Q&A with… Dr. Wendy Wolfson, a board-certified psychiatrist
NEW CANAAN — Dr. Wendy Wolfson was first interested in neuropsychological research, but shifted toward a premed route when she realized she was looking for a more patient-centered profession.
Though the New Canaan resident recognizes medication is an essential asset in psychiatry, Wolfson said nutrition, exercise and relationships are essential for developing a healthy lifestyle. This led her to focus her efforts on creating Mood Eats — protein bars available in two flavors — which she hopes will make it easier for patients to realize the impact diet can have on their well-being.
Q: Could you briefly tell us what nutritional psychiatry is?
A: Nutritional psychiatry is basically an area of psychiatry that is coming out with research that food can be helpful in the fight against mental illness. The more we know about mental illness in terms of what’s happening in the brain, the more we understand where the research fits in.
We’ve known for a long time that food helps your mood, that chocolate makes you happy or that kale is good for you, but I think now the field of psychiatry is starting to ask why and how, and that’s what nutritional psychiatry is asking.
Q: You changed from studying research to wanting to focus on premed. How did that come about?
A: When I went to college, I was going to do research in neuropsychology, and what that ultimately translates to is doing a lot of neurological testing to see where learning disabilities are or where cognitive deficits are, and I really felt that I wasn’t getting enough patient interaction that way. You test people, but you’re not part of their day-to-day care and I felt that wasn’t going to be satisfying.
So, I took a year off and I worked at a pharmaceutical company, and that’s where I became more connected with medication and pharmaceuticals. I loved learning about this stuff and what these doctors have to say, and from there I decided to go to medical school.
Q: What are the challenges of being a doctor and an entrepreneur? How do you balance them?
A: Psychiatry is very flexible; I can have my own schedule. A lot of patients want to come in the evening, so I can have two very busy days and then have an afternoon or day free to do entrepreneurial stuff.
It all goes together.
It goes with being the type of doctor I am. I’m a sole practitioner, so I’m all by myself. I’m constantly having to access both the doctor and promote myself. I have to make people feel comfortable wanting to come to me and having the information they need.
So, there’s a natural progression between doctor and entrepreneur and business owner.
Q: How did you come up with Mood Eats?
A: When I graduated from residency, I knew my focus was going to be on medication. However, I always felt that you can’t just take medication; that’s not the only answer. You also have to make sure you’re living a healthy lifestyle. I wanted to counsel my patients on nutrition and exercise and relationships.
What I realized when I started practicing is that there is not enough time to do everything, and what patients need is the best information that I have. I knew medication was my thing, but I decided to team up with nutritionists, psychologists, social workers and primary care doctors and try to work as a team to take care of the patient. This way the patient gets more expertise and we take the extra time to coordinate their care and become a part of their life, and not just someone they come to speak and get medication from.
Q: How long did it take to go from idea to final product?
A: I wasn’t comfortable with the fact that I couldn’t provide the patients with good enough information about diet. I wanted to provide them with another tool to get better. I always suggested to my patients that they could change their diet. I decided to make it easy and, after having done research, I took certain foods and put them in a cute, easy, tasty protein bar and introduced patients to the fact that food plays a huge part of one’s mental health.
Research took about two years, and actually developing the bar took about three years, basically because I couldn’t do it full-time and because I wanted to make sure we got it right.
Q: Why should one choose Mood Eats, as opposed to a mainstream protein bar?
A: One, because the patient doesn’t know about this information and they need to know about it.
Two, it tastes great and it’s clean.
And you’ll feel better knowing you took the first step to eating well and helping yourself.