Tell me if this sounds familiar - you’re going about your day when all of a sudden a thought comes to you - “X (cookie/donut/pastry/sweet coffee drink) would be really good right now.”
Then, as soon as that thought’s finished, your Willpower steps in - “No! You can’t have that.”
How does the rest of your day go after that?
If you’re like a lot of my clients, you spend a lot of time and energy after that moment trying to satisfy that craving with foods you’re “allowed” to have. In the end, are you ever really satisfied?
Or maybe you finally do give into that craving. Just this one time, you tell yourself, and then you eat way more than you planned on, or even wanted to.
The problem with restriction is it's based on willpower, and willpower doesn't work. Willpower is basically just saying no, and human nature is to react to hearing no by automatically wanting whatever it is we can’t have.
One of the first steps to healing your relationship with food is recognizing that your appetite (and your body) is not your enemy. You do not need to vigilantly control or punish yourself for cravings, thoughts, or eating.
You don’t need to earn food. Food is not good or bad, and it’s not so serious that eating one cookie is a life or death choice. Part of living a healthy life is having those joyful moments with food.
Getting out of that diet mindset of guilt and restriction is hard, and it takes a good amount of courage to go against the grain of society. But when you shed the diet mindset and focus on self acceptance and happiness your life will be so much more fulfilling and joyful.
There's a new diet that's causing some excitement in the health world. You may have heard it mentioned on a quick health section on your local news, but it probably won't be promoted across social media.
The diet is a mash up of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. It's called the MIND diet, and a study at Rush University found that it may be able to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's by 53%.
The MIND diet was created specifically for the Rush University study. They created it by taking what we already knew about certain foods and their good or bad effect on brain function. They selected over 900 people in the Chicago area and had them report on the foods they ate over a 9 year period and monitored them for the development of Alzheimer's dementia. They found that those who followed the MIND diet appeared 53% less likely to develop Alzheimer's than their peers who did not follow the diet.
Now, Alzheimer's is a complicated disease that appears to have many contributing factors. This was also only one study following a small group of people in one geographical area. There need to be more studies looking at this diet and its benefits. However, the initial study is very promising.
I think the most exciting aspect of the Rush study suggests that even those who followed the MIND diet only "moderately" well still saw a 35% reduction in their risk of developing Alzheimer's. Most people are not going to follow a diet perfectly 100% of the time, so if you can mostly follow the diet you can still benefit, which makes it functional in the real world.
In the end, the MIND diet isn't all that different from what nutrition professionals have been saying for years. The diet has 10 food groups to eat regularly and 5 to limit or avoid.
10 Food Groups to Include
-Green leafy vegetables
5 Foods to Limit or Avoid
-Fast food/fried foods
-Pastries and sweets
-Butter and stick margarine
The study also suggested that the longer people had been following the MIND diet, the more protective the benefits. Which means it's never too early to start.
June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. As a sufferer of migraine headaches, I know how brutal they can be and how they can completely derail a whole day, or even week.
For some, but not all people, diet can play a role in triggering migraines. The best way to know if your diet is affecting your headaches is to keep a headache diary. Keep a log of when you have a migraine, and what foods you ate within the 24 hour period before the headache began. As you log more headaches, see if you start to see a pattern of a particular food consumed the day of or before a headache.
If you do have a food sensitivity, it should trigger a headache within 12 to 24 hours.
Common migraine food triggers are:
-Foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG)
One of these, or other foods, may be triggering some of your migraines. Or maybe your migraines aren't triggered by a food at all.
Migraines can be caused by a variety of factors. I think it's helpful to not only record food consumed in a headache log, but also other common headache triggers. These include: amount of sleep over the past few nights, stress level over the past week, recent exercise, any change in your normal routine.
Today I ate a donut.
I didn't "earn" it. I didn't burn if off later. I didn't skip a meal. I didn't eat less the rest of the day. I didn't feel guilty about it. I didn't feel like a failure. The donut did not define my day.
Today I ate a donut, and that's ok.
I ate a donut because I wanted to eat a donut. I ate a donut because I really enjoy donuts, and this was my favorite kind of all.
As I was scrolling through Instagram tonight I saw that a lot of people ate a donut today. I also saw a lot of people that wanted to eat a donut, but didn't. I saw a lot of people that felt they couldn't eat a donut because it wasn't a "cheat" day. Or they didn't want their workout to be "pointless". I saw people who ate donuts with questionable "fat burning" supplements. I even saw people shaming those who did eat donuts.
