Nutrition holds the power to unlock the body’s full potential — and yet, its importance is often overlooked.
“Someone would consult a gynaecologist for a woman’s health problem or a cardiologist for a heart-related problem, but people often take nutritional advice from just about anyone,” points out Mweia Elias, M.Sc., R.D.
“However, nutrition is not one-size-fits-all; every individual is different and has specific needs.”
Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer Mweia Elias is the Owner and Director of Empower Nutrition, an integrative nutrition coaching and consulting group that provides nutritional education and counselling to individuals, groups and corporations.
Its mission is to significantly impact the health and wellness of local and regional populations by providing comprehensive, reliable nutritional information and interventions.
“Even though nutrition is often talked about, and many people have a general interest in it, there are limited resources available for the public,” says Mweia.
“Our goal is to share the knowledge and resources that will empower our people to make healthier lifestyle choices.”
The Path to Nutrition
Mweia’s interest in nutrition emerged from her own personal experience while studying as a research scientist for her Ph.D in Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke University in the United States.
“I grew up in Trinidad eating any and everything a typical Trini enjoys eating; then embraced the ‘standard American diet’ packed with unhealthy choices, and I knew something had to change when my health began to decline,” Mweia reminisces.
She began to experiment with different kinds of diets — vegetarian, vegan and even raw food; learning and adapting along the way. However, she soon realised that these diets were not sustainable for her over the long-term.
“Regardless of the diet trend or dietary pattern that you try, if you do not have a proper nutritional balance, you can end up just as sick as if you were eating junk,” she says.
It was an eye-opening experience; one that would change her career path.
“I realised that I didn’t want to just study the molecular mechanisms of cancer as a scientist, but to actually heal the problem and have a more direct and lasting effect on people’s everyday lives,” she explains.
Mweia pursued training in holistic health coaching at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York. As her interest in the field deepened, she followed this with a Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition at New York University.
She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, the Caribbean Association of Nutritionists & Dietitians, and she is registered with the Trinidad & Tobago Nutrition & Dietetics Board. She is also certified as a Personal Trainer by the American Council on Exercise.
On returning to Trinidad in 2013, Mweia saw the need for nutrition and health promotion services.
The Empower team of nutrition and health experts provide consulting services to companies, the food and fitness industries, healthcare practitioners and their patients, as well as the general public. Areas of specialisation include:
General Health & Well-being
- Weight Management
- Women’s Health
- Vegetarian Nutrition
- Pediatric Nutrition
- Healthy Aging
- Pregnancy and Lactation
- Food Allergies & Intolerances
- Sports Nutrition
- Assessment of Energy and Nutrient Requirements and Deficiencies
- Optimal Nutrition for Training, Competition, and Recovery
- Weight Management for Athletes
- Eating Disorders in Athletes
- Performance Optimisation through Supplement Use
- Nutrition Strategies to Reduce Risk of Illness
- Feeding the Athlete with Special Nutritional Needs (eg. Vegetarian, Diabetic)
- Meal Plans for Athletic Groups, Events, and Travel Menus
Chronic Disease Prevention & Management
- Cardiovascular Health
- Cancer & Recovery
- Diabetes & Pre-diabetes
Medical Nutrition Therapy
- Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome, Bariatric Nutrition
- Diabetes & Pre-diabetes
- Heart Disease, Hypertension, Dyslipidemia
- Kidney Disease
- Hormone Imbalances: PCOS, Adrenal Fatigue, Thyroid dysfunction
- Gastrointestinal Disorders: GERD/ Acid Reflux, Chronic Constipation, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Celiac Disease, Diverticulitis
- Comprehensive Wellness Program Management
- Health Assessments
- Health Coaching
- Nutrition Counselling
- Weight Management
- Educational Sessions
Corporate Wellness is a key focus of Empower Nutrition, and a passion of Mweia’s. She recalls a recent news commentary about the economy being impacted by the perceived ‘poor work ethic’ of citizens, as seen from the viewpoint of foreign investors.
“Many companies are now making an effort with regard to corporate wellness; however to a large extent, it is still largely a combination of one-off events or one-dimensional, short-term approaches,” she notes.
“Having a health day, or bringing in someone to do a zumba class — while commendable, these do not fully address the bigger picture of corporate wellness. It does not create lasting results that impact performance, productivity, and profitability.”
She recommends that every organisation should have a comprehensive health and wellness strategy for their employees and for the company itself. Health, safety and wellness practices should be embedded into the day-to-day life of an organisation, and corporate wellness should be featured in its core business strategy.
“If you have healthier employees, this would drastically reduce costs for the company,” she says.
“Corporate wellness is not only physical, but mental and social. With such an all-encompassing approach to employee wellness, workers would have a greater ability to concentrate at the office, and they would approach their work with a more positive attitude.”
Consultation: What to Expect
For those interested in a one-on-one consultation, Mweia recommends that a client should bring the following to his or her first session:
- Completed Nutrition & Lifestyle Questionnaire (to be provided)
- 5 Day Food Journal
- List of Medications & Supplements
- Recent Lab/Test Results (if applicable)
- Referral letter from physician, psychologist, physical therapist, or other health care practitioner (if applicable)
During a session, a client will discuss current diet and lifestyle habits, challenges, and goals. A physical assessment is done, calculating measurements of weight, body fat, muscle, and body water, and one’s metabolic age based on computed factors. Individual needs and nutritional deficiencies will be discussed, and future tests may be recommended if needed.
The final outcome will be a plan of action to meet the client’s needs, followed by coaching and follow-up sessions as needed.
Apart from individual one-on-one consultations, Empower also has a programme called “My Weigh”, an eight-week weight loss programme for women only, which incorporates both individual assessments and group coaching sessions. The group encourages the positive benefits of social support and camaraderie among the women to urge each other to achieve their goals — the healthy way.
Empowering the Community
Beyond the realms of individual and corporate wellness services, Empower Nutrition aims for a wider community outreach through education. They are currently pursuing opportunities to develop a diabetes prevention programme and to conduct local and regional research that can inform public policy and interventions.
Another goal is develop Nutrition and Wellness educational platforms for the public and for those with influential roles in society, such as medical practitioners, personal trainers, and chefs — all of whom help to shape the health and lifestyles of others.
Empower Nutrition also provides consulting for the food and beverage services sector, working with restaurants and chefs to provide nutrition facts, thereby enabling making healthier choices from both the production and consumption side of the distribution chain. This involves using nutrition analysis software to calculate nutritional content.
“Some products are on the market with either no nutritional information or inaccurate nutritional information,” Mweia explains. “In particular for new products coming out, it is essential for producers to take into consideration the health of customers at the product development stage.”
Another important aspect of their work is providing nutrition consulting services to the sporting and fitness community. Mweia notes that it is unfortunate that few local gyms have nutritionists on staff, and our professional athletes are not given access to a sports nutritionist.
“If you are undergoing strenuous exercise, your nutritional intake needs to be adapted to give you the necessary energy to perform and get results,” she says.
“Also, over-the-counter supplements may seem innocuous, but if these are not being balanced with a nutritious diet, you can cause serious damage. We also need to have a proper understanding of serving sizes, and of how nutrition can be best applied to serve the body’s changing needs. As with everything else, balance is essential.”