Clean Eating Sucks

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clean eating sucksThe term clean eating makes me cringe. At first it makes you feel superior while you reach for a virtual pat on the back. “Wow, you eat clean all of the time? You’re so good!” After the thrill wears off, you’re left feeling judged followed by shame.

Why is Clean Eating so Seductive?

Perfectly posed, flawless photos of barely clothed self-proclaimed fitness gurus have taken over instagram. They lift, jump around and tells about their meals of fish, chicken, broccoli, and sweet potatoes. No words are necessary. Their social media accounts scream “you could look like this too if you stay disciplined and eat what I eat!” It’s sales 101. Who wouldn’t want to be part of this exclusive group? The clean eating community provides more than just a sense of identification. It also gives people a little boost. Hey, what I’m doing is better than what you are doing. Clean eating seduces people with community, a common bond and a feeling of control. In a world where so many things are out of our control, we often reach for something, anything, we can control to decrease our anxiety.

What’s Wrong with Getting Sucked into Clean Eating?

“I eat clean most of the time,” an athlete recently told me, his sentence trailing off in volume as his eyes looked downward in shame. “But, sometimes I eat wings, fries and a few beers with the other guys,” he confessed, as he glanced up waiting for his penance. One small step away from the rigid rules of clean eating and you’ll feel like a failure. Any deviation can lead to a landslide – bingeing on forbidden foods. The authors of Intuitive Eating call this the What the Hell effect. The moment a forbidden food is eaten, overeating takes place.

How are these people in shape? For some it’s a cycle of diet, extreme exercise and bingeing. I bet more than 90% of the women and 70% of the men don’t feel great about their body (1, 2). They are fishing in the vast social media ocean for likes and positive comments. Many also engage in disordered eating and exercise (over exercising, using cleanses, laxatives, diuretics or fat burners, dietary restriction etc.).

How Can You Loosen Your Grip on Cleaning Eating?

Last week I ate lunch with one of the baseball players. He had a few cookies on his plate. One of our new players (who hasn’t figured out yet that I’m not the food police) came in and said “are those cookies good for your body?” His response was classic, “they’re good for the soul,” he said with a warm smile as we continued our conversation.

Instead of trying to “eat clean,” consider eating healthy foods most of the time while eating “play” foods, foods that are good for your soul, when you want them. Allow yourself flexibility with eating. People who allow themselves some food flexibility are less dissatisfied with their bodies and weigh less than those who don’t. Don’t judge yourself and never allow others to judge you based on what you are eating.

Eat the real thing. If you are craving a freshly baked gooey chocolate chip cookie, have one. Don’t try to get by with a low fat kale cookie made with cocoa powder (unless of course you’ve found one that is delicious). Eat what you are truly craving. If your anxiety hits the ceiling as you worry about your weight, remember it’s one cookie or a few cookies. Another gem from Intuitive Eating:

If you get pleasure and satisfaction in eating you won’t eat as much.

If you have issues with the scale, set it aside (the attic is a good place) and focus on how you feel. There are foods that may taste good in the moment but if you have too many of them, you might not feel as good. Let feeling help drive your food choices.

Moving Away from Judgement and Shame

I have probably tagged some posts on Instagram with #cleaneating. After all, I’m in the business of selling better performance, in sport and in life. I want to reach as many people as possible. But, I don’t want you suckered into a life filled with strict rules, judgment and shame. You also don’t need to live unto to someone else’s standards of an “ideal body.” Doing this will compound negative feelings about your body. Any time you feel a little down remember what your body has done and can do for you. It’s time to look past those finger pointing, clean eating photos and, like Hilary Duff (below) tell them to #kissmyass.

