Posts Tagged ‘diet’

As I watched the Biggest Losers weigh in tonight, it was obvious to me that they need so much more than a reality tv show and a famous trainer.  These people are broken, they are depressed, they are consoling themselves with food.   I had been there once, but I was able to break free.  It’s their inner turmoil that is creating this outer shell of fat.   

So, as New Year’s diet resolutions fly around the office and the internet, I have a resolution for my blog and my practice this year, not only for my patients and those that might read this, but for myself.  I will no longer echo the same message that is continually enforced….eat more fruits and vegetables, less processed foods, etc.  People know this!  After all these years, I,  for one, should know that knowledge is not the answer. 

“Intellegence will be used in the service of the neurosis.”   Sigmund Freud

I read this phrase the other day, and it really spoke to me.  That is exactly what I did.  Food and controlling food and weight was my neurosis, I sought out knowledge of nutrition and exercise, and even managed to get a degree in it.  But, did all that knowledge solve all my misery and my poor relationship with food?  No.  It really only made it worse.  Now I had the knowledge, and with that knowledge came the guilt that I was doing it wrong and the feeling of failure because even with that knowledge I couldn’t be as skinny as I wanted to be.  And, so began my downward sprial into an eating disorder, although it began long ago.

Recently, I saw my “Course in Miracles” book sitting on a shelf, and thought, hmmm, maybe I should dust that off.  I haven’t.   Now, I’ve had this book for about 10 years and have maybe gotten through 7 lessons…its pretty heavy, both physically and spiritually.   Then, my husband and I were at Borders, and I saw “The Course in Weight Loss” by Marianne Williamson.  Coincidence or divine intervention?  Whatever the reason that brought that book and I together, I bought it. 

So, my blog for this year is working through these 21 spiritual lessons that constitute the Course in Weight Loss. It is my journey to ultimately be free of the painstaking messages that I am never enough or I should look like Angelina Jolie.  I want to no longer allow certain foods to hold the power to give me comfort or to make me feel guilty.

I am ready to begin my year of self-reflection no matter how uncomfortable it might be.  My goal would be to do a lesson a week, but I must also consider that some lessons may take a little more time.  I invite anyone to do these lessons with me and we can discuss the shit that comes up right here on my blog.  I want everyone to be free from the clutches of food and diet obsession….which comes in many forms.  For some, its the weight watchers and fad diets, for others, its feeling that they should be eating organic, or no meat, or whatever!  I’m jumping, are you with me?


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After talking with patients for 10 years, I’ve come to an unscientific conclusion that the average American has 3-dimensional flavor…..fat, salt, and SUGAR.  The per capita consumption of sugar in the United States is somewhere between 150-170 pounds annually….thats roughly 231,000-261,800 calories from added sugar per year.  And, we wonder why we are facing a obesity epidemic in America?  Really?   As a reference, in 1951, the per capita consumption was 95 pounds of sugar annually.  Now, that figure includes sugar that is added to processed foods as well as table sugar that is consumed.  I just want to focus on the sugar that people knowingly add to their foods, which may be around 20-30 pounds per capita annually. 

I’ve heard it so many times before, but it still amazes me the amount of sugar that people add to already sweet foods.  Today, a patient told me that they add sugar to their tomatoes???  I’ve listened as they tell me they add sugar to already sweetened cereals such as honey nut cheerios and fruit loops.  Sugar to fruit like berries and melons.  Personally, I think this completely ruins the fruit….it gets mushy and watery.  Oh, and I can’t forget sweet potatoes…they add brown sugar, honey, and marshmallows.  I wonder if they’ve even eaten a plain sweet potato….completely delicious and sweet all on its own.  I’ve seen people add sugar to milk, carrots, beets and popcorn.      

What happened to eating foods the way nature intended?  While Americans have been on a sugar high, did aliens come steal our taste buds?  I don’t get it!  I will just try to keep a straight face when tomorrow’s patient tells me that they add sugar to their soda. *sigh*

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Dear Scale,

I am sure this letter is a complete surprise to you considering our long relationship, but this tryst must come to an end.  The only thing you have ever given me is a number, no more, no less.  A number that tells me what I weigh at one given moment on this Earth, which, by the way, would be totally different if I lived on the moon.  You don’t take into account the amount of muscle I have, how much I’ve ate or drank in the last day, or that I might be a little bloated this time of the month.  Nope, you just give me a number.  And, this number is the reason we must part ways.

