Dr. Melina Jampolis is a highly sought-after nutrition MD and media contributor who’s been a visible public figure in the nutrition space since the early 2000s. One of the first doctors to focus her practice exclusively on lifestyle medicine before it was trendy, she is the host of the podcast Practically Healthy by Dr. Melina, which reflects her work in the areas of nutrition, disease prevention, and weight management.
She didn’t set out to work in the media, yet Dr. Melina hosted the Fit TV’s Diet Doctor series for the Discovery Network in 2005. She also wrote all the episodes to ensure they were medically accurate.
Next, she went on to be a diet and fitness expert for CNN. She has been a guest on hundreds of TV shows and has written five books, of which the last two reflect her passion for herbs and spices.
Ever humble, she said, “Over the past 20 years, I’ve met some extraordinary people, and the more I’ve learned about nutrition, wellness, and disease prevention, the more I realize there is to explore, and the more I want to learn.”
Her expert guests range from scientific colleagues to practitioners she’s worked with on television and book projects, etc. “In addition to tapping into their vast knowledge base, I can joke around with them, too. I think the personal relationships make the episodes more fun for listeners.”
While the conversations on Practically Healthy by Dr. Melina may be entertaining at times, they’re rooted in cutting-edge science. For Dr. Melina, this is in sharp contrast with much of what is offered in social media. “It seems that if someone builds up a large enough following on Instagram, TikTok, or another social media platform, they’re instantly seen as an expert. Like many other knowledgeable practitioners, I’m reading medical journals in my free time, not choreographing a dance for TikTok. A lot of the information that’s being disseminated on these platforms is not completely accurate.
“I promise my audience they’re not going to get any BS on my show.”
Her keen interest in investigating nutrition science has led her to consider exploring the health journeys of celebrities like Randy Jackson. “He and I have been collaborating, and he’s very candid about his challenges. Being a celebrity with all the money in the world doesn’t necessarily make it easier for you to be healthy. You still have to go to the kitchen cabinet every day and figure things out.”
With this is mind, Dr. Melina is firmly committed to offering practical advice. “Over the 22 years I’ve been in this field, I’ve learned that if recommendations aren’t practical enough to integrate into your lifestyle long-term, you’re probably not going to stick with it. And short-term interventions, like a quick detox or cleanse, don’t do much good.
“I’m very open about not being perfect. For example, I had a piece of a cookie for breakfast this morning just because it was there. The name of the podcast has a double entendre for this reason—Practically Healthy is both practical and not perfectly healthy, meaning there’s room to live your life and still be healthier by making positive changes and healthy choices the majority of the time. I don’t know of anyone who’s perfectly healthy. We can indulge and still have healthy, vibrant lives.”
Dr. Melina revealed the secret to maintaining her vitality. “I have a very supportive husband. I probably couldn’t do everything I do without him, because there are times when I have a lot of different balls in the air, and it can be very overwhelming. Luckily for me, exercise is stress management.
“I had my two sons unexpectedly—my first was born when I was 40. The beauty of being a mom of pre-teens at age 52 is that it gives me a perspective I didn’t have 15 years ago. My kids are my priority, and I’m protective of my time. Plus, as you get more advanced in your career, you don’t have to say yes to everything, so that helps.
“I also volunteer at a center for homeless children, helping them eat healthier and have a healthier lifestyle. It keeps me grounded and energizes me. It’s easy to write a check. It’s a lot harder to go and volunteer for a workout class or a healthy cooking class.
“Continuing to see patients, along with volunteering and interacting with the scientific community, keeps me balanced with my head in the game.”
Dr. Melina acknowledges that nutrition science is very complicated, and there’s still a tremendous amount we don’t know.
“The public wants definitive answers, but there is always a risk of journalistic misinterpretation or headline-driven journalism. Nutrition is nuanced and individualized, and there tends to be a lot of factors at play. You may have one person presenting a very powerful argument for why red meat is good and another person presenting an equally powerful argument for why it is bad. I think this leads the public to feel that experts are flip-flopping or not giving definitive answers, but often, there aren’t any.
“There are times when I say to a journalist, ‘I don’t know,’ or ‘I can’t comment definitively on that,’ and the journalist simply goes out and finds somebody who claims they do know definitively. I understand the public’s frustration, but you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a nutrition study that’s 100% scientifically based on a randomized controlled trial. Here’s an example that demonstrates why—if you’re studying something like colon cancer, the evolution of that is 20 years. What did you eat 20 years ago for breakfast? Who the hell knows? That’s why we’re never going to have definitive studies in nutrition. What you eat is too variable. Nobody remembers what they ate yesterday.”
Episode after episode, Dr. Melina is achieving the goal of the Practically Healthy by Dr. Melina podcast—serving her audience by helping them live healthier lives.
October 2022 Issue