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Alumna’s company uses test tubes to guide healthy living

Gay Riley has used her test tube displays to help patients recognize the fat content of commonly eat

Gay Riley has used her test tube displays to help patients recognize the fat content of commonly eaten foods since 1992.

Hoping to inspire healthier eating, Texas Woman's University alumna Gay Riley founded Lipo-Visuals in 1992 to show via test tube displays the fat, sugar and fiber content of the most popular foods in the U.S.

According to Riley, looking at the amount of sugar in a 12-ounce Coke or the amount of fat in a side of French fries can be a startling experience. The fizzy drink tastes sweet and the fries are obviously, well, fried, but stacking up the average American’s daily intake of sugar and fats against the daily recommendations in a simple visual aid can serve as the light-bulb moment in the conversation all dietitians hope to have with their clients.

“It’s a shock factor when patients see the tubes,” Riley said. “It’s one tool in the belt, but it doesn’t make it easy to get patients to change their eating behavior, because a lot of times, they’ve developed a psychological addiction to eating things like sausage and peanut M&Ms.”

Lipo-Visuals sells the visual aids to doctors and dental offices, gyms, school systems and universities to name a few. Anyone looking to encourage a constituency onto the dietary straight and narrow can use these as an educational tool.

“The tubes are part of the educational process, but nowadays in this complex nutritional environment, personalizing a nutritional plan is so much more important than simply cutting fats or recommending the next fad diet. We want to go a step further, and that’s what we do at my practice.”

She started her own nutritional practice and Lipo-Visuals at roughly the same time, right after earning her master’s degree in nutrition from TWU in 1991. Riley owns two degrees from TWU and got her bachelor’s in the same field of study in 1980.

“Gay is one who took hold of her education and turned it into something very powerful,” said TWU nutrition professor Nancy DiMarco. “She is quite visionary in her approach to nutrition and recognized early on how individualized nutrition therapy could bring about seemingly miraculous changes.”

Riley founded NetNutritionist.com in 1997 and has authored two books: The Pocket Personal Trainer and Daily Records. She had a monthly column in Health and Fitness magazine for 13 years and has also contributed to Woman’s Day, Prevention magazine and Men’s Fitness.  

Her father passed away from a massive heart attack at age 48 after years of poor eating habits. That, and her own personal struggle with weight management pushed Riley into the field where she has worked in sports nutrition, as well as with children suffering from rare neurological, metabolic and orthopedic conditions. 

Today, her two businesses are based on the idea that our food should be what keeps us healthy, rather than drag us into obesity, an idea all but lost on the processed and fast food industries in the U.S., she says. Yet, as the society has grown more and more conscious in the last decade of the fact that there are too many sugars and empty calories in processed and packaged foods, nutritionists like Riley are now turning their attention to more patient-specific meal plans and supplements under the heading of functional nutrition.

“We’re moving past the realization that there is too much sugar in our diet, too many saturated fats, to concerns about use of GMOs and pesticides in mass produced foods, which is where the whole organic food movement came from,” Riley said.

Riley’s favorite definition of functional medicine says that it looks at the foundational way that food affects the body of each individual patient on the cellular level. Each of Riley’s clients, whether they’re dealing with a preexisting medical condition that affect metabolism like her patients along the autism spectrum, or those simply experiencing some level of gastro-intestinal sensitivity, undergoes thorough functional testing before their nutrition plan is crafted.

No two plans are exactly alike, because no two bodies process every food in the exact same way, and no two patients have the exact same history of less-than-stellar eating habits.

And now, aided by the tools she developed first at Lipo-Visuals and by the experience she gained along the way, Riley is setting each of her patients on their own path to healthy living.

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Page last updated 3:24 PM, April 30, 2020