BE TRUE. TODAY.
GROWING UP IN the Lakeview area of New Orleans as a child, Rebecca Markway Lee made the most of the road construction that lasted for years on West End Blvd. She would race to the top of sand, concrete and rebar piles with her friend who lived a few doors down only to jump off the top of the pile without fear of injury, luckily always landing on her feet. It was always a competition to see who could jump farther or higher. She saw these piles of construction sand as if they were vast mountains she needed to conquer. These parts of her personality have endured throughout her schooling and career and launched her into starting her own business.
Today, as owner and dietitian of True Body Nutrition in Covington, Rebecca is intent on conquering a much bigger mountain—the obesity crisis in the state. Current statistics place Louisiana as the most obese state in the nation, with a 36.2% obesity rate and ever-growing rate of childhood obesity. Arming herself with knowledge, she is determined to create sustainable changes in her community.
Inspired by the way her parents valued fresh, wholesome ingredients during her youth and bolstered by her extensive education and training, Rebecca is on a mission to change the way we think about food to finally turn the tide on an ever-growing obesity epidemic.
Rebecca is a registered and licensed dietitian/nutritionist who has spent the last nine years specializing in weight loss, health and prevention in a variety of healthcare and wellness programs, including East Jefferson General Hospital and St. Tammany Parish Hospital. When she created True Body Nutrition in March 2016, she wanted to do more than start her own business. She wanted to start a movement.
Over the last year, she’s planted the seeds for a holistic, grass roots effort to combat the obesity epidemic in every segment of the population. In addition to providing the weight loss and nutritional counseling through True Body Nutrition, she’s also partnered with like-minded professionals and businesses to expand her service offerings. True Body Meals, a subsidiary of True Body Nutrition, is a joint venture with Abita Fresh to provide healthy pre-prepared meals for individuals and families. Her latest project, True Body Kids, is an educational program in partnership with fitness and movement guru Katy Bridges, designed for pre-schoolers and their families.
“It has been great first year, and our growth is a testament to the others in our community who are committed to making our citizens healthier,” Rebecca said. “We are enlisting regiments into our grass roots army on a daily basis. From health and wellness professionals to chefs to educators to those individuals whose lives have changed because of our programs, we are joining together as active advocates for healthy eating, and welcome more to join our ranks.”
True Body Nutrition Rebecca is passionate about working with weight loss clients to help them achieve their goals. She offers a diverse complement of services that can be individualized to meet specific needs, including: Ideal Protein Weight Loss Method, clean eating and detox diets, health and wellness coaching, healthy cooking classes, meal planning, pre and post-op nutrition counseling for bariatric surgery patients and sports nutrition. Understanding that weight loss is a journey, Rebecca offers her patients motivation, knowledge and unwavering support throughout every stage of the process. “I have never given up on a patient, and I never will,” she explained. “I help patients tap into their inner strength to achieve success that is not only life changing, but sustainable.”
True Body Meals One of the most difficult challenges to following a weight loss program is allocating time and resources to cooking healthy meals. In an effort to overcome this obstacle, Rebecca teamed with Abita Fresh to create prepared meals that go beyond calorie and carbohydrate counts. Working with “Chef Mike” (Mike Couste), they developed delicious meals containing fresh, organic food grown by passionate local farmers.
“Local ingredients play a key role in healthy cuisine. Not only do local meats and produce have more flavor, they also have more nutritional value. Local vegetables, for instance, do not have to be specially treated to withstand lengthy shipping and stocking processes. Our produce can be picked at peak ripeness because they go straight from the farm to our kitchen,” Rebecca said.
Available in both individual and family servings, True Body Meals can be pre-ordered and delivered to your home or office or picked up at Abita Fresh’s storefront location on Hwy 190. Rebecca explained, “Our meals are designed to integrate healthy eating and amazing flavor with convenience for our hectic lives. You can even enjoy Louisiana favorites such as grits and grillades, shrimp creole and stuffed bell peppers with peace of mind knowing what you are eating is healthy.”
