Health, nutrition and motivation: Feat with Dr. Monica Hunsberger
Dr. Monica Hunsberger is a registered dietitian and public health nutrition epidemiologist. She was recently an associate professor and researcher at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden where she teaches in the Department of Public Health Epidemiology and Social Medicine. She now lives in Bologna, where she is wrapping up a global MBA at the University of Bologna in Food and Wine. Monica received her Ph.D. at Oregon State University in Public Health and much of her research focuses on lifestyle and obesity prevention and intervention. In addition, she’s an avid runner, traveler, foodie and wine lover. Nutrition and fitness were my two inspirations for starting Feat, so being able to take part in the Food Innovation Summer School which explored innovation and entrepreneurship in the food realm though the framework of the Mediterranean diet was particularly interesting for me. I designed and conceptualized Feat thinking about my own personal needs and obstacles, but envisioned an app that could be utilized by anyone, anywhere. For me, it took some big changes to my lifestyle (including a serious sports injury and a handful of experiences living abroad) to understand how much eating and physical activity had been a crucial part of my overall health. Sometimes, it takes a dramatic (negative) shift in lifestyle to appreciate our inherent health. That’s why I was thrilled to meet Dr. Monica Hunsberger at the Food Innovation Summer School. Monica joined us in Sicily for three weeks as community manager, helping organize shared meals cooked by students and fruit-filled breakfasts straight from the market. We saw her running almost every morning, and when asked what keeps her sticking to her habits, she said, “I get back more than what I put in. From the endorphins, the feeling of being strong, the community of runners and cross-fitters and fitness friends that I love to see. Most importantly my parents instilled in me a passion for movement that I can’t imagine not having a desire for.” Monica also shared her expertise in the field of nutrition during the first week of the Summer School in a course that explored the foundation of the Mediterranean diet. She started by asking the students for their definitions of health, something that, from the interviews we at Feat have done with students seems highly personal and definitions included a lot of talk about eating well, exercising and finding personal balance. That being said, Monica pointed out how the World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” One of the things that Monica pointed out during the lecture was about energy balance, and how the concept is highly personal. “A lot of nutrition relies on energy or nutrient balance: energy in vs. energy out. But needs vary depending on the person, and even the time in their life. As people age and lose muscle mass, they need more calories to maintain the mass they have. It’s also dependent on your resting metabolic rate—if you have more muscle or more fat. It’s about what we eat, what we do and how we feel,” she shared. I think it’s important that we recognize health profiles are very individualized. This is why I love that Feat is designed to draw individual attention to all these elements of a healthy lifestyle. The more people move with Feat, the more they can explore new healthy food options. Through good food, they will hopefully be inspired to stay more active. I hope that Feat can help create this cyclical pattern of exercise and good eating, and inspire individuals to stay aware of how their bodies feel when they engage in healthy patterns. I asked Monica how she could see Feat fitting into everyday life and she responded, “Feat provides tangible extrinsic motivation and also builds community. I’ve found my own supportive community but Feat can help motivate those that need community, encouragement, and healthy competition.” Just what we want to encourage! Thanks Monica for sharing in the Feat Summer School Challenge.