If you ate a donut today, that's ok. If you didn't eat a donut today because you didn't want to eat a donut, that's ok too. But if you wanted to eat a donut today and didn't because of something similar to the above reasoning, that's not ok. That's something to talk about.
Healthy living is based on a healthy mindset. Feelings of guilt, failure, fear; letting one food define your day - those are not aspects of a healthy mindset. The power we give food as a society can make it feel overwhelming, but food is just food. The first step to healing your relationship with food is recognizing that.
This week I received the following articles emailed to my inbox from various groups that somehow have my email: "5 Weight Loss Hacks That Can Backfire" "How to Cut Calories From Your Sandwich" "The Problem with Undereating." Ah yes, I thought, summer is upon us.
It's that time of year when people start to worry about getting "beach body" ready. There's a lot of information out there about what you should or shouldn't do to get ready for the summer months, so I thought I'd share my top 5 musts to get your body summer ready.
1. Water. Dehydration can sneak up on you quickly in the heat, especially if you're being physically active. So make sure you have a water bottle with you when you're spending time outdoors, and drink from it often. By the time you feel thirsty you're already dehydrated.
If you like to exercise outside do it during the cooler parts of the day (morning and evening). Try and stay out of the sun as much as possible during the heat of the day, especially on those record breaking days. Heat stroke kills many people every year (over 7400 people died from heat-related illness between 1999 and 2010 in the U.S.) so be aware of when you and your loved ones may be better off inside.
2. Snacks. When you're out at the beach or the park all day it's easy to forget to eat. Sometimes heat can suppress appetite so you don't even realize you're hungry until you're famished. When you skip a meal or go too long without eating you're more likely to over eat once you have food in front of you. That's why I think it's a good idea to always have some kind of snack in your bag. It can be as simple as an apple or small bag of granola. Just something non-perishable that will give your blood sugar a quick boost.
3. Sunscreen. I love being outdoors, especially in the summer. But if you're not careful you can pay a price for all that fun in the sun. Skin cancer rates are on the rise, every year in the U.S. more than 3.3 million people are treated for skin cancer. Invest in a good sunscreen with broad spectrum protection and reapply often! If you need help deciding on a sunscreen, you can get the facts here.
4. Hand Sanitizer. Germs are a year round thing and nobody wants a cold in the summer. Always make sure your hands are clean before touching your face.
5. Meat Thermometer. Summer is the time for grilling out, but before you serve up that delicious feast do a quick temperature check on your meat to make sure it's cooked all the way through. After all, you want to spend the summer out having fun, not stuck at home (or in the hospital) with food poisoning.
About a week ago I made Kraft mac & cheese for lunch. It was really more of a casserole because I threw in a can of tuna and some green beans and then topped it with bread crumbs just to be fancy. Then yesterday I had birthday cake (with fudge frosting!) for breakfast.
On neither of those days did I restrict myself for the rest of the day or eat differently. I didn't go to the gym to "burn off" either meal. They weren't "cheat" meals or days. They didn't nutritionally ruin my day or week or life.
I tell you this not because I feel the need to confess my "sins" but to show you, through example, that healthy eating is about what you do the majority of the time.
If you usually eat whole grains, get lots of fruits and vegetables throughout the day, stick with lean proteins, get a few servings of dairy each day, and limit your salt and added sugar intake then a Memorial Day BBQ is nothing to stress about. Neither is a donut, or a corn dog, or birthday cake for breakfast.
Living healthy is about more than just eating healthy. It's also about being active every day, reducing your stress, and being happy. How happy and stress free are you when you're worrying about that cupcake you just ate? Not very.
When we focus on living a healthy lifestyle we're focusing on big picture, not every little detail. There's always going to be BBQs and donuts and birthday cake that pop up in your weeks. If you want them, have them! I'll let you in on a little secret, once you tell yourself it's ok to eat those things, and allow yourself to do so, the intense desire for them starts to go away. When it's just food and no longer forbidden treasure it just seems a little less exciting.
May is National Osteoporosis Month. A lot of people think of osteoporosis as a disease that only affects people late in life, but did you know that your bone mass peaks in your 20s?
Bone, like skin, is a living tissue and is constantly breaking down and reforming. Until about the age of 25 your body is builds new bone at a faster rate than it loses old bone. Once you reach 30 the process of building new bone slows down.
