Laura Bransfield on her health journey and maintaining health during a pandemic
It was after graduating college when LAURA GREENHOW BRANSFIELD found her true passion in the wellness field leading her back to school and to the founding of Summerfield Custom Wellness in Wilmington.
Bransfield worked at an all women’s gym as a manager, then a corporate trainer traveling around the country to assist in opening new franchises, teach seminars and help struggling clubs with improvements. When traveling became too much to continue she moved on to a sales position where her devotion to wellness followed her.
“While living the phone sales cubicle life, I found myself taking my coworkers grocery shopping and writing them meal plans! That’s when I knew I definitely belonged in wellness,” Bransfield says.
Through helping others, she learned there is no cookie-cutter approach to wellness.
“Without being a licensed and registered dietitian, I knew I would not be able to help people in the customized way that I wanted to,” she says. “So, I decided to go back to school to become a dietitian, always knowing that I would eventually own my own wellness company.”
When starting her own practice, Bransfield realized that the best way to help people was to go deep.
“I needed to explore their nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress, budget, lifestyle, and cooking skills,” she says. “I needed to combine that with counseling skills that allowed me to get a full picture of what each patient was experiencing. And that’s the easy part.”
Bransfield decided to recruit like-minded dietitians to help deliver the type of meticulous care she sought after.
“In the past 7 years, we have grown to a team of 16 amazing dietitians and 3 incredible support staff and have served over 5000 patients. I am so grateful; I can’t believe that I am living my dream. And we’ve only just begun.”
Bransfield shares nutrition, exercise, and destressing tips during COVID-19 as well as an update on how the practice has been dealing with the pandemic.
WILMA: What nutrition advice do you have for people at home during COVID-19?
Bransfield: First, realize that we are in a global crisis and it is totally fine to be in survival mode if that’s what you need right now. But if you feel that you want to implement some structure or change, it is best to start with the basics.
A rainbow-colored diet is how we get all the nutrients we need to fuel our brain and body. We cannot feel focused, energized, or happy if we eat mostly white and brown foods. The nutrients in food give the food its color, so a food with a different color or a deeper color will have more nutrients. Don’t get hung up on taking out the snacks and comfort foods right now. Instead, start by adding a serving of colorful vegetables or fruits at most meals.
At this time, you might need to get creative, so we made a free COVID Toolkit to help you along the way. You can download the toolkit here. The toolkit provides guidance on cooking at home and easy recipes, dealing with fewer trips to the grocery store and more out of stock items, being active, and stress solutions. Don’t get overwhelmed with all of the information, just use what helps you and leave the rest.
Remember that it is ok to start something new and then dip back into survival mode whenever you need to. Be gentle with yourself always, but especially right now.
WILMA: With gyms closed and limited equipment at home, how can people stay active?
Bransfield: Physical activity can help our energy, mood, and immunity, which is why we should always be thinking about ways we can be active, but also why it is very important at this moment. There are tons of creative ideas for staying active with the space and household items we have available. I think the problem is that there are so many options to choose from as a lot of gyms and fitness professionals have moved to online workouts and many other free resources can be found with a quick Google search.
To narrow down what might work best for you, think about all of the active things you already enjoy or think you might enjoy trying.
Do you prefer cardio, strength, or stretching exercises?
Do you love any sports?
Did you ever have any great workouts at the gym?
Do you enjoy dancing?
What about home projects, gardening, and other physical labor?
Do you like exercising alone? With a partner? In a group?
After you get the picture of physical activity that you would enjoy, pick an activity that matches your description. If you love doing cardio and exercising alone, maybe you decide to go for a walk by yourself while you listen to music or a podcast. If you like volleyball and you are quarantined with a friend, ask them to play pepper in the backyard. If you want to dance with a group, join a virtual dance party!
We created a blog about enjoying activity while social distancing if you need more ideas. You can find it here.
To get started, we recommend trying an activity for 3 minutes. As you build a routine, you can continue to do one activity per day or rotate through different activities that you enjoy. Try not to go more than 2 days without any activity. For example, if you do your 3-minute activity on Monday, and you don’t do one on Tuesday or Wednesday, try to make it a priority to get in 3 minutes on Thursday. As this routine of 3-minute activities becomes a habit, start to add time, intensity, or frequency to make things interesting and challenging.
WILMA: What are some tips for de-stressing during this stressful time?
Bransfield: Usually, I would work with someone to identify the sources of their stress and use mindfulness techniques to address them. But most of us do not have the time or headspace right now for deep introspection. No matter how great the rest of things are, COVID-19 is a stressor for all of us. So, it’s time to just put one foot in front of the other and implement a short and sweet daily stress relief routine.
The global pandemic has our fight or flight response on overdrive, and we need to find something that will send our body a signal of safety. We use the example of running from a tiger. You probably would not take a leisurely walk, sit and breathe in silence, or lie on the couch and read a book if a tiger was chasing you. All those activities tell the body that it is safe to rest and digest.
If you need ideas, the COVID Toolkit includes a list of stress relief and self-care options to get you started. Start with 3 minutes each day. If it feels good, increase the amount of time or times per day. Commit to going through the motions and eventually, you will feel the benefit. And again, give yourself some grace. Don’t let your stress reduction routine stress you out!
WILMA: How is Summerfield doing during COVID-19?
Bransfield: We have a lot to be grateful for in this situation. We have been offering telehealth appointments for over three years, so when we transitioned to all video appointments on March 16th, it was seamless since we already had the technology and infrastructure in place. As a result, we were able to shift gears quickly, and we immediately started developing new strategies and resources to help people navigate this drastic shift in lifestyle. Our team continues to meet remotely each week to talk about how we are doing, what our patients need from us, and to brainstorm solutions to the common challenges that have recently surfaced.
People are asking for help with sorting out what to do right now. We are helping them by troubleshooting their concerns and finding practical solutions. Although we continue to have strong relationships with our current patients, the biggest impact of COVID-19 so far has been a decrease in new patient inquiries. We understand that people have been in survival mode the past few weeks, but we think that people will reach out when they get settled into their new normal.
Even though we developed the toolkit to help people during this time, we realized that these are skills and resources that are useful at all times. COVID has pushed us to get curious and creative, so we have even more to offer our clients; both now during the crisis, and as life gets back to normal.