Busting The Three Biggest Weight Loss Myths

Busting The Three Biggest Weight Loss Myths

This time of year as New Years resolutions abound, it's impossible to escape diet talk. Here's the three biggest weight loss myths busted, so you're not tempted to do something nutty!

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What Weight Loss Before and After Pictures Don't Tell You

What Weight Loss Before and After Pictures Don't Tell You

A picture can never tell the whole story. The problem with weight loss before and after pictures is what they leave out, forget to tell you and distract from. 

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Wellness Wednesday: Dieting? There Goes Your Social Life.

Wellness Wednesday: Dieting? There Goes Your Social Life.

Thinking of dieting? Well, there goes your social life. Learn how dieting can lead to social isolation. 

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Wellness Wednesday: Five Reasons You're Not Addicted to Sugar

Wellness Wednesday: Five Reasons You're Not Addicted to Sugar

Can't stop eating sugar? Here's five reasons you're not addicted to sugar, and the REAL culprit that fueling your sweet tooth. 

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Wellness Wednesday: Four Reasons To Stop Weighing Yourself

Are you stuck in an unhealthy relationship with the scale? Learn four reasons why you should stop weighing yourself. Most important reason - you are more than a number. 

Four Reasons to Stop Weighing Yourself

Waaaay back in the day before starting my private practice, when I was first hired as a hospital outpatient dietitian, I was assigned to babysit a four week weight loss program while they hired a new dietitian to run it. Since then, I've learned the power of intuitive and mindful eating versus dieting and have shifted my focus to behavior, not weight. But at the time, I viewed the scale as most people do, a mostly accurate marker of progress.

Each class started with a weigh in. The participants lined up and hopped on the scale one by one as I marked their weight in a chart. It made me feel SO awkward, and I knew it was even more uncomfortable for them - even back then I recognized how demoralizing it was. We just accepted it as a necessary part of the weight loss process.

Even though I shudder thinking about it now, in a way, I'm glad I had the experience because it opened my eyes and made me realize how shitty the scale actually is.

During weigh ins, the scale frequently fluctuated without explanation. And this was a pretty fancy schmancy $1,000 scale. Time after time, someone would hop on, excited after making big changes to their eating and exercise habits the week before, only to see the scale nudge upwards from last week, sometimes by a pretty significant amount. I would explain water weight, but you could see they were completely dejected. Frequently, they would give up, sometimes skipping the next meeting, falling back into old eating habits or engaging in what I call "eff it eating."

Even though I spent class talking about small, sustainable changes and losing weight slowly but steadily, the scale became a bit of a race. People were disappointed to lose only half a pound or a pound. Or, initial excitement over weight loss quickly faded when someone else in class lost more.

I saw how short term "success" was inversely correlated with sustained weight loss. One guy lost something like 30 pounds in the four week program. Even though rationally I knew that this was WAY too fast, I have to admit I felt really excited for him...and for myself. I had helped this man lose 30 lbs! When I turned in that month's weights, both my boss and our director gave me special praise. Rachael, Super Dietitian.

Nope. A few months later I saw him for an individual session. He had regained most of the weight and was taking in less calories than I ate on a normal day.

[Tweet "Your worth is determined by more than a number on the scale"]

How often do you weigh yourself?

If you've never dieted and managed to grow up without internalizing society's pressure to be thin, then by all means, feel free to check your weight on occasion. If you're one of the 5% of people who has lose weight through dieting and kept it off more than five years, then studies show weighing yourself regularly will help you maintain. But for everyone else, I urge you to step off the scale, consider your relationship with it....then smash it to pieces!

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Four Reasons to Stop Weighing Yourself

  1. The scale is a trigger. Consciously or not, the number on the scale has a profound impact on how you eat. Was the number "good?" In that case, you might treat yourself to some ice cream, because hey, you lost weight and you deserve it! Or maybe you wonder since you lost X lbs this week, maybe you could lose X + 1 lbs next week, so you restrict yourself further (which, of course, will inevitably lead to overeating, binging and/or emotional eating). Do you remember the last time you weighed yourself and got a "bad" number? How did you feel the rest of the day? How many times have you been making positive changes, feeling really good physically, only to step on the scale and get a "bad" number? All of a sudden your day (or week) is ruined. Those positive changes that would have eventually led you to health and your natural weight inevitably go to the wayside because they weren't "working." "Bad" weights also lead to what I call "eff it eating," the eating that occurs when you say "eff it," give up, and eat something you were previously restricting, usually in much larger quantities than you need.
  2. The scale is not your doctor. Does weight affect health? Sure. But it's a lot less important than you might think. There are many other factors that play a much greater role in health - stress, fitness, eating habits (regardless of weight), socioeconomics, etc. It's a mixture of behaviors, genetics and your environment that determines health, not the weight on the scale. There are many thin people who are very unhealthy. Conversely, there are many fat people who are perfectly healthy. If your goal is health, then get healthy, don't lose weight! In your quest for health, as a side effect your weight will settle at it's natural point anyway.
  3. It's not very accurate. There are so many variables that affect the number on the scale. Hydration is a major one. Did you know 2 cups of water weighs one pound? Even if you weigh yourself first thing in the morning after going to the bathroom, your hydration status will still vary based on time of the month, sodium intake, weather, previous days activity, sleep and so on. Are you hooked on the idea of losing weight quickly? Most of it is water weight, especially if you're losing weight by reducing carbohydrates. Low carb (and low calorie) diets force your body to turn to protein for energy. Seventy percent of muscle is made of water, so a pretty significant amount is lost when it's broken down. Since muscle is a more metabolically active tissue than fat, this rapid weight loss can significantly slow down metabolism over time. Two other surprising factors that affect weight - poop (when did you last go to the bathroom?) and gravity, which can vary slightly based on where the scale is located, time of year and time of day.
  4. It's a distraction from internal cues. The goal of intuitive eating is to listen to your internal cues and let that guide your eating decisions rather than relying on the outside rules and regulations of dieting. Experience and research shows that the rules involved with dieting generally results in rebellion. Relying on internal cues with mindful and intuitive eating is your best bet for reaching your happy weight (not to mention your best bet for achieving health, happiness and freedom from food). But how can you get in touch with your body's cues if you're constantly weighing yourself? Small, often arbitrary variations in weight, will make you to second guess your reactions to your body's cues. How many times did you deprive yourself after noticing your weight was high? Would you still eat your mid afternoon snack if you had a "bad" weight that morning? How would you reward yourself for a "good" weight loss? With food, right? By weighing yourself, your eating will simply become a reaction to a number on the scale, not a reaction to your body's actual needs.

[Tweet "Learn four reasons why you should stop weighing yourself. #bodypositive"]

Smash the scale

Ditching the scale is really scary, especially if you've relied on it for a long time. It feels like getting out of a relationship that isn't serving you. Even though you know it's a bad relationship, there's still that fear about the future. What if you gain weight or get out of control without the scale to keep you in check? An understandable fear, but in my experience, the scale is much more likely to CAUSE your eating to get out of control than keep your eating in control.

Remember, the scale does not measure your self worth, your health, your relationships, your achievements, or really anything other than your relationship with gravity at a single point in time.

You are SO much more than a number.

How does the scale impact your eating behaviors? What would happen if you ditched the scale? 

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Wellness Wednesday: The Thin Myth

Do you subscribe to the Thin Myth? The idea that life will be better after you lose weight? Todays post is a reminder that fantasy isn't always reality.

The Thin Myth: The not always happy reality of weight loss

This American Life is one of my favorite podcasts, so when I learned their recent episode was about rethinking fat, I had to listen immediately. Other than a twinkie joke that was in very poor taste, I thought it was really well done. They included interviews with two authors who discussed their experience being fat, as well as a piece on a weight loss program at a Christian college which basically could have been called pray the fat away.

Sandwiched in the middle was a piece featuring Elna Baker, a writer and stand up comedian who shared her story of losing 110 pounds. I don't want to give too much away, but I could share every detail and it wouldn't be anywhere near as heartbreaking as hearing it come from her own mouth. You can listen it here or read the jist of it here.

Her story starts as most weight loss stories do. She grew up in a larger body, and although she had been pretty content with life, she hit a place right out of college where she was struggling to find a job in the TV industry and realized that despite having lots of male friends, she had never been in a serious relationship. She saw her thinner friends get boyfriends and jobs and all the things she wanted and wondered, "is it because I'm fat?"

So, she went on a diet.

In a short period of time, she lost 110 pounds. Soon after, she got some of those things she wanted, including an intro level job at a TV show and dates with cute guys. But it wasn't all happy. Despite getting these things she wanted so deeply, she was so heartbroken and disillusioned after realizing she had been treated differently because of her size all her life.

The part that made me cry (while running outside no less..it got weird), was when she realized that although she got so many of the things she wanted, she actually felt less secure in her body. Part of it was the extra skin for which she had four excruciating surgeries to remove. She notes "I still look like a flying squirrel when I raise my arms." But the biggest source of her discomfort was the fact that she still felt like "old Elna" was the "real Elna." At one point she says she would feel more comfortable wearing a fat suit. Based off a few conversations with clients and friends, I think this is a common feeling among those who have lost a significant amount of weight. I imagine it's similar to the feeling of being a lottery winner or becoming famous. Suddenly, you have this thing that other people want. People like you and want to be around you, but is it genuine? Do they like the real you?

In the end, she wonders if she would have been happier had she never lost the weight.

