5 questions with ... Tina Cloney, dietitian and health and nutrition professor at Millikin University
5 questions | Tina Cloney, Dietitian and Millikin health and nutrition

5 questions with ... Tina Cloney, dietitian and health and nutrition professor at Millikin University

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Name: Dr. Tina Cloney

Occupation: Health and Nutrition professor at Millikin University and board registered dietitian

What got you interested in exercise science and nutrition? Why did you choose this as a route of study?

I began my career as a dietitian working in clinical. Nutrition is vital to helping individuals live longer and healthier lives. Nutrition is a key component in the healing process (after accidents, injuries, and surgeries), managing conditions (i.e. diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis). Management of diseases can affect quality of life, mobility and longevity. Earning my Masters and Doctorate in Public Health, Health Education and Promotion shifted my focus more toward prevention.

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At this time, I started to focus more on educating patients with diabetes on the importance of managing their diabetes to reduce the risk of developing complications related to uncontrolled diabetes (eye disease, kidney disease, nerve disease, heart disease, and stroke). I was also teaching as an adjunct faculty member at this time. My interest in learning more about nutrition’s role in athletic performance let to my research, study, and ultimate decision to sit for the Board Certification exam to become a Board Certified Sport Specialist Dietitian (CSSD). At this point, I transitioned to full-time faculty at Millikin and left clinical. I teach courses across the spectrum in nutrition and dietetics including sports nutrition but also meet with individual athletes and the teams to share information regarding fueling performance, recovery, and reducing risk of injury.

Tell me what a dietitian does.

Registered dietitians use food as medical nutrition therapy and as fuel. When you need food and nutrition information based on fact or need to know how  healthy diet improves health and fights disease — rely on qualified professionals in the field. Registered dietitians can help individuals and families across the lifespan (1) from growth and development, (2) to academic performance, (3) to sport performance, (4) to reducing disease risk, (5) to managing disease and reducing complications associated with poorly managed disease. So many great nutrients are in well-chosen foods such as phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and fiber. There are also registered dietitians at St. Mary’s Hospital and Decatur Memorial Hospital.

You were featured in Today’s Dietitian’s "Showcase of 10 Exceptional Dietitians Who are Making a Difference." How do you think you make a difference in the field?

I worked in the field and in the community for 20 years prior coming to Millikin. I still work with the community and consult in the community. I truly enjoy working with the students at Millikin, inspiring them to want to make a difference in their own lives, the lives around them, the populations that they will work with after graduation. At the same time, I am thrilled to work side by side with my students in the community. Together, we deliver health and nutrition education programming to the community (youth, middle adult, and aging adult). I feel so connected to the community.

From a nutrition standpoint, what is some of the most common advice you give people who are seeking a healthier lifestyle?

Small changes earn big rewards. You do not have to change everything in your life to live a healthy life. Start small. What are some small changes that can be made?

1) Do you fry foods? These calories add up and contribute to a growing waistline. Growing waistlines increase the risk of numerous diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and various cancers.

2) Do you consume too much sugar? Excess added sugar takes its toll on the heart, liver, brain, etc. Men need to limit intake to no more than 36 grams a day and women no more than 24 grams a day.

3) Consider adding wild fatty fish to your nutrition intake. It provides your body with precious Omega 3s and Selenium (antioxidant). Aim, in time, for three days a week. Individuals who consume wild fish and walnuts regularly promote their heart health.

4) Can you walk or participate in some form of activity at least 30 minutes most days of the week? Are you have difficulty committing? Find a friend to commit with you.

You are also a board certified diabetes educator. What does that entail?

A Certified Diabetes Educator is a health professional who possesses comprehensive knowledge and experience in diabetes management, prediabetes, and diabetes prevention. A CDE educates and supports people affected by diabetes to understand and help manage their glucose levels and reduce their risk of short and long- term complications associated with diabetes. Management includes nutrition, physical activity, medications, stress management, self-care checks, blood glucose checks, provider visits, and more. Diabetes glucose control and routine care are vital to promoting quality of life and longevity.

Contact Kennedy Nolen at (217) 421-6985. Follow her on Twitter: @KNolenWrites


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