The Dieting Game: Can You Really Ever Win?

hungry man and burgerI have two questions for you. Question #1: Do you know anyone who followed a diet and lost weight? I bet you do, because ALL diets work. Yes, I said that. And NO, I don’t believe in dieting, but they DO work…..initially. If you ever tried one, then you know. That is why I often hear “I am going back on the Atkin’s Diet (insert Weight Watcher’s, Zone Diet, Hollywood Diet, etc) because I lost a lot of weight on it last year, it works”. Yes, all these diets “work” because they provide less calories (energy) than you were eating before (if you follow the restrictive guidelines spelled out in whatever plan). Voila! You lose weight.

Question #2: How many of those individuals that you know who were “successful” in losing weight continue to maintain their weight loss a year or two later? I am guessing there aren’t too many. Research predicts this, past experience proves this, yet, millions of people continue to support the diet industry (or continue to repeat the same diets over and over). Even worse than gaining back weight is falling into a destructive eating disorder, another fall-out of starting on a restrictive diet. If you are reading this and thinking “hey, I actually lost weight and have kept it off!” then you, my dear, are the exception. Hopefully, you are one of the lucky ones who made some positive changes in your lifestyle as a consequence of starting your diet; and hopefully, none of that disordered thinking that goes along with most diets did not stick.

I have known people who started exercising at the same time as dieting and learned they actually loved moving. They end up becoming yoga fans, or loving the gym or zumba, and enjoying every minute. Even when they give up the diet, they have successfully incorporated something healthy into their lives that is helping them have a healthier lifestyle (and body). Sometimes, people who are forced to learn to cook healthier because their diet calls for different foods realize they actually enjoy some of the healthier meals. They may learn how to shop smarter and eat out less and end up eating healthier in the end, even though they give up their weight loss diet. Again, these people are the lucky ones who have taken something positive from their restrictive diet and are able to move on and incorporate a healthy habit or two. But this is the exception rather than the rule.

Unfortunately, for most people, this is not the outcome of following a strict weight loss diet. Instead of loving the new exercise regime they started, they give it up immediately because the only reason they started it in the first place was to lose weight. And since they are off the diet, they of course are off the exercise. To them, exercise still feels like punishment, so why would they continue?

As far as learning and incorporating some healthier cooking and eating habits, most dieters end up missing the foods they have been restricting so much that they tend to overeat them once they give up their diet. They avoid salads like the plague. They go right back to the easier life of picking up fast food or eating whatever is quickest. They go back to that “all-or-nothing” thinking (and eating) because in the back of their minds, they know another diet will come (so why not enjoy it all now, right?).

If you are a dieter, but not one of the lucky ones who has evolved into a healthier lifestyle, and just can’t imagine life without another diet in your future, what other options do you have? How about a reality check?

The reality is that YOU are not like anyone else. Over the years I have learned that our bodies (and weight) are affected by so many complex factors that only focusing on eating/food/exercise is like taking a toothpick to chip away at an iceberg. You really need to get to the bottom of it. We all have our own “big picture” of what affects what we eat, how we live and what we are, and these factors can be supportive of health or non-supportive. What kinds of things am I referring to? I group these contributing factors into three categories:

  1. physiological
  2. behavioral
  3. psychological

If you do not address each of these areas then evolving into a healthy happy lifestyle is next to impossible. Although some diet programs attempt to address things like behaviors, positive thinking/emotional eating and metabolism, they typically only scratch the surface, and they tend to be “blanket” approaches. We are all different and what works for one may not work for another.

So where to begin? Instead of judging yourself (I notice people often beat themselves up emotionally when they fall off the dieting wagon) I recommend a “detective” approach. It means more of a problem-solving, discovery model of moving toward change rather than a judgmental approach. In other words, you just want to gradually figure out, step by step, by trial and error, how to move into a lifestyle that is better for your body (and mind and soul for that matter). For example, let’s start with #1: Physiological.

