Empowering Women in Well-being: Dietitian Karen E Todd On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

Empowering Women in Well-being: Dietitian Karen E Todd On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

Be humble — no one likes a bragger.

Humility is a virtue that resonates deeply in the context of mental health. Acknowledging our own limitations and vulnerabilities allows us to connect more authentically with others who may be struggling. No one appreciates a braggart in any field, but in mental health, it’s especially important to approach our work with empathy and humility. By doing so, we can create a safe and inclusive space for individuals to seek help and share their experiences without fear of judgment.

Empowering Women in Well-being: Dietitian Karen E Todd On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

Today, more than ever, wellness is at the forefront of societal discussions. From mental health to physical well-being, women are making significant strides in bringing about change, introducing innovative solutions, and setting new standards. Despite facing unique challenges, they break barriers, inspire communities, and are reshaping the very definition of health and wellness. In this series called women in wellness we are talking to women doctors, nurses, nutritionists, therapists, fitness trainers, researchers, health experts, coaches, and other wellness professionals to share their stories and insights. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Karen E. Todd.

Karen E. Todd, a registered dietitian with over 25 years of experience in exercise performance and nutritional product development, holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Scientific Nutrition and Food Science Technology from Texas A&M University and an MBA from the Huizenga School of Business at Nova Southeastern University. She currently serves as the Vice President of Global Brand Marketing at Kyowa Hakko, overseeing marketing and branding for health product ingredients across dietary supplements, functional foods, and beverages. In addition to her role at Kyowa, she also holds a position on the executive board of The Council for Responsible Nutrition and chairs the Women in Nutraceuticals (WIN) initiative.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Certainly, I’d be delighted to share my backstory. After completing my dietetic internship at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, I received my first job offer with Amway Corporation/Nutrilite Products as a Corporate Merchandising Training Specialist for Nutrition and Wellness. This role required me to travel globally, creating and conducting educational programs on the significance of dietary supplements and functional foods/beverages in a healthy lifestyle.

Initially, I was apprehensive about accepting the position, so I sought advice from my internship mentors. Surprisingly, they were skeptical and believed that all nutritional needs could be met solely through diet, dismissing dietary supplementation as ineffective “snake oil.” Some even warned that this role could harm my career prospects from the outset.

This experience astonished me, as I had always been taught to keep an open mind in the field of nutrition. My first nutrition class at Texas A&M University, led by Dr. Joanne Lupton, instilled in me the idea that there was much we didn’t yet know about nutrition. Dr. Lupton’s approach encouraged us to stay receptive to new research findings and continuously expand our knowledge.

In 1991, I became one of the pioneering dietitians in the supplement and functional food industry. Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to work for ethical and reputable companies that never asked me to compromise my ethics or integrity. I’ve actively engaged with various trade and professional organizations, allowing me to continue learning and educating myself on multiple aspects of the industry.

My career has allowed me to create a range of health and wellness products, including general health and wellness items, sports nutrition products, and skincare lines. In my previous role with Roche/DSM, and now as Vice President of Global Brand Marketing with Kyowa Hakko, I focus on the ingredient side of the industry. Here, we develop branded ingredients supported by scientific studies, regulatory compliance, and marketing strategies.

Today, dietitians are integral in almost every company, contributing to product development, marketing, educational support, and even designing protocols for new scientific studies. Looking back, I am incredibly pleased with my decision to enter the industry in the early ’90s, and I wouldn’t change a thing about my career journey thus far.

I firmly believe that my role extends beyond my own career growth. It’s about paying it forward, helping others in the industry learn and grow, and fostering a community of professionals who are dedicated to promoting healthier lives through nutrition. Sharing my experiences and insights through speaking engagements has been a rewarding aspect of my journey in this dynamic and ever-changing field.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

