"There's a nutrition gap and my passion is to help close that and help bring clarity to those that may be struggling with an diagnosis, or even have no idea of what nutrition is because there's a lot of misconceptions within the nutrition community, not only the diabetes community, but just nutrition community overall." - Madalyn Vasquez, RD
Shireen: Madalyn Vasquez is a registered dietitian, and she has a master's in nutrition and dietetics. She's currently working as a dietitian providing nutrition and diabetes education to those living with diabetes. And she works to provide evidence based nutrition while allowing her patients to fully understand how food impacts blood sugar differently. Welcome, Madalyn.
Madalyn: Welcome. Thank you so much for having me today.
Shireen: Oh, absolute pleasure Madalyn. So I want to dive right in and I want to talk first about what led you to work in nutrition with this specific focus on diabetes care.
Madalyn: So my passion for diabetes and nutrition overall started, and is very deeply rooted within my family. And it started when I realized that my grandmother was battling with diabetes for a very long time. So she had diabetes, and unfortunately, because of her diabetes, she passed away. And it just fell, it was very devastating. But in a way, it sparked the light for my career, and also my passion now, where I wanted to impact those living with diabetes, but also my family members that are currently dealing with the diagnosis as well.
Shireen: How has that manifested and now with you, you know, working within Nutrition and Dietetics? How have you sort of taken that into your family, and provided nutritional care to them?
Madalyn: It's amazing to see how it's all come together, because I feel that I can provide resources and education to my family members, you know. I have a very close uncle that I guide him and support him through the process of his diagnosis. And he knows that he can reach out for anything. And you know, he's the cutest thing, because he's always sending me pictures of his blood glucose. And he's always sending me pictures of what he's eating. And if he buys new products, he'll send me pictures of it. And he just wants to have my input on what he's doing. Because he knows that I'm currently working in the field. And we all know that having a support system, while you know, living with diabetes is very important. And it does make a difference. So I always emphasize that to him, and I let him know, whenever you need anything, just reach out. And I always tried to reinforce to him that it's about progression and not perfection. Because I know that that can be something that is common within the diabetes community, that they're always aiming for the perfect blood sugar numbers. And I always tell him, take it day by day, think about where you used to be. And now where you are, you know, you are, you're in great, perfect health condition. And you, your blood sugars are where we want them to be. But don't worry if you're having those off days, because that's bound to happen. And no day is going to be perfect. So I always try to be as encouraging as possible, because I know that it makes a difference and they want to hear those things continuously.
Shireen: Now, your mission is to really close gaps in nutrition. What does that really mean for you?
Madalyn: I think that when I say the phrase closing nutrition gaps, I really take it to heart and I also see, I see it, how it affects the communities around me. And I see it through my work. I see it through my family members, as I mentioned, how there is a gap. There's a nutrition gap and my, my passion is to help close that and help bring clarity to those that may be struggling with an diagnosis or even have no idea of what nutrition is because there's a lot of misconceptions within the nutrition community, not only the diabetes community, but just nutrition community overall.
Shireen: And then, specifically, you, you've mentioned or you've talked about in the past about how people are told to eliminate certain foods altogether from their diet, right? How have you sort of taken that approach in providing nutrition therapy and guiding people to modify their diet?
Madalyn: So I love that you brought this question up, because I think that, I always try to emphasize that in my platform, and also when I'm working one on one with patients, because there is a lot of, you know, misinformation about how to manage diabetes. And that's the first thing that people hear when they're newly diagnosed, and they come to me, and they have this fear of, I don't know what to eat, I was told or I read that, I have to eliminate carbohydrates. And I always make it a point to specify to my patients that we use carbohydrates as our main source of energy. And we don't need to eliminate those carbohydrates despite a diagnosis of diabetes.
Shireen: Interesting. What are some negative stigmas around diabetes that you see specifically in the Latino community?
Madalyn: I think that, you know, coming from a Latino background myself, because my family was born, and raised majority of my family was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. And there is a lot of stigma within the diabetes community. And I see that with not only what I hear my family members say, but also through my line of work. And those stigmas rise, are currently rising and are linked to food, it's always linked to food, it's because you're overweight is because your diet isn't healthy, because you were eating too much sugar. So it's always tied to that without, you know, people gaining that understanding, or having that understanding that ultimately, there are many other factors that can play into living with diabetes. And it's not just tied to what you're eating, and your weight.
Shireen: And then what are some common ones that, that you see what and you know, how has that you know, how has had an impact in health, in their own health?
Madalyn: I think that the biggest one that I see is the weight. Most importantly, because every patient that I've worked with, they always tried to weigh. And they always find that if they lose weight, it's going to solve the diagnoses. And I've seen with, you know, I can only speak based on my experiences with my patients, and I've seen patients that will lose weight, but the a one c doesn't change.
Shireen: Yeah, no, please go ahead.