What kinds of things contribute physiologically to your body and weight? Here are a few:

  • Conditions such as low thyroid (hypothyroid),  PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome-a condition many women have and don’t know with symptoms such as irregular periods) and genetics all contribute.
  • Lack of sleep affects hormones that cause weight gain and food cravings.
  • Inadequate protein intake or imbalances in macro-nutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) may contribute to food cravings.
  • Not moving enough, loss of muscle mass, sedentary lifestyle in general compromises our body’s ability to self-regulate (in other words, active people are more in tune with their hunger and fullness, making it easier to avoid over-or under-eating)

As far as #2: Behavioral, some things that contribute to our not-so-healthy behaviors include

  • repetitive behaviors that have evolved into automatic habits (such as sitting on the couch the minute you walk in the door from work, or stopping in for a donut just because it is on the way to work, or eating in the car, or skipping meals, etc).
  • Non-supportive food environment: purchasing lots of unhealthy foods because it was on sale (hard to resist those buy-one-get-two chips!); leaving food on the counter where it becomes a trigger every time you walk by; not planning ahead for dinners so you have to resort to eating out; going to the grocery store hungry so you end up buying stuff you didn’t plan to buy
  • Clean-plate Club: you were made to finish your food even if you were stuffed because someone is starving somewhere
  • Eating food because it is free (such as when your work provides free pizza or donuts or whatever and you just had your lunch, you are not hungry, but you eat it anyway…because it’s free)
  • You eat food because you think you should, because it is good for you, even though you don’t want it or aren’t hungry anymore (note: some people with a history of disordered eating often do have to make themselves eat according to a meal plan, even when they may not feel hunger. This is critical for them as they may not be connected to their body signals).

And, finally, #3: Psychological

  • You grew up with lots of attention paid to body image, weight, dieting
  • You have used food throughout your life to provide pleasure (after all, you got a cookie when you were good growing up, now you can reward yourself whenever you want to)
  • You have used food and eating to stuff emotions (you are not good at expressing yourself or you grew up repressing how you really felt because it just wasn’t acceptable or permitted); you never received counseling or got help for this or you may not even be aware of it
  • You have dieted so much in your life that you are fearful of being without food
  • You had a parent (or spouse or friend or sibling) who restricted your food or commented on your eating or your body/weight and so you are rebelling
  • You have extremely negative “self-talk”, in other words, you beat yourself up in your mind way too much

These lists are just examples and do not come close to all of the factors that can have an affect on our eating and health. They are probably just the tip of that iceberg, and I am guessing you can think of many more examples in your own personal life. The bottom line message is to accept how complicated and intertwined all of these things become over time, and how difficult and complex it can be to figure it all out. It takes time. It takes more than a diet. So please don’t feel bad if you are one of those people who didn’t last on one. Instead, maybe you did learn something about healthy cooking or grocery shopping, or maybe you discovered you really do like grilled fish or roasted veggies. Don’t give those good things up just because you are not on that specific diet anymore.

Maybe you can use your experience with dieting and only keep what you want.

But then consider putting on that detective hat. Can you ignore what everyone else is doing, and instead start to look at your lifestyle, habits and emotions that are unique to you? Just start somewhere. Maybe you don’t get enough sleep. I promise you if you start getting to bed earlier (before 11 pm) and getting those 8 hours of sleep you will feel better immediately (and likely have less food cravings). Or, if you are tired all the time, or have irregular periods, maybe it is time to get checked out by your physician. You can’t be active or motivated if you are exhausted. You may decide to make a small change such as meal planning instead of eating on the fly. It is up to you, after all, you know your life best.

Can you win at the dieting game? Yes, you can. If you just take what you learn from them….and leave the rest.



Why Dr.Oz Gets on My Nerves

face-extreme-1554895 “Flatter by Friday! One Week to Shrink Your Stomach!”…… and Dr. Oz will tell you how. That was the quick blip I heard when I turned on the television while loading the dishwasher yesterday.

I had to watch. I imagine a million other women watched too. What magical solution to our obsession with our bellies is Dr. Oz sharing that I need to be aware of, and ready to answer questions about to the many people in my life both personally and professionally who have body image concerns? When it comes to throwing out the right hook to grab an audience, Dr. Oz is the best there is (although Donald Trump is right up there with him, no politics on this blog, but you catch the drift).

So I watched the show, and to my amazement he talked about the flat belly topic first (I figured it would be at the end, that is usually how shows get you to watch the whole thing). The segment was shared with Chris Powell, a “core expert”. Anyway, he likes to use visuals, and that makes it more fun for the live audience. So as he spelled out each reason our tummies get bloated, he demonstrated it. It was actually pretty funny. We were told to imagine that our bodies are a “house” and explained that we get visitors. The first visitor to walk in the door is “water”, then “Bloat” and finally  “Fat”. This animated cartoon demonstration was followed by the recommendation to eliminate alcohol, processed foods and sugar (just for a week, you know, to get that flat tummy).

