Pam Zinn, owner of Holland's Holistic Nutrition Center, knows you are what you eat—or at least your health conditions are. Where many are quick to diagnose illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular trouble, difficulty sleeping, or even depression as medical conditions treatable by myriad prescription drugs, Pam advises first taking a good look at your diet.
Pam has a nursing degree. She worked in the profession for twenty-five years, in different positions across West Michigan—from Mary Free Bed to nursing homes to dialysis positions in a hospital. Pam's family moved to England for a short time, and moving back to the United States proved a stressor Pam's body was unable to handle. "I went from normal life to completely derailed," she said. Pam had trouble getting out of bed, dialing the phone, and even finishing sentences. "I had no energy, to the point that I would wake up in bed frozen in place."
Pam went from doctor to doctor and was prescribed an endless amount of medicine, but nothing could solve the mystery of her disappearing energy. Finally, she met a nutritionist. "That's when things started to change,” she said. “And as I started getting better, I realized I could help a lot more people."
Pam earned her master’s degree in holistic nutrition, put together her business plan, and set to work sharing her story and the positive influence a well-rounded diet can have for those who are struggling with "invisible" illnesses. Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, lupus, and multiple sclerosis are all puzzling yet debilitating sicknesses. But Pam says when people examine underlying issues—many of them related to diet—symptoms could be quelled and sometimes erased.
Some people are born with allergies to certain foods; some acquire them over time. With Pam's help, those who are sick (or those who are healthy and want to stay that way) could discover which foods are best for an individual's diet in order to keep unsavory health conditions at bay.
It may be a mineral deficiency. Many women are low in magnesium, Pam said. Women who have been on the pill are often off balance in vitamin B6. And although Pam does recommend some supplements, she said with a balanced diet, we can get the nutrition we need. Still, one diet does not fit all.
"Every person is different. You can't just read a magazine article to get a healthy recipe. What's healthy for one person may be unhealthy for another," Pam said. "What I do then is get to know the person, take a look at their underlying problems, and try to find a nutritional solution."
So, what if you find you are low in magnesium? How, through changing your diet, could you incorporate more magnesium? It's not as though there is an aisle in the grocery store labeled "Magnesium-Rich Food." Pam helps in this department, too. In addition to being a well-educated cook, she has a personal chef who works with her at the Holistic Nutrition Center, or will even come to your home and prepare a week's worth of meals. Pam holds workshops or can work one-on-one to help people figure out what to eat, where to buy it, and how to prepare it.
“If a person doesn't have a background in nutrition, they won't know what to eat. It's complicated, and most of us get it wrong. There is way too much misinformation,” Pam said. “Even though most people are trying to do the right thing, many are overweight and need to take medication. To get it right, a person really needs to sit down with a nutritionist like me. Then, they will have an understanding of what they should be eating.
"What I'm looking for is energy—having enough energy to have the brain completely on fire so it can stay on task. That's good for a mom, for a dad, or for an eight-year-old getting through a math class. It's good for everybody to have that."
Written by: Erika Fifelski is West Michigan Woman magazine's staff writer. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism. Erika was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it.