Are you stuck in an unhealthy relationship with the scale? Weighing yourself frequently can contributes to an unhealthy relationship with food and your body, create stress, and frankly, isn’t even that accurate. Learn why you should get rid of your scale and tips for how to stop obsessively weighing yourself. Remember, you are so much more than a number!Read More
Feeling guilty for emotional eating? Stop. Even though one principle of intuitive eating is coping with emotions without food, it’s still totally OK to emotionally eat. Learn why emotional eating isn’t bad for you, and can be a perfectly acceptable way to cope with strong emotions.Read More
Diet advice is all about restriction and willpower. It tells you to “just say no” to all the foods you love and enjoy - no wonder so many people are trapped in a cycle or restriction and binging! If you’re wondering how to make peace with food and become a more intuitive eater, it starts with giving yourself permission to eat the foods you love.Read More
One of the most important aspects of health is having strong social connections. Yet diets that are frequently prescribed, supposedly to improve health, lead to social isolation by making it challenging for you to be flexible and enjoy social events that involve food. In this post, learn how dieting affects your social life and harms your health, and why flexible, intuitive eating supports wellness and longevity.Read More
In todays achievement obsessed society, sleep is often thought of as a luxury, or just an afterthought. I used the think the biggest consequence of inadequate sleep was feeling cranky and wasting too much money at Starbucks. It wasn’t until I started working at the VA with many veterans who had a difficult time sleeping due to PTSD, when I started to dig into the research and understand the importance of sleep.Read More
Emotional eating gets a bad rep. People talk about diving into a box of cookies when you're feeling sad like it's on par with stealing a kids bicycle or kicking a puppy. Food and eating is just one of many ways to cope with negative emotions. Instead of worrying about stopping emotional eating, we should be talking about how to build a well rounded set of tools for coping with emotions that includes food. Learn how to cope with negative emotions, with or without food.Read More
The numbers that count can't be measured on a scale. Your weight is the least important part of who you are, and of who other people are. Instead of focusing on the scale, focus on what makes you, you. In this post, I'm sharing the numbers that matter to me. Add yours to the comments!Read More
Dieting steals time and energy, our two most precious resources, and puts them towards a futile pursuit, trying to temporarily force our bodies into a smaller size. If everyone considered what they're giving up by dieting, I wonder if people would continue to try and lose weight? Here's 15 things you can do when you're not wasting time and energy dieting.Read More
Beating yourself up what or how much you ate? Isn't it odd how we are so much harder on ourselves than we are on others? Rather than motivating change, being hard on yourself creates feelings of shame that keep you trapped in the same cycle of behaviors. Read this post to learn about the power of self compassion.Read More
Intuitive Eating is not letting yourself go. Along with body acceptance, intuitive eating is one of the most powerful acts of self care. By letting go of what you can't control (your weight), it gives you space to focus on what you can control - creating sustainable, health-promoting behaviors that nourish your healthiest self.Read More
When self care feels like work, it isn't working. This post is all about how NOT to do self care. Sharing a bit about why I stopped doing yoga and meditation for a period of time, because it had become another item to check off my to do list, rather than a nourishing way to take care of my physical and mental health.Read More
Health is often thought of as the outcome of food and fitness, but mental health is health too, and if your behaviors around food and fitness are damaging to your mental health, then it's not actually healthy.Read More
Do you identify as an emotional eater? What you might need is a little self care! In this post, learn one of my favorite tools for coping with emotional eating. When you know how to build a self care toolbox for emotional eating you can cope with emotions with or without food.Read More
Worried your healthy eating could be heading into dangerous territory? Read on to know if your eating is health conscious or disordered eating.
Two years ago, vegan blogger Jordan Younger shared a stunning (at the time) secret.
She was suffering from an eating disorder called orthorexia, an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy.
At the time, most people had a very narrow image of what an eating disorder looks like, a skeletal young woman, wasting away without food. Not a bubbly, happy (according to her instagram pictures), healthy and athletic appearing woman who gleefully shared pictures of her salads and green juice for the world to see. But behind the filters, she had restricted her food to vegetables, fruits, green juices and occasionally whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. The obsession wasn't with getting thin, it was about getting pure.
It's long been recognized among eating disorder specialists and dietitians that people, men and women, are suffering from more eating issues than just anorexia and bulimia. Some have names, like binge eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, and orthorexia. Others struggle with combinations of emotional eating, obsessive calorie/macronutrient counting, and chronic dieting. And while these struggles may sound less severe, just because someone isn't starving in a hospital doesn't mean they aren't in pain.