They never really discussed bloat (except to say it was from gas produced in the digestive tract) but did talk about water retention and how to help your body avoid it. They demonstrated how eating a donut causes your body to hold onto a cup of water. They had a bunch of water soaked sponges on a table, each representing different high carbohydrate foods and how much water they cause you to retain (demonstrated by squeezing the water out of the sponges to produce the visual). They went over a specific diet plan and the reasons for every food (for example, the asparagus you are supposed to eat at dinner is supposedly a natural diuretic). It was pretty much a low calorie and low carbohydrate diet plan. The funniest part was when they had different women from the audience come up and try the special smoothies that are supposed to substitute for the foods you really are craving in between meals (such as chocolate, chips, coffee drinks). The first woman who tried a shake made from blended greens and fruit made the funniest face that made you know it was disgusting. It was too funny! Nothing against smoothies, I know lots of people who love them and they can be healthy. Personally, if it takes pulling out a blender to make a snack, it won’t happen. I only go to that trouble if I am cooking something special (like a pumpkin soup I made once three years ago).

So was there any new information that can transform your tummy and make it flat in just 7 days? While it is true that a low carb diet will tend to cause your body to lose water, and yes, losing water weight might make your tummy feel smaller, just as with any quick weight loss restrictive diet, your body will re-hydrate once you start eating normally again. Decreasing processed foods is good advice, but it is the context of the recommendation that bothers me. Why does it always have to be focused on the stomach as a reason to make a healthy change? Why bother to try to get rid of some water weight just to fit into some dress for just one occasion? Especially because the person going through this type of fast weight loss plan for this reason is likely obsessing about something that just is not there. We are talking about a tiny change in a body part that I can guarantee you, nobody is looking at except the person dieting. Who can say they really care about another person’s belly fat or bloat or water retention, or that you would even notice any change? Why put your body (and even worse, your mind) through the stress of following such a restrictive diet for even one week, for something that will not last? Why can’t we focus on helping each other become healthier? I enjoyed part of the show where experts answered some random questions about health (for instance, did you know you don’t have to wash your face with soap? a dermatologist on the show explained why, now that was interesting…). Learning new healthy recipes, how to break bad habits, how to build fitness, now that might be helpful.

Oh, and as for reducing bloat (gas) I think it is a good idea to avoid foods that cause you gas. Not because it makes your tummy look less flat, but because it makes you feel better. Broccoli is not my friend and I avoid it like the plague.

So the next time you get drawn in by some advertisement or commercial or anything else that throws out the “hook” of resolving your concerns about your tummy, remember, there is no fast solution, and never will be for any quick fix for any of our body image issues. That is why caring about health and feeling good is a wiser focus for your precious energy. When you want a quick fix for looking better, do what I do. Go see your hairdresser!


New Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 Released

stock-illustration-65223149-top-view-of-empty-plate-with-spoon-and-knifeThe Eight Edition of the Dietary Guidelines was released this week, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020. The guidelines refer to three different eating styles, Healthy U. S. Style, Mediterranean and Vegetarian. Please see the link below for all of the details. Please keep in mind the guidelines do refer to preventing “disease”, and they consider “obesity” to be a disease by definition. Those of us who believe in a Health at Every Size approach (HAES) understand that a Body Mass Index in the “obese” range does not mean a person is not healthy. It is all about lifestyle and healthy habits. So please look beyond the lingo and check it out if you want to know some of the details. I recommend using these only as a general guideline (it is good to know if you are not eating enough fruits, vegetables, calcium, etc.) but it would be nearly impossible to meet some of the unreasonable expectations for things such as sugar. I am a dietitian, trained in calculating needs regarding nutrition and I could not spend even one day on trying to calculate if what I ate exceeded the recommended 10 percent of calories from sugar. You do not have to do that to be healthy. Becoming aware of your eating patterns and how you feel (do you snack on sweets all day and crash every afternoon? Then adding in some healthy foods and protein of course will make you feel better!).  You really don’t have to be so specific and add things up like that. Seek the help of a Registered Dietitian Find a Dietitian  for even one visit if you really aren’t sure if you are getting what you need. Here is the link for the new Dietary Guidelines

The WHO Report on Processed Meat: So now what do you eat for lunch?

hot-dog-1320133It is all over the news today, so of course I need to add my two cents. I just hate when these studies come out and people get scared and start to eliminate a food from their diets just because of one report. The reality is, to be healthy, it is never one simple thing.