"I was happy when I was overweight. I had no idea I should feel sad. I was free before. I had trained myself not to care what other people thought, and I had done a good job of it."

She had recently read Lindy West's book, Shrill. Lindy was the fat acceptance activist who opened the show. In reading her book, she realized Lindy got all the things she had wanted - an attractive husband, a highly desirable job, a book deal. She got these things after choosing to accept her body as it is, not dieting.

Essentially, every day since I became a dietitian (and many days before), I have talked to someone who wants to lose weight. Some want to lose pretty minuscule amounts. Others have more significant goals. Some say health is their motivator, others say aesthetics.

Everyone who wants to lose weight has some dream of what life will be like in their new, smaller body. Some have pretty intricate fantasies, while others are tied to the loose notion that life with just somehow be better. In reality, as someone who has been 10 pounds heavier and 10 pounds lighter than I am now, I can tell you 10 pounds doesn't change a damn thing. Having never been in a heavier body, I hesitate to comment on that. From what I know from the experiences of others, while some aspects of life may improve, it often brings a new set of issues to light. Elna's story is the perfect example. 

The thin myth is dangerous because it's why so many people get wrapped up in weight loss goals to the point where they do dangerous things to achieve it. It's why health takes a back seat to a number on the scale. Not only that but daydreaming about this thin fantasy life is a complete and total distraction from present day life, which is probably quite nice if you're actually living it, undistracted by dreams of a thinner life. When you can see weight loss for what it is, just living in a smaller body with all the good and bad of your present day life, you'll stop wasting so much time fantasizing and actually start living.

One thing that's always life changing for the better? Choosing self acceptance and making lifestyle changes that honor your health.In my practice, we put weight loss to the side and focus on nourishment, health and making peace with food. You may lose weight as a result (or maybe not -  who knows what your natural weight is), but I can guarantee you that your life will be happier and healthier as a result.

Are you stuck believing in the thin myth? Ask yourself what specifically do you think you'll gain by losing weight? Get as detailed as possible. Now, fact check. Are these really things you have to lose weight to achieve, or could you start to pursue them now? Be honest with yourself. What would you lose or compromise or lose by going on a diet? Is it worth it?

When you critically think about the thin myth you've been telling yourself, weight loss starts to lose it's aura of importance. Deprioritizing weight loss isn't the same thing as giving up, it's simply giving yourself the space to discover a genuinely happier and healthier life, not one in which health and happiness relies on an arbitrary number on the scale.

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! 

 

Diets Don't Work. But What Does? Joyful Eating Program is Here!

Today marks the official launch of the Joyful Eating, Nourished Life program! Learn why diets don't work and what does, and how we incorporated it into our program. 

Joyful Eating Intuitive Eating Program

Hey guys! Exciting things are happening today - we are officially launching Joyful Eating, Nourished Life, the online intuitive eating program I created along with my lovely dietitian friends Anne and Alex!

As we wrap up the last little bits of the program (we're actually together in DC recording the audio this week!), we can't help but feel so proud of the program we've put together. And it feels like perfect timing too. With the release of The Biggest Loser study adding to a pile of evidence showing that diets simply don't work, plus International No Diet Day on Friday, the world is ready for a better, more compassionate way.

You probably know, either from research or experience, that diets simply don't work. You've experienced the cycle of weight loss and regain and the feelings of failure and shame that come with it. Whether it's the Whole 30 or low carb or Weight Watchers, you know it's not a sustainable way of eating. In your heart, diets just don't feel right.

But when another diet trend pops up, you hop on board, because what else is there to do? If diets don't work, what does?

First off, we must redefine "work." Working isn't getting your body as small as possible, as quickly as possible. If that's your aim, dieting is the way to go. Just don't expect your body to stay there or for your life to be very pleasant while you're dieting.

I understand the desire for rapid weight loss and having a "perfect" figure, especially when the diet industry makes it seem so achievable. But I think there's a growing number of people who want wellness over thinness. Who want to savor food and not fear it. Who want food to contribute to a joyful, well-nourished life.

When we use that as the definition of work, here's what does:

Making peace with food.

At the end of the day, no matter how much it's disguised as a "healthy lifestyle change," all diets set up a system of labeling food as good and bad, healthy and unhealthy. Of course, this simply creates a forbidden fruit scenario. You want it because you can't have it, not necessarily because you love it. In our Joyful Eating program, you create the rules. You dictate which foods bring you joy, taste good and make you feel great. You also dictate which foods aren't really worth it, deplete your body of energy and leave you feeling bleh. When you make the rules, you stick to them.

Moving your body for the fun of it.

Hate working out? You're most certainly not alone. That's because diets have turned fitness into a chore, an action that needs to be checked off the list in a quest to obtain a perfect body. The focus is on efficiency, not fun. Not only that, but recent research has shown when you exercise with a weight loss mindset, it frequently results in weight gain. Think of how easy it is to compensate by eating more ("I worked out hard so I earned that extra cookie") or moving less ("I went to the gym this morning so I deserve to relax on the couch the rest of the day"). Learning how to move your body in a way you enjoy, for benefits other than calorie burning, is a game changer. Yes, even you, the gym-phobe can learn to love fitness! In Joyful Eating, you'll learn to stop working out and start moving, how to view fitness as 'you time' and tips for building movement into your day.

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Building sustainable habits and healthy behaviors.

Diets mean changing everything at once. One day you go to bed with a belly full of ice cream and chocolate (probably because you knew you were starting your diet tomorrow and weren't sure when you'd be "allowed" to eat it again), and the next day you wake up to a breakfast of egg whites and grapefruit. That's fine for getting quick results in a short period of time, but we're guessing you're wanting to live a healthy lifestyle for, well, life. Research on building habits shows that to build habits that stick, you have to start small. Joyful Eating teaches you how to create small, achievable goals that lead to habits that stick, so eating and living well eventually become fairly effortless.

Looking at the big picture.

What you eat matters, there's no question about that. But so does sleep, movement/fitness, stress, emotions, mindset. Each of these factors is so interrelated, it's impossible to change one without considering another. Have you ever sacrificed sleep to fit in a workout? Sure, you made it to the gym, but the missed hours of sleep mean a slower metabolism and greater hunger. Have you ever tried to diet without addressing your emotional connection to food and emotional eating? Then you know all the willpower if the world won't help when you're feeling stressed and there's chocolate cake nearby. In Joyful Eating, we look beyond the dinner plate and take a holistic approach to your wellness.

Embracing your body for where it's at now.

There is no single "right" body. If you've seen some of the stunning plus-size models working today, you know that to be true. Furthermore, there's no "right" body for health. Health isn't a size, it's the outcome of healthy behaviors. The truth is, you can be healthy and you can be beautiful (or handsome!) at any size. It's impossible to know what size is right for you, where your body will naturally settle when you're feeding it well with nutritious foods and leaving some room for mindful indulgence. There's no harm in embracing your body for where it's at right now. It's not the same as giving up - it's allowing you the strength and confidence to make changes that focus on health without the distraction of the scale. 

[Tweet "Diets don't work....so what does? "]

Joyful Eating, Nourished Life is a 6-week, online program that seeks to do all this and more. In it, you'll learn how to improve your health without calorie counting, diets and restriction and instead, foster wellness with healthy habits and a positive mindset. While the program is rooted in intuitive eating principles, we've also included basic nutrition, like meal planning strategies, fitness, and meditation to give a well rounded, holistic approach.

Here's a look at what the program includes:

  • A 50+ page starter guide, including 10 principles of joyful eating, 15 no-recipe formula meals and snacks, finding your happy weight and additional resources.
  • Bi-weekly emails with in depth, written lesson plans packed with action steps, learning activities, strategies and support.
  • Access to a private facebook group during the program for support, encouragement and sharing with other participants, and access to Q&A with Anne, Alex and Rachael.
  • Membership to a Joyful Eating alumni facebook group with other graduates of the program for the life of the Joyful Eating program.
  • Weekly challenges provided on a handy tracking worksheet to monitor your progress and success.
  • A guided meditation series in audio format.
  • Weekly thought provoking journaling exercises.
  • Four audio lectures for listening and learning on the go.

[Tweet "Joyful Eating, Nourished Life, a 6 week #intuitiveeating program is here! "]

Our first group starts June 20th! We're offering it at a special rate, so sign up today if you're ready! If you'd like to learn more first or sign up for the mailing list for future groups, head to the Joyful Eating, Nourished Life website. 

Read what Anne has to say about Joyful Eating! And Alex too! 

Wellness Wednesday: 3 Reasons Why Calorie Counting Doesn't Work

 

Does calorie counting leave you feeling out of control and food obsessed? You're not alone. Learn 3 reasons why calorie counting doesn't work. 

Three reasons why calorie counting doesn't work...and what does!

Hey guys! Happy Wellness Wednesday :) It's a bit of a crazy week for me, so I'm popping in with a guest post I did on fANNEtastic Food last week for our Joyful Eating, Nourished Life program on why calorie counting is kinda the worst.

I think of calorie counting has been the default diet. Fads come and go, but calorie counting is always lingering in the background. It's that thing that people keep going back to when they're feeling out control with their body or their eating habits. Sure, there are some people who can practice what I like to call calorie awareness and feel empowered and informed...but this is a minority. For most, calorie counting will turn you into a food obsessed, hungry and out of control mess. It certainly did for me! Shared my story with calorie counting on the post and even though I didn't find intuitive eating until much later, it was enough to convince me the calorie counting is not the way to go.

