By Caroline White
Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
Perseverance isn’t just the name of Bridgett Wilder’s business. It’s the story of her life.
Wilder, a native of the Lindsay Heights neighborhood, is a dietitian, single mother and the owner of Perseverance Health and Wellness Coaching and Consultation Services. Her journey hasn’t been easy.
Within just a few years, her mother, 37-year-old husband and 6-year-old daughter died. In the wake of her grief, she began to focus on her own health for her sake and that of her nine children. Unhealthy eating and exercise habits left Wilder overweight and battling diabetes.
She adopted the mantra “health is wealth” to remind herself just how valuable and central health is to the rest of life.
Since her weight loss journey began about a decade ago, Wilder has lost over 150 pounds by learning about nutrition and changing how she approaches food. Her personal journey into the world of health and wellness inspired her to change her career to help others do the same. At 45, she graduated in 2018 from Mount Mary University, where she studied dietetics and psychology.
“If you can eat your way into poor health, you can eat your way into improved health outcomes,” Wilder said. “The problem is: People sometimes don’t have the information on how to do that.”
Through her business, Wilder teaches her clients to adjust their mindset around diet and to understand their own negative eating behaviors to achieve long-term results by sharing her story and providing expertise and guidance.
In addition to her small business, Wilder has taught programs at Walnut Way Conservation Corp. at 2240 N. 17th St. Last year, she ran a free program called Neighborhood Healthy Eating Circles where she taught a hands-on approach to nutrition education. She took participants on grocery store tours, provided healthy food samples and explained how to read nutrition labels.
The class was made possible by grant money from Kohl’s Healthy Families and the American Cancer Society. Kim Abell, a health specialist at the American Cancer Society, said one aim of teaching health classes at organizations ingrained in neighborhoods is to ensure the classes are catered to the community’s common obstacles.
“We know Lindsay Heights is a food desert, so access to healthy food is a huge barrier in that neighborhood,” said Abell, who oversaw Neighborhood Healthy Eating Circles and other health pilot programs taught during 2019 throughout the city.
In food deserts, lack of access to quality food and lack of knowledge about nutrition can leave residents at a higher risk of developing cancer, heart disease or other illnesses related to poor diet and exercise.
The risks are serious, but Abell said that learning about healthy eating doesn’t have to be scary.
“Little changes add up,” Abell said. “Inspiring people to get creative in the kitchen with the food they have access to can make a big difference.”
Wilder and Abell suggest shopping at farmer’s markets, growing food in home gardens, learning how to make healthy versions of favorite foods and seeking out information about nutrition online or in classes around the city. The community health pilot programs funded by Kohl’s Healthy Families and the American Cancer Society ended last year, but Walnut Way Conservation Corp. hosts a variety of programs centered around nutrition, wellness and other topics.
Although the obstacles can be daunting, Wilder emphasized that almost every aspect of life is dependent on maintaining good health.
“We can’t take care of our children if we aren’t healthy,” Wilder said. “Financial gain is worthless if we aren’t healthy.”