If you check it out, according to the World Health Organization, about 34,000 deaths per year worldwide are attributed to diets high in processed meats, but that is still just a small fraction of the 8.2 million deaths caused by cancer in 2012. It is specifically colon cancer they are referring to. The review is actually going to be published in The Lancet so if you are interested, check out the link (you may have to pay for the article when it is published). You can also check out  WHO Report.

But I like a realistic look at it, so please take a look at the NYTimes article that explains a bit more about how other factors play a role. Before you cut out anything from your diet, think about all of the other things that contribute to health. Ask yourself:

  1. Do you smoke? then please consider quitting because cutting out hot dogs should not be your first priority.
  2. Are you a couch potato? then consider adding in some movement in your life because a body that has no physical activity will not be any healthier just from cutting out salami.
  3. Do you eat all brown foods? In other words, do you dislike fruits and vegetables and so never eat them? Then omitting the bacon from your burger may not help much in your efforts to be healthy and avoid cancer. You need those antioxidants from foods with color.
  4. Do you hate your job? Are you stressed out everyday? Unhappy in your relationship or life in general? Then never having another ham sandwich in your life is not going to help.

My point is that you need to look at your entire lifestyle, your life in general before you think that making one dramatic change is going to matter. Think about your health, both mental and physical. No, you should not have hot dogs or bacon every day. But having bacon on a Sunday morning is not going to matter if you are otherwise doing all the other healthy things you need to be doing to feel good. Having a great bacon cheeseburger when you go out to eat at your favorite sports bar once in awhile will probably not cause colon cancer. Having salami for a week straight when you go to Italy for your dream vacation also will never affect your health long-term. IMG_5676But if you are someone who eats processed meats (think bologna, salami) every day, never eat fruits or vegetables, is stressed out, a couch potato, and smokes, then maybe just trying to change some of those unhealthy habits would be a good idea. Never eating another hot dog is not the answer.

Do You Need Vitamin Supplements?

end-of-the-bottle-1495091One of my pet peeves is when people are taken advantage of by the diet industry. When someone dangles a magical carrot in front of those struggling for answers to a difficult problem, it is hard not to jump on it. Things like diet pills have been around for a long time, but what about vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements? So many people I have known throughout the years have spent a lot of money on these. Are they necessary? If so, which ones do we need and why? How much to we take and when do we take them?

Since every person is different, I will not even attempt to answer that question, however I will share with you the situations I have encountered where it is smart to get some guidance on whether or not to take a supplement. I also will explain some basics so that you might be able to have a better understanding of the issue, and make more informed decisions. When it comes to nutrition, we often refer to “macronutrients” and micronutrients”:

Macronutrients: include carbohydrates, proteins (amino acids) and lipids (fats). These all contain carbon (“organic”) and provide energy to our body (they provide us with calories and are needed in larger amounts than micronutrients). We obtain the macronutrients from food. Some people buy supplemental protein powder, drinks or bars, or they may buy certain supplemental fats such as fish oil or coconut oil. Some athletes may buy supplemental carbohydrate (I remember a very high carbohydrate product that came in a tube that many of my bicycling friends used to use for an instant glucose source while biking long distances).

Micronutrients: include vitamins (C, A, D, E, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, folic acid, B12, B6, biotin, pantothenic acid) and minerals (iron, zinc, calcium, phosporous, magnesium, copper, selenium, etc). We need these in very small amounts and they also are provided in foods. Although vitamins contain carbon, minerals do not. Vitamins and minerals do not provide any energy to our body (they are not a source of calories like macronutrients). They DO however function in many reactions in our body that help us utilize energy, and provide other important functions. Consider the mineral iron (part of hemoglobin) which helps to carry oxygen to our muscles so we can move. Or the mineral calcium that besides contributing to our bone structure also acts as a catalyst in many reactions in our body. The vitamins niacin, thiamin and riboflavin play major roles in glucose and energy metabolism while vitamins C, A and E may serve as antioxidants along with other functions. But just because the micronutrients perform all of these functions does not mean the more you take in the better.

