OXFORD, Miss. – When Oxford resident Scott Knight jotted down his short-term goal to “lose 70 pounds” as part of the University of Mississippi Nutrition Clinic’s first-ever weight loss class, he wasn’t even sure it was possible. At 55, Knight had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and was taking medication for high cholesterol. His blood sugar levels were borderline diabetic. He knew he wanted to get healthier, so he enrolled in the 12-week class. “The class showed me that at any age, you can live healthier,” said Knight, who has since dropped 65 pounds, has normal blood sugar levels and is prescribed half the blood pressure medication he needed before. “We took a number of steps; one thing is just learning what you’re eating and paying attention to that. We had to learn good choices.”
The UM Nutrition Clinic, housed in Lenoir Hall, offers a number of services besides group weight-loss classes, including medical nutrition counseling for individuals with illnesses, diet-related conditions, injury or an interest in improving health in general. The clinic also offers diet analysis and assessment using the department’s state-of-the-art “Bod Pod” machine to determine body composition, breast-feeding consultation and services for individuals with eating disorders. This fall, the clinic is offering grocery store tours guided by a registered dietitian who will answer questions and explain healthy shopping options such as the importance of reading labels and cost per serving. UM dietitian Janie Cole recommends the tour for individuals such health issues as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or high cholesterol, or for anyone wanting to lose or gain weight and eat healthier. A growing need for accessible nutrition consultation was the primary reason the nutrition clinic was created, said Cole, who is one of the clinic’s dietitians. “It just made sense for us to have a clinic,” she said. “The professors in our department are always getting calls from the campus health center or local physicians’ offices, asking ‘Can you see this person?’ or ‘I need to see a dietitian.’ Having a clinic helps everyone have accessibility to a dietitian.” The clinic has worked with UM employees (the clinic’s services are payroll-deductible); UM students, who can use their Ole Miss Express for payment; and adult and adolescent community members with health conditions. “The one thing that I hear patients come back and say is that this was the best money they’ve ever spent,” Cole said. “They may have bought weight-loss videos or this book and that book, but when they come sit down with a dietitian, then they actually get the truth. We’ll have patients who have been diabetic for 20 years and they’ve never seen a dietitian. We provide them with the education that they need, and if they do the work to live healthier, their numbers will improve.” Velsie Pate, UM instructor in intensive English, said having access to the clinic helped her make multiple improvements to her lifestyle, including reading labels – she even changed her pets’ food – and cooking with spices and herbs to flavor food in place of fat. Students in the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management demonstrate using healthy ingredients for the nutrition class. “Overall my eating habits are better,” Pate said. “The clinic is realistic. It teaches you to focus on making little changes and explains that there are days when you’re going to totally tank it and that the next day you get back on track. Janie is realistic, and she doesn’t expect you to turn your whole life upside down.” For Knight, completing his short-term goal means that he can focus on the long-term goal he set at the beginning of the class: keeping the weight off. He said he uses tactics from the class in his daily life, measuring portions, tracking his caloric intake – down an estimated 4,000 calories to 1,600 – with a smartphone application, tracking his daily steps with a pedometer app and attending weekly weigh-ins at the clinic. For more information about the nutrition clinic or to schedule a consultation, call 662-915-8662. Payment options include Ole Miss Express, Visa, Mastercard and payroll-deduction for UM employees.