The Instagram fam has spoken! Yesterday, I posted in my stories about starting to share “5 Thoughts” blogs. You may know the kind - with thoughts/musings/recommendations/bits and pieces from the person’s life. It’s a little bit like the mixed bag you can sometimes find in the Whole Foods cheese section - odds and ends that don’t constitute their own package. So taking my inspiration from the cheese section (as you do), I’m going to share little bits and bobs in this format with the exception that I’m only going to share four thoughts rather than five - purely because I do not like multiples of five (anyone else?). It’s been my intention for awhile to share relevant pieces of my life on this blog for awhile which is something I used to do a lot more of and miss. So I’m going to try it out for a bit on a semi-regular basis and would love your thoughts/feedback as always!
It’s mid-January and unfortunately, the new year diet culture messages haven’t dissipated.If this is your first year (or second or fourth) new year that you’re not signing up for a diet program or gym membership, it can be easy to feel like you’re doing something wrong. Especially with the barrage of advertisements for various diets this time of year, it can feel weird and maybe a little discouraging to be opting out. I wanted to give you a couple quick reminders if you’re feeling totally overwhelmed or defeated by all the diet-focused messaging this time of year.
Something I’ve been thinking about and talking about a lot with my clients recently is letting go of the idea that every single thing you put in your mouth has to have the most nutritional value. In our culture of “wellness” and “superfoods” and green juices, it’s easy to get the message that everything we put in our bodies has to have the most nutrition possible. Why have a sweetened yogurt when you could have plain instead? Why have whole milk when you could have skim? Why drink regular milk when you could have almond juice? Why have white pasta when you could have wheat?
Well…because maybe you don’t like plain yogurt. Maybe you think it tastes like sour milk and it makes your mouth cringe in a weird way (am I speaking from experience? Maybe.) Maybe you just love the way whole milk tastes in your latte (also speaking from experience). And maybe you just think whole wheat pasta tastes like damp cardboard.
And all those reasons are totally valid reasons to avoid something. As a dietitian, I don’t want to force my clients to eat whole wheat pasta when they’re going to be grimacing the whole way through. I want them to eat something that they are going to be able to fully enjoy and feel satisfied by. If you’re craving pasta and then force yourself to eat a substitute that you don’t even like in the name of “health”, then you’re going to be left physically and mentally unsatisfied.
I don’t want you to feel unsatisfied. It’s my job to make sure food is satisfying and nourishing for you.
And if you’re thinking “but sometimes we just have to force yourselves to eat things that we don’t like!”, I get where you’re coming from but I don’t agree. I don’t think we have to force ourselves to eat anything we don’t want to eat or do anything we don’t want to do. If we use the pasta example, whole wheat pasta has more fiber and a little more protein than white pasta. If you were my client, first I would help you determine if you really needed to be concerned about protein or fiber (it’s possible you’re already getting enough). And if you do, my hope as a nutrition therapist would be to help you find other ways to increase your fiber and protein intake without it being unpleasant or deprivation-based.
It’s okay to eat things just because they taste good or because they sound good or because they’re nostalgic or because they have special meaning or because it’s what you have access to. Not everything needs to be a superfood (and while we’re at it, “superfoods” are a totally made-up concept that have no definition). We don’t always need to optimize our food choices for maximum nutrition benefit. Because health is more than food and health is more than our physical body; it includes mental, emotional, and spiritual health which can all be fed (no pun intended) when we have satisfying eating experiences.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to incorporate some gentle nutrition- in fact, that’s one of the tenets of intuitive eating (and worth noting that it’s the last one for a reason). But it can be easy to get sucked into the world of “wellness” and to obsess about ingredient lists and protein content and nutrient profiles but I urge you to take a step back from that. Take a few minutes to think about what sounds satisfying to you and listen. You can start small. You can pick one eating occasion to test it out on. Try what it would feel like to listen to your body’s cues and take time afterwards to process how your mind and body feel.
I want the people I work with to be healthy but I also want health to be looked at as a broad concept; it’s so much more than how many grams of fiber are in your meal. Ditch the labels, let go of judgment, and eat what you enjoy.
If you’re interested in an affordable introduction to the tenets intuitive eating, check out my program Finding Freedom. And if you’re not already, make sure you’re signed up for my email list to get anti-diet inspiration twice a month.
Until next time,
Cover photo by Wendy Rueter
Last week, I made an Instagram post with some ideas for resolutions that are health-promoting without making weight loss the focus and got an overwhelmingly positive response. The idea is to adopt habits from a place of self-care and self-compassion rather than deprivation and shame. Contrary to popular belief (if you pay attention to people who troll body positivity on Instagram), health is not a value that every one has to have or something that is necessarily accessible to everyone due to disability, chronic illness, etc. But if you are interested in making behavior change to benefit your health, I'm here to tell you that you can absolutely do that without making weight loss part of the equation. And while January 1 is the biggest day of the year for setting goals and resolutions, behavior change can happen any day of the year (including today)! On that note, here is an expanded version of health-promoting habits that have absolutely nothing to do with weight loss or dieting.
1. Include all the food groups in your diet.
2. Drink enough water.
3. Get to bed on time every night regardless of what you have going on- no pointless Instagram scrolling because you're too lazy to get up and get ready for bed (that one is actually just a note for myself).
4. Try a new fruit or vegetable every week (or try a new preparation method).
5. Find & see a good therapist on a regular basis.
6. Develop a meditation or yoga practice.
7. Make it a point to consume dairy products with vitamin D or take a supplement (most people are deficient, especially this time of year if you live in the US).
8. Have a weekly dance party in your living room.
9. Make time for genuine connection (not just social media) with friends, family and partners.
10. If your caffeine consumption is causing anxiety/insomnia, switch to half-decaf or swap out a cup of coffee for tea.
11. Say no to the things that don't bring you any joy or satisfaction.
12. Seek out weight inclusive providers (this HAES help finder is a great resource).
13. Find your set point weight by eating regularly and adequately.
14. Listen to your hunger and fullness cues (and if you're not there yet, work on regaining your hunger and fullness cues).
15. Take at least 15 minutes for self-care every day.
16. Allow yourself to take whole days off- mental health days are a thing.
17. Practice deep breathing in the morning, evening and whenever you're feeling stressed.
18. Try new foods or new recipes every once in awhile.
19. Read for pleasure.
20. Make time to snuggle with your cat/dog/child/partner.
21. Schedule yourself some downtime at some point in the day- you don't always have to be racing around.
22. If you're tired, rest.
23. Move your body if and when it feels good (in ways that feel good).
24. Experiment with aromatherapy, essential oils and all those woo-woo things if you're into it.
25. Reject the diet mentality.
26. Work towards radical acceptance of your body, regardless of size.
27. Take your meds.
28. If you have access to it, get a professional massage (hot tip: Groupon, baby).
29. Take time out for things you find genuinely fun.
30. Release the idea of good and bad foods (foods have no moral value) and allow your intuition to guide your eating choices.
31. Develop healthy coping mechanisms to use when you have difficult emotions (and know that we all emotionally eat sometimes but it's important to have other ways to cope as well).
32. Respect your body- don't force it to do things that don't feel good to you.
What else you would add to this list? I would love to hear in the comments. And if seeing a weight-inclusive dietitian is on your list of intentions for 2018, I currently work virtually with clients from across the US and would love to hear from you.
Cover photo by Cassie Boca