Click here to read three reasons why calorie counting doesn't work on fANNEtastic Food.

With our Joyful Eating program, we want to show there is a different way. If dieting hasn't worked for you, you're not alone - actually, you're in the majority! In Joyful Eating, you'll learn how to get in tune with your body's needs and use that as a way of making eating decisions rather than external forces, like calorie counting, points or macros. Plus, we're weaving in nutrition and exercise advice, like meal planning, mindful movement, and fuss free formula meals to make nourishing your body well more convenient! 

[Tweet "Three Reasons Why Calorie Counting Doesn't Work! "]

You'll be able to sign up to join the first group in just a few short weeks, but until then, visit the Joyful Eating site and sign up for the VIP mailing list so you can be the first to know!

 

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Wellness Wednesday: Half Marathon Recap + Why Weight Goals Are The Actual Worst

Celebrating my first half marathon today, plus sharing lessons I learned from my training and race about why weight goals are the actual worst. I promise, it's related!

Why Weight Loss Goals are the Actual Worst

This past weekend, I ran my very first half marathon in Atlanta. For those who follow me on instagram, I'm sure you're sick and tired of me talking about it, but please allow me just one more post to toot my horn! You see, this was a really big deal for me, because I am NOT an athlete. Generally speaking, I give up on things that are physically difficult. When I ran cross country in high school, I couldn't make it through a 5K without stopping to walk. So yeah, the fact that I went through three months of training and ran 13.1 miles is kind of a miracle. Or a testament to hard work, but more likely a miracle :)

The race itself was a blast, although I was really anxious for two days before it. It didn't help that I got lost in a black hole of googling awful things that can happen during a half (do yourself a favor and DO NOT google image runners trots). Thank goodness for the guy standing next to me in the pen before the race, who was dancing to himself to pump up, but looked so ridiculous I couldn't help but let go of my fears.

The run through Atlanta was gorgeous, and a fun way to explore the city I grew up in. I loved seeing places I recognized, because in a sense, Atlanta is home, but it's changed so much it's a new city to me! The course gave us views of the skyline and went through some of Atlanta's prettiest historic neighborhoods and parks. If anyone is feeling particularly generous and would like to buy me a fully restored craftsman off Edgewood, I would not hate you for it. Most importantly though, I felt REALLY good. My main goal was to be able to enjoy the race, so I ran at a comfortable pace until mile 10, then really pushed myself hard for the last three. The entire time I felt so strong, and at no point was I miserable (except for the 3 1/2 hours in the car driving back home...ouch!). So I'm calling it a success! I said I was one and done, but now I'm working on convincing Scott we need to sign up for half marathons when we travel because it was such a fun way to see the city!

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Anyhoo, on to today's post, which is all about how two experiences I had during my half marathon and training reinforced the fact that weight based goals are kind of the worst.

When I first signed up for a half, my main goal was simple: don't die. If I managed not to die, I just wanted to have fun. I really didn't care if I had to walk or if I was the last person to cross the finish line, I just wanted to finish and have a little fun while at it.

So when I started training, I did so with that in mind. Because I didn't have a time goal, I didn't invest in any fancy training watches to track my pace. I just trained myself to run at a pace that felt good to me. Of course, some runs were easier than others, and there were times I had to stop and walk, but mostly, I felt pretty confident. On my first 10 mile run, I blew it out of the water. I felt great the entire time, and when I glanced at the clock, I realized my pace was somewhere in the 9 minute mile range. I had previously estimated my pace to be somewhere around 11 minutes, so I was pretty pumped!

Suddenly, my goal of 'not dying' and 'just having fun' was gone. Now my goal was to be able to run the whole thing without stopping and secretly, I hoped to finish in less than 2 hours. You can see where this is going.

The next couple weeks were filled with setbacks. The next week when I set out for my second 10 mile run, it was awful. I'm not sure why, but I struggled through the entire thing and ended up walking a huge chunk of it. From there, I missed a bunch of training runs with a full work load, travel, and an icky cold that sidelined me for a few days.

When I set out for my last long run of training, I felt totally defeated and that feeling was showing up in my running - I felt awful. But as I ran, I realized that I wasn't upset because I was now afraid of actually dying or that I would be miserable the whole time, but because I was afraid my new goals may not be achievable (if they ever had been). Yet, my initial goals of just running the race and having fun were still well within bounds. I mean, if I was feeling miserable, I could always just stop a walk. I had no shame in doing that in the beginning, so why couldn't I be content with my initial goals? As I realized this, I got my pep back and began to feel that same sense of strength I had in the beginning.

As I ran, I thought about my experience and how it parallels what happens when I see people get caught up in the scale. Have you ever made changes to your eating habits or lifestyle in hopes of getting healthy, or feeling better, but secretly (or not so secretly!) you have hopes of weight loss? Then when you make those changes, feel great and lose a little weight (which often happens when you eat a little healthier), the adrenaline rush hooks you. Then all of a sudden, you're on a full blown diet. That initial goal of feeling great is gone - now you will be skinny! But pretty soon, when life and/or biology kicks in, the diet won't be easy anymore and those pounds will stop dropping, or may even sneak back up. So, you give up entirely, and go back to your old eating habits, because in your mind, you are a failure. But what happened to that original goal of just feeling awesome? Weren't you succeeding in that before the weight goals came in?

Fortune cookie from my pre-race meal was perfect. Too bad it was my husbands, not mine.

During the race, I got another reminder of how numerical goals can go wrong. Going in, I really didn't know what my pace was, and really didn't care - I would just run at a pace that felt comfortable to me. That was great and all, until I saw the 2:15 pacer running right in front of me. At first I thought "Heck yeah! I'm running at her pace and I still feel pretty good!" But after a few miles of running in her general vicinity, 2:15 became no longer good enough. I wanted to go faster, and more importantly, I felt like I could go faster, but I had a voice inside my head saying "Don't burn yourself out too early." Just as loud was the voice telling me 2:15 wasn't good enough. Agh!! My head was going crazy trying decide what to do based on this one single number that may not have even been accurate instead of doing what I had trained myself to do - to listen to my body.

Sound familiar?

That's the scale for ya. It's a distraction from the internal cues that really do guide you to the best decisions for your health and wellbeing. It's SO hard to trust your body, but trust me, it knows what's right for you over any external factor, whether it's a scale or diet guru.

In the end, I was able to let go and run how I felt, and I was happy, both with my time and my experience. I know that if you are able to let go of the scale, build body confidence and get back in tune with your needs with intuitive eating, you will be happy with your body, and feel great, which to me sounds so much nicer than dieting and obsessing over the scale.

[Tweet "Setting #weightloss goals is a distraction from the internal cues that will never let you down"]

Do you agree? I have spots open for my 4 and 8 session packages starting next month. Learn more about my diet-free coaching philosophy and services here, and email me to get started or to set up a free 15 minute phone consult for more information!

Have you ever had an experience where the scale distracted from what your body really needed?

Food, Dieting and Feminism

I think we can all agree that men and women deserve equal treatment. Today we're discussing the relationship between food, dieting and feminism. 

Food, Dieting & Feminism.  

So, I had planned on a very different post today, one that was a little more 'nutrition-y'. But after a somewhat heartbreaking experience this Monday, I decided to write this post, which has been stewing in the back of my mind for some time.

After work on Monday, I ran to Trader Joe's to stock up on groceries for the week. There was a group of three girls there as well, presumably college freshman because a.) they looked like babies b.) one was still wearing a high school lacrosse shirt and c.) I heard them talking about exams. I couldn't help but overhear most of their conversation, since the store was pretty quiet and, you know, college freshman are loud.

One of the girls was going on a diet.

Mind you, I don't think anyone should go on a diet, but especially not a pretty, athletic and from all outward appearances, healthy young girl. As she navigated the aisles, I listened with horror as she studied the calories on prepared salads, putting back the ones she wanted because they were over 400-500 calories and instead grabbing ones that were 300 calories but she would "scoop out the cheese". My heart beat faster as she asked employees tips for reducing the calories in their deli items and they gave her tips like 'only use a little bit of the dressing' or 'you could leave out the noodles." I listened as she told her two friends, who had the exact same lean and athletic figure, that she was "getting fat and really needed to work on her six-pack." I watched her pick up sugary cereals, to which her friend remarked, "that can't be healthy" and she replied, "but a cup is only 120 calories and that's all I'm going to have for lunch." I watched as she fake waddled past the canned soups, complaining about the way her thighs touched. I don't think her thighs touched. I noticed how every time she passed sweets or cookies or chocolate, she made a remark along the lines of "Welp, can't have that 'till I'm skinny!"

It was heartbreaking.

Being a dietitian who specializes in intuitive eating, a non-diet approach to eating, I knew I could help her. So, I waited until she was by herself, approached her and said "Hey! This is probably one of the weirder things I've ever done, but I couldn't help but overhear your talking about starting a diet. It made me so sad because you're clearly gorgeous just the way you are. I'm a private practice dietitian and I work mainly with women who have dieted their whole lives, which has led them to gain weight, yo-yo, and has been a huge source of stress in their life, and I just don't want to see you go down the same path. Here's my card, in case you ever need anything or want to talk about other ways of eating."

OK, so that's not what happened. That's the scenario I played out in my head at least 20 times, but in the end, I chickened out. I went back to my car, literally shaking, and cried for this poor girl.

Maybe you're thinking that's a bit of an overreaction, and you might be right. After all, people talk about diets and body shame themselves every single day, often in my own office. So why was this particular instance so upsetting?

