Barbara Ruhs

Photograph by Stu Rosner

“I was a fat kid,” says Barbara Ruhs. “My sister was a French fry, and I was a beachball. I always wanted to be a French fry.” In eighth grade, her body dramatically reshaped itself when she began riding her bicycle everywhere—delivering newspapers and pedaling five miles to school on Long Island—while playing volleyball, running track, and becoming the top tennis player on the school team.

In 1995, Ruhs graduated from Cornell, a varsity athlete in both tennis and crew. Today, she’s an upbeat, bona fide jock who rows, plays tennis, golfs, and bicycles year-round to work, where, as a clinical dietitian at the University Health Services, she is Harvard’s first sports nutritionist. Since 2003, Ruhs has advised varsity athletes, as many as 130 per semester. “A lot of my work is refereeing bad nutrition advice,” she says. “Like low-carb diets. That’s nutritional suicide for an athlete, who typically needs to consume a higher percentage of calories from carbohydrates.” Performance issues include the timing of meals—say, for a runner about to race; safe weight loss for lightweight rowers, coxswains, and football players; and hydration strategies—“An athlete can’t perform optimally if even 1 percent dehydrated.” Ruhs “fell in love with nutrition” at Cornell and earned a master’s degree in the field at Boston University. She spent four years as statewide coordinator for nutrition education in Massachusetts and then launched her own business, Neighborhood Nutrition, in 2001 to bring the message to the grass roots. “I’m not the food police,” she says; in fact, her 17-year-old cat is named for a candy bar: Chunky. “I’m practical,” Ruhs adds. “Sometimes even a nutritionist eats pizza at midnight!”

You might also like

Harvard Overhauls Disciplinary Procedures

To cope with violations of University statement on rights and responsibilities

Harvard’s Development Chief Departs

Brian Lee to step down at end of 2024

Immigrant Workers— America’s Engine?

Harvard economist Jason Furman on immigration and the U.S. economy.

Most popular

Mechanical Intelligence and Counterfeit Humanity

Reflections on six decades of relations with computers

The Power of Patience

Teaching students the value of deceleration and immersive attention

Harvard Overhauls Disciplinary Procedures

To cope with violations of University statement on rights and responsibilities

More to explore

Relabeling Medical Definitions for Obesity in the United States

For obesity patients, improved treatments and a nuanced understanding of the disease may lead to better health.

How Was Brooklyn Bridge Park Planned?

Michael Van Valkenburgh and the making of Brooklyn Bridge Park

The Mystery Behind an Incan Tunic

Unraveling an Inca masterpiece’s secrets