Over the years, I had brought home or mailed new products for my family to try, but these items would often sit untouched in the cabinets for years. It was a humbling experience to witness my well-intentioned efforts go to waste. However, the most remarkable part of this journey was seeing a significant shift in my own family. My parents, now in their late eighties, have become dedicated users of dietary supplements. They’ve come to understand that their diet alone may not provide all the nutrients necessary for a healthy and active lifestyle, and supplements can play a crucial role in bridging those gaps. It’s fascinating to see how they have embraced this perspective over time. They frequently approach me for my opinions on the latest product introductions and offerings related to dietary supplements or functional foods. This experience has highlighted the importance of patience and allowing individuals to arrive at their own conclusions about their health and wellness journey. It’s a testament to the power of education and gradual awareness, and it’s rewarding to witness how far we’ve come in promoting holistic well-being.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about a mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Sure, one situation that still resonates with me, even after 25 years, occurred when I was just starting out. At the time, I didn’t assert my views immediately on a program or design from a project I was leading. Instead, I wanted to hear everyone’s opinions and feedback before expressing myself. Unfortunately, this approach didn’t align with the expectations of a Vice President, who criticized me for not taking the lead in the discussion. He even gave me a poor performance review due to this. Looking back, I realize I should have spoken up earlier in the process and voiced how I would share my opinion and at what time.

The lesson I learned from this experience is the importance of finding a balance between listening to others and sharing my perspective when appropriate. While it’s valuable to gather input and ensure everyone’s voices are heard, there are moments when taking the lead and offering my viewpoint early on can help guide discussions and projects effectively. So, to this day, I make it a point to actively listen and encourage input from others but also recognize when it’s necessary to assert my perspective in a timely manner to drive productive outcomes.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

In the dynamic nutrition industry, I’ve dedicated my career to advocating for change through empowerment, education, and unwavering integrity.

Empowerment — Catalyst for Equity:

Empowering young women in the nutrition field is not just about gender equality; it’s about harnessing diverse perspectives that propel the industry forward. I firmly believe that when women are given the tools, resources, and opportunities to thrive, they become powerful agents of change, shaping the future of nutrition in a more inclusive and equitable manner.

Education — Lifelong Learning:

My commitment to continuous learning ensures that I stay at the forefront of industry trends, scientific advancements, and innovative practices. Education is the cornerstone of progress in any industry, and is even more critical in the rapidly evolving field of nutrition. Beyond my personal growth, I actively share knowledge, empowering others to reach their full potential and contribute to industry advancements.

Integrity — Trust and Transparency:

Integrity is a guiding principle that resonates deeply with me. I understand that having integrity is not just a personal virtue; it’s a cornerstone of trust, truth-telling, and ethical conduct in the nutrition industry. During my tenure as VP Global Brands at Kyowa Hakko USA, I’ve led the development and marketing of branded ingredients that exemplify trustworthiness and transparency. These ingredients, represented by their brand names, are a testament to why I’m such a staunch advocate for showcasing differentiators in the industry. Utilizing brand names in presentations, labels, and even social tags is not just about marketing; it’s about transparency and accountability. It’s a way to communicate to consumers and industry stakeholders what differentiates these ingredients from generic alternatives.

In conclusion, my passion for empowerment, education, and integrity leaves a mark on the nutrition industry. I drive positive change, focusing on equity, knowledge, and integrity for a transparent future in nutrition.


Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?

I’d be happy to share my top five lifestyle tweaks that I believe can significantly support your journey towards better well-being:

1 . Prioritize Mindful Eating: One powerful tweak is to practice mindful eating. For instance, take a few moments to savor each bite instead of scarfing down lunch at your desk. I once struggled with overeating until I started this practice. By focusing on the flavors, textures, and the sensation of each bite, I not only enjoyed my meals more but also became more attuned to my body’s hunger and fullness cues. This simple change helped me maintain a healthier weight and improved my overall relationship with food.

2 . Incorporate Regular Physical Activity into Your Day: Find enjoyable ways to stay active daily. I discovered the benefits of walking during the pandemic. I made it a habit to take a brisk walk around my neighborhood each morning. It not only improved my physical fitness but also served as a form of meditation, providing me with mental clarity and a positive start to my day.

3 . Quality Sleep Matters: Ensure you get enough quality sleep. I once thought I could thrive on just a few hours of sleep each night, but it took a toll on my health. When I committed to getting 7–8 hours of restful sleep regularly, I noticed a remarkable improvement in my mood, productivity, and overall well-being.