Right before I left the house, I was making my grocery list with CNN on in the background. I was jolted to attention when an ad featuring real women reading statements made by Donald Trump came on.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkSRJSUY0vs&feature=youtu.be

Something about seeing actual women read his words made it all the more powerful...and hurtful. I had heard most of the statements before. Being read by other women, they were no longer sophomoric statements said for shock value. The hatred, sexism and pure lack of respect for a solid 50% of the population was painfully obvious. The idea that a large chunk of the population endorses, or is at the least not disgusted by these comments, made me physically nauseous.

When you run a small business, getting political is discouraged. But to steal a sentiment shared on Humans of New York, my purpose for bringing this up isn't political. It's moral.

I'm sharing this because the thought behind his statements is one that's shared all to frequently in our society - that to be a successful woman, personally and/or professionally, you must look a certain way. Usually, it's stated in less obviously sexist terms than Trump's remarks, but that just makes it all the more dangerous, and believable.

Things like, "That actress is so fat, she should just get off the screen." So, we can't have anyone in movies that represents the approximately 60% of women whose BMI falls outside of the 'normal' range? Hearing conversation about women in the workplace center around their looks, not their achievements or skills. When I worked in a medical center setting, both inpatient and outpatient, I heard countless, practically daily remarks about my weight. It was either something along the lines of "never trust a thin dietitian" or remarks comparing my body to my other dietitian colleagues they had worked with, implying I was a better dietitian because I was thinner than them, even though they admitted the advice and counseling they had given them was helpful. It was incredibly uncomfortable and I always wondered (and still do) what would happen if I got sick or older or my metabolism just changed and I gained weight. My skills and knowledge would still be there, but what would happen to my credibility?

Studies show women are 16 times more likely to face weight discrimination in the workplace then men. You're probably familiar with the gender pay gap, but did you know that women who weigh more earn 6% less than thinner women?

No wonder that bubbly, athletic, and outwardly beautiful girl in Trader Joe's was going on a diet. The man who could be president is saying her her accomplishments don't matter unless she's a 10.

I have no hopes of changing any men's minds on how they speak about women, that is, if there's any men who have made it this far into my post (if so, heeeyyy! You're awesome!). But I do hope to change some of your minds on how you think dieting. We can outwardly look at the statistics on discrimination and hear these absurd comments and know it's morally and factually wrong. But by dieting, we're essentially accepting them as truth. By pressuring our friends to join us in our diet, we're spreading the same message, that you're not good enough unless you're thin.

As women, we have to work just that much harder for the same level of success. That's a fact. But how are you supposed to do that if you're dieting? How will you get an A on that exam if your brain is deprived of the energy it needs to function? How will you have the creativity to engineer that new invention if you're constantly thinking about the food you're not allowed to have? How will you get up in front of that crowd and make a sales pitch with confidence if you're distracted by the way your arms jiggle when you try to make a point? What skills or knowledge have you missed out on by spending your free time reading women's magazines and diet books?

Dieting is a distraction from the hard work we women need to do to achieve equal standing in this society.

This isn't to shame anyone or call them anti-feminist for wanting to lose weight. It's to say there's a better way. Focus on loving your body as it is now, because you can't take good care of something you hate. Instead of depriving your body, think about nourishing it, so you can accomplish all the amazing things in your life. Let's stop telling our friends they aren't good enough by engaging in diet talk and body bashing and instead talk current events or family life or work or literally anything else. Because I know you can accomplish anything you set your heart to, but not if you're held up dieting. 

This is an idea that I'm just beginning to work through, so i would absolutely love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree or any additional remarks. Please leave a comment below! 

 

 

 

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Why You Can't Fail at Intuitive Eating

Starting the practice of intuitive eating can be scary, but don't be afraid of not succeeding. Here's why you can't fail at intuitive eating. 

Why you can't fail at intuitive eating
Why you can't fail at intuitive eating

Last week I delved into the ins and outs of why dieting sucks. It was a lengthy post, so let me sum it up for you:

If you diet, you will fail.

Although, I hate to call it failure, because there are real physical and biological reasons why depriving yourself of calories will backfire (all described in that post). Really, it's not you failing, it's the diet. But, when you make changes with the goal of losing weight and end up gaining back more, that's sure as heck what it feels like.

Working with men and women who have spent a huge chunk of their life dieting, it's no surprise most of them feel like big, fat Failures, capital F intended. It's also no surprise that when I bring up intuitive eating, this novel approach to eating, their first response is fear of failure. I mean, if you can't manage your eating with clear rules, how on earth are you supposed to manage it without all that structure?

One thing I've noticed the people who succeed are the ones who dive in head first to intuitive eating. They know it will be hard but trust the process. By the way, I'm measuring success NOT by pounds lost but by getting in tune with the body's signals and becoming healthier and happier as a result. Those who struggle most with intuitive eating are those who are most afraid of failure.

The thing is, it's impossible to fail at intuitive eating. As long as you're not going into it with a diet mindset, failure simply isn't a possible outcome. And even if you are going into it with a diet mindset initially (hey, it's hard to break up with dieting), you're still much more likely to become a normal eater in time than if you were to start yet another cleanse or diet plan.

Is fear of failure holding you back? Here's why you can't fail at intuitive eating:

  • It's not a test. No one is grading you. Intuitive eating is a tool for better understanding your emotions, body and it's needs . It's not a set of standards with pass/fail criteria.
  • The goal is learning. If you attempt something, you learn. Even if the outcome isn't what you expected or desired, you've still gained valuable knowledge. And that's what we call #winning!
  • Setbacks are opportunities for growth. Working with clients on intuitive eating, we welcome slips and struggles as learning opportunity! Think about something you do well - did you not fail dozens (hundreds, thousands!) of times before succeeding? Failure is not opposite of success, it's part of success.

If you're going into intuitive eating with a fail/succeed mentality, then you're still in diet mode and will probably experience the same outcome you've had with every other diet - bingeing, overeating, weight regain, self loathing and general unpleasantness.

A few weeks ago, I discovered the podcast Magic Lessons by Elizabeth Gilbert. With my Sunday spent driving back and forth to Atlanta twice (the result of an actual fail), I listened to all the episodes I hadn't listened to yet. It's SO good, and even made my 8 hours on the road tolerable. The best by far was the last episode, an interview with Brene Brown. Because, you know, Brene Brown. How could it not be? In the episode, she shares the following quote:

The thing you are most afraid of has already happened.

Wow. Powerful stuff, no?

Are you afraid to start intuitive eating and taking a non-diet approach to address your eating concerns? Know that whatever it is you're afraid of, the worst thing that could possibly happen has already happened. That's why you're afraid of it, because you've been there, and it wasn't fun.

But remember, you also came out the other end. You lived. And you know, you probably came out with more knowledge, experience and as a stronger person too. 

You know what to expect with diets. Intuitive eating is unknown, so it's important to have a partner, cheerleader and guide. If you're interested in nutrition coaching, I hope you'll check out my services and email me if you're ready to get started with virtual or in person nutrition coaching. I'd be happy to set up a free 15 minute phone consult to see if we're a good fit to work together or guide to you resources in your area.

What's scariest to you about intuitive eating? 

More wellness articles you might like: 

An Exercise in Self Compassion

An Exercise in Self Compassion

The Number One Reason Not to Diet
The Number One Reason Not to Diet
How to Never Fail at Anything, Ever.
How to Never Fail at Anything, Ever.
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The Creamiest Vanilla Chia Smoothie Bowl + A Giveaway!

Learn my trick for making the creamiest vanilla chia smoothie bowl with a protein boost from Kura smoothie powder! Don't forget to enter the giveaway for 3 bags of Kura AND a new blender! 

The creamiest vanilla chia smoothie bowl!

This post was sponsored by Kura Nutrition. I was provided with products and compensated for my time. Thanks for supporting the quality brands I love that make this blog possible! 

Eat less. Move more.

If you've ever dieted, it's a phrase you're familiar with. Heck, if you've ever opened a magazine, been to a doctors office, accidentally clicked on one of those spammy dieting articles, or stumbled across literally any government sponsored health promotion material, you've heard the saying.

And if we're being honest, it's a mantra I definitely spouted. It makes me cringe to think about it, but yes, there was a time I thought weight loss was as simple as eat less and move more.

Since then, I've been enlightened. Enlightened with both experience, and with plenty of new research showing weight is much more complex than a mathematical equation.

This vanilla chia smoothie bowl gets a boost of protein from Kura smoothie powder!

Eat less, move more is what I would consider a half truth. Calories are a measure of the energy in food. That goes for any food, not just chips, pizza, and double chocolate chunk ice cream. Extra calories we eat that aren't used for energy are stored as fat. One way to utilize more calories is to exercise more.

Knowing that, one might deduce that to lose weight, they must eat less and move more. And if one wants to loose a lot a of weight or lose weight quickly, they might eat a lot less and move a lot more.

This is why so many people turn to deprivation to lose weight. It's why you see 1200 calorie diets advertised on the cover of magazines. It's why people spend hours of their week pounding away on an elliptical. It's why I just saw an acquaintance post on facebook how disappointed she was in 'only' losing half a pound after practically starving herself doing one of those 3 day fix things. It's why hunger is considered a sign that you're 'doing things right.

That's the problem with simplifying weight control as eat less, move more - deprivation is the obvious conclusion. But it doesn't work. If we were machines rather than complex living creatures, sure, we could plug in the weight we want to be, when we want to be there and arrive at our destination. However we are humans, and it's a bit more complicated.