One of the most difficult things about getting people who are struggling with disordered eating the treatment they need is the fact that disordered eating is so common. I've heard recovery described as trying to survive in a society that has it's own eating disorder. That description couldn't be more accurate - one study found 75% of women have disordered eating behaviors. It's totally normal to talk about dieting, good/bad foods, extreme exercise and body hatred like you would talk about the weather! But just because disordered eating is common, doesn't mean it should be considered benign.
Now, don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with eating healthfully or making a conscious effort to eat more healthy food. The problem comes when those efforts are detracting from your overall physical and mental health, and quality of life.
Not sure if your health conscious eating or exercising is verging into disordered eating territory? Take this quiz, developed by Dr. Steven Bratman, who coined the phrase orthorexia, to find out.
Health Conscious or Disordered Eating Quiz:
1. Do you spend 3 or more hours a day thinking (or talking) about food?
Is your day consumed by reading nutrition blogs? When you hang out with your friends, does the topic of conversation quickly go to dieting? Is there a pile of nutrition books and cookbooks by your bed? Do you waste your mental energy obsessing over what you already ate or thinking about what you will have for your next meal? Thinking about food is normal. Obsessing about food is a problem.
2. Do you plan your meals in advance?
There's nothing wrong with meal planning or prep. I highly recommend it as a way to make eating nutritious and tasty food easy. The problem is when planning comes from a place of control and turns into an exercise in crafting the "perfect" diet. Is your meal plan rigid, or is there flexibility? Are you planning around food you enjoy, or planning around limitations and restrictions?
3. Is the nutritional value of your meal more important than the pleasure you receive from eating it?
Nutrition should plan a role in your food decision making, but taste and pleasure should be the main factors.
4. Has the quality of your life decreased as the quality of your diet has increased?
When you're obsessed with your food nourishment, it's hard to have energy or make time for the other things in life that nourish you - friends, relationships, self care, sleep, hobbys....getting over emotionally invested in the olympic games.
5. Have you become stricter with yourself lately?
First it was sugar, then it was dairy, then it was white flour. As you layer on more and more food rules, less and less foods are considered healthy to eat, until your diet gets to the point where it is nutritionally inadequate.
6. Does your self esteem get a boost from eating healthfully?
Do you feel morally superior because of you healthy eating? Being a healthy eater is considered a positive trait in our society and others may look up to you for your willpower. The praise you're showered with gives a big confidence boost. But, of course, there's danger in your self esteem riding on your diet is that the second you go off your diet, your self esteem takes a hit.
7. Have you given up food you used to enjoy in order to eat the food you think is right?
We all have foods we love that might not be health promoting from a nutrition standpoint, but are nourishing in other ways, through providing pleasure, nostalgia, or nourishing social connections.
8. Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat out, leading to isolation from friends and family?
Would you cancel plans with someone if they picked a restaurant that couldn't cater to your nutrition needs? If the thought of breaking your food rules is more distressing than missing social events, then there's a problem.
9. Do you feel guilty when you stray from your diet?
When your self esteem is linked to the purity of your diet, the guilt and shame experienced by any deviation can feel overwhelming. But in reality, eating a cupcake is pretty low on the scale of moral lapses. I mean, unless you stole said cupcake, there's nothing to feel guilty about.
10. Do you feel at peace with yourself and in total control when you eat healthfully?
Having complete control over what's on your plate gives the false illusion of having complete control in life. But life is messy, complicated, joyous, painful, challenging, serendipitous and absolutely, positively, impossible to control.
If you answered yes to 4 or 5 questions, then you may have some food issues to do deep thinking about, or better yet, work with an experienced dietitian or therapist on. If you answered yes to all or most of the questions, you may have a serious obsession with food that you should seek help for.
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If you feel like your eating habits and relationship with food are detracting from your quality of life, I am happy to work with you. My goal with all my clients is to make nourishing their body well effortless and fun so you can rediscover the joy that comes from eating. We are also running the Joyful Eating, Nourished Life group intuitive eating program again in early October and would love to have you!
Another fun new way to get support - starting next week, I'll be answering your questions live on facebook each Wellness Wednesday. Send me your questions on intuitive eating, nutrition, health, body positivity or even a personal question and I'll pick one each week! And of course, it's anonymous ;) If you have a burning question, send me an email at AnAvocadoADayRD@gmail.com with the subject line "FACEBOOK QUESTION." If I pick yours, I'll shoot you an email in advance and let you know. Hope this is something you all enjoy and please let me know of any other suggestions!
P.S. Apologies in advance for any video awkwardness! This will be new to me!
Did any of your answers to the questions in the quiz surprise you?
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.
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 over 100 lbs. 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 many 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 a lot of weight. 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.
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!