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?
HW: I am not averse to other forms of animal protein, and think that they can be an important part of everyone’s diet. I decided to focus at this time on fish because of the need to lose weight, lower my total cholesterol and increase my Omega-3 levels.
I witnessed SNP’s impact in the communities that we work in and reading the testimonials of so many that have experienced positive health impacts, such as weight loss, normalizing blood pressure, bringing cholesterol to an optimum level, etc. I was particularly inspired by Rob Morris from Oklahoma City and his OKSeafood Slimdown Challenge. His commitment to his health and showing others that it was easy to add seafood to his diet helped me to see that I can do this.
LC: Would you describe your new wellness program and how long it will run for?
HW: I eat a low calorie high nutrition high fiber diet predominately plant based but fish at least two times a week, often more. I currently supplement with Fish Oil, B12 and Culturelle, a brand of probiotic. Additionally, I am working diligently to increase my sleeping hours from the paltry 3 or 4 today to at least 6 or 7 a night; it is harder to do then I thought but made easier by the fact that before I do anything else, any day, I exercise which has started out as an hour of walking. My focus now is to keep this up through Q1 and see what the results are; my hope is that this becomes a new way of living for me.
LC: I think you mentioned that you travel 360 days out of the year. That is the definition of a road warrior! How will you maintain your seafood-rich diet while on the road?
HW: It feels like 460 but is probably closer to 260. The biggest challenge when traveling is keeping good nutrition. Like anything else it will be part unlearning bad habits and learning new good ones. I may have to go out of my way sometimes, but with a little extra effort but I am committed.
LC: Your firm is a major producer of omega-3 supplements. How do you personally make sure you are getting enough omega-3s?
HW: DSM is a world leader in both algal and fish oil Omega-3 supplements and fortification. It was a bit embarrassing, as well as troubling, to learn that I was so woefully low in Omega-3 levels coming from an organization with so much science based information on the critical need to keep these levels up. I now eat seafood at least twice a week, but know that I don’t always eat fish with highest Omega-3 levels so I supplement with fish oil; it is an easier and cost effective way to make sure I get the omega-3s I need for heart, brain and eye health.
LC: I know you’ve just started on your new wellness program. Can you share any updates to date?
HW: It has only been a couple of weeks but I really do feel great! I think I have lost a bit of weight and my energy level is really high. I have also discovered that fish is really easy to buy and prepare; I thought it would be much more of a challenge then it turned out to be.
LC: Thank you Hugh. I look forward to checking back with you on your new health program.
The staff, Board of Directors, and chef ambassadors of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership invite the public to join us in sharing the health impacts they have achieved through the Healthy Heart Pledge. We invite you to share your story!