Get to Know Padma O’Mara
How we choose to live our present is crucial in determining the future of our food systems, both globally and locally. Awareness of agriculture is needed to ensure a successful form of food cultivation and distribution that can be accessed by all communities. While the great importance of a shift towards more sustainable agriculture is being recognized, there is great variation amongst who and where this information is being spread. Communities that embrace a focus on local foods often use education to bring farmers and consumers together, which can function as models to others. The presence of inspiring and knowledgeable individuals that can serve as such educators provides opportunities to all members of the local region.
Many residents in Ithaca, New York are particularly cognizant of local food systems, which can be gathered by the popularity of the Ithaca Farmer’s Market, abundance of farms, local restaurants, and higher education presences with focuses on agriculture. This would not be possible without community leaders who empower through different forms of education. Padma O’Mara, the creator of Rejuvenate and Replenish Health and Nutrition Coaching, staff writer for Lifestyle Weight Management, and health coordinator at Wegmans, is one such leader who provides services to enhance the local focus on real foods.
I sat down with Padma to discuss her holistic views on nutrition and living healthy:
Gabriella DiGiovanni: You’re a health and wellness coach in Ithaca. Can you tell me a little bit about your journey to becoming a wellness coach and what you do?
Padma O’Mara: I started my first own business when I was 20 in Germany, where I’m from. Which started out as a little produce shop and grew into not just conventional produce but organic produce when organic wasn’t hip yet. And health food when the cookies still tasted like saw dust. This was back then when everything was small, not what we have now. I sold produce from organic producers directly. You know, really local, really small, no big carbon footprint when no one was really thinking of it yet. We just did it naturally. And then for 15 years I had my store but basically I burnt out over time so I sold it and I went on my own journey of discovering myself. I studied psychology. Holistic approach. And met my husband, who at that point had been an international opera singer. I started traveling with him. It was basically five years I didn’t really work. I did volunteer work, studied, got my certification and then we moved to the states. And then, I just decided to move to Ithaca. I walked into Wegmans and the big produce area, and I said to my husband “I want to apply here, I want to work in that produce department.” They made me the store coordinator for the health program, they let me run with the yoga program at Wegmans which is awesome. I think that a big part of my work is really at Wegmans, with the people at Wegmans, because I can offer them my expertise at work through the health program, through talking to me everyday when they are coming to me saying “Can you give me a tip here, what do you think?” and it’s not just nutrition, I mean, I’m learning the whole holistic approach. Food’s everything. Food’s your relationship. Food’s your career. Food’s that co-worker that is negative.
GD: Obviously you focus a lot on nutrition, it’s a part of being healthy. What do you think the most common problem is regarding nutrition that you have people coming to you about?
PO: What I see in a lot of people, I think a big problem, is skipping breakfast in the first place. Because people are studying at crazy times and then the morning comes so fast, right! And if you are not having that first meal of the day, it sets you up in a very, very bad way because your body is really saying “Hello, what are you doing? Obviously now I would need food but you’re not giving me anything so I’m in starvation mode.” So I think if the college student could just set the alarm a little earlier and get out of bed and just have a breakfast that is grouped around healthy protein and fat and just a little carbohydrates.
GD: Nowadays a lot of people have certain dietary preferences or restrictions maybe that they don’t choose but it is something that’s a part of their lives. How do you think that people with those restrictions or preferences can still maintain a healthy diet?
PO: I think that it is probably easier than ever I would say, to still maintain a fairly healthy diet if you have problems like that. My step-son just got diagnosed with celiac we have it in our family and therefore your focus is just more on it than it would be otherwise, and it is amazing the substitutions you can make these days. You can get brown rice pasta, you can get kelp noodles, you can get any kind of gluten free food. All the veggies are there, all the fruits are there that you can have. You can have the dairy free substitutes like almond milk.
GD: One thing I notice in my studies is that there is a huge gap from farm to table in the United States. How do you think we can link consumers more directly to farming?
PO: I think the CSA program is a wonderful thing and I am very happy that it grows. And also I think it’s great that there are more co-ops where you are a part of a community and I always find that the most wonderful thing when I go to the farmer’s market, is this feeling of community. Once that apple sort of has a face, you know your farmer, it sort of has a different nutritional value because, again, nutrition is not only the vitamins and minerals you put into your body but it’s also the connection. You will have a much different experience when you buy that apple from that person that you know.
GD: If you could boil down your nutritional beliefs into one sentence what would it be?
PO: Eat real food. Stress less. Love a lot.
GD: What are real foods to you?
PO: Real foods to me are unprocessed foods or minimally processed foods. It starts definitely with vegetables and fruits. It starts with the egg that comes from a hen that has a great life because she’s roaming free and can eat what she is supposed to eat. It is the meat that comes from a grass-fed animal that also had a great life outside on the pastures, it wasn’t just horribly abused and full of hormones. I believe in home hooking. Real food is also enjoying it with loved ones around the table. Or with friends, with community.
GD: It seems like people tend to look for one kind of solution. It’s a lot more complicated than that. We don’t even know still how everything interacts in our bodies, and all of the ingredients together and all the chemicals and enzymes in our bodies. It is still partly a mystery to us. I don’t think it can be broken down to science so much.
PO: No, it cannot. And I think we will never probably find out because we are too different. Everybody is different. You said it is more complicated than that. I think I disagree. I think it is more easy than that. Real food. A lot of people don’t understand that their bodies are a very intelligent machine. It’s like if your car does not have gas. What’s your car going to do?
GD: It’s not going to drive.
Padma O’Mara is the creator and owner of Rejuvenate and Replenish Health and Nutrition Coaching. Her passion is it to empower, educate and coach her clients to lose weight naturally by focusing on real food and real health instead of counting calories and weighing in every day. She also enjoys working with clients who want to improve their diet and lifestyle to prevent illness and gain energy. Her third area of expertise is living life to the fullest despite gluten- and lactose intolerance. She is a staff writer for Lifestyle Weight Management – the online magazine for lasting weight loss.
Padma offers her services in person, via phone, skype and face time. To learn more about her approach and to schedule a free initial Rejuvenate and Replenish Strategy Session visit her website.
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