Osteoporosis is a thinning of bone and loss of bone density over time. It can lead to frequent fractures, pain, back problems, disability, and even death. Just to be clear, although it is normal to lose some bone density as you age, osteoporosis is not a normal part of aging.
The good news is there's a lot you can do to keep your bones healthy (even after 30).
Everyone has heard that for strong bones you need to consume enough calcium, but what does that mean? For people between 19 and 50 years old, the recommendation is to consume 1000 mg of calcium every day (once you're over 50 the recommendation goes up to 1200 mg/day). One cup of milk or yogurt provides about 300 mg of calcium.
There are a number of foods you can consume to help you meet your daily calcium needs. Dairy is an obvious choice, however cooked greens such as kale, broccoli, and spinach also provide some calcium (40-140 mg/serving). Kidney beans and pinto beans provide 40-45 mg for every 1/2 cup. There are also a variety of calcium fortified foods from soy products to cereal to orange juice.
It's important to spread your consumption of calcium rich products throughout the day because your body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at a time. Both Vitamin C and Vitamin D help your body to absorb calcium more effectively so it's a good idea to try and eat foods rich in those nutrients around the same time.
Vitamin D is fortified into a lot of the same foods calcium is fortified into, but check the label to be sure. You can also get Vitamin D from egg yolk, fatty fish, and beef liver.
One thing to be aware of, especially if you're planning on your breakfast cereal being a source of calcium, is that caffeine inhibits your body's ability to absorb calcium. So you want to space your morning coffee at least 30 minutes after your calcium rich food intake.
Another key part of maintaining healthy bones is performing weight bearing exercises 2-3 times every week. If you're new to exercise or strength training, body weight exercises can be a great place to start. Things like push ups, body weight squats, lunges, and step ups are great ways to both build strength in your bones, as well as increase your balance and muscle strength.
As you get stronger and those exercises get easier try adding weights to increase the resistance your body needs to work against. (It's better to start with too light of a weight than too heavy. Injuries are nobody's friend.)
There's so much talk about healthy eating in our society that it may be hard to believe that you can be "too healthy." However, a growing number of nutrition and health experts (me included), have seen a concerning trend emerging. There are some people who are so concerned about eating "healthy" or the "right" things that the focus on their diet begins to affect other aspects of their lives.
The term "orthorexia" was coined in the 1990s by a doctor trying to describe an obsession with healthy eating that he was seeing with some of his clients. Orthorexia is not an eating disorder, and it is not a clinical term or a medical diagnosis, but it is a type of disordered eating.
We all want to improve our health by eating well, but people struggling with orthorexia take it to the extreme. They often have a long list of "bad" foods and/or ingredients that they won't allow themselves to have. They may avoid social situations where it would be difficult for them to eat "healthy." Much of their time may be spent planning or thinking about food and their meals. Orthorexia tends to be very individualized, there's no one diet people suffering from it follow.
Unfortunately our society's love of fad diets and weight loss "secrets" creates a dangerous environment where disordered and restrictive eating patterns flourish. When diets are restrictive the risk for nutrient deficiency is much higher. When you only eat a handful of foods, it's very difficult to get all the nutrients your body needs to thrive.
I often talk about healthy eating as an art form, because I believe it looks different for everyone. However, one thing all healthy diets have in common is variety and balance. Eating should be a joyful experience, it should never cause you anxiety or feelings of guilt. We eat to fuel our bodies in order to live the lives we want. We shouldn't be spending hours thinking and worrying about the food we consume.
In the media I see so many "studies" and fad diets that seem to push us toward a very restrictive diet. Even with myself I occasionally notice thoughts that, if focused on, could eventually lead me down the path of disordered eating. As a society, I think it's important for us to start focusing on healing our relationship with food. If you ever have a question or concern about what foods are "good" or "bad" try to ignore the noise of fad diets and go right to an expert (a Registered Dietitian).
If you, or someone you know, are suffering from an eating disorder help is available. Reach out to the National Eating Disorder Association at 1-800-831-2237.
Lately I've noticed a lot of "detox" and "cleanse" diets popping up on various social media. I know it's that time of year again when we're bombarded more than normal with ways to "lose 7 pounds in 7 days!" but I find the detoxes and cleanses particularly annoying.
