Rediscovering nutrition in food

Heather Showalter '03
Registered Dietitian, Remuda Ranch, Wickenburg, Ariz.
Major: food and nutrition

Heather Showalter '03Mission-minded.

Growing up in a mission-minded home and church, Heather Showalter always knew that she wanted to serve. At Bluffton, she participated in Diakonia and Habitat for Humanity service trips to Baltimore, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and a cross-cultural experience to Texas. "I was always thinking about ways I could use my profession to serve others," says Heather.

The many facets of food.

As an athlete in high school, Heather became interested in nutrition and thought about doing mission work related to nutrition. Her post-graduate dietetics internship took her to Colorado Springs. She gained experience in different facets of nutrition as she worked in various arenas, including a children's hospital, an outpatient diabetes center and the Olympics Training Center.

"The new has come."

An individual at Heather's church recommended she speak with a relative who was working at Remuda Ranch, an inpatient treatment center in Arizona for women struggling with eating disorders. After prayerful consideration, Heather decided to walk through the open door. "I kept thinking about II Corinthians 5:17—'the old is gone and the new has come,'" says Heather. "I felt very much like that was the ministry of Remuda, and I wanted to be a part of that."

"Dietitians do eat pizza."

Heather meets with women weekly to provide nutrition counseling. She explores with them how their relationships with food reflect or model their relationships with people, helping them to build up a rational mind about how their bodies use food so that they can come to trust food again. Heather creates meal plans, conducts cooking classes to re-introduce women to a healthy kitchen environment and takes them on restaurant experiences. "A lot of my patients are college-aged or around my age, so it's great to be able to come beside them as a peer and demonstrate normal eating," Heather says. "It's good for them to see that dietitians do eat pizza too."

Regaining joy.

One of the biggest challenges to Heather's job is overcoming a patient's ambivalence toward recovery. "No one can choose recovery for someone," says Heather. "We let families know that we really want their loved ones to get well, but we can't do it for them." Conversely, Heather says there is much joy in seeing a patient trust her body with food again: "To see a person restored to her normal weight, to see her laugh again, those are perks to the job, and I'm able to be a small part of a long journey."

The wild West.

"I love being out west," says Heather, who is from West Liberty, Ohio. "Arizona is one of the most beautiful places to be. To have sunshine 300-plus days a year is a great thing!" Heather enjoys re-living her days of Ultimate Frisbee at Bluffton with Arizona friends, hiking, playing the piano and trying out unique coffee shops and restaurants. She and her friends from church completed an annual hike around the Grand Canyon rim in September.