4 . Cultivate Positive Relationships: Nurture your social connections. A few years ago, I realized I had neglected some of my friendships due to a busy schedule. Reconnecting with friends and making an effort to spend quality time together not only improved my emotional well-being but also provided valuable support during challenging times.

5 . Practice Gratitude: Develop a gratitude practice. Every day, I take a moment to reflect on things I’m grateful for. This simple habit has shifted my focus from what I lack to appreciating the abundance in my life, fostering a more positive outlook and reducing stress.

These lifestyle tweaks have made a significant difference in my well-being journey, and I believe they can do the same for others. By incorporating them into your daily life, you can gradually create a healthier and more balanced lifestyle that supports your overall well-being.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would encourage individuals to start early, even before signs of aging become apparent, as I believe this is crucial. I would emphasize the importance of taking small, sustainable steps in various aspects of life, including diet, exercise, rest, and maintaining a positive attitude. In my movement, I would make it clear that continuous, gradual efforts toward holistic health and well-being are essential for lifelong vitality and overall wellness. A central theme would revolve around encouraging people to stay physically and mentally active, promoting habits that not only improve longevity but also enhance the quality of life. By focusing on these principles, my aim would be to empower individuals to take charge of their health. Ultimately, I believe this approach would benefit the greatest number of people by fostering wellness as an ongoing journey rather than a reactive response to age-related concerns.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” — Mental Health Perspective

  1. Do something you love — you will be passionate about it.

When I reflect on my journey, I wish someone had emphasized the importance of pursuing a passion. Mental health is closely tied to our overall satisfaction and happiness in life. Doing something you love not only brings joy but also acts as a powerful coping mechanism during tough times. Engaging in activities that genuinely resonate with you can be a lifeline for your mental well-being.

2. Find your niche/specialty and make your mark.

In the realm of mental health, I’ve come to understand the value of specialization. It’s essential to find your niche and make a significant impact within it. Whether it’s as a therapist, researcher, or advocate, specializing allows you to dive deep into understanding and addressing specific mental health issues effectively. Being part of a specialized community can provide a sense of purpose and a network of like-minded individuals who share your passion.

3. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them.

Mistakes are a fundamental part of any journey, including the one related to mental health. I’ve learned that it’s crucial not to fear making mistakes, as they often serve as valuable learning experiences. In the mental health field, every encounter is an opportunity to refine your approach, gain empathy, and improve your understanding of human psychology. Embracing these lessons is essential for personal growth and professional development.

4. Build up others — they will always have your back when times are tough.

The importance of support networks in mental health cannot be overstated. While my focus is on mental health, I’ve realized that building up others in any field is a two-way street. When we support and uplift those around us, we foster a culture of empathy and collaboration. In return, these same individuals often become our pillars of support when we face challenges in our own mental health journey. The bonds we create are invaluable in times of need.

5. Be humble — no one likes a bragger.

Humility is a virtue that resonates deeply in the context of mental health. Acknowledging our own limitations and vulnerabilities allows us to connect more authentically with others who may be struggling. No one appreciates a braggart in any field, but in mental health, it’s especially important to approach our work with empathy and humility. By doing so, we can create a safe and inclusive space for individuals to seek help and share their experiences without fear of judgment.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

While sustainability, veganism, and environmental changes are undoubtedly critical causes, my dearest focus is on mental health. It’s an area I’ve dedicated years to understanding and advocating for because I believe it is the cornerstone of one’s overall well-being. Mental health touches every aspect of our lives, and addressing it can have a profound ripple effect, improving not only individual lives but also our communities and society as a whole. Seeing increasing attention on this critical issue and its far-reaching impact is heartening.

What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?

Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karentoddrd/

Thank you for these fantastic insights! We wish you continued success and good health.

About the interviewer: Wanda Malhotra is a wellness entrepreneur, lifestyle journalist, and the CEO of Crunchy Mama Box, a mission-driven platform promoting conscious living. CMB empowers individuals with educational resources and vetted products to help them make informed choices. Passionate about social causes like environmental preservation and animal welfare, Wanda writes about clean beauty, wellness, nutrition, social impact and sustainability, simplifying wellness with curated resources. Join Wanda and the Crunchy Mama Box community in embracing a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle at CrunchyMamaBox.com.

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