Tella Chen graduated from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, holding a Clinical Nutrition Lab Science Master degree, and is a member of the American Association of Nutrition Consultants. She is a low-calorie cooking expert and grabbed second runner-up at the Chinese first cooking reality show “The Taste” in 2013. She is also a famous Sina web-blogger. Tella started teaching healthy cooking recipes at non-profit cooking in 2011. She worked as a Mission Food health expert in 2013; started to design healthy cooking recipes for Hamilton Beach in 2014. She has also published three books with recipes and tips. Tella is working at The Living Room by Octave, customizing nutrition plans suitable for client’s needs.
This interview appeared first on Planet China Vol 11, Celebrating Women who push boundaries.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in the field of nutrition? Where does your passion come from? What interests you the most about it?
The time I decided to go to school to learn nutrition was around 20 years ago. The reason is too simple to share, I just wanna eat better. At that moment, the “better” for me means could be able to always eat whatever I want without causing any issue to my body. I just love food, and I’m still a foodie who loves travel for all different taste buds. But the interesting thing is the meaning of “better” keeps changing with time. Every time, when I move towards a new stage, the word means different to me, and by achieving that I work hard to push myself towards a new stage, which is a wonderful self-learning experience. For example, at 20’s when I studied clinical nutrition and practice with hospital professionals, the “better” means to help patients and me have a healthy body in physical condition.
What are the main challenges in your profession?
The challenge would be that people don’t understand what you are talking about, or they might know this is the right thing to do but they have no willing to perform it. It has been a challenge, in the beginning, now it still the challenge.
Octave Nutritionist Tella Chen helps people to adjust their diet according to their specific physical condition with a one on one session
How has nutrition awareness changed since you started working? How much are people concerned about health and nutrition?
It has been a huge change in awareness of nutrition. People rarely do healthy eating at home. I study this since our major focus is on patients at the hospital. 10 years ago, when I get back to China, people knew little about healthy eating. Neither 1% of people thought they should change their lifestyle in order to be healthier 6 years ago. But now this has changed a lot. People have a huge concern about health and nutrition. They know the nutrition comes from food, so they try to consume more healthy food. Our current challenge interestingly becomes: we want to teach and help people to eat normally and properly, otherwise eating healthy will become a pressure.
What makes it so difficult for some people to start healthy eating habits and keep them?
Most of the time it is related to comfort zone and secureness. Leaving a comfort zone and change to new habits means discomfort and may face more unknown obstacles, which will keep them away from new habits.
How can people easily and regularly follow healthy eating habits? Can you give us some tips?
Unfortunately, for healthy living, no one solution fits all, and there is no one-time solution work forever. The first thing we have to do is realize healthy living is a long-term thing. It will be much better if we divide the changes we need into several small steps instead of heavy performing like “Biggist Loser” TV program. For example, do 2 changes at a time, change your retail snack to fruits and nuts to cut off additive sugar intake, and try to finish your eating 4-6 hours before bedtime. All these little actions will benefit you in long run.
Tella Chen specializes in healthy eating and weight management
Many studies prove that one of the secrets of longevity is connected with healthy foods. Many studies confirm that healthy eating habits have a positive impact on our planet. What can you tell us about these topics? How can rise awakeness about them?
I totally agree with those topics. Healthy foods provide packed nutrients to the human body to help maintain inner function. And healthy eating habits are more related to awareness of healthy living, knowing how to take care of the body by ourselves, to listen to the body. This is more on a holistic approach. When we could focus on our own instead of other things around us, the human will have a high awareness of the planet, and live with all other species peacefully on the planet. We have a lot of ways to awake them. But I believe the first thing is to have that community. The voice from a group is much more impactful than a single one. The community could also help knowledge spreading and support each other on habit challenge. That’s the reason I’m doing a healthy eating community. I believe people will be more likely to stick to their new living style when they have more knowledge about it and get community support from it.
What role can play follow healthy eating habits during COVID 19 time? Do you think the stress due to this uncertain time affected people’s food habits?
Healthy eating habits play a huge role during COVID 19 time. The reason is because, this long-time uncertainty cut off a lot of available reaching out health sources people can easily get before Covid, which forces us to think back to “Do I have to take care of myself?”. People that have already healthy eating habits are more likely to face this tough time easier since they know how to take care of the body by feed the right thing at right time, and also could be much more helpful if know how to handle the emotional eating. Such stress will push food habits to two extremes, some might start to pick up new healthy eating habits, and some might towards emotional eating, eating zero nutrition food looking for flavors and comfortness.
What misconception about nutrition would you like to see change?
I would like to see people realize there is no superfood to save human lives. In the last 10 years, superfoods have become very popular and become hero icons in the food industry. With so many years in the nutrition and health management industry, we know superfood only play a very tiny portion in healthy eating, more should be focused on habit changing, and avoid emotional eating. Food health and mental health go hand in hand.
What is the best advice you would give?
Healthy eating is not a hard thing to do, but it does require enough motivation to start. Think about the future healthy pictures, and start from small steps. Instead of adding more to your eating, cut off is more reasonable and powerful. Eat less: less processed food, less sugar, and oils, smaller portion. Your health will speak by itself.
Photos courtesy of Tella Chen
CHINA-UNDERGROUND. Ciao! My name is Dominique. I’m Italian and I’m proud to be a mix. My father was an Italian chemical engineer and high school teacher, with Greek and Polish heritage. My mother is Haitian, she was high school language teacher, with Dominican, Spanish, French, Portuguese, African and Native American heritage. Being a mix makes me appreciate to want to understand different cultures and lifestyles. I grew up in Italy, lived few years in Haiti, travel around main European capitals, lived seven years in China, six in Spain and UK. Traveling makes me feel that we can learn something from every situation in every part of the world.