Meet Hely Weinberg
Do you know Hely? If you are a member of one of 12 low FODMAP Facebook groups, then you definitely do! Hely is the nickname for Helen Weinberg and she is the moderator admin for these lively resources.
The Facebook platform allows for fluid interaction amongst FODMAPers at all stages of their low FODMAP diet experience, so if you have been feeling alone on your healing journey, participating in one of these Facebook groups is a quick way to get involved and feel supported.
So many of us know Hely just as a Facebook avatar and name – let’s get to know Hely the person.
Dédé Wilson: Hely, this is a long time in coming! We have “known” one another for a few years, yet we have never met in person, which is so often the case with Facebook connections. Let’s start with some background. Tell us a bit about yourself and also when did you first hear about the low FODMAP diet?
Hely Weinberg: I’ve always had gut issues since pretty much forever. I remember being a child and my mum use to say I had a 24-hour stomach bug all the time. The first time I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) was when I was 13 years old.
Since then I’ve always struggled with my stomach issues. However, it wasn’t until about 5 years ago when my GI doctor was doing some tests that he introduced me to low FODMAP diet.
How did you educate yourself about the diet?
My GI doctor gave me a paper handout about the diet and told me “don’t worry you do not have to be strict”. HA! I tried to follow the handout, but it wasn’t very good. I felt like it was up to me to find what I needed and that I had to do the diet alone. So, I started searching on Google for help.
You know that this part of your story is so common!
I found Patsy Catsos book called IBS Free At Last. This started to give me basic FODMAP information, along with a couple of low FODMAP blogs.
You may want to read our interview with Patsy Catsos here.
But that wasn’t enough. I was still trying to piece all the little bits of the FODMAP diet together, so I turned to Facebook.
They were very patient with me. It is overwhelming at first – understanding the measurements. Alana educated me about the Monash University Low FODMAP app and taught me about portion sizes. One day I had my lightbulb moment where everything clicked. (It happens!)
Oh, I love that you said this! It is so true. Most of us who are dealing with IBS and reading this are NOT dietitians. We are just average people with various familiarities with food, cooking and science. And yet, we all do get there in our own time.
How did you decide to become an Admin/Moderator? Which was the first group you moderated and when did that begin?
Five years ago when I first started the diet there were very limited resources in terms of dietitians, recipes and blogs. I also knew that there were others out there like me who were struggling.
So, I started a Facebook group called Low FODMAP Recipe, which is now called Low FODMAP Recipes & Support and started building a community. There is something to say about not having so many resources when we began.
We were forced to modify recipes and figure out serving sizes, which I still have trouble with. Now we have resources like yours. I am sure there are thousands of recipes available now throughout the FODMAP community, but when you have to do the work you learn better and it sticks with you.
I’m a visual person so I wanted a community group where we could post pictures and help each other modify recipes. I asked Alana from A Little Bit Yummy to join and then an amazing member, Ann Hedvig Øvsthus, joined the group.
Together Ann and Alana started teaching me and the other members the ins and outs of the low FODMAP diet. Without them none of our groups would exist. A special shout out to Ann who has helped me so much with all the groups so kindly and again so patient.
Now the group has over 42,000 members. We have the most amazing group of men and women on our admin team and amazing visiting dietitians (we are not a dietitian run group). These admins volunteer endless hours moderating the groups, all while maintaining their own jobs, growing their families and all are also dealing with IBS themselves. The admins and dietitians help keep the groups going.
What is your favorite – and least favorite – part of moderating the groups?
My favorite part of the groups is helping people find science-based low FODMAP recipes, products and services that can make their lives easier. These are the resources I wish I’d had when I first started the diet. I also love the diversity of the group – I love the melting pot of ethnicities, cultures and different needs that create our community.
My least favorite part of our groups is that we just cannot offer the emotional support that so many need. We would love to, but there are other groups out there for that and we encourage members to seek out those resources.
