nacho's like, you know, and then you still like because it's easier or because whatever. How do we change those things?

 

Jillian Parkhurst

Yeah. So the way I think you change it is by there is a huge mental shift. Right, because it's not just the physical. It really is changing your thinking. And I think there's a couple of ways. So the first I would say is to take inventory of your time. Right. Where do you have unproductive time or a wasted time or time that after you're like, let them feel good? Like for me, that time falls and scrolling on social media is scrolling on my phone, kind of edging out. Right, watching a TV show which can sometimes. Be what I need, but also or just surfing the Internet or things like that, where where are those pockets of time? Because they add up much quicker than we think and then start to shift to thinking of how can I combine time or how can I double up? So for me, the most logical place of how can I get in the kitchen when I don't feel like I have time? Do I call a friend? Do I have conversations with my mom or a family member? For me, it's like I talk to my mom every few days or a friend once or twice a week. When I do that, I like to call it like a talk and shop. So I'm multitasking. So I'm having a conversation with you. But while I'm doing it, I am chopping vegetables for my meal later. So it goes by really quickly. And I don't think of it as a new time that I have to make room for it. It's like the time I'm already using or even simply watching a show. If you're watching on your laptop, move it to the kitchen and we get a lot from just hearing it. We don't have to stare. You can talk at the same time or satee or so. For me, I think that's like the biggest shift we can make. And then the other option, I think, is meal sharing with a friend. So if you have someone else in your life who, you know, is also busy, are feeling like they don't have time to make the meals that they want to eat or shift their diet, how can you split that time? So how can I make two meals? But I'm going to make larger batches of it, right? I'm going to make two meals and I'm going to make it to feed me and you, Melissa. And then you, Melissa, you make two meals to feed you.

 

Melissa Smith

No, I just want you to make meals for me.

 

Jillian Parkhurst

I don't know your husband. He could make us all meals too seriously. So I think that's a good way of doing it, like splitting that. But it also feels like a communal aspect. I don't know.

 

Melissa Smith

Yeah, I love that idea. And, you know, the other pivoting from that, which is really, really hard for caregivers, is even finding and asking that friend. To do this with and in order to do that, you have to it takes effort. But what I hear you saying is the effort in the beginning is worth it. Once you kind of set up a pattern and a routine and, you know, and kind of get it going. And the other interesting aspect of that, right, is if those that are hearing this right now, who know of a caregiver or know of someone who is in need of as of, you know, less time in the kitchen, they're there. They just are spread so thin. How can you make an extra batch and share it with them and maybe rally around? There are so many great resources and apps out there now to with meal sharing and all of that kind of to help people organize their time. Do you use any of those?

 

Jillian Parkhurst

I don't use the app. But what I would say to just to kind of what you're saying there is something my husband and I have experienced is we get a lot of people asking us at certain phases. Right. There are times where it's quiet and then there are times like, if I have surgery or I'm really down where people say, what can we do to help? Let us know what we can do to help. And well, that feels I understand it's coming from a loving, caring place. What that does is it feels like it put pressure on us to come up with a solution for you and it feels stressful. And so if someone's watching who is not a caregiver, I would say if you know a caregiver in your life, make a meal and drop it off and text them and say, this is out your front door. Right. Because then it's like there's no back and forth or someone saying, oh, no, it's OK. I don't need that. You've just provided something that.

 

Melissa Smith

I totally agree. I would clarify and say I'm making this. Is there any of this you can't eat, you know, and then point everything at I'm bringing it over. Let me know if you liked it. Yeah. And then put it in containers that don't have to be returned. If you can make a good point, that's a really, really helpful thing. Oh, my gosh. There's nothing crazier than trying to figure out somebody else's lids, my lids have a mind of their own. So that's a good point. Yeah. Awesome. Well, I know we talked about keeping this concise, is there? I'm going to check the chat and see if there's any question. So if anyone has any questions, is there anything else that you wanted to add or highlight?

 

Jillian Parkhurst

Yeah, I would say for strategy-wise, I would just say really avoid thinking of this as a giant shift, like I want to change everything about my diet. I want to make every meal. Every night is a very natural feeling for anybody who's listening to you think they need a complete overhaul or they have an all or nothing mentality, I'm going all in or I'm not doing it. I would just say really try to question yourself on that. If you feel those tendencies and what works, what worked for me and what's worked for clients is small, incremental shifts. So how can you make one small change and two ideas I have for that are just. Add a side salad. Like, add it to whatever you do, if you got take out, go home and make a side salad and it will take less than three minutes to take makes greens put them on a plate, add olive oil, squeeze of lemon or balsamic vinegar and seeds or not. That's all like keep it as simple. And once you've got that down after a couple of weeks, add something else. Right. So it's really just keeping it as simple as can be. Or if you feel like I'm beyond that, I can do that. I would. The other suggestion I'd have is to start with a meal and start with breakfast, because if we make a more healthful choice at breakfast, we're more likely all day. So I would say add a vegetable to breakfast, which is incredibly easy, but it's a shift in our thinking. So if you're making eggs, Satee spinach at the same time or zucchini, it's very simple or the other way would be smoothies, right. I'm adding spinach to a smoothie or kale or something small, not a whole thing.