The weight loss claims of cleanses are true. You're forcing your body into severe calorie restriction, so you will lose weight. It's certainly not a healthy or sustainable way to lose weight, and you're not really going to lose a lot of fat. The weight lost on detoxes and cleanses is usually a mix of water weight, muscle loss, and a small amount of fat loss.
My big problem with these diets is that they feed into the mindset that food is bad for us. The idea that we need to "cleanse" ourselves and rid ourselves of "toxins" we accumulate just by eating and living our lives.
First of all, we have systems in our body whose entire purpose is to take out the things we don't need. They're called the liver and the kidneys. If those aren't working properly, a juice cleanse is not going to solve the problem.
But the big thing, the number one thing, is: food is not bad for you. Food is your body's fuel. It allows you to keep living from one day to the next. There is no good and evil, there is only food. This idea that food is damaging to us or should make us feel guilty or bad about ourselves is so unhealthy. Your body needs calories, it needs carbohydrates, and protein, and fat. Eating food is not something you have to atone for.
This idea of "clean" eating that is all the rage originally came from a good place. The premise is to eat whole foods rather than processed foods. However, like with most fad diets, it's evolved into something much more stringent than any diet should be.
There's a saying I've seen around the internet on those scenery pictures with text - "You do not have to earn food. You are not a dog." I like it and hate it at the same time. The first half is 100% right you do not have to earn anything you eat. You need to eat to live, it's not about burning so many calories in order to eat a meal or a snack.
It's the second part that I don't like. I know for me, and all of my friends who have dogs, I do not make my dog earn food. I feed her because I love her and I want her to be healthy and live a long life. The same reasons you should feed yourself.
So instead of dedicating a week of your time to "detoxing" your body, spend those 7 days detoxing your mind. Start to heal your relationship with food. When you eat a meal, think about the way it's nourishing your body and all the ways you use that energy (to concentrate on the book your reading, or recover from the workout that morning, or to laugh with your friends on a Friday night out). The human body is a beautiful thing. Nourish it. Appreciate it.
It's the time of year where people are starting to think about goal setting. You're probably looking back on the past year and thinking about what you've accomplished (or maybe not accomplished quite yet), and looking forward to 2016 and thinking about what you want to accomplish over the next year.
New Year's resolutions get a bad rep, especially resolutions that are health focused. There's often snide comments and the general feeling from others (and maybe even yourself) that come the end of January you'll be back to life as usual.
I think New Year's resolutions are great. It's important to take time to assess where we are in our life and where we want to be, as well as acknowledge where we were previously. Most of us find it pretty easy to know where we want to be; but it can be more difficult to look back at where we've been. However, I think the retrospective aspect of goal setting is just as important, if not more so, than the making of the goals.
I consider the retrospective step of goal setting to be two pronged. First, it's important to give yourself credit for your past accomplishments. When looking back a full year, it can be easier to remember the let downs rather than the accomplishments. That's why I like the idea I stole from Pinterest last year and tweaked a little. On New Year's Eve, decorate a container (it can be on old pasta jar, an old coffee tin, even just a cardboard box, whatever you have), then throughout the year as you accomplish small goals you've set for yourself, write down what you accomplish and put it in your container. At the end of the year, or whenever you're looking back to make new goals, pull out the container and remind yourself of all the goals you set that you accomplished. This is both a good mood booster to remind you that you can accomplish goals you set for yourself, and also allows you some insight on what type of goals you can set that will set you up for success.
It's also important to acknowledge past failings, and take an honest look at them to understand why those failings happened. Once you understand why you've failed to reach a goal in the past you can adjust your strategy and try again.
If you want to make a change in 2016, but feel overwhelmed at the thought of going at it alone, you're in luck! Right now I'm offering a package of an initial consultation and 2 30 minute follow ups for $120 (50% off regular pricing). Or, if you're not convinced nutrition counseling is for you and not ready to make that kind of commitment, I'm also offering initial consultations for $60 (50% off regular pricing). Contact me if you're interested and we can get you scheduled (if you're outside of the LA area, I can still help you via teleconferencing or Skype/FaceTime).
I hope everyone has wonderful rest of the holiday season. Remember to enjoy the time with your loved ones, and try not to stress about all those cookies and fruit cakes. I'll be back with you in 2016 with more delicious recipes and nutrition tips to help you reach those goals you set December 31st.
Taryn is a Los Angeles based Registered Dietitian who's passionate about helping you be your healthiest you.