Meet the Wellness Professional: Dr. Laleh
Research Scientist - Health Consultant
Every week I will be highlighting someone in the Upper Valley who falls under the title of "Wellness Professional" - trainers, nutritionists, therapists of all kinds (physical, psychological, massage), and creators of healthy products, to name just a few. I'll give them a list of the same 20 questions and they can choose to answer as many of them however they'd like.
This week I'd like to introduce you to Dr. Laleh, Research Scientist - Health Consultant.
Bio: I was an accident child, never meant to happen. Against all odds, I survived multiple abortion attempts by my mom. I was born in Hamedan, one of the coldest mountainous regions in Iran. By the time I was 14, I knew I wanted to be a scientist. After the Islamic revolution took over my county, that goal became nearly impossible for a woman to accomplish in Iran. I had to flee my country because of the war and the political circumstances. I landed in Belgium at age 17, determined to go to school to become a scientist. I finished high school after I had to learn three languages in Belgium. I joined my sisters in the U.S. at 21, to attend college, to become a scientist. I got my B.S. in Genetics, with a minor in Food Biochemistry from the University of CA, Davis. I attended Dartmouth Medical School to obtain my Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. To broaden my scope of knowledge of human health, I continued my training by doing three years of Post-Doctoral Research on the role of inflammation in human genetic diseases, such as Cystic Fibrosis, COPD, lung cancer and others. From 2008 - 2013, I worked as a research scientist in clinical research/clinical trials with the Blood and Marrow Transplant program at DHMC. From 2013 - 2015 I worked as the Director of Community Health Education and Cancer Prevention at Norris Cotton Cancer Center, DHMC.
I currently work at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. I'm in charge of launching an online platform called Community Health Hub focused on Public Health and regional Health priorities. Heath IS my life.
I am also a competitive professional bodybuilder, endurance athlete, cyclist, and obstacle course racer.
What is your fitness/wellness philosophy?
I believe that health, wellness, and fitness is a way of life, NOT a short term fix and not to be enjoyed intermittently but ALL the time.
Create a culture of well-being where everyone’s health is everyone’s priority.
Empower individuals to take control of their own health by:
- Providing honest and transparent health education to all who reach out
- Teaching skills to incorporate healthy behaviors as the natural way of life
- Making healthy choice the most logical choice that is affordable to everyone
- Making health a norm but NOT an exception, a right all humans are born with and die with.
How did you get to where you are now?
Following years of working as a research scientist in the life sciences, health, cancer research and hereditary and genetic diseases that ail our human species, I began to focus more on the importance of prevention rather than disease treatment.
I was trained as a research scientist but over the years of biomedical and clinical research, I developed a strong affinity for disease prevention and promoting a culture of health care rather than sick care. I dedicated many years to developing a unique approach to comprehensive health and wellness. Rather than treating a condition, my unique approach focuses on natural and holistic prevention methods through the right foods and exercise for each individual.
I am also a believer in and truly practice: “I AM what I EAT” & "FOOD is My Medicine”.
Did you ever have any setbacks and how did you get past them?
I can’t really say I had set backs but some challenges were certainly there. One great example is when introducing my philosophy to many medical professionals I was often asked, "Are you a registered dietitian or nutritionist? At first, I really looked into getting that certificate under my belt. Not that I needed another degree, but just to be able to answer yes to gain their confidence and trust.
But when I looked into it, I was even more discouraged from doing that. The philosophy and the modern teachings for a dietitian or nutritionist degree or certificate are NOT aligned with mine. I could not get a certificate in something I did not believe in. This was a challenge and it took me a while to gain some credibility. But I learned that I need to be true to myself and to the people I help and serve. I formed my belief system based on my years of studies, research, practice, and constant learning. I continue to read, research, learn and improve. I am proud of what I have created and what I continue to evolve and improve. I continue to learn from people who come to me for help, I do not claim to know it all, I am not afraid of admitting that my clients teach me something new every day, and I should not defend myself for that.
What makes you unique in your field?
- I don’t believe in one size fits all. I know many people say that these days. But I can truly say that I look at each and every person as a unique individual. I carefully study not only an individual’s biological, genetic, immunologic, emotional state, but also social, financial, and current life circumstances. I build a relationship with all my clients. I recognize that every person is unique so I believe that every person’s health & wellness plan should be as unique as they are.
- My PRIORITY: Your health FIRST. I believe that healthy people are happy people. Regardless of the reason a person comes to me; weight loss, athletic competitions, weight gain etc... their overall health is my first concern.
- I believe that YOU should be in charge of your health. I want YOU to be the driver and let me be your map/guide/GPS if you will, to show you the way. I want you to make the right decision, take the right path on your own because you know it is the best thing to do for YOU, NOT because I tell you to do so. I want you to allow me to be your guide to your optimal health and well-being. I want us to create a culture of well-being together. Let’s make our health our priority.