 

Melissa Smith

I saw your post about zucchini. And I was like zucchini in my smoothie. It sort of was a paradigm shift. I've never put zucchini. It's like I've never actually put bok choi in the smoothie. It's it feels like a similar family. I'm a little concerned, but I do a ton of kale and greens and our smoothies like they're just. Yeah. And then I have to do to counterbalance the tastes of fruit. So it is great.

 

Jillian Parkhurst

I love fruit is really good for us. So I'm like that, that's like the black and white thinking right up. I shouldn't have fruit right. When we once we started to get in that territory like I had a client recently say I had her blueberries or something and she said, but aren't wild blueberries better for me? And I said, let's not get lost in the details. They're all great for you. Like so but those are things that stop so just add one little thing and then two weeks later check-in with yourself. So I feel like adding something more. Can I take that on? Yeah.

 

Melissa Smith

What a great idea. I think, I think that really could apply to almost any area besides nutrition, like just one little chef, one little chef's, one little chef's her beautiful. So. Well, I want to encourage those of you that have been watching live this replay will live on our Facebook page. And so you will now live on our Facebook page.

 

Jillian Parkhurst

Wonderful. I look forward to it.

 

Melissa Smith

And we also have we'll be rolling these into a brand new caregiver podcast that Drew, my 14-year-old is producing. So I'm utilizing our time at home together and very excited about that. And really, we're honored, Jillian, to have you a part of our October 3rd second and third caregiver wellness retreat that will be live. We'll be broadcasting from Santa Fe, New Mexico. And we have some really wonderful imagery and things planned for everyone to feel as if they're taking a virtual vacation and a virtual retreat in Santa Fe. So I'm very excited about that. But I'm really excited when you sign up for the retreat and it's free. Jillian has put together a really beautiful welcome packet with meal planning and a grocery list. It's ridiculously good. So I'm very, very excited to be sharing that with everyone. And it's going to go in our virtual goody bag. So super, super honor to have you. Do you want to share perhaps where people can find you in the world?

 

Jillian Parkhurst

I can do that. And one thing I'll say is when you get that meal plan, don't be overwhelmed. If you don't feel like making the whole meal plan pick one recipe. Right. That's so you know where you're at. That's the biggest thing is knowing exactly where you're at and what you can handle. So go on. I don't want to get anybody overwhelmed.

 

Melissa Smith

 I was so impressed at the simplicity of it and the way that you organized it with it. It's really great. So visual. It's got photos. I love it.

 

Jillian Parkhurst

It's good. I'm glad that's helpful. You can find me at my website, FirstThingsFirst.com. You can find me on social media. I am most active on Instagram and my handle is @freshthingsfirst. And there I post a lot of tips and simple recipes. And you can also find me on Facebook @freshthings1st, but with the number one on that one.

 

Melissa Smith

Yeah. Fantastic. Well, again, we're super honored to have you be a part of this, and I feel so thankful and grateful and thanks for taking time to chat with us today.

 

Jillian Parkhurst

Yeah, thank you, Melissa. Have a good day.

 

Melissa Smith

My pleasure. My pleasure. All right. Have a good one.

 

Melissa Smith

Thank you for making time to join us today on our very first podcast episode, if you wanted to see our smiling faces, you can also head over to our Facebook page, Caregiver Wellness Retreats on our website. You'll find that specific link for it. And our website is CaregiverWellnessRetreat.com. Also on our site are Free Caregiver Retreats, which right now we have an on-demand retreat, which is completely free or you're welcome to make a donation. We also have a live retreat coming up. That's October 2nd and 3rd. That Jillian will be a guest speaker at and I'm so excited about what she's going to be doing and preparing and sending out a menu ahead of time so you can actually prepare a meal right then. And if you don't, you can always watch and enjoy and get inspiration for later. If you really enjoy this podcast, will you buy us a cup of coffee? There's a link there on our podcast that you can just click buy us a cup of coffee and you can also donate directly at our website. This is fully a labor of love, out of a passion for caring for caregivers. My father, who was a caregiver to his wife for more than 10 years, and we just continue this and her legacy. And in honor of my dad, we're glad that you join us today and we're excited about this opportunity to share strategies with you ongoing.