1 Eur Eat Disord Rev 2013;21(1):52-59. 

2 Research on Males and Eating Disorders

Lighten Up Over the Holidays: Healthier Holiday Eating

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Gisselle Marie Rosa, UGA M.S. student

With the holiday season here, many Americans are faced with a very difficult decision: should I dive into that second serving of glazed ham and mashed potatoes delicately covered with a blanket of gravy or put the rest away for later? At this time of year, family and friends often gather together around the dinner table, sharing comfort food and stories while celebrating the holidays. But, let’s face the facts, many holiday foods aren’t the healthiest options. According to a recently published study, most Americans gain 0.5 kilograms, or about 1 pound, of weight during the holiday season.Overweight and obese individuals gain more than than those who are healthy weight.

But, if it’s only 1 measly pound over the holidays, then what’s the big deal?

While it seems that gaining 1 pound isn’t a big deal, the same study showed that most individuals don’t shed that pound over the next year. So over time those measly pounds tend to add up, increasing the individual’s risk for becoming overweight or obese.

Does this mean that you can’t eat your favorite holiday dishes?

Absolutely not! This is a special time and it is OK to enjoy the foods you love. However, there are some ways that you can modify your favorite dishes to make them more nutritious but still keep the familiar flavor that you love. Here are some tips to lighten up your holiday favorites:

  1. Appetizers/Dipping Sauces
    1. Chips, creamy dips, fried cheese sticks, potato skins, buffalo chicken poppers, you name it. These tasty snacks are one of the biggest calorie-packing culprits during the holidays. If appetizers are on the menu, opt for fresh vegetables dipped in a light ranch sauce or whole wheat pita chips dipped in a low-fat yogurt dip. Plenty of flavor, fewer calories.
  2. Mashed Potatoes
    1. This creamy dish is the quintessential holiday companion to any entrée, but many people make mashed potatoes with cheese, heavy cream, and plenty of butter. Try substituting the heavy cream for skim milk and chicken broth or roasted garlic for extra flavor while keeping the creamy texture of the potatoes.
  3. Latkes
    1. Potato Latkes are an essential part of every Hanukkah celebration, but these fried pillows of potatoes can really add a lot of fat to the holiday meal. Try mixing white and sweet potatoes to add extra vitamins and minerals to your dish. Also, make sure to use healthy oils such as olive oil to sauté the latkes instead of butter!
  4. Vegetable Casseroles
    1. While delicious, these creamy concoctions are typically filled with extra cheese, creamy condensed soups, and overcooked vegetables. Upgrade your favorite vegetable casseroles by substituting canned vegetables with frozen vegetables to decrease the sodium. Additionally, substituting some of the fried onions with slivered almonds keeps the familiar crunch while switching to low-fat cheese cuts out some of the fat and calories (or use less of a more flavorful cheese).
  5. Baked Goods
    1. Dessert during the holidays is definitely a must! A great way to cut the fat and the calories from your favorite baked goods is by substituting the oil with applesauce. Applesauce adds lots of moisture and becomes almost flavorless, making it a versatile ingredient.

Making healthy choices during the holidays may seem like a sacrifice, but it does not have to be! Done right, you can enjoy your favorite holiday comfort foods without packing on the calories or the pounds.

References

Schoeller DA. The effect of holiday weight gain on body weight. Physiology and Behavior 2014;134:66-69.

Why Diet When You Don’t Have To?

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This review of the Non-Diet Approach session at FNCE 2014 was written by: Collier Perno

Let’s face it, dieting sucks. Yet the promise of a quick fix is so enticing that an estimated 45 million Americans go on diets each year though nearly 65% of dieters regain their lost weight within three years1. So why do we keep trying these trendy fad diets? The diet industry is a booming business raking in nearly 20 billion dollars each year2. Diet books, diet plans, and diet pills all focus on one thing: weight. These extreme diets and intensive eating regimens may work well at first but typically do not last over the long term. Plus, diets also can have many harmful side effects including weight cycling, increased anxiety about weight, eating disorder behaviors, and increased risk for osteoporosis. Instead of focusing on weight, shouldn’t our motivation be to live a healthy lifestyle? By using a non-diet approach known as Health at Every Size (HAES) people can make lifestyle changes and build healthy habits.

