SNP Executive Director Linda Cornish caught up with Hugh Welsh (pictured), the new Chairman for Seafood Nutrition Partnership, on his commitment to eating seafood as his main protein source in 2017.
Linda Cornish (LC): Hugh, congratulations on being the incoming Chairman for Seafood Nutrition Partnership (SNP). We are thrilled to have you lead us as we expand SNP’s work. You are taking your new role very seriously as I saw your message to your Twitter followers that you will be eating seafood as your main source of protein in the New Year. Can you tell us what prompted you to adopt a pescetarian diet? Is this part of an overall wellness regiment prescribed by your doctor?
Hugh Welsh (HW): Thanks Linda. As you know I joined the Seafood Nutrition Partnership Board of Directors about a year ago as I believe in its non-profit mission to effectively address the public health crisis Americans are facing. Although I strongly support the mission I actually had not been eating much seafood prior to my time with SNP. You see, growing up my summer jobs were working on fishing boats off the coast of New Jersey. After working on the fishing boats I didn’t really associate the smell of fish with something appetizing. After joining the SNP Board, I saw that all of the board members chose fish or shellfish when we dined together, so I thought I would give it a try. I realized that seafood was pretty good and quite frankly delicious.
I work pretty hard and spend a lot of time traveling all over the world. This leaves very little time for exercise and for me meant I had a very poor diet. The result was I gained a good deal of weight. Additionally, I was tested and learned that my blood cholesterol levels were too high and my Omega 3 levels too low. I was setting myself up for some bad health outcomes down the road and decided it was time for a change. I worked with DSM’s Wellness consultants to come up with an overall plan regarding nutrition, exercise, meditation and sleep. I thought this would be a good opportunity to walk the talk and try a pescetarian diet.
Hugh tries different seafood dishes on his new pescetarian diet.
LC: You’ve dedicated your life’s work to advocating for health and nutrition for the global population, and you lead the North American region of a multinational company with a strong portfolio in human nutrition. Was there a particular time or event that triggered your decision to eat seafood as your main protein?
I just have to say, getting your tips and encouragement to try more seafood has helped me to choose fish more often this year. My husband and I have frozen halibut and salmon (from Costco of course) twice a week and have found so many different ways to fix fast and tasty meals. We just take a frozen, plastic wrapped piece of fish from the bag, quickly thaw it out in cold water and then pop it into a pan of heated milk to poach. You are right that it’s one of the quickest and easiest entrees we make! Thanks for what you do to help us stay healthier.
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In the last eight months of my life, I made one of the best changes for my health. Since, I've made the transition from a vegetarian to a pescatarian I've noticed amazing differences in so many areas of my life. Throughout the majority of college and graduate school and into my young professional life, I was a strict vegetarian for nearly six years. Until what seemed to be all of a sudden, people close to me started to notice and share that they thought I was underweight and looked unhealthy, For a while, I just couldn't accept it. It seemed impossible that it could be due to my diet (I was SUPER healthy and selective in my food choices and habits). In reality, I often didn't feel well and caught multiple colds throughout the year. The real turning point was when I started to notice hair loss and dull skin and nails. I knew I needed to make a change and wasn't ready to start eating meat again, due to the health reasons I had cut it out of my diet for before.
So, I started to read. I devoured every piece of research on the best and healthiest ways of eating I could find. From longer life expectancy, to organic, sustainability, eating for your blood types, and beyond, (I think you get the point.)
The one that really stuck out to me was the Mediterranean diet, for the diversity and the nutrient rich and fresh ingredients it's based on. Plus, for an added bonus, my heritage is from that region so I knew it was going to be the best option for me to try.
Now, I can honestly say, all of those areas of my health have improved over the last eight months. I shifted to a healthier weight to support muscle tone, I have increased energy, better looking skin and nails, happier and clearer mentality and just overall well-being. If I could do it all again I would and hope my story helps you see the importance of a seafood rich diet at any age. It seems quite fitting that now I've come into the role of Field Director for Jacksonville, Florida for the Seafood Nutrition Partnership. I hope to inspire my city to follow me in my journey to even greater health with the benefits eating fresh and local seafood brings!
Again, great care by great WV-based clinicians saved me and have blessed me with optimum health. BUT… Obviously I was not doing something right. And my “assumed good health” became a personal conjecture not based on science, fact. I was not taking care of myself, was overweight, and had lab work that pointed to having an increased risk for heart disease. Knowing that I was cancer-free 10+ years, having a strong family history for heart disease, and having recently been blessed with a beautiful granddaughter became my key motivators!
Making significant changes in daily activity, losing weight, sustaining a healthy diet, reducing stressors, and making sure that I get the cardio-based exercise are essential for my personal healthier lifestyle. The keys to all of these things is making sure that you incorporate other survivors, share frequently with your family and personal champions, and listen intently to your clinicians/trainers. My bloodwork now shows that I have attained probable protection from coronary artery disease risk but this is not a given without hard work.
No it’s not easy and you have to pledge to work daily, but the short and long term benefits are obvious – extend your healthy life and opportunity for continued blessings as long as possible! The best advice that I can give to every person, especially those of us who hail to be West Virginians (historically having a poor family health history), is to start early in life and maintain/sustain your personal health! We are not invincible, and we must pray for strength and work hard every day to invest – the greatest wealth one can have is good health!
I have always been a lover of seafood and fresh fish (especially if I’m lucky enough to get out to a stream or lake and catch it myself!). Since my heart stent was placed, I have made a conscious effort to eat fish or other seafood at least 2 – 3 meals a week.
The authors of this blog include the general public sharing the health impacts they have achieved through the Healthy Heart Pledge. We invite you to share your story!