Nourish yourself at breakfast with this extra creamy vanilla chia smoothie bowl!

We know deprivation works for rapid, short term weight loss, but it backfires in the long run. Here's why. When you lose weight, your body responds by lowering its metabolic rate to fit your smaller size. When weight loss is rapid, metabolism drops at a faster rate than expected. To continue losing weight, you would have to eat less and less. To maintain, you could never go "off" your diet, even for short periods. With a lowered metabolic rate, it would  trigger weight regain, much more so than if you had lost the weight using slower, more sustainable changes.

There are so many other factors that impact weight besides the usual diet and exercise. Stress doesn't only trigger weight gain by causing you to run into the arms of Ben & Jerry - increases in stress hormones like cortisol trigger fat storage. Recent research is showing the role gut bacteria plays in weight. In my practice I've seen where clients with digestive issues only achieve their happy weight after their gut has healed. Then there's sleep. Did you know just 30 minutes less sleep than what you need can affect weight?

I can't tell you how many men and women I've worked with through the years who continue to whittle down what they're eating to practically nothing, pound away at the gym, and still not lose weight, because they're not addressing the real culprit.

As a final nail in the deprivation coffin, know that approximately 95% of people who lose weight through drastic measures will regain the weight they lost. And then some.

The creamiest vanilla chia smoothie bowl made with Kura protein powder!

So we can all agree now - deprivation is the literal worst. But what if you know you're not living a healthy, balanced lifestyle and you're not comfortable in your current body? There are deprivation-free ways to achieve your "happy weight," the weight range your body naturally falls when you're feeding it well, moving it regularly and not depriving yourself.

  1. Nourish your body - Focus on nourishment, not deprivation. When you focus on filling up on nutrient-dense whole foods, you automatically crowd out rich, sugary or processed foods. Plus, whole foods are naturally more filling, so you'll feel satisfied too.
  2. Feed your gut - Give your gut it's favorite food - fiber! That means lots of fruit, vegetables, and beans. Replenish your gut bacteria with fermented food and/or probiotics.
  3. Eat less added sugar - Enjoy sugar in things that are really delicious, like an extra gooey and chocolatey brownie. Avoid added sugar coming from foods hidden sources, like snack foods, dressings and protein shakes.
  4. Build muscle - Cardio burns calories, but it also makes you pretty hungry. That right, you're not the only one craving an entire pizza after a long run. Muscle tissue is more metabolically active, meaning it burns more calories at rest.

Kura Nutrition, the makers of the tastiest smoothie protein powder I've ever tried, covers all four of those bases. It's made with 14 grams of grassfed dairy protein from happy cows, which is packed with the amino acid leucine, the rock star of muscle growth. One serving contains 4 billion CFU (colony forming units) of probiotics as well as prebiotics to feed their growth. Kura contains 26 vitamins and minerals and provides a nice little dose of omega 3 fats on top of what naturally occurs in grassfed dairy. Best of all, it's made with no added sugar, just the hint of sweetness from the naturally occurring sugars in dairy!

What I appreciate most about Kura is that the company is committed to the same principles of nourishment over deprivation that I talk about all the time over here on Avocado. So why not start your day by nourishing your body with this extra creamy smoothie bowl, made with Kura's vanilla protein smoothie powder. Guys, I'm not kidding when I tell you it's the best smoothie bowl I've ever made! The trick is using an easy, overnight chia pudding instead of milk, which gives it a thick, pudding-like consistency. It's basically socially acceptable breakfast ice cream!

[Tweet "Learn the secret to making the creamiest smoothie bowl using @KuraNutrition #ad"]

Don't miss your chance to try Kura at home! Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win 3 bags of Kura plus a new blender!

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Vanilla Chia Smoothie Bowl
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE, CLT
Serves: serves 1
The trick to making the worlds creamiest smoothie bowl is blending in chia seeds soaked in plant milk. I made a big batch and scooped out 1/2 cup of chia pudding as needed. Also delish with chocolate and berry [url href="http://kuranutrition.com/" rel="nofollow"]Kura protein smoothie powder[/url] too!
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 frozen banana, in chunks
  • 1 packet or scoop [url href="http://kuranutrition.com/" rel="nofollow"]Kura vanilla protein smoothie powder[/url]
  • Toppings: freeze dried fruit, cocoa powder, shredded coconut, nut butter
Instructions
  1. The night before, mix chia seeds and plant milk in a small bowl. Let sit, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. The next morning, when ready to eat, blend chia mixture, banana and Kura protein powder in a food processor until creamy. Serve with optional toppings, or as I like to call them, sprinkles!

 

Wellness Wednesday: What is Healthy?

Healthy is a word that gets thrown around, to the point where it's almost meaningless. Todays Wellness Wednesday post answers the question what is healthy, and what it means to me. 

The word healthy gets thrown around a lot. What does healthy really mean as it relates to food?

Have I told you guys about my nutrition counseling mastermind group? Every other Thursday, I google chat with a group of dietitians who also do nutrition counseling and blog: Anne, Alex, Robyn, and Kylie. We all work in the disordered eating/intuitive eating realm, so it's a great place to brainstorm, share and learn.

Have you ever had a group of people where every time you get together, you leave feeling inspired, supported and basically ready to win at life? That's how it is with this crew. They're essentially my Taylor Swift RD girl squad...except in that metaphor, I think I'm Hailee Steinfeld.

From what I can gather from instagram, we all have very different eating habits. Alex needs a tofu intervention, Robyn really likes dipping dark chocolate into things, Anne would starve without Blue Apron, and Kylie likes to make food love children (quichezzza aka quiche-pizza, french toast-avocado toast...). Yet, we all have the same basic food principles. Food is meant to be savored. Dieting and deprivation is the actual worst. Eat food that makes you feel awesome.

A few weeks ago, Anne emailed an article on a new study that examined how people eat in response to various descriptors, including healthy, unhealthy and nourishing. It found that after eating a cookie labeled as healthy, participants reported being more hungry than eating the same cookie when it was labeled unhealthy. They also found that people ate significantly more popcorn after being told it was healthy than when it was labeled nourishing or unhealthy. So basically, you'll probably feel hungrier and eat more if you think what you're eating is healthy, regardless of how 'healthy' it actually is.

This prompted a discussion, since we're all conflicted on the word. On one hand, well, see above. Calling something healthy essentially gives a green light to eat as much as you want, paying no attention to portions, fullness and how it makes you feel. And what does healthy even mean? Sure, my cinnamon spice cookies, made with almond meal, naturally sweetened with raisin paste, and packed with healthy (<--there it is again!) fats from coconut oil and nut butter certainly qualify to most as healthy, but if labeling them as such triggers binge eating half the pan, are they still healthy?

On the other hand, as bloggers, the word healthy is helpful for google rankings and helps the people who need us most to find us. People don't search for "whole grain cookies made with just a little bit sugar and coconut oil instead of butter", they search for "healthy cookies".

To healthy, or not to healthy. That is the question.

That's when Kylie chimed. "I think it's worth us trying to redefine the world healthy. Not using the word healthy doesn't help anyone. People have to reframe their opinions of what healthy is."

She is so right. When the world healthy is used around food, most people interpret it to mean nutrient-dense/real food/low fat/low carb/high protein/paleo/gluten free/sugar free or whatever their particular spin is. But true "healthy" has only a little to do with food itself. It has to do with behaviors.

So yes, I will continue to describe food as healthy from time to time, just to appease the google gods. When I describe a food as healthy, I mean to say it's nutrient-dense and made with whole foods. But please know, that's not necessarily what healthy means to me.

Part of healthy is eating mostly real, whole foods with an emphasis on plants. This is a big part, but much smaller than what most people think.

Healthy is eating mostly real, whole foods with an emphasis on plants and not feeling deprived when you do, or guilty when you don't.

Healthy is not basing your self worth on food choices, considering yourself 'good' when you've eaten mostly real, whole foods with an emphasis on plants or 'bad' when you don't.

Healthy is moving your body regularly, not with the goal of burning calories, paying penance for eating 'bad' or to build an unrealistic physique, but because moving your body makes you feel awesome, gives you energy or helps you reach a goal, like running a 5K.

Healthy is being able to find pleasure in food, because no matter how delicious the food is, you trust yourself that you'll be able to stop eating before feeling sick to your stomach full.

Healthy is getting enough sleep, prioritizing self care, connecting with those you love and nourishing your soul as much as you nourish your body. Healthy is also going through times when you're sleep deprived, don't have time to devote to the people you love, and feel empty inside. But you recognize it, and take steps to correct it now, rather than waiting for "things to settle down."

Healthy is aiming to eat mindfully, but also recognizing that living a full life means scarfing down the occasional meal at your desk, and that's OK.

Healthy is being able to stop eating when you feel satisfied and satiated. When you know restriction isn't in your future, it's easy to moderate portions without even thinking about portions.

Healthy being able to cope with emotions without food, but also recognizing that there are times when you've had a really bad day, and dammit, an ice cream cone WILL make you feel better.

Healthy is accepting your body, as it is. Or at least trying to accept it as it is - everyone has days when they don't like what they see in the mirror. Healthy doesn't exclude trying to tone your arms or flatten your stomach, as long as self worth isn't involved and achieving it doesn't entail dangerous or unsustainable methods. It's simply being realistic about your genetic blueprint, and trying to love yourself, as your are, in this moment.

