Featured PSI Member: Stephanie Greunke, MS, RD, PMH-C, CPT
Tell us a little about yourself outside of your work.
I am a mom of two boys (a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old) and am currently living in San Diego, California. I was born and raised in Wisconsin and will be moving back there in 2020. I’m also a military wife, so I’ve had the pleasure of living in a new city every 2 to 3 years since college. I’m a podcast, book, and research junkie and consider myself to be a “constant student.” I love learning about nutrition, mental health, psychology and personal development and am even considering a Ph.D. in psychology. I prefer to be outside as much as possible and enjoy daily leisure walks, hiking, and weight lifting.
What sparked your interest in maternal mental health? Is there anything you’d like to share about your path?
My personal struggle with postpartum anxiety sparked my interest in maternal mental health. After the birth of my first son, I felt like I didn’t have proper support, resources, or education about postpartum mental health, which led me to navigate the discomfort for far too long before realizing what was happening. Once I addressed the underlying factors and got help, I saw how much of a difference it made in my experience as a mom and how it impacted my second postpartum. My second postpartum was completely different after having that education and tools. Because of this experience, I’m extremely passionate about helping moms navigate this often under-discussed area by creating a postpartum program, supportive community and free resources like blogs and podcasts to help new moms. It also pushed me to study the emerging field of nutritional psychiatry to provide the best care within my scope as a dietitian.
Tell us about your work as a dietitian, and how dieticians connect with parents experiencing perinatal/postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.
I have always had a passion for nutrition, so I studied dietetics and went on to receive an undergraduate degree and a masters degree in nutrition. Over the years I’ve seen incredible results using food to support mental health through its effects on reducing inflammation, regulating blood sugar, replenishing lost nutrient stores, and repairing the gut. Supporting moms nutrition during this critical period of time is rewarding, but it isn’t always easy. There are many barriers to healthy eating such as time, energy, cravings due to lack of sleep and stress, appetite disturbances due to anxiety or depression, and lack of education from providers; however, it’s possible to eat healthy when you use tricks like batch cooking, making freezer meals before baby is born, using simple recipes, and modern services like meal and grocery delivery! Dietitians can connect with parents experiencing perinatal/postpartum by offering education, support, and tools unique to each family. They can help guide supplement needs and suggest foods rich in nutrients a mom may be deficient in such as iron, vitamin D, or EPA/DHA. Dietitians can help support the breastfeeding relationship by looking at overall calorie/nutrient intake and identify foods that may be irritating to the baby, if there are concerns about reflux or skin irritation. They can assess at the overall meal pattern and food quality to support blood sugar regulation and reduce inflammation which can influence mood and mental health.
How has PSI membership been beneficial to you and your career?
The training offered by PSI, such as the in-person workshops, webinars, and annual conference have all advanced my understanding of the field and I appreciate the discount for these trainings as part of my membership. Being part of the Reproductive Psychiatry and PSI Care Providers Listserv helps me collaborate with other professionals in the field and learn more about what they’re doing with their patients to achieve positive results.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I think it’s important to let families know that eating healthy doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can still enjoy your favorite foods within the context of a healthy diet. The changes also don’t have to happen overnight. Start with your first meal of the day. If you can focus on including a source of protein and fat with whatever you’re currently eating, that’s a great start! For example, instead of just eating oatmeal or one egg with toast (meals that have a low protein and fat content), try adding two or three eggs and sliced avocado to those meals. You’ll balance the higher-carbohydrate content of the grains to keep you feeling full and energized throughout the morning.
If you’d like to learn more about nutrition and mental health, you can check out my blogs, podcast, programs, and resources for moms over at www.wholemamasclub.com or over on Instagram, @wholemamasclub and @stephgreunke.