Reflections magazine: What is your background in the wellness field?
Wendy Caamano: My background is in exercise science. I was a personal trainer for years, and then I decided I wanted to couple it with nutrition so [that] I could offer both fitness and nutrition together.
RM: Among other clients, you are the dietitian for the Seattle Storm, the local women’s WNBA team. What led you to that job?
WC: Funny story. I met their sports and conditioning coach at the park one day, and then almost a year later she decided she wanted to have a dietitian on board, and at the time they didn’t have one. She found me again, and called and asked if I wanted to do it.
RM: How long have you been working with them now?
WC: This is my second season, and this year we’re doing a more organized nutrition series for them with individual tracking binders.
RM: What surprised you about working with professional athletes?
WC: They don’t eat enough. Some of them know a lot, and they are on top of it, and some of them don’t. Unfortunately, even at a professional level, women are still really worried about their bodies and what they look like. They are still scared to overeat. So they aren’t eating enough, and it could affect the way they perform.
RM: How so? What happens when they don’t eat enough?
WC: They could get an injury, or oftentimes they hit a wall and they can’t perform as well in the second half as they can in the first half.
RM: Not all your clients are professional athletes. What are the biggest differences in the nutritional needs of professional athletes and those who are just moderately active?
WC: If I’m working with non-athletes, it’s usually more about cholesterol or food allergies or reducing inflammation, or something along those lines, so it’s pretty different. It’s not sport-specific but more about all-around balanced nutrition, in which case they can be a bit more lenient. It’s not as crucial for them to fuel a certain way.
WC: The timing doesn’t have to be exact, meaning pre-workout, post-workout. With those who aren’t professional athletes, I’m more about the intuitive eating approach. You can be more intuitive and just listen to your body, trust your body. It’s not as crucial to make sure you have the gas-to-go type of thing.
RM: Got it. But everyone should be eating the same quality of food, right?
WC: Yes, the quality should still be the same, meaning healthy, non-processed foods. But an athlete might get more carbohydrates, more starchy stuff, because they’re going to need it and use it, where as a non-athlete won’t. So the types of food can be different.
RM: What is the nutrition misconception that drives you the most crazy?
WC: The craziest one is about carbohydrates. People are seriously scared of carbohydrates, but it’s your fuel. Seriously, it is. Even some coaches and trainers don’t realize the connection between carbs and performance. Everyone says eat more protein, or you need to lose weight, so cut carbs. But if you want them to perform well, you need carbohydrates. You need protein to restore your muscles also, but the carbohydrates are going to fuel you and give you energy. You need both.
RM: And what about for non-professionals?
WC: Dieting. Diets do not work. If you can’t do it for the rest of your life, then you shouldn’t do it.
RM: So you don’t take stock in all those fad diets out there?
WC: No. Don’t go to extremes. Find something you can sustain, and then think about the big picture. It doesn’t matter if you ate cake one day. It’s more about did you eat well the majority of the week? What about for the month? Do you eat well 90 percent of the time? If you indulge every now and then, it’s fine. Eat it, enjoy it, forget about it and move on, because the guilt cycle is tough to get out of. You eat bad because you feel bad and so on. I see the cycle all the time. Give yourself permission to eat.
RM: So do you believe moderation of everything is key, or are there some foods that should absolutely be off-limits?
WC: It depends on what you’re trying to do.
RM: Just for an average person?
WC: Do I think aspartame is a good thing? No. But if you drink a diet coke every once in a while, does it kill you? No. If it gives you headaches, then don’t drink it. Does it affect you, yes or no? I would say everything in moderation, but more importantly listen to your body and your hunger cues. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re not, stop. It’s not that easy, I know, but try to listen, to think like a kid. When they’re done, they’re done. They get up, and they’re done. We try to shove food in their mouths, but they are honoring their hunger. Honor your hunger. Learn to listen to those cues again.
RM: Do you have any tools for helping people identify those cues?
WC: Yes. So if zero is starving and 10 is Thanksgiving full, five is neutral. Try to stay in between four and seven. When you start to feel hungry, eat. Then stop when you’re satisfied but not uncomfortable.
RM: Can you explain the dangers of being on both sides of that scale?
WC: Well, when you let yourself get to a one or two often, that’s when people gain weight because then they overeat when they do eat. They didn’t listen to their body; they didn’t eat slow enough. They just inhale food. It does take 20 minutes to notice when you’re full.
RM: And the opposite? Can you talk about the dangers of overeating?
WC: Overeating just overloads your system and your body, and you don’t want that.
RM: What about all the gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free trends? How are people supposed to know what is good for them anymore?
WC: Personally, I think it’s excessive in most cases. If you feel better, then do it. I wish I could say it’s black and white, but it’s not. If you take gluten out of your diet and you feel better, then don’t eat it. People lose weight when they don’t eat gluten but that could be because they’ve taken out a lot of processed foods—cookies, cakes, things like that. Plus, sometimes there are more processed things put into the gluten-free foods. There are organic cookies. So you can eat all organic and still eat unhealthy foods.
RM: So your overarching advice is just to listen to your body?
WC: Yes. I mean there is something to be said about the whole food allergy and leaky gut thing, and that it causes inflammation. So if you think you have a food allergy, that is something to consider.
RM: Can you explain leaky gut?
WC: It’s basically when the lining of your gut gets irritated, so it’s leaking. It’s not digesting food properly. Fermented foods help, but getting rid of some of those foods that are causing the inflammation is the best. You might be able to reintroduce those foods back once it heals. But if you’re in an inflamed state, it’s going to bother you.
RM: Any last pieces of advice?
WC: Trust your body, like any other system. When you’re hot, you sweat; when you’re cold, you shiver; when you’re hungry, you should eat. Don’t mess with it. And learn self-acceptance. Genetics are involved; age is involved. Accept yourself for who you are, and enjoy your life.
RM: This is our Family Issue. What about advice for families?
WC: Try not to manipulate everything your kid eats. Tell them when and what they are going to eat; let them decide how much. They may hop up from the table and it’s okay. Also, lead by example and provide healthy choices. Don’t constantly talk to them about what not to eat. Have healthy options available, like fruit on the counter so they see it and reach for it more.
➸ For more information about Wendy Caamano and the services she offers through the Bellevue Club, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.