Let’s Talk About Nutrition and Exercise Science: Q + A with Adjunct Professor Megan Neuhart
You’ve heard the saying, “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” But, how exactly should you do this? In the busyness of life, it can be difficult to find time to engage in fitness and healthy food choices in order to have a well-balanced lifestyle. This is especially true for college students. When you’re in the midst of studying, it’s often easier to grab a snack from the vending machine than it is to choose healthier options at the dining hall.
Megan Neuhart, adjunct professor of nutrition and exercise science, understands this very well. With a background in personal training, Neuhart began to realize that a holistic approach to the body was needed to help people become a healthier version of themselves. Now, as a professor, she is able to teach content to the next generation of nutrition and exercise science professionals and help them become a resource to improve the lives of others. Continue reading to hear her story, find nutrition tips for college students, and get the scoop on the nutrition and exercise science degree program.
1) What has ignited your passion for nutrition and exercise science?
I grew up in a family that cared about living well. I remember my grandparents being ahead of their time in their knowledge of nutrition and health sciences. They taught me to see the value in caring for my body well and with consistent discipline. However, my love for nutrition really began when I was a personal trainer. As I worked to guide my clients towards success, I discovered that I needed to take a more integrative, rounded approach in order to have any success with clients.This allows me to get a full picture of a person’s health and what all is at play. I feel that nutrition science is such a treasure trove of knowledge and I’ll never stop unpacking it!
2) Before becoming a professor at Grace, you were once a student here. Tell us about your time here and how that launched you into your career.
I was a student at Grace from 2007 to 2012 as a double major in health education and English education. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to teach after college, but I knew that education would be part of my future in some way. I grew up with my husband, whom I dated through college. After graduation we got married. After college, I launched a personal training business and did that for about eight years. A few years in, I felt my clients’ success was limited and realized that I was missing a huge piece of the puzzle. That’s when I began to study how nutrition and exercise work together and discovered that I needed to account for my client’s dietary habits, sleep patterns, and other lifestyle factors. I got a nutrition coaching certificate so that I could better help my clients, and that led to teaching nutrition workshops for local corporations and at Grace.
In 2013, Grace invited me to start teaching their introductory nutrition course. Since then, I’ve completed my master’s degree in clinical nutrition and human performance from Logan University. This has greatly supported my work for Grace. I just recently had the privilege of helping design five new courses and curriculum for Grace’s new nutrition minor and the new fitness and nutrition concentration within the exercise science program.
3) How do nutrition and exercise science work together towards a balanced lifestyle?
Nutrition and exercise are highly interdependent. The body needs to regularly build muscle, sweat, and develop cardiovascular endurance for long-term vitality. This can’t be done effectively without also supplying the body with good nutrition and hydration. The goal should be to build a balanced healthy lifestyle that also incorporates joy around food and exercise. In my family, we do this by building a culture of activity. My children are young, so we do a lot of playing outside, riding bikes, and playing basketball and soccer in the backyard. I want them to enjoy doing physical activity instead of viewing it as a chore. My husband and I have our own workout routines that we do, which is a way that we model commitment to exercise to our kids.
4) What are the top three lessons you have learned from your work in nutrition and exercise science?
- 1. That the relationship between human physiology and food is beautiful, eloquent, and a powerful picture of God’s incredible design work! In the nutrition program at Grace, we take a close look at the study of nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics to explain the complex relationship between food and our physiology!
- We tend to overcomplicate personal nutrition. My philosophy is that we should simply be eating what God has made. Eat as close to the vine as you can. Lots of plants! Food marketing can be very alluring, but we must remember that fresh and whole, unprocessed foods serve our health best.
- Nutrition therapy needs to be offered with compassion and empathy. Many people have undergone much suffering before finally finding nutrition therapy. It is important to build into the client’s self-efficacy in order to empower him to achieve his nutrition goals. Taking this delicate approach allows us to build rapport and trust with the client so that we can work together well and optimize his success.
5) What do you most enjoy about working with college students?
I love getting to be part of my students’ evolving maturity and self-concept. Coming alongside them in their faith and personal growth is my favorite part of the job! I also love how college students are eager learners. My time as a student teacher long ago was discouraging because I was working with learners who were disinterested in the material. College is much different because the students choose to be there, are committed to their learning experience, and want to use the material for their future professionalism.
6) What are some of the most common mistakes that college students make in their nutrition and exercise, and what tips do you have for them?
The main mistakes that I see are calorie restriction, lack of diversity in diet choices, and overworking their bodies in general. When I talk with them about their dietary habits, they often seem to eat the same few foods every day! Implementing a variety of nourishing foods that will fuel them for the busy lifestyle they are maintaining is so important. Keeping a few wholesome snacks stashed in the dorm room is a great way to mix things up. A simple example of this is keeping ingredients on hand to make protein balls or trail mix. The college student lifestyle can be difficult to maintain. Burnout happens sooner than later if the student isn’t mindful to take time for rest, exercise, and a nourishing diet.
7) Why did Grace decide to add a degree in nutrition and fitness? What sets Grace’s program apart from the rest?
The premise behind adding a nutrition major was to advance our science offerings in this area. We feel strongly that a robust and diverse provision of majors in the realm of health and wellness will fit the varied interests of our current and prospective students.
In adding the fitness and nutrition concentration, we also intend to stay on par with the current job market! The fitness and nutrition industry is currently one of the fastest growing in the United States. In 2022, the nutritionist job demand grew by eight percent in the United States, while the average job increased by only two percent.
8) What advice would you give a student wanting to get a degree in nutrition and fitness?
I would say to just try out a class. Take a nutrition course and an exercise science course to get a feel for the material and decide if the major is right for you. Any of the professors in our programs would be more than happy to sit down with anyone interested in learning more!
If you’re looking for a college that has passionate professors teaching interesting and true-to-life courses for their degree in nutrition and fitness, then Grace is the right place for you! Check out our fitness and nutrition concentration in our exercise science major to learn more about our what we have to offer.