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Changing lifestyles one meal at a time
Nutritionist keeps active in community
Nutritionist Gelsie Lessig talks about the difference between fat and muscle at a recent instructional session at Jesse's House. - photo by Emily Saunders
With more than four decades as a nutritionist and registered dietician, Gelsie Lessig knows a thing or two about helping people get fit and healthy.

“For me, helping people achieve their health and fitness goals is a passion,” Lessig said. “There is such a great satisfaction in helping others change their lifestyles to achieve their goals.”

Lessig has worked with patients in cardiac rehab at Northside Hospital-Forsyth since 2001. Beginning as a resource person, she quickly moved into diabetes education.

In addition to her duties at Northside, she and two partners run Inlighten, which focuses on helping people lose weight and get healthy.

Lessig wants to empower people to make healthy lifestyle choices. That includes reaching out to those who may not visit her at the hospital or at her practice.

She has consulted with the staff at Jesse’s House, offering her nutrition expertise to Forsyth’s emergency shelter for adolescent girls.

Lindsay Rust, executive director of the shelter, said it recently received a grant from Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia that will enable the girls to learn more about nutrition through lessons with Lessig.

In addition, Lessig will help staff oversee residents’ health, wellness and eating habits.

Rust said teaching residents about nutrition and proper exercise is paramount.

“Here at the shelter, we have definitely seen an increase in cases of juvenile obesity and overweight youth that is consistent with national averages, and that is alarming,” she said.

“Of course, we strive to meet our resident’s immediate and basic needs, but we also want to teach them the importance of healthy living through balanced diet and exercise. When they leave us, we hope to send them away with these important life skills.”

Rust went on to praise Lessig’s style of teaching.

“Gelsie has such an easygoing way of relating to the girls,” she said. “They have already learned so much from her and we are confident this program will be a success.”

In addition to the nutrition portion, the grant also provides funding so that Jesse’s House residents can exercise regularly, and track their progress with a personal trainer.

“A healthy lifestyle is all about the choices you make,” Lessig said. “And I always tell people that if you make a mistake, just tell yourself that is OK, just start over again but never give up.”

Lessig completed her dietetic training in 1967 at New York Hospital—Cornell Weill Medical Center. Throughout her career, she has had a hand in numerous businesses involving diet and nutrition.

She moved often over the years for her husband’s career, but each time would “find something to do relating to nutrition.”

Among her many jobs, Lessig worked in a nursing home, helping design a nutrition program for senior citizens. She also worked with children who had diabetes and opened a private practice in several states.

In addition to health and fitness, Lessig’s business Inlighten helps patients figure out why they struggle with their weight.

“The name of our business says it all,” she said. “We want to help people physically ‘lighten’ up, but also ‘enlighten’ people to understand what is driving their weight.”

One of Lessig’s partners, Beverly Bird, is a psychologist who helps patients understand their weight/health issues.

“Beverly is extremely adept at helping people in a non-threatening way to look inside themselves,” Lessig said.

Another component of Inlighten’s approach, is exercise. Partner and exercise physiologist Sean Morgan helps patients find the best exercises for their individual needs.

“Our philosophy is simple—diet, exercise and what is going on between your ears all share equal merit when it comes to being fit and healthy,” Lessig said.

Inlighten clients attend a 12-session course that meets weekly.

“When you are ready, we can definitely teach you how to lose weight, get healthy and maintain your results,” Lessig said. “But you have to be ready to make the effort.”