What's your go to meal for:
- Breakfast: My most favorite recipe: Egg white sweet potato pancakes
- Snacks: Tuna salad, my recipe of course, grapefruit, my own home made grain free crackers and hummus.
- Sweets: 90% Unsweetened Dark Chocolate. Or my own Dr. Laleh’s Dairy Free Chocolate Mousse.
- Lunch: Bison burger with 3 - 4 types of vegetables broiled with LOTS of herbs and spices.
- Dinner: Elk, venison, or bison steak, Cod or Haddock on the grille, caramelized onions and broccoli
- Beverage: Water, Ginger tea
What's you favorite place to eat out in the Upper Valley?
I rarely eat out because I am not always sure where the food comes from. I want to know the farmer where I get my meat and local fresh produce. If I do eat out:
- The restaurant at The Lyme Inn because they have local farm meats and produce. I know the farm.
- Market Table for the same reason.
What do you usually get?
- Local Grass fed free range beef (from Tensen Farm) with whatever vegetables they have.
- Misty Knoll Turkey if available with vegetables.
You're trapped on 12A in West Lebanon starving and you only have $8. What do you buy to get your through your errands?
That NEVER happens, I always carry food with me. In the VERY rare event that it does: I would buy a can of wild caught tuna in olive oil (Genova at Price Chopper), salad from their salad bar. That should be about $7 max.
What’s your guilty pleasure (food or otherwise)?
- Food: Banana and Almond butter
- Non-food: Law & Order marathons
What's something health and wellness related that you wish you'd known years ago?
That grains are one of the most harmful foods we adopted as “healthy” foods. I had a feeling and always limited them but about 4 years ago it became evident to me that they cause much harm to our health.
best health/wellness/fitness advice you've ever received?
Take time to breathe. My friend and yogi Kathy Smith taught me a simple way of breathing that helps me get grounded when I lay in bed hyper and sleepless.
What's your favorite quote or mantra?
Health is a way of life, I don’t believe in taking a break from practice of health & fitness and I don’t believe in cheat days; I refuse to cheat my body.
Who or what
gives you inspiration?
My biggest inspiration comes from cancer survivors who come to me for alternative health/nutrition guidance. Their motivation and determination and love of life is something we should all endure.
What's something you wish your clients/class participants knew? Or did? Or didn't do?
I wish my clients knew that I think about them all the time as a person, I worry about their health, and, sometimes, I lay awake in bed thinking I wish I could do more.
I wish they would believe in themselves and not doubt their own will power. I wish they would say: “I CAN” more often than “I CAN’T”.
I wish they didn’t take a break from practicing health. I wish they treated their health like the most prized possession: the right choice would be clear & easy to make when your health is the most important thing.
If you could
only have one piece of fitness/wellness equipment what would it be?
My road bike
What's your favorite non-gym physical activity?
Riding my road bike
What are your passions outside of your field?
- Cars: LOVE cars, LOVE speed - I would love to be a race car driver.
- Reading books and articles
- Teaching any subject especially about health (especially to youth)
What is your least favorite exercise?
Hmmm, tough one!! I am an exercise addict. I LOVE IT ALL. But I really don’t care to work my forearms; they are pathetic.
What is your favorite exercise?
I am a professional bodybuilder so all strength is AWESOME. Strength: Lateral raises, Cable flyes. Cardio: Bike ride (in the gym; Spinning)
What are one or two tips you can give to help people be successful in their wellness journey?
YOUR healthy body should be the most important thing in your life.
If someone tempted you to put sand in your precious car, you would not even think about it. If someone tempted you with unwanted fuel in your body, it should be an even easier choice. You can replace the car, you cannot replace your body.
How do you make better bad decisions?
I list all the bad things about each “bad choice” then I add up all the bad things for each and pick the one with the fewer number of bad things.
What question have I not asked that you wish I had?
What are the most recent books you have read:
- The Gene, an Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
- Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life by Nora T. Gedgaudas
Dangerous Grains: Why Gluten Cereal Grains May Be Hazardous To Your Health - by James Braly
What is your ultimate dream?
- To open a comprehensive health and wellness Center.
- To teach about health
- To teach the science of health
- To teach healthy cooking
Where can people learn more about you?
Would you or your business like to be featured in "Meet the Wellness Professional"? Email Amy at RVCAmy at gmail dot com
Last Week's Interview - Sarah Larmie, Owner of MOVE Fitness
Next Week's Interview - Lynne Walker, Neuromuscular therapist and orthopedic manual therapist at Women's Muscular Wellness
Want to see more? Subscribe
More about the author, Amy Fortier: A short interview