[Tweet "Healthy is more than the food you eat. What does healthy mean to you? #wellnesswednesday"]

Now, I'd love to hear from you. What does healthy mean in your book? If you had to define it, what would you say? 

34 Comments

The Number One Reason Not To Diet

There are many reasons not to diet. This post discusses what I think is the number one reason not to diet, the most heartbreaking consequence. 

Screen-Shot-2016-01-12-at-11.40.47-PM.png

Happy Wellness Wednesday! It’s an official holiday at this point, right? ;)

Writing this post from the Desert Botanical Garden in Scottsdale. Scott had a phone meeting for work in the middle of the day, so we decided to find a nice secluded spot in the cactus garden and get a little work done.

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, then you know we visited Phoenix for the national championship game to cheer on our Clemson Tigers. This trip has been such a whirlwind, and honestly, one of the most fun weeks of my life. As we explored the Grand Canyon, freshly covered in snow, hiked to the top of the red rocks of Sedona, and sang the alma mater with thousands of our Clemson family fresh off a heartbreaking loss, I kept thinking to myself ‘I can’t believe we almost didn’t come.’ With all our recent trips, the travel fund is sadly depleted. Plus I’m crazy behind with work and really didn’t think I could take more time off. But then we recognized what a once in a lifetime experience it would be, so we made it happen, and what a once in a lifetime experience we got.

You only live once has been my motto lately. Maybe it's me getting older, but I find myself thinking more and more about how to make the most of each day and the things that distract me from doing just that.

It's a motto that also comes up quite frequently in my nutrition counseling sessions, especially when we talk about dieting. It's no secret I'm not a fan of dieting. I mean, does anyone actually like diets other than the people making money off selling them? There are many things that break my heart when I hear the stories of my clients who have struggled with yo-yo dieting - the feelings of inadequacy, the physical and emotional hunger, the scary negative health side effects, the fact that they simply don't work for long term weight control. But if there is one thing that breaks my heart more than anything else, it's the fact that dieting keeps you from being able to live each day to it's fullest. Knowing how many days, weeks, and years of living life have been lost to diets isn't something I can stand by and passively watch.

If I was dieting, I wouldn't have been able to linger over tapas, wine and a gorgeous Sedona view with friends without worrying about how many calories I was consuming. If I was dieting and depriving myself of much needed calories (aka energy), I wouldn't have been able to make it to the top of Bell Rock and soak up that incredible view. If I was dieting, the stress of knowing there wasn't any healthy tailgate food available would have detracted from the time I was spending with family and friends. If I was dieting, I wouldn't have been able to soak up every perfect bite of the worlds best English muffin because I would have been too busy thinking about processed carbs.

Let's stop dieting and start thinking about living. When the focus is on how to soak up every last drop of the day, you'll start making choices that nourish your body and make you feel great while leaving flexibility to savor special treats and eat stress free in social situations. Healthy isn't perfect. Healthy is flexible. What you eat should add to your quality of life, not detract. Dieting, is simply no way to live.

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Wellness Wednesday: How To Set A New Years Non-Resolution That Will Actually Change Your Life

Fed up with new years resolutions that don't last past February? Learn my strategy for how to set a new years non-resolution that will actually change your life by 2017! 

Learn how to draft a new years non-resolution that will change your life, not just your January!

This Friday, 127.6 million or so Americans will make a New Years Resolution. Over the course of the year (who are we kidding, over the course of January), 117.4 million of those resolutions will fail. Failure will lead to guilt. Guilt will lead to running shoes collecting dust and empty pints of Ben and Jerry's and general feelings of crappiness.

Then next year, we'll do it all over again.

Most people know New Years resolutions don't last, usually from experience. But it's one thing to know resolutions don't last, and another thing to make it through the hype of the season without setting one.

I get it. There's something magical about a new year. It's exciting to think of starting with a clean slate. Trust me, I've set my fair share of New Years resolutions that have fallen by the wayside.

Most resolutions are destined for failure. This post I wrote a couple years ago on seven types of resolutions that always fail will probably sound familiar to you. I promise, your failed resolutions have absolutely nothing to do with you, your abilities or your willpower and everything to do with the fact that resolutions aren't designed to last past January. They're either focused on a result rather than an action ("I will lose 30 lbs in 2016!") or if it's focused on an action, it's not exactly a realistic action ("I will cut out all sugar from my diet!").

This does't mean there isn't a way to dramatically transform your life by 2017. Try setting a new years non-resolution! Some day I'll think up a catchier name ;) A few years ago, I created a method for creating a sense of starting anew while making sustainable changes that will actually last past January 17th. I hope you'll ditch the resolution and give this a try instead!

STEP 1: 

Find a quiet place. Light some candles or do whatever you need to make it a calming, meditative space. Get comfortable. Spend 15 minutes or so thinking about what you want out of this new year. Where do you see yourself a year from now? If you could do, have or be anything in 365 days, what would it be? Think big!

STEP 2: 

Now, pull out a journal, your computer or even a few loose pieces of paper. Write down what you came up with. Don't feel the need to use correct grammar or even complete sentences. This is for you and you alone, so as long as it makes sense to you, that's what matters. Spend as much time on this as you like, but at least write for 15 minutes. I aim for about 45. Hey, you're planning out the next 365 days of your life - you can at least set aside a good hour!

STEP 3: 

Read over what you wrote. Do you notice any reoccurring themes? See if you can summarize your hopes and desires into one mantra, or even one word. No big deal if you can't, it just helps to have something memorable you can repeat in your head when times inevitably get tough. Last year, my word was 'joy' and my mantra was 'live joy, give joy.'

STEP 4: 

Pull out another sheet of paper or another page in your journal. Set a timer for 15 minutes, and write down as many specific actions as you can to make your dreams a reality. Remember, write down things you can DO, not the results you hope to attain.

STEP 5: 

Look back over the list. Pick out one action item that you feel pretty confident in your ability to achieve and you think will bring measurable results. Circle it. Now, turn that action into a SMART goal.

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable 

R = Realistic

T = Time specific 

So, something along the lines of "I will practice yoga for 30 minutes 3 times a week" rather than "I'm going to practice yoga tons!"

Congrats! You created your January goal! They say it takes 21 days to create a habit, so using one month to focus on this specific habit gives you some wiggle room to struggle, yet solidify your new habit. If needed, break your goal down into weekly steps, but whatever you do, make sure you sent plenty of reminders and accountability.

STEP 6: 

Come February, look back and your goal and see how you did. Did you achieve it or not? Since your goal is specific and measurable, that should be easy to answer. If you struggled and didn't achieve your January goal, that's okay. Really. Try to figure out why, troubleshoot, and tackle it again in February, or put it back on the list for later.

If you were successful and you're ready to move on to a new goal, find another from your list and go back to step 5.

[Tweet "Learn how to set a new years non-resolution that will change your life in 2016! #newyearsresolution"]

I should note that I'm a huge fan of doing this somewhere around January 4th. The holiday season is crazy! Right now I'm trying to catch up on work from Christmas, plan the New Years/Clemson party we're hosting and deal with the fact that there is a giant hole in our house where the wall used to be and hope that nobody notices said hole at the party (unlikely). I know I'm not alone in being exhausted. Give your body some time to recalibrate so you can do this with a fresh mind.

Now, a few tools to help with your non-resolution. This year I discovered the Passion Planner day planner and I am more than slightly obsessed. It was on back order so it just arrived on Monday. It felt like Christmas all over again! I was checking the mail every day for it's arrival! Besides being a generally awesome planner, with space for separate work and personal to-do lists, it's designed to help you plan and execute your own personal passion plan. There's space for you to write your daily and weekly focus, weekly challenges, and space to write and reflect on each month. It was basically made for keeping track of your non-resolution! And there's motivational quotes, my favorite :) If you pick one up, would love it if you could include my personal email as the referral (RachaelWallace4@gmail.com) - I get a free one if more than three people order and I'll definitely want another next year!

Passion Planner is the perfect tool for keeping track of your new years non-resolution!

Getting more exercise is always a popular new years resolution. Unfortunately, exercise sucks...or at least it does when you're doing a workout you don't enjoy. That's why I love Booya Fitness, which has hundreds of different types of boutique workout videos for less than $10 a month (rather than $30 a class!). It's a great way to try new workouts to find out what you love, or always do something different so you never get bored! In collaboration with Booya, I curated a Mind & Body 4 week plan that includes tons of different and FUN workouts, and daily eating advice with an emphasis on mindful eating. It's a steal at $4.99! (p.s. that's an affiliate link). If you're thinking about signing up, be sure to do so before January 10th when they'll be rolling out a contest where you'll have the chance to win tons of awesome fitness prizes!

If your goal for 2016 is to become a more mindful/intuitive eater, I hope you'll check out my guide, 20 Days of Joyful Eating. It contains 20 exercises that will help you rebuild a healthy relationship with food, plus room for journaling. You could even pick out 12 of them to use as your monthly goals next year!

Have you ever set a new years resolution? Did you achieve it, or did you struggle? What do you think went wrong? 

 

 

 

Why I No Longer Call Myself A Clean Eater

Whole food may be the key to health, but lately I've seen clean eating spiral out of control. Here's why I no longer call myself a 'clean eater.' 

Almost 3 years ago, when I first started my blog, I wrote a post about which food ingredients and additives to 'avoid like the plague.' At the time, it got a lot of traction. And by traction, I mean 12 people read it instead of the usual 3.