Madalyn: So it's very important to highlight this and when I sit with patients, I, you know, I let them know that you know, family history does play a huge role, and that although you have a quote unquote, healthy lifestyle, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're not going to be diagnosed with diabetes.
Shireen: One of the things on your Instagram, you make these very simple, easy to understand posts and infographics around diabetes. Why did you take this approach? What kind of response have you received from that?
Madalyn: So I love that you bring this up because my diabetes page was, and it is currently a passion project of mine. It's, it really resembles the passion that I have for not just food, but nutrition, and diabetes and culture overall. And it's like you mentioned in the beginning, just trying to merge and close those gaps and bridges within the diabetes community. And I just, when I create my content, I tried to create it in a way that it's going to be simple and easy to understand, but also bring ease to my followers, because I know that whatever I'm posting is going to help better someone's day, or is going to be information that someone didn't know, or maybe read and misunderstood. And now I can help bring clarity and direction to, to their, to their overall life. And that's how I see the page and I view the page. And it's amazing just to see the, the feedback that I've gotten, because every day, when I post something, I can see that engagement, I can see people really benefiting from the information. And I get wonderful messages and DMS from my followers, just encouraging me and letting me know, like, wow, your page is really making a difference. And I appreciate the work that you're doing. And you don't believe the ease that you're bringing to my day to day life, because I've been struggling with, you know, diabetes, but also the food component of it. So it's, it's come together very nicely. And I'm so happy that I started the page. And I'm so happy that those that encouraged me, continue to encourage me and to push me towards that direction, because it's really making a difference for so many.
Shireen: And then what I what I also see I guess when I look at the you know, the Instagram pages, you're making it that you're disseminating this information, you're making very, very bite size, easy to digest, if you will, you know, bits of information, so it doesn't get as overwhelming It is, you know, it is something that you feel like okay, yeah, I can I can do this, I can make the small change, or I can, you know, I can do the take the small step. So I know from my you know, from my own vantage point, I see this as being very, very helpful to the people that have diabetes, especially those with specific concerns around blood sugar around managing diabetes. One of the other things I want to talk to you about is, and again, just going back to the point for diabetes, and then specifically within the Latino community, is we talked to us a little bit ago about certain stigmas, right. The flip side to that is sort of putting your health on the backburner getting so caught up in the, in the day to day to where you don't even know that you have diabetes. Do you? Do you notice a lot of that? And what do you tell someone to empower them in their care?
Madalyn: So I think that in regards to the stigmas and just diabetes overall, my approach is always to empower the patient. And I always make it very clear, and I tried to take it step by step with the patient and I tried to inform them of what diabetes is I tried to inform them of what the disease consists of, but also what are those other resources that they can acquire to to be successful at managing their their diabetes, because I always emphasize that to my patients, you have more control than what you think, you know. And I always tried to guide them in that direction and let them know like, Listen, despite your diagnosis, you can still live a healthy life. You just have to be open to modification. And that's where I, you know, go into the food aspect because I feel like that's where the missing link is just understanding food and the fundamentals of food. And I tried to tie it to culture and food preparation. So I always tried to empower my patient and show them like you can still eat your traditional cultural foods. But how can we modify this? How can we, you know, make it in a way that we're adding more to your meals, and we're adding those foods that are going to help improve those blood sugars. So I think that when I present it to patients, and that way, it brings a lot more ease, and it allows them to see Oh, I can still eat rice and beans. But now I can modify my portion, and also add vegetables to it, and healthy fats and know that my blood sugars are still going to be where they should be. And I don't have that stress that I have to avoid eating the foods that I typically eat. Because that's usually the stigma. You know, I have to stop eating the rice, the beans, potatoes, the pasta, foods like that. And those are the common ones that I hear when I work with patients. And it really breaks my heart when patients feel like they have to fear food. Because we know that food represents so much more than, you know health. It brings people together, we share it for special occasions. So imagine that being ripped away from you. Because you are diagnosed with diabetes. And that's what I want to avoid my patients from feeling.
Shireen: On that note, Madeline we're toward the end of the episode, unfortunately. With that, I'd love for listeners to learn more about and stay connected with your work. How can they do that? How can they reach out to you?
Madalyn: Absolutely. So they can reach me on my Instagram page diabetes stat rd.
Shireen: Okay, that sounds great. And what we'll do is we'll link to that in our show notes that I folks can easily find it. Alright, so with that, thank you so very much for your time. Madalyn, truly appreciate it and appreciate your perspective to making nutrition therapy more relevant and something that is not as overwhelming as it can seem otherwise. So really appreciate your time for this. And looking forward to staying connected with you.
Madalyn: Absolutely. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. It's been great. And I really hope that this can bring insight to your listeners and that it's a breath of fresh air and they're able to see that they can still live a healthy life despite their diagnosis.
Shireen: Absolutely. Thank you.
Madalyn: Thank you so much.