Teaching her clients to become food detectives has earned Debra Basch some enemies,.
The personal fitness trainer and holistic nutritionist says she has had clients over the past 10 years who were working out, but weren’t losing weight or lowering their cholesterol. Plus they lacked energy.
“So I decided to go where the crime originated — their homes,” says the Toronto mother of two.
And what Basch found was one dirty little secret after another in the kitchens of those who agreed to participate in the makeover.
“In one kitchen cupboard, I discovered what I call a pandemic of puddings, chocolate bars, cookies and things that will last forever should they run out of fresh food,” she says. “And I thought, ‘I’ve lost this person for life.”’
Basch says she understands it is human nature for people to underestimate how much they eat and overestimate how much exercise they are doing.
“But at the end of the day the scales don’t lie or the pants don’t fit, and that tells the real truth.”
Her approach is to suggest to a client that she would like to spend about 90 minutes at their home to do some sleuthing and set parameters in how far the client will let her go in purging certain products.
She finds a gentle touch is best. In most kitchens, Basch will find boxes of sugary cereals aimed at children, “but you don’t see steel-cut oats or whole-grain cereals,” she says. “But I put the blame on the manufacturer, not my client,” she says.
She aims to make them aware of the high sodium and sugar content in processed products such as dried instant soups and some canned foods.
“I just say, ‘this is something you and your family should never be eating.”’
One of the problems is that people don’t take the time to read the labels on food packages, she says.
To demonstrate what she thinks her clients should be eating, Basch brings samples of empty boxes and containers from healthy products, such as whole-grain cereals, natural peanut butter rather than the high-sugar and sodium-rich commercial variety, probiotic and low-fat yogurts rather than high-sugar and -fat types, brown rice instead of heavily refined rice and whole-grain pasta.
“They usually buy into it, especially when I say to start out slowly,” she explains.
But she’s had clients tell her she can’t toss out a certain food because it is tantamount to wasting money.
“We get very attached to our food and we get defensive if it is taken away,” says Basch. “Most people would rather I look into their underwear drawer than their kitchen cupboards.”