Now, I cringe a little inside when I think about that post. It's not because my photography or writing was awful (it was) or because the science has changed. It's because my views on clean eating have evolved since then, and I worry that for those 12 people, it contributed to the food fear that permeates our society.

Years ago when I first 'discovered' clean eating, it was a revelation. Although the dangers of eating too much processed food and the health benefits of whole food were stressed throughout my education, as a new dietitian working in a hospital, I was much more concerned with things like calorie control for weight loss, saturated fats for heart health and carbohydrate counting for diabetes. Things that also make me cringe a little inside.

When I started learning more about clean eating and began to look back at my education and experience with that filter, paying attention to numbers made less and less sense. I saw that focusing on filling, whole foods and identifying satiety levels was much more effective (and sane) than calorie counting and portion control. I realized limiting glucose-spiking processed foods and filling up with plants protected the body against disease, and didn't require any mathematics. Clean eating changed how I eat personally, and how I practice nutrition, both to great benefit.

Now, before I get into my issues with it, let me just say that I still 100% get behind the basic principles of clean eating. Making most of your diet whole food is the absolute best thing you can do for health. There are dozens of ingredients in the food supply that frankly, should not be allowed. I still evaluate a foods healthfulness based on the ingredients list, not the nutrition facts.

Basically, I believe in the power of whole food, but I don't like what 'clean eating' has become.

Somewhere along the way, clean eating morphed from a balanced way of eating into an almost cultish ideology. Clean eating advocates, like Food Babe, have created an atmosphere where anything with a chemical sounding name is toxic. Where fear of pesticides has made people afraid to eat something as simple as a conventionally grown apple. It's almost impossible to eat anything from a box or can without a well intentioned, but judgmental 'do you even know what's in that?'

Last week, Nigella Lawson, the celebrity chef, started trending when she stated 'people are using clean eating to hide an eating disorder.' She's right. Granted, any type of diet can be used to hide, or can morph into an eating disorder - paleo, vegan, calorie counting, etc. But clean eating has spawned it's own special kind, orthorexia, a severe obsession with avoiding food considered unhealthy, harmful or unclean to the point where it negatively impacts everyday life. I've seen clean eating advocates laugh it off as a creation of the food industry, but it's real. No, not everyone, or even most people, who aim to 'eat clean' have an eating disorder, but for many it becomes a life disrupting obsession. I've had more and more clients suffering the physical effects of an eating disorder - hair loss, fatigue, anemia, weight loss, loss of their period - but they're not obsessed with being thin, just clean.

Although not rare, the transition from clean eating to eating disorder is less common and generally occurs in people already at risk. What concerns me more about clean eating is that it's become just another diet, and along with that, come the physical and mental consequences of dieting - weight fluctuations/regain, low self esteem, stress, chronic disease, fatigue, anxiety...the list goes on. My main issues is the name. Calling food 'clean' implies anything 'unclean' is dirty, shameful and disgusting. Essentially, it sets up a good food/bad food dynamic. Labeling food as 'bad' creates fear. Fear causes you to think about it more, thinking about it more causes you to crave it, craving leads to eating, and eating the 'bad' food leads to feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy. When you feel guilty, shameful and inadequate, you eat more 'bad' food. Thus the cycle of dieting and bingeing/overeating continues.

The thing about militant clean eating is that it ignores real life. Processed foods have their place at the table. A very small place, but a place nonetheless. No, most processed foods are not nutritious (some are!), but if it takes a little processed food to make a eating mostly whole food realistic, what's the harm? Or what if you just really, really like cheese puffs? Wouldn't it be nice to enjoy them without setting off a guilty spiral of overeating?

Want to 'eat clean' (for lack of a better word) without feeling crazy around food? Remember these points:

  • Stop calling it clean eating. Just stop.
  • Aim to eat more whole, unprocessed foods. They taste great, nourish your body, and will make you feel amazing.
  • Look for a shorter ingredients list when possible, but don't freak out over it. If you're eating mostly whole foods, a little bit of preservative or emulsifier won't be the death of you. 
  • Organic food is great for the environment and limits your exposure to pesticides and herbicides, but if you're eating a diet that includes a wide variety of foods and is centered around (but not exclusively) whole food, your dietary exposure is pretty limited anyway. If you can afford/have access to organics, great, if not, no big deal. 
  • I don't care what's in it, a double-stuff oreo is freaking delicious.

Still feeling overwhelmed? I'd be happy to work with you on finding peace with food and that ever elusive real life balance. Check out my coaching services page or shoot me an email at Rachael@RachaelHartleyNutrition.com to set up a complimentary 15 minute phone consultation.

Now, would love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever tried to 'eat clean?' If so, what was most difficult for you? Was it sustainable, or no?

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Wellness Wednesday: Eating Normally Over The Holidays

No lightened holiday recipes here! Learn how to best nourish your body and soul by eating normally over the holidays. 

Learn how to eat intuitively over the holidays.

Traditional media was never winning any awards for promoting normal eating, but this time of year, the headlines reach new levels of absurdity. Yes, even more so than May's push to maintain a near starvation level calorie deficit simply to wear an item of clothing that can easily look fabulous on any body type, any size.

The whole point of Thanksgiving is being grateful for having food on your table. Or in the case of the pilgrims, LITERALLY NOT STARVING TO DEATH. Yet most holiday magazine articles focus on how to deprive yourself when surrounded by food.

Can you imagine if John Smith (let's pretend he was there) was like, "I'll just have a teeeny sliver of pecan pie. On a diet - gotta look good for that Pocahontas!" Or if Squanto showed up with fat free mashed potatoes? Absurd, right? So why do we it today?

Thanksgiving is about food. It's also about family and tradition and gratitude and football and Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade. But it's mostly about food, and that's okay.

So much emphasis is put on what and how to eat the day of Thanksgiving and it's completely misplaced. Did you know the average weight gain over Thanksgiving and the two weeks after is just one pound? One measly pound. I think everyone other than the most weight obsessed would gladly deal with an extra pound and enjoy their second helping of stuffing without the side of guilt.

The problem with Thanksgiving (and this goes for Christmas, Hanukkah and all the other winter holidays) isn't the holi-DAY. It's the holi-MONTH. We use so much energy and willpower fretting and planning about how to eat on the day itself, then forget to think about how to nourish ourselves best throughout the season.

This Thanksgiving, set aside your goal of not going back for seconds or only having a few bites of dessert and instead think about how you can savor every bite. The Intuitive Eater's Bill of Rights is a good place to start. Mindful eating is another good one to add to the toolbox. But mostly, it's about focusing on what you truly want.

I should note, eating what you want and savoring Thanksgiving does not mean purposefully stuffing yourself with as much food as possible under the guise of "tomorrow I'll be good!" Eating intuitively on Thanksgiving may mean passing on green bean casserole (if you don't like green bean casserole), stopping after three bites of sweet potato casserole (it stops tasting good), and helping yourself to a second helping of stuffing (if you love it). You get to decide what feels right for you!

Now, I'd love to hear your favorite Thanksgiving foods! What could you pass on? I'm not big on cranberry sauce and turkey, and green bean casserole is the worst. I LOVE stuffing (!!!) and I make the absolute best mac and cheese on the planet (here's the recipe!

[Tweet "Drop the stress and learn how to eat intuitively this #Thanksgiving"]

 

 

 

An Exercise in Self Compassion

It’s always fascinating to me what I’m struggling with personally often parallel what my clients are going through. Perhaps it’s a case of synchronicity or maybe I’m picking up on topics weighing heavily on my mind. Either way, I often find myself immersed in a ‘theme’ from my personal to professional life.

Lately, that theme has been self compassion. If I’m not mindful about it, I can get pretty hard on myself, especially when it comes to professional success. After three months of website issues that have sucked up my free time and a slow client load with recent travel, I’ve definitely had days where the feeling of failure has been pretty overwhelming.

Seeing people beat themselves up over what they did or didn’t eat isn’t anything new, but recently it seems my clients have been struggling with it more than normal. A lot of it has to do with our recent flooding here in Columbia. The three week boil water advisory got many off their cooking game, and the nonstop dreary weather certainly hasn’t been helpful. I totally get it. I feel like curling up on the couch with a bowl of macaroni and cheese too (and probably would if I could motivate myself to go out in the rain to pick up some cheese).

Do you operate under the belief that willpower and self discipline are the key to weight loss success? If so, your self talk around food might sound a bit like an overzealous high school football coach. “What were you thinking eating those cookies Steve!?! How could you be so stupid?? If you keep messing up, we’ll never get to 130 pounds…I mean the State Championship!”

Many people are afraid that showing self compassion is the same as giving themselves unbridled permission to do it again. That forcing themselves in line with negative self talk is the only way to keep their compulsions in check

That’s not the case. Beating yourself up will just lead to a black hole of negativity and chip away at your self esteem. There’s even research that shows self compassion works. In one study, women were asked to participate in a ‘food tasting study’ that examined donuts, candy and other sweet treats. The women who were given a talk on self compassion and reminded that everyone eats food like this ate significantly less that those who didn’t receive the talk.

Trying to be a little nicer to yourself? Try this self compassion exercise I use with my clients next time you’re feeling guilty about something you ate. Take a close look at the eating event, and ask yourself the following questions to take a more compassionate look at the situation.