Instead of counting calories or fat grams, HAES values pleasurable eating and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite. HAES also focuses on movement and becoming more active by choosing activities that are enjoyable. The HAES philosophy celebrates size diversity (love your body!) and takes the focus off weight and places it on enjoying eating and activity.

How does HAES fair compared to traditional dieting? Six randomized control trials have compared non-diet approaches to diet approaches or control groups. None of the studies found any negative outcomes from the non-diet approach and some trials found the non-diet approach groups improved health behaviors, physiologic measures, and psychological improvements. Dr. Linda Bacon conducted a study on female chronic dieters to test the success of a 6 month randomized clinical trial where half of the participants were put on a diet and the other half used the HAES philosophy. Measurements were collected immediately after the intervention and at a two-year follow up. The participants in the diet group lost weight and improved LDL cholesterol, systolic and diastolic blood pressure after the six-month intervention, but all of these changes returned to baseline at the 2 year follow up. At the two-year follow up the non-diet participants showed significant improvement in depression scores, body image, and self-esteem and maintained their body weight. Non-diet participants also improved total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and systolic blood pressure at the two year follow up. The drop out rate for the diet group was 41% compared to the 8% drop out rate for the non-diet group which suggests the non-diet approach is not only easier to stick with but can also improve health when followed over time3.

HAES encourages individuals to adopt health habits for the sake of health and well-being. By embracing this weight neutral approach we can finally enjoy exercise and eating without the stress of following a restrictive diet.

If you’ve struggled with diets and feel like you are on a ferris wheel going no where, it’s time to stop and try another approach (because a diet hasn’t worked for you if you have to go on it over and over again). Consider adopting the Non Diet Approach by starting with the suggestions below:

  • Turn off the television and put away any other distractions. Mealtime should be in a calm environment to help you fully enjoy and focus on the food you are eating.
  • Find an activity you enjoy whether it’s playing outside with your kids, dancing, hiking, or gardening.
  • Pay attention to your body’s physical signals and eat according to your hunger and satiety cues.
  • Avoid categorizing foods into “good” and “bad”. All foods are acceptable and dietary variety is encouraged to obtain different nutrients and experience joy in eating.

To learn more about HAES go to www.haescommunity.org.

References

  1. O’Meara A. The Percentage of People Who Regain Weight After Rapid Weight Loss and the Risks of Doing So. Livestrong. Available at: http://www.livestrong.com/article/438395-the-percentage-of-people-who-regain-weight-after-rapid-weight-loss-risks/. Accessed October 27, 2014.
  2. 100 Million Dieters, $20 Billion: Weight-Loss Industry by the Numbers. ABC News. Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/100-million-dieters-20-billion-weight-loss-industry/story?id=16297197. Accessed October 27, 2014.
  3. HAES® Curriculum | A peer-reviewed curriculum designed for teaching health professionals and university students about the Health At Every Size® model. HAES Curric. Available at: http://haescurriculum.com/. Accessed October 27, 2014.

How Your Body Image Affects Your Weight & Health

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Today I’m going on a slight rant about something that has been on my mind for a while – body image. And because the majority of my clients (all but 1) are male athletes, I don’t run into the overt self-degrading body comments as often as many of my dietitian colleagues who work with women. However, I’ve run into a number of women lately who either put their bodies down, avoid social situations or the beach / pool / bathing suits because they feel “fat”, obsessively cover up their bodies, obsessively diet or exercise (or both) or engage in other self-depreciating comments and related behaviors stemming from how they feel about their body. And I always walk away thinking “one day she is going to look back and think ‘damn I looked good’ and regret wasting so much time and energy hating a body that helped her cross finish lines, hike mountains, pick up small children, build a beautiful garden and do so much more.”