In addition to offering packaged meal options, Rebecca and Chef Mike empower people to develop their own healthy creations. Working in cooperation with yet another likeminded business, Simplee Gourmet, they host workshops, lunch and learn sessions, and cooking classes for individuals and groups. The chef/dietitian duo also make use of their portable kitchen to travel off site to corporate offices and meeting rooms.
“Working with Chef Mike has shown me what great things can be created when the creative minds of chefs and analytical minds of dietitians collaborate,” Rebecca said smiling.
True Body Kids With most food preferences formed in children before five years of age, Rebecca is aiming to reach this critical segment of society at a time when they are most susceptible to developing addictions to sugar. “We have got to stop the bleeding,” she said. “If we are to be effective in our fight against obesity, it is essential that we curtail children’s dependence on sugar and subsequently larger portions and poor food choices.”
Under the direction of local pediatrician, Dr. Josh LeBlanc and Dr. Sophie Lanciers, pediatrician, pediatric gastroenterologist and board certified Obesity Specialist, Rebecca and Katy Bridges have developed a pilot program that turns the table on the traditional paradigm with preschool education. True Body Kids teaches the fundamentals of health and wellness though interactive activities, such as planting and tending to a school garden, and conducting fruit and vegetable tastings. Teachers and parents will receive nutritional counseling while also learning role modeling techniques to encourage healthy eating habits. The program will be rolled out at Planet Kids Academy later this year.
“The mission of True Body Kids mirrors our own on so many levels that it made sense to partner with them,” said Planet Kids owner, Beverly Crews McQuaid. “Our focus has always been on developing the whole child— helping them to develop academically, socially, physically and emotionally. Working with True Body Kids enables us to address our students’ nutritional needs as well. The program completes our entire package.”
“I am so excited about this pilot program. I am convinced we have been missing the boat when it comes to the rise of childhood obesity in our state and country. We believe this prevention program is exactly what we need to start seeing a drop in our state’s obesity statistics,” Rebecca explained.
As the daughter of health minded parents, Rebecca knows first-hand, the impact of role modeling on children. She and her sister were involved in their family’s garden and often helped their mother with preparing meals. “We had a very positive relationship with food. It wasn’t used to self-soothe or to relieve stress. It was just a regular part of our life.”
Rebecca’s husband, TJ, grew up on a farm, so in many ways they shared the same outlook on food. Together, they are instilling the same values in their four-year-old daughter, Caroline. “Movement and fitness are also a part of our daily lives. And, with our new Siberian Husky puppy, Mila, we are moving more now than ever before,” she laughed. “My average daily steps went from 10,000 to 15,000 per day practically overnight because of Mila.”
Rebecca is constantly looking for ways to spread her movement and grow the legion of health advocates throughout the Northshore. She and Katy are in the process of transitioning True Body Kids into the non-profit sector so they can accept donations and grant funding while also increasing opportunities to one day implement the program into federal and state school programs.
Rebecca also intends to expand her efforts into our food culture. Her goal is to bring together local chefs and dietitians to change Louisiana favorites into healthy creations without sacrificing flavor. Her reasoning goes back to the hundreds of clients she has counseled over the years. She knows true longterm success with any health goal can only be sustained with a supportive environment and culture.
“By changing our food culture, not simply creating more healthy menu items, but changing the traditional Louisiana staples into healthy cuisine, it will change the entire experience of dining out into something that can be enjoyed guilt-free more often.” She explained, “I want to tap into the creativity of our chefs and challenge them to prepare the healthiest, best tasting food. Our chefs are among the finest in the country. I know they are up to that challenge. And I will not stop until we reach this goal.”
With every patient Rebecca has counseled and through every connection she’s made with businesses and organizations, she’s amplifying her message for healthy living. She said, “Together, we can create a new culture where eating healthy and staying active are easy, accessible and valued. Culture change only happens on an individual level. Yet, the more advocates we have, the more individuals we can touch. It’s a snowball effect that begins one person, one family and one meal at a time.”
Rebecca Markway Lee, RDN, LDN is a Registered Dietitian through the Commission on Dietetic Registration and licensed by the Louisiana Board of Examiners in Dietetics and Nutrition. True Body Nutrition LLC, is located at 1950 N. Hwy 190 Cov., 985-590-7043, rlee@truebodynutritionllc.