  1. PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION. Remind yourself that reaching goals requires progress, not perfection. No matter how awful you felt your slip was, there’s likely some glimmer of progress. Even noticing what’s happened or making the attempt to eat or think differently is a success. So you ate a bowl of ice cream. Maybe you used to eat it out of the container. At least this time it was portioned in a bowl. Maybe you overate French fries. Feel proud of the fact that you noticed you were eating mindlessly and made attempts to pay attention. Even if you can’t find the silver lining in that specific eating event, chances are there were other times during the day where you did make progress on other eating habits. Remember, it’s the cumulative effects of these small changes that make a difference, not one singular event.
  2. WATCH THE INTERNAL TALK. What are you telling yourself about the eating event? What words are you using? Try to catch all the negative words and stories in your head. Phrases like “I cheated” or telling yourself “I’ll always be fat so I might as well eat the rest of the cake” can only have a negative effects. Imagine a child or a friend was in your shoes. Would you repeat the things you say to yourself to them? No, because it would have a negative impact on their behavior and self esteem. So why do we talk to ourselves this way? Change your story to something more hopeful and constructive, even something as simple as “Hey, I slipped, but at least I’m trying.”
  3. ASK WHAT HAPPENED. Instead of beating yourself up in hopes of shaming yourself into submission, examine what events led up to your slip. Was it an emotional state that led you to self sabotage or make an impulsive decision? Or was it something physical, like hunger. Maybe there was a cue you missed, like forgetting to leave your apple snack on the counter. Try to find the root cause.
  4. MAKE A PLAN. More than likely, you’ll find yourself in a similar situation again. Plan for it. What could you do differently the next time? What could have prevented the slip. Or, maybe you really loved what you ate. What could you do to be able to enjoy it or other worth it splurges in the future without feeling guilty. Think of a plan and set concrete goals that will help prevent future slips.

Now, I encourage you to try this method yourself. Think back to the last time you felt regret about what or how much you ate. Try to remember everything about that event and go through these four steps. Did you learn or realize anything? If so, please share in the comments below!

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How To Never Cheat On Your Diet Ever Again

I'm on a one woman mission to get the term cheat meals out of our vocabulary. Read why on todays Wellness Wednesday post. 

The problem with cheat meals
The problem with cheat meals

Don't you just feel awful when you cheat on your diet? The guilt can be overwhelming. Wouldn't it be nice if there was some simple strategy that could stop you from cheating? Well guess what? There is.

I never cheat on my diet and you don't have to ever again because I'm spilling the beans on my top secret strategy today!

Stop calling it cheating.

The term 'cheat meal' is like nails on a chalkboard to me. When a client comes in for a session and confesses to cheating, they're always shocked to realize I'm disappointed in their terminology, not in what they ate.

The problem with cheat meals
The problem with cheat meals

When it comes to eating, semantics matters. Cheating is full of negative connotations. Whether in school, sports or in a relationship, cheating is wrong and cheaters are bad people. Does it not seem absurd to use the same term for committing adultery and eating too many cookies? By calling it 'cheating,' you're essentially telling yourself you did something wrong and you're a bad person for it. This, of course, will lead you to feel quite guilty.

One problem with feeling guilty about eating unhealthy food is that it inevitably leads you to eat more unhealthy food. You think "Welp. I've blown it. Might as well give up." I call this the 'to hell with it' effect. It's your greatest enemy in making real lifestyle changes, and the main culprit behind yo-yo dieting.

Another problem is that it distracts you from examining the situation objectively, figuring out why you overdid it, and developing a plan for next time you're in a similar situation. Failure is an opportunity to learn and grow, but that's hard to see when you're overwhelmed by guilt.

Cheating on your diet
Cheating on your diet

I beg of you, stop saying you cheated on your diet! If you ate something unhealthy that you truly loved, own it. Do you really expect to go the rest of your life in a monogamous relationship with salads and green smoothies? Of course not! Instead of saying "I cheated and ate a slice of cake" say "I ate a slice of cake and dammit it was good!"

If you ate something unhealthy that also wasn't satisfying (ummm, the crappy pizza I lived off for a couple days when I got real behind on meal prep), there are other phrases that don't carry the same emotional load as cheating:

  • I struggled
  • I slipped
  • I overate
  • I had a rough day
  • I binged

And for goodness sake, please stop planning cheat meals. The idea of planning your indulgences in advance is a smart one - it helps limit unplanned indulgences which usually aren't quite as satisfying (hello stale donuts at work!). Instead of calling it a cheat meal, I prefer the term 'splurge.' The term has positive connotations, implies getting the maximum amount of pleasure (aka SAVORING it) and that it's an occasional thing. Isn't that a much nicer term?

Cheating stems from an all-or-nothing approach to eating. It's a hard mindset to break. If you need help breaking up with dieting and getting started with a healthy lifestyle that will help you achieve your happy weight, feel free to contact me for individual nutrition coaching.

Wellness Wednesday: How to Talk to Someone You Love About Their Weight (Without Shaming, Bullying or Making Them Feel Bad)

Knowing how to talk to someone you love about their weight without shaming or being hurtful is a delicate task. Today's Wellness Wednesday post shares advice for helping others with support and love. 

How to talk to someone about their weight without shaming

Currently, I'm pretty satisfied with my body. Sure, if I could wave a magic wand, it'd be nice to have Michelle Obama arms and perfectly flat abs, but its nothing I'm losing any sleep over.

It wasn't always that way. According to my genetics, I could eat a pretty crappy diet and stay fairly thin unless I decided to have kids. Still, my weight has fluctuated in a 15-20 lb range since high school, and no, when I was at the lower end of that range, I didn't my most body confidence. Quite the opposite actually.

I think I look healthy. More importantly, I am healthy. I eat enough to fuel my body. Not counting the occasional kitchen disaster or disappointing restaurant meal, I thoroughly enjoy everything I eat. At times I rely on willpower not to eat too many cookies or go out for pizza when I don't feel like cooking, but I rarely feel restricted because sometimes I do eat too many cookies and go out for pizza and truly savor and enjoy it. I move most days, either running, Pure Barre or yoga, mostly because I love the way it makes by body feel and a little bit because I love the way it makes my body look. It's taken a long time, but I'm pretty content with my body.

Because of that, a recent comment about my body really shook me up. I was at an event and made a comment about being cold, because I'm that whiney person who always complains about the temperature. An acquaintance responded, "Well of course you're cold! We've got to put some meat on your bones! Get you eating more than just avocados."

In their defense, this is a completely nice person and I know they weren't purposefully trying to be hurtful. Still, I couldn't stop thinking about the comment. I try to promote balance in my business, but is my body portraying the opposite? Do I appear sickly and unhealthy?

The next day while checking facebook, I noticed this Nicole Arbour girl I'd never heard of before was trending for making a fat shaming video 'encouraging' people to lose weight. I didn't watch it, but I read enough to know it's absolutely awful. My first thoughts on Nicole Arbour were a string of four letter words. I won't repeat it here on this blog, but it loosely translates to this: Nicole Arbour is a mean-hearted, nasty bully, a disgusting excuse for a human being and frankly I feel sorry for her.

Obviously what was said to me and what was said in Nicole Arbour's video came from two totally different hearts. But as both weighed heavily on my mind, I started to realize both stemmed from two problems. First, that many people make assumptions of others eating habits based on their body size. We'll save that for another post. Second, which I want to talk about today, is that most people have no idea how to talk about body size without shaming, stereotyping or being hurtful.

Let's get this out of the way.: 99.9% of the time, you should not talk about someones body size or weight. Period. This is especially true if you do not have a close personal relationship with that person. I don't care if it's complimenting someone on their long legs or telling them they look great after losing weight. If you don't know what's going on in their life, you have no idea what you might trigger. I once had a client who regained the weight she had spent the last three months losing after a colleague told her, "Wow, you look great! We need to get you out of those baggy clothes and into a sexy black dress and set you up on a date!" As someone who had been sexually assaulted, the idea of men finding her attractive was terrifying, and thus she gained the weight back out of fear. Her colleagues comments came from a completely kind and loving place, yet had unexpected consequences.

Now, let's say there is someone in your life, you know them intimately and you are concerned about their weight. If this person is over/underweight despite a healthy balanced lifestyle, don't say anything, and more importantly, don't be concerned. But if it's someone who has been overweight for a long time and you can see how it's affecting their health or they've lost/gained a lot of weight in a short period of time. In that case, I think it's okay to talk to them about their weight. Only catch, the conversation can't be about their weight.

Huh? So how are you supposed to talk to someone about their weight if you can't talk about their weight?

Unhealthy weight gain or loss doesn't stem from simply poor diet or lack of physical activity. That may be the cause, but there's always something else at the root of it. If you know someone intimately enough to be talking about their weight, then you know that is. Whether it's depression after losing a loved one, a friend feeling overwhelmed as a new parent, a sibling partying too hard at college or a child struggling with anxiety and low body image, make the conversation about that, not their weight. Knowing someone is there to support them during a difficult time is exponentially more likely to motivate change than attempting to shame or guilt someone into change.

That's not to say the topic of weight is off limits. But if it does come up, discuss it sensitively. Most likely, they know their weight has changed and will bring it up before you do. I've seen many people, usually spouses, attempt to guilt someone into weight loss by bringing up their concern for their health. Sometimes this works, but usually it leaves the other feeling guilty and worthless. If bringing up concerns for their health, correlate the concerns to their lifestyle, not pounds.

Be kind. Listen more than you talk. Offer support and advice, but don't feel like you have to have all of the answers. Show that you care. And whatever you do, don't repeat anything that's come out of Nicole Arbour's mouth.

 

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