Besides the macro and micronutrients, there are other substances that help our bodies stay healthy such as antioxidants. Again, these are obtained from food, but also offered in supplements. Take a walk down the vitamin isle in any store and you will also see enzymes, energy enhancers, protein supplements, the list goes on and on.  Everything is pretty tempting if you just glance at the labels! Who wouldn’t want more energy, better sleep, more stamina, less hot flashes, clear skin, better eyesight, improved digestion, disease prevention? How do you decide if you need any of these products?

I suggest taking a look at your usual dietary intake. If your insurance covers it, or you want to invest in even one visit with a Registered Dietitian, you would be able to get a good assessment of your needs and what you might be missing in your diet. Women of child bearing age or who are pregnant or nursing have very different needs than a postmenopausal woman. Elite athletes have different needs than a sedentary office worker. People with food allergies, or vegetarians or vegans are going to need some very specific advice on the nutrients they are missing and how to meet their needs with diet, or if supplementation is necessary.

What are some of the concerns with supplementation when you do it on your own without expert advice? (Please don’t trust someone who works in a health food store, remember they are usually trying to sell their products. Unless they have at least a degree in nutrition, I would be leery).

  1. For most vitamins and minerals your body can can only absorb a certain amount. Any additional (such as mega doses) may be lost in the urine or feces, or worse, interfere with the absorption of other nutrients, or some may have negative side effects, depending on the person.
  2. Some supplements interfere with the function of prescribed medications. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.
  3. You never really know what you are getting, especially with herbal supplements. They are not regulated as a drug and may contain more or less than the label says.
  4. They are expensive. Food is usually cheaper.
  5. Protein powders are risky, especially for teens or children because it is easy to add too much. Excessive protein can put stress on your kidneys and this can be dangerous.
  6. There are many healthy benefits in real foods that we do not even understand yet. Some things you just can’t bottle.

Some suggestions:

  • If you are a picky eater or have eliminated an entire food group (such as dairy or meat) from your diet for whatever reason, you may need a supplemental source of a vitamin or mineral (such as calcium) or you may need to learn about alternative sources of macronutrients such as protein. Talk to a registered dietitian (RD) for advice or check out Academy of Nutrition and for more information or to find an RD near you.
  • If you are pregnant or planning to be, talk to your doctor or a Registered Dietitian about obtaining all of the nutrients you need to promote a healthy pregnancy.
  • If you do decide to get a supplement, avoid those with greater than 100 percent of the Daily Recommended Intake.
  • ALWAYS talk to your doctor before taking any supplement or herbal product as many of these can be dangerous depending on your condition or other medications.
  • Never give a supplement to a child without consulting with your pediatrician.
  • For more information, check out: NIH: Should You Take Dietary Supplements?

We also need water of course since our bodies are over half water and water helps to make all those reactions happen among other important functions. We need electrolytes such as sodium, chloride and potassium, and we also need fiber. Remember, that good ole boring advice: eat a balanced diet of all food groups, proteins, grains, dairy, fruits and vegetables. And use all the money you save from buying supplements for something much more fun!

Should You Have A “Cheat Day”?

donut vs apple and womanWhen I hear a person say “Saturday is my cheat day” I gotta be honest, it pushes my buttons. To most people it sounds like a harmless thing, but to me it is a red flag. An alarm goes off, triggering this irritating feeling throughout my body. I try not to react, it is a conscious decision on my part to ignore it if I am overhearing a conversation in the elevator of the hospital where I work part time, or somewhere else where there really is not time to get into it. Otherwise, such as a party or other informal gathering where women especially tend to chat about what they are doing to change their bodies…. I always take the opportunity to educate people about Health at Every Size, and how focusing on being healthy verses being thin is a much more sane goal. Then I may ask what they mean by”cheat day”. Inevitably, it means following some type of “healthy” eating plan or dieting throughout the week, then allowing themselves to overeat any of the foods  they have denied themselves during the week on Friday or Saturday, and often again on Sunday.