Sure, we’ve had some good times.  I remember the times when you gave me a low number, you made me feel great enough to wear a tight shirt and my “skinny” jeans.  I especially remember getting down to less than 100 pounds and being so proud of myself.  The thing is you weren’t really much of a friend.  You provided me with this number, but you were never concerned that I might have achieved this number by doing unhealthy things, like binging, purging, and excessive exercise.  Nope, you only reinforced these behaviors.  I suppose these weren’t really the good times that I had envisioned.  You were all I cared about for so long, it is sad to let you go, although we have been growing apart for some time.

And, there have always been the bad times.  You never failed to make me feel like a whale on many an occasion, with numbers spanning from 110 to 130 pounds. Sure, whales weigh in the range of 33-85 tons, but that’s how you made me feel.  I was sure I heard you let out a little scream from the pain of my body on you.  Some of these days, I didn’t go to school or want to meet with friends; you made me feel that bad about myself.  No longer will I allow you to make me feel this way, don’t even try.

It is amazing to me that you have had such a hold on me and so many others for so long. I know most still won’t let go of you, and they will take their own journey, but we are through.  Interestingly enough, since we have grown apart, my weight has remained stable. I have realized, and I hope someday others do as well, that you are no good for our psyche.  You only give us a number.  That number does not dictate the type of person we are, if we are pretty or ugly, if we should smile or cry, nor should it dictate what we might eat that day, or who we shall visit.  You will only ever provide a number, that’s it, nothing more, nothing less.

So, Scale, I can’t control you, but I do control my behaviors.  So, I choose to focus on my behaviors that promote my health…eating mostly whole foods, eating mindfully, exercising, practicing yoga, getting enough sleep, etc.  Please, do not try to contact me ever again.  My mind is no longer yours to tamper with.



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So recently, and actually, quite often, I am presented with this question from a patient: “Can you help me find the right fuel for my body?”  I love challenges, so I agree.  In order to find this right fuel, I must ask the client some questions and make an assessment.  This is similar to how it might proceed:

Assessment # 1: subject is human.  The subject is not alien, at least as far as I can tell, and I am hoping if they are, that I am not their fuel of choice.  So, if the subject is indeed human, then we can probably rule out gasoline, grass, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, yellow # 25 or red #5 being the desired fuel for their body.  So far, so good!

Assessment # 2: subject is sedentary.  This is important, not because being active would necessarily change the desired fuel, but it would increase the need for such fuel and timing might be important depending on level of activity.  But, in this subject, and in most that I see, the activity level that they are engaging in does not require additional fuel. 

Assessment # 3: subject is not pregnant or breast-feeding.  Again, this does not necessarily change the type of fuel required, just the amount.

Assessment # 4: subject has no known allergies to food. This may limit the variety of choices that the individual may have in selecting their fuel, but by no means does this change the fuel.  We are on a roll now!

Assessment # 5: subject has no chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.  These conditions really wouldn’t change the fuel that is recommended, but depending on medications, timing may be important.  Moving right along!

At this point, I share with the subject that I am fairly certain that I have acquired all necessary information to make recommendations regarding the proper fuel for them.  And, then there comes the look of disbelief upon their face.  So, I ask them what they’re thinking.  They tell me they don’t understand how I could possibly know what fuel they require.  I didn’t even ask their blood type, their astrological sign, test the pH of their saliva, check their pulse, smell their urine, use tarot cards, or, and this is important, consult my crystal ball.  And, I reply, that no, I do not need any of these things as they are not important and I have the far greater power of intuition, as I chuckle to myself.  They are wide-eyed in anticipation as I deliver their recommendations:

  1. Eat real food.  Eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts/seeds, lean meats and fish, eggs and low-fat dairy.
  2. Avoid faux foods, this means no processed foods that come in bags, boxes, or Styrofoam containers.  Eliminate foods that contain ingredient lists longer than Rapunzel’s hair.
  3. Eat mindfully.  Pay attention to hunger and satiety, slow down with eating, eat at the dinner table, etc. 
  4. Drink mostly water. 

