We spoke with Jackie Silver MHSc, RD., about the intersection of nutrition and ADHD, creating your own dream career. No empty calories in this conversation!
Thank you so much for joining our interview series! Before we get started, we would love to “get to know you” a bit better. What is your ‘backstory’, and how did you get started?
Happy to be part of this series! I am a registered dietitian living in Toronto and I started my business, “Jackie Silver Nutrition” in December 2020. I run a virtual private practice where I work mostly with kids and adults with autism or ADHD in supporting them with their nutrition goals. Another part of my business is my blog, where I post recipes and educational articles on a range of health and nutrition topics tailored to folks with physical disabilities, ASD, or ADHD.
My interest in the physical disability niche comes from the fact that I myself am living with a physical disability, and I saw a huge need to support this community with their nutrition goals. It’s something I am very passionate about. During one of my dietetic internship rotations in my masters program, I did a placement with Special Olympics Ontario, where I provided nutrition workshops and cooking classes for athletes with intellectual / developmental disabilities. It was here that I started seeing another huge gap in the market that wasn’t being met.
When I opened my private practice, I started getting a number of requests to work with neurodivergent kids and adults. I did extra research and courses to further educate myself on how to best support this community, and have since become super passionate about it.
Can you share an interesting story or anecdote that happened to you, and which you think helped direct your career?
During my graduate training, I would regularly have conversations with the program director about the lack of nutrition support and education for the disability community. She would always tell me that I was going to be a trailblazer in the dietetics field by creating opportunities where there are gaps.
I remember one time she said to me, “Jackie, I don’t think your dream career exists yet, but I know you are going to create it for yourself.” She was exactly right. Her confidence in me gave me the courage to create a business in an untapped niche.
Excellent, thank you for sharing that. As a nutrition expert, what are some of the most common questions that you receive from people living with ADHD? And how are those concerns different from those of a neurotypical person?
Common struggles I see in people living with ADHD is feeling paralyzed when it comes to making food choices. One common comment I’ll hear is “When I get hungry, I need to eat right now, but I have no clue what to eat, so I reach for whatever is available near me.”
Another typical struggle is that ADHD meds can suppress one’s appetite, so people may get hyper focused on their work during the day, forget to eat, and then when the meds wear off they’ll feel starving and are more likely to overeat and also not know what to eat.
In many ways, neurotypical people can experience similar concerns, depending on what medications they are on (there are many meds that suppress appetite) or their work schedule. The biggest difference, I’d say, is that folks with ADHD are more likely to make impulsive decisions around food. It is harder for them than neurotypical folks to make intentional choices.
Stress is a health issue on its own, but it also triggers self-defeating behavior such as mindless eating and poor decision-making. Do you have any general recommendations to prevent or manage stress, particularly at work?
Stress is inevitable in life, so it’s about coming up with tools that best help you cope with stress. I’m a big fan of making to-do lists at the start of each day, but focusing on the most important tasks.
In terms of nutrition, not knowing what to eat can be an added stressor. Try prepping meals and snacks in bulk that you can store in your freezer, so you have food to eat in a pinch. This way you don’t need to spend so much time thinking about what to eat, so you can clear your brain to focus on other areas in your life.
What are some cues that should hint someone to look for help from a professional like you?
If you feel like you are undereating because of appetite suppression from your meds, if you struggle with meal planning or “food paralysis”, or if you have difficulty paying attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, it would be a good idea to work with a dietitian.
On that point, something personal. I have been trying to lose weight. It is so distracting when I feel the urge to snack, but I don’t want to get over my budget. I sometimes feel like I have to choose between breaking down and eating something, and not being able to focus at all until meal time. Please tell me you have a magic solution for this!
This is a very common struggle! I recommend eating 3 balanced meals and snacks throughout the day to prevent the intense hunger you described. We want to avoid that, so you can keep your blood sugars balanced and maintain your focus. Aim to eat something every 3-4 hours.
And don’t be hard on yourself when things don’t go as planned or when you “break down and eat something” as you put it. Have self-compassion in these moments.
Before we go, do you have any tricks, techniques or aids to get yourself in the zone for productive work?
I struggle with this, but I find that listening to music and working on a task I feel excited about helps me get in the zone!
Finally, my favorite part of the interview, the “rapid fire” session! (Tiny answers for tiny questions.)
- In the recent past, what book has impacted you the most?
“My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me” by Jason B. Rosenthal.
- Coffee or tea?
- What was your childhood dream job?
To own a bakery.
- What public figure do you admire?
- What advice would you give to your younger self?
There is no set timeline for when you need to reach specific milestones in life.
- What is something most people don’t know about you?
I have 3 passports!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.
About The Interviewer: Pablo Diaz-Gutierrez is the founder and CTO of Appfluence, an award-winning software company that focuses on helping busy professional make the most of their limited time, better organizing emails, projects and meetings. Priority Matrix has been recommended by ADHD experts as a useful tool to help manage time, tasks and life priorities. Appfluence is producing this interview series to highlight the tools and techniques that top experts find most effective. If you would like to suggest a new topic or interviewee, please reach out to us.