Today’s post features a few key takeaways from a recent Wellness Your Way podcast interview. Find the full episode here and be sure to subscribe to Wellness Your Way so you don’t miss future episodes!
Guest Bio: Dr. Maria Christina (Cristi) Castillo-Catoni
Dr. Castillo-Catoni was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she also completed her undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Puerto Rico. She then moved to Richmond, Virginia to complete her training in Internal Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, after which she acted as chief resident for one year. She has subsequently served as a physician at Inova Medical Group for close to nine years.
Dr. Castillo-Catoni has a particular interest in nutrition and in helping patients find ways to incorporate healthy habits into their daily routines. She enjoys coordination of care and strives to help guide individuals to feel empowered over their health and well-being. She is also fluent in Spanish.
In her free time, Dr. Castillo-Catoni enjoys cooking and baking, going for long walks with her family, and exploring new cities. She currently lives in Washington D.C. with her husband, daughter, and dog.
Top Insights from Dr. Castillo-Catoni’s Interview
- Nutrition is the basis for a lot of diseases. We often think of diabetes and obesity as being caused (in large part) by nutrition and then leading to things like hypertension and coronary artery disease, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. We can maintain our health and prevent these diseases by focusing on nutrition.
- Nutrition doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It’s not about being perfect, but about being mindful and making small changes as often as possible. Those foods that you love, or that are culturally special to you (like white rice to Dr. Castillo-Catoni!) CAN still be included as long as we’re doing so mindfully.
- Getting rid of something you love completely will likely not work. Either it will feel restrictive and sap some of the joy out of eating, or you won’t be able to stick with it long-term. Finding a balance and moderation of the foods you love is the best answer.
- There are always “hacks” to enjoy some of your favorite foods more healthily. For example, with white rice, we can modify portion sizes, go for a walk after to reduce blood sugar spikes, add fiber, protein, and fat to minimize glycemic impact or try vegetable-based substitutions. For more on these hacks, check out this free Blood Sugar Masterclass!
- It is possible to eat healthily on a budget. Finding nutrients from your foods (rather than buying expensive supplements or health “products” at health food stores), buying frozen vegetables and fruits, buying seasonal produce, and focusing on whole foods rather than packaged foods will all save money on your health journey. For more tips on saving money while eating healthily, see this post!
- There are four factors to consider when deciding what foods to eat: time, cultural background, budget, and health goals. When you consider each of these, the “answer” of what to eat will be slightly different for each person.
- Meal planning is key for all the above factors! Not only will it save an abundance of time (and stress), but it can also help you fit in foods that you love in a way that reaches your health goals, and can save you a lot of money. For more benefits of meal planning, see this post, and for tips on renewing your commitment to meal planning and food prep, see this post.
- Multiple factors of health are intertwined. If we’re not sleeping well, energy is low, and we’re more likely to grab whatever snack food is around. If we’re not moving, your body metabolizes food differently, and you’re more likely to give into temptations due to low energy. Mood significantly impacts food decisions, and vice versa! It’s all connected!
- Nutrition can support mental health. Castillo-Catoni mentions monitoring blood sugar spikes and pairing any high carbohydrate foods with movement to minimize the impact. She cautions against alcohol, which impacts sleep, energy, mood, and mental health.
- If you struggle to avoid things that feel good in the moment right now (like the cookie or the glass of wine), think about the future. Castillo-Catoni envisions where she wants to be in 10-15 years, and feels motivated by being able to hike and travel the world well into the future even when she’s retired. This motivates her to make healthy decisions now! When combined with realizing that quick foods often sap our energy and motivation in the present, her awareness helps guide her food decisions.
Want to hear the full episode, including Dr. Castillo-Catoni’s tips for busy people who want to be healthy, how she meal plans with her family, how to fit in exercise if you are on Zoom calls all day, where Dr. Castillo-Catoni and I are going to meet 30 years from now, and so much more?
Head over here to catch the full episode with Dr. Castillo-Catoni!
Now it’s your turn! What is one thing you learned from this interview? What’s one thing you’re committed to changing after learning from Dr. Castillo-Catoni?
🎙️ Want to hear about this topic in audio format? → Check out the podcast episode here!