And, still the look of astonishment on their faces.  Hmmm….could it be because they have heard this before?  Because it is not as difficult as they thought it was?  Did they think that they were going to get something specifically for them?  It is usually all of these things.  So, they leave, in a huff, that this dietitian did not do her job.  It frustrates and amuses me at the same time that I would actually get far greater reviews if I told them that they should eat 15 100-calorie packs daily, 6 soft tacos daily, eat fruit by itself, 2 shakes and 1 sensible meal, or stay away from dairy because you are blood type O+, but I can’t do this because I don’t believe it.  I will continue to tell my clients what I know to be right.  That real food is the proper fuel for humans, not processed crap.  Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

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So a few of the roller derby girls are doing a Paleo diet and they were talking about Paleo Brownies that they made.  We all agreed that if you are going to have brownies, just have the real thing….with real flour, sugar, oil, cocoa, etc….its not as if we eat brownies everyday.   Then I got to thinking, paleo brownies? Really?  Is this just a way for those to say they are on a strict “Paleo diet” and still have dessert?  For those of you unfamiliar with the Paleo diet, it is in accordance with how our ancestors used to eat in the Paleolithic era, also known as the Stone Age, which was in the age between 20,000 to 2.5 million years ago.  The diet consists of most of what I promote here: fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and natural meats.  It does not include processed foods, for obvious reasons, nor potatoes, beans, or dairy.  It is an extremely simplistic diet and one that I would promote, but I also think that other foods can be included for those of us that want a little more variety and as modern equiment has made other items available like dairy.   I am pretty sure that our Paleo ancestors did not make brownies, nor did the have the means to do so.  They for one, did not have ovens that heated to exactly 350 degrees, and probably did not have access to cocoa or spend their time grinding almonds and other nuts into flour.  Paleo brownies are the equivalent of someone saying that they are going to make a solid wood table and then it is some crappy particle wood….yes, its wood, but its certainly not the same.  I don’t have a problem with these brownies in particular, but they aren’t Paleo.   I am not sure if some that do this are searching for a way to have dessert, to make dessert healthier, or just trying to be elitist in their food options, which many people do, but it is definitely not the roller girls I know.  Brownies and other dessert, can be included in a healthy diet, but if you are eating them so much that you feel the need to make them “healthier,” then you may want to reconsider how often you have dessert.  Some people that have a gluten intolerance, certainly couldn’t have regular brownies, so these brownies that have no wheat flour, would be a good option.  Bottom line, if you want to eat a brownie or another dessert, eat it.  If you want to make it healthier, then do so by using almond flour and better ingredients, but don’t glamorize them into a Paleo diet….it just makes me roll my eyes.  Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.

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Okay, so this is really just an add-on to my previous post regarding the new health care reform bill and having calories posted on all menu boards.  I believe that the makers of the new health bill believe that having calorie information in everyone’s face in every restaurant venue will insight people to choose differently, and hopefully, healthier.   I understand their good intentions.  But, hasn’t this information been around a long time?  Now, I realize that not having knowledge about food puts one at a disadvantage for making the best choices, but having that knowledge does not necessarily mean that one will make a alternative choice, or better one, for that matter.  This is the case in many areas of our lives, but food is what I am here to discuss today.

Let’s look at Oprah, for instance.  I don’t like to pick on people, well only in private, but we have all witnessed her enormous fluctuations in weight over the years.  And, those that watch her show, probably heard all about her current diet choices and exercise regimes.    She is the epitome of a yo-yo dieter, or what my department likes to call a “dieting casualty.”  Oprah is one of the wealthiest women in the world, has a great deal of power, and an educated woman….she did graduate from college, I had to check.  But, somehow, with all this education, wealth and power, even Oprah cannot seem to get it together when it comes to weight and health. Now, I think she has learned some things over the years and just like anyone is figuring out what is right for her.  But, even someone that can pay a personal chef, a private trainer, and a private food purchaser, she can’t maintain a consistent and healthy weight.  I am not in any way making fun of Oprah here, it is a struggle than many share.  I am just making the point that even with all the knowledge and resources, people don’t necessarily make the best decisions.