What bothers me about this approach to eating is that it ignores all of the principles of “mindful” eating, and about “listening to your body” . It gives food so much more power than it deserves. It makes me think of how back in the day (and actually still today unfortunately) food is used as a reward. For example, “if you finish your spinach, you can have the cookie”. What does that message send? It says “something is very wrong with spinach, and something is very special about cookies”. I wish food was never treated this way. If you are really honest with yourself, you have to admit, that sometimes fresh vegetables or a great salad or roasted garlic with asparagus is extremely yummy. And an Oreo cookie could never substitute for that taste. If however, one were to hold that Oreo up as a reward, then it might be different. Over time,we might become conditioned to look at that sweet in a different way, and want it even if we really didn’t want it! If we really were mindful and not conditioned to think some foods were good and some foods were bad (that we could only eat them on a “cheat” day) and REALLY listened to what our bodies wanted, then we would not even need a “cheat” day. We would eat in a mindful way, cooking meals that were healthy and that we enjoyed, because we want to feel good, have energy and live a long and healthy life. But that means enjoying the fun foods too, the ones that are important to us, in our culture, our family traditions or socially. Having a homemade blueberry muffin at Grandma’s house or sharing a favorite dessert when out with our old college roommate,or Grandma Harmon’s favorite cinnamon buns that you only get once in a blue moon. It may not be a Saturday or a “cheat” day, but it may be and should be just part of normal life. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday….I hope everyday you listen to your hunger, and fullness, and enjoy healthy eating, have energy, and never miss an opportunity to enjoy a serving of a special food that you enjoy. Heck with “cheat” days. Enjoying life is living, not cheating.

Are You in Diet Jail?

Idiet jail first encountered the term “Diet Jail” in 1975. I was a biology major at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. I remember clearly working with the lab teacher who was doing his research on birds (he kind of looked like a cool woodpecker). He made me count bird chirps he had taped on a recorder. I decided I did not want to be a biology major because counting bird chirps was incredibly boring. So I met with my adviser who asked me what I was interested in. My best friend Joyce was a vegetarian and ate very interesting things such as yogurt with sunflower seeds and honey, and so I told him, I though vegetarianism was interesting. He told me I should be a dietitian. I did not know what that was, but anyway, I ended up transferring to the University of Connecticut to study nutrition. For my first nutrition class (Nutrition 101) I had to do a  report about fad diets and at the time there were many books out there on the market, including the Atkins Diet. But I found one called “The Psychologist’s Eat Anything Diet” by two psychologists, Dr. Pearson and his wife, also Dr. Pearson.  It changed my thinking in a way that lasted, well, forever. The authors were decades before their times in the strategies they were promoting, before we knew about mindful eating or how our bodies regulated themselves regarding calorie intake, fat, carbohydrate intake, etc. They described what they called “diet jail” where individuals who diet tend to “lock themselves up” in a jail where only the healthy foods exist. In other words, they tell themselves they are only going to eat healthy foods such as grilled chicken, vegetables, fruits, salad, etc until they lose the weight. So psychologically it is as if they “lock themselves up” in a world where only the healthy foods are available (or allowable). But outside the jail are all the other foods, the “bad” foods. The chips, cookies, ice cream, burgers, pizza, you get the picture. All the foods they have determined they are not allowed to eat (while they are on that diet). And so, most people can last a bit in Diet Jail. Yes, they get cravings, but they use their “willpower” and overcome them. Unfortunately, we now know our bodies send out very loud signals when we are not getting enough carbohydrate or fat (the foods that do not exist in Diet Jail!) and so eventually, our bodies drive our brains to give in. Add this physiological drive to an environmental trigger, such as walking into your friend’s home who just baked some homemade chocolate chip cookies, and things change. Your brain, which is triggered by the deficiency in your body, tells you to eat a cookie! It has just what you need, what you have been missing, that fat and carbohydrate! But you can’t have someone throw just one cookie into your jail cell, so you have to step out of the jail to get that one cookie…….the problem is, once you take that bite, your realize you are out there! Out of Diet Jail! And since you know you will go back in (you tell yourself that on Monday you will really start again!) you better eat while you are out here! So you decide to order pizza, and then have ice cream (a lot) because, heck, you are going to start again on Monday. Often a full blown binge results. Because you know this is just this one time. Soon you will be back on track. Back in Diet Jail. Until the next time.

As repetitive as this cycle is in so many people’s lives, they do not seem to stop. The next diet craze offers the next magic scheme. Weight is lost and then regained. Back then we did not know the physiological reasons people were driven to eat but now we do. We know if you restrict you will suffer from “disinhibition” or breaking out of Diet Jail.Often referred to as the “what the hell” effect. It is a very sad and draining cycle.