We feel that it is important for there to be places that are just focused on the diet and provide resources, such as reputable bloggers, dietitians and recipes (including help modifying recipes). It is important to us that we provide clear and scientific based information.
You can help yourself by using the search tools in the groups to find answers to your questions; by taking time to support others who are on similar journeys by commenting on posts; and by being mindful not to judge others (we are all on similar journeys but taking different paths).
You do not have to eat a clean diet to be low FODMAP and it is the member’s choice as to how they follow the diet.
I assume this last comment is in reference to the time you have to spend pointing out that sugar and fat are not a FODMAP issue. That low FODMAP has nothing to do with organic food, Paleo, keto, etc. I have to agree with you. It is hard when we have to spend time as moderators on non-FODMAP issues, because heaven knows there is plenty to handle that does relate to the low FODMAP diet!
How much time during an average day do you spend in the groups moderating and creating posts?
Haha 24 hours! Honestly, I don’t even know how to figure that out. I’m always jumping into the groups via my phone, laptop and iPad…So I guess I’m always around.
Robin and I can empathize!
You have a unique position from which to view individual’s experience of the diet. Your groups contain tens of thousands of people! What are the most common issues that you see people having with the diet?
Issue 1: People resist downloading the Monash app. They are of course the developers of the diet and their app is the only up-to-date resource. If you opt for a free app you get what you pay for. Our groups are based on Monash research. The fee is one time only and the money goes back in to research for things like testing more foods. Please consider it an investment in your health care.
Issue 2: People don’t take time to educate themselves about the low FODMAP diet before they start. This means they get overwhelmed and stressed, which means they struggle and in most cases the stress causes more severe symptoms
Issue 3: People come onto the diet thinking they are going to be on it forever. They lose perspective that the first phase is only for 2 to 6 weeks and then they can start reintroducing new foods and hopefully find out their trigger foods. Come on! Anyone can do 2 – 6 weeks. Also, no onions and garlic are not the end of the world. They won’t even be missed in what, your over 600 recipes at FODMAP Everyday®?
I could go on, but main points are take responsibility for your health care, take time to learn how the Monash app works and learn (and we will help you) how to modify recipes. And you must be opened minded. It helps to try to be creative, which can take us outside our box, but that is a good thing.
What do you think are the 4 most helpful things that someone following the diet can do?
- Take time to learn about the diet before you start, including downloading the app.
- Work with a dietitian who can help you tailor the diet to your needs and journal your foods and symptoms so you can look back for patterns.
- Find credible low FODMAP resources like:
4. Find a community support group (there is a list at the end of the article).
A few months ago, you approached us, with Zelda Wilson’s blessing, about taking over the Low FODMAP for Foodies Facebook Group. And we are so thankful; I love our community there!
I am glad you have a forum in the Facebook community. I really enjoy participating in a group as a member for once!
Well, we love having you participate! You get to add to the community without the job of moderating!
Hely, thank you so much for your time. You are a singular presence in our FODMAP community and thousands of people are going to get better and heal because of you. We are so happy that we finally got to do this interview, so that everyone can get a glimpse of the woman behind these many FODMAP Facebook groups!
As Hely and I have mentioned, if you are following the low FODMAP diet and are on Facebook, then you should be a member of one or more of these groups:
- Low FODMAP Recipe & Support (this is Hely’s main international group).
- Low FODMAP for Foodies (if you LOVE to cook, then come join this group!)
- Low FODMAP USA
- USA Low FODMAP Products (This is a group that is set up to be a searchable data base for elimination products & foods that can be found in local grocery stores or online).
- Low FODMAP USA Certified Vendors (This group is where Certified vendors can share products, recipes, giveaways etc. This group is not Elimination specific).
- The FODMAP Collective (An online group program providing dietitian support & guidance through the low FODMAP diet, led by dietitian Joanna Baker).
- And please check out the brand new Low Fodmap Certified Products Australia Group. We offer products, review & recipes as well as vendor participation.
Which is your favorite Low FODMAP Facebook group that you are a member of?