I am a dietitian and have struggled with weight over the years, not quite as wildly as Oprah considering my highest weight ever was 135lbs, but that is not a good look for me, and I have tons of knowledge about nutrition and diet.  I have seen and worked with numerous dietitians that were obese.  I even did crazy diets in hopes of losing weight and even resorted to bulimia for years.  I “knew” this was very bad for me, but I always thought I would stop after just 5 more pounds….apparently, eating disorders don’t work that way.  We, dietitians, are just like everyone else, knowledge does not mean action.

Obesity is not discriminatory, it preys on all humans, and some pets.  It is sitting there waiting for us to overeat the French fries dipped in garlic aioli, chicken wings, and M&M’s.  It doesn’t care who we are.  White or Black.  Low income or high income.  Educated or uneducated.  Rural or urban.  It doesn’t seem to matter.  Obesity doesn’t seem to be a disease that we can blank out with more education, although we are certainly trying, aren’t we?

So, will putting calorie amounts on menus really help our nation get healthier?  I suppose it will help some make better choices, but still they have a choice, which if there wasn’t a choice, it wouldn’t be America.  People need to take personal responsibility for their behaviors and I suppose being more educated will enable them to do this, but again, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will.

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I don’t feel like I am writing anything new here, but I continue to overhear and receive comments about foods being “fattening”, the extreme avoidance of any food containing fat, and the fact that people continue to purchase fat-free and reduced-fat products, so I feel I need to put this fear of fat to rest. If this were true, we would all have gotten skinny eating Snackwells, Wow chips, and Reduced-fat Oreos, but obesity reigns on. It’s not fat that makes us fat, its any calories in excess whether they come from fat, carbohydrate or protein. Any of these in excess will be stored as fat in the body. So, can any one food be called “fattening?” I guess if eaten in excess of needed calories, but you can’t blame any particular food for our obesity epidemic.
And, it’s not only my clients I hear this from, but seemingly well-educated people, too. For instance, there is a doctor, who shall remain nameless, that I work with that continues to put this fear of fat into patients telling them that peanut butter, nuts, avocadoes, and dairy will make them fat. He might as well just tell them that these foods come straight from the devil and should be included among the Commandments: Thou Shall Not Eat Fat. He’ll surely be surprised to know that I didn’t blow up like the blueberry girl from Willa Wonka when I ate that entire avocado for lunch, yep 300 calories and 27 grams of fat. And, shockingly, I even had about 400 calories in almonds that same day. It’s a wonder I didn’t have to buy new pair of pants or get someone to roll me out to my car.
I understand the reasons that fat gets a bad reputation; it has 9 calories per gram as compared to carbohydrate or protein, which have 4 calories per gram. So, in the minds of the diet “gurus”, you can eat more food if you eat less “fatty” foods, which is certainly true. The problem with the low-fat craze was not the promotion of eating less fat and more fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. No, the problem started when companies wanted to get a piece of the diet cash. Big companies, and the diet companies themselves, started producing low-fat and fat-free foods, and might I add low-taste and taste-free, not necessarily void of calories, just less calories from fat and typically more calories from carbohydrate, usually sugar. When you’re at the supermarket sometime, take a look at the calorie difference between the original vs. low-fat vs. fat-free products, typically it’s not a whole lot. And, what I’ve witnessed with these foods is that people just end up eating more, maybe because they’re less satisfying or maybe it just feels right to eat more since you are eating “healthy.” Either way, the low-fat craze, nor the low-carb craze, has reduced our waistlines; in fact, we are heavier than ever here in America.
Fat is not the enemy. Fat is essential to our bodies. There are a host of reasons that fats are needed, just as there are for proteins and carbohydrates. Fats are needed to absorb certain vitamins, to insulate our bodies for temperature regulation, to protect vital organs, which is very useful when one plays roller derby, assist in immune function, and to make our skin and hair pretty to name just a few. I could go on and on about this, but it can be found in any basic nutrition or physiology book. All of these macronutrients are needed by the human body, but, alas, in balance.
Balance is a challenging thing, but I will try to make it simple. Eat whole foods; skip the refined foods that have added fats and sugars. The fat in whole foods such as nuts, seeds, avocadoes, olives, grass-fed beef, wild caught fish, and organic dairy are of the “good” variety. The vegetable fats typically have high amounts of mono-unsaturated fats while the animals raised with natural diets will have high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. These are the fats that we end up short on when we eat only refined foods and meat from factory farms. I stand by Michael Pollan’s statement: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

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