So why not take those bars down? Why not entertain the thought of changing what you have been doing that is not working? What if you were to start to believe that all foods are equal? No food is good, no food is bad, they all have a place in your life. Yes, we need certain nutrients to feel good, have energy, normal bowel movements, prevent disease, etc. So educate yourself (I will gladly help you!), experiment, enjoy your cultural traditions (yay. pasta fagioli!) but start paying attention to your body. Are you hungry? Are you full? Are you so confused that you might really want to get some help (such as from an eating disorder specialist?). Wherever you are, it is ok, just take some time to truly reflect on your patterns. My hope for you is to enjoy eating, be healthy, and take down those darn bars.

Regarding “Clean” Eating….

mopThis women’s face is how I feel several times per week. Have you fallen for the latest weight loss craze? This is driving me crazy!! It angers me when people are taken advantage of because they are desperate to lose weight. How do you define “clean eating”??? And why does it usually involve some type of juice that you need to purchase?? Anyway, try to find some good long term outcome studies on this diet approach, and please share them with me. I can’t find any. The bottom line is any trick to make you eat A LOT less will make the force of gravity on your body less over time (that means you will weigh less). It won’t last. Most of these diets have you do a juice fast or just fruits and vegetables or maybe a “clean” shake for a certain amount of time. You will lose weight as your body breaks down muscle (sorry but the Krebb Cycle prefers amino acids to keep producing it’s ATP’s for energy, not the fat you are hoping it would use). Not to mention the typical dehydration that occurs when your body is breaking down muscle from starvation (because when you break down muscle you need to get rid of the nitrogen through your kidneys, and your body knows to use water to dilute it otherwise your kidneys would be damaged…unfortunately, that happens to some people anyway). And if you are getting way too little calories, your body may be building up toxins in your blood called ketones….that isn’t too “clean” if you ask me.

Not to mention, don’t you have to eventually eat something? Then what? Have you learned anything about yourself? Have you identified some unhealthy habits you may have had and are you magically now able to change them? Probably not. If I could have a dollar for everyone I knew who lost weight on a plan like this, but then gained it back, I might have retired by now. This latest fad is nothing new, just like the low carbohydrate diets, the low fat diets, the high protein diets, and on and on, it just delays the inevitable work your really need to do.

I’m good with vegetables and fruits in your diet. But this is way too much thinking and that is something we know people can’t sustain over time. Why not simply work on adding in these healthy foods to your diet and continue working on listening to your hunger and fullness, recognizing when you are eating when you are not really hungry, taking time to move your body because it is fun and feels good and also contributes to your health? Stop all the “cognitive restraint” and focus on health. There  is no such thing as clean eating.

Can I eat after 6 pm?

clock and plate

People ask me the same question over and over: “is it bad to eat at night? I shouldn’t eat after 6 pm, then it all turns to fat, right?” WRONG!

The fact is our bodies are constantly burning energy, even while we sit. It really doesn’t matter if you eat something before bed (such as a small snack if you are hungry). Researchers, however have been investigating the difference between meal frequency as well as when you consume the majority of your calories. In other words, does it matter if you eat the same number of calories in ONE meal verses several? Does it matter if you eat very little during the day and then MOST of your calories in the evening?

That is a different story! The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently published a study discussing this very topic. In the April, 2015 issue, “The Impact of Eating Frequency and Time of Intake on Nutrient Quality and Body Mass Index: The INTERMAP Study” the eating pattern of 2,385 participants were evaluated (1,232 men and 1,153 women). The principal findings demonstrated that more frequent eating (eating 6 times per day) as well as a higher energy intake during the day verses during the evening resulted in a lower BMI as well as an improvement in nutrition quality. In other words, those who tended to avoid eating that often (<3 eating occasions during the day instead of 3 meals and 2-3 snacks) tended to eat most of their calories at night, and their diets weren’t as healthy. The frequent eaters (6x daily) still ate at night, however they tended to spread it out (they did not miss meals during the day).

What does this mean for you? If you want to have a healthier diet, and be the weight your body is supposed to be, you need to fuel your body all through the day. This study strengthens the evidence that skipping meals during the day requires that you will need to make up for it in the evening. A snack is fine, and a late meal is fine, too. But when you do not eat enough during the day, you will be starving and tend to overeat.

So go ahead and have that snack if you are hungry!! Just be sure to give your body what it needs during the day too!!