And though I won’t get into the psychology behind body image and self worth or how to improve your body image (you can read more about that in this article), I do want to talk about how this affects a person’s overall health and sense of well-being. First and foremost, the people around you might not notice the subtle behaviors and words you speak (unless you have dietitian or psychologist friends) but your kids will (children, grandchildren, children you teach or coach). Anyone who has spent 5 minutes with a child knows they pick up everything. Now, let’s say you are that female who won’t wear shorts in the summer because you hate the way your legs look. Your little girl will stop wearing shorts and at some point think her legs look bad too. Or maybe you are the grandma who won’t wear a bathing suit to the beach because you can’t fit into the one you wore last year. Your grandkids will wonder why you aren’t going in the water with them. And finally, if you are a coach of young girls, an entire team will learn about how they should be viewing their bodies from what you think of yours.

In addition to affecting the people around you, I’ve noticed that women who don’t love the bodies they live in spend entirely too much time thinking about food and exercise. And by cutting out certain foods, going on cleanses or popular diets or drastically slashing their food intake, they are cutting out a number of nutrients necessary for good health. And the effects might not be obvious at first, but over time they will catch up to you. Cut calories and it will be difficult to get a number of vitamins, minerals and protein in your diet (And when you fall short on protein you will start losing muscle mass. Over time less muscle means you burn a few less calories each day and you won’t be able to exercise as hard in the gym so you burn fewer calories while working out. Both of these make it challenging to keep weight off over time. Plus less muscle means activities of daily living like gardening, picking up kids, or lifting groceries may be tough). Switch to a vegetarian diet and you better really plan on incorporating protein since you will need more total protein to keep and build muscle. Drop dairy and your bones, teeth and nails will suffer over time (yes you can eat kale, spinach and other leafy greens but you will need at least 10 cups of raw leafy greens a day if this is your only source of calcium). I’ve seen women in their 20s with osteopenia (low bone mass, this often comes before the brittle bone disease osteoporosis). And this is just the tip of the iceberg. But, here’s the most important point: your body image affects what you eat (more than just total calories) and don’t eat. And over time I’m going to make a stretch here and say (from observation) that body image-induced changes in diet affect your intake of vitamins and minerals and over time, consistent vitamin and mineral shortages will affect how your body functions and could impair several aspects of health. So, if you feel like you fall into this category of women or men who loathe your body, make the commitment right now to work on this. I promise you that you are wasting time as well as mental and physical energy. Plus, the changes you are making in an effort to keep weight off may be doing more harm than good.

Getting a Better Body Image

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As a sports dietitian, the majority of my individual clients are male pro or college athletes – guys who have no major issues with their body image. However, among my female clients and women in general, I’ve noticed increased body bashing coinciding with a not so great body image. From comments on facebook about needing to start a cleanse or strict diet to not wearing clothes that show certain body parts, I am stunned at the number of women who don’t feel comfortable in their own skin. So, I turned to my fellow dietitians for words of wisdom to help women get a better body image. And, here’s the expert advice I received:

  • There is no such thing as a “perfect” body but, is your body good enough? Does it get you through your long days and tough workouts? Do your muscular thighs help you excel in sports and your strong shoulders help lift your small children into bed? Focus on what your body can do and does for you. (from Karin Kratina)
  • To compare is to despair. If fashion magazines or certain TV shows make you focus more intensely (in a negative way) about your body, it’s time to start reading something else or turning the channel.
  • Don’t allow negative comments about your body (from yourself or anyone else). When you catch yourself saying “I have big thighs” or “my cellulite”, stop and make a positive comment about your body. And, when you are around girl friends who make these comments, looking for a reaction from you or equal self loathing words, stop the chain by saying nothing and switching the topic.
  • Throw out the scale. You can measure your body changes by how your clothes fit. But, living your life by a number on the scale (or worse yet, comparing this # to other people’s weight) will intensify a negative perception of your body.
  • Be aware of the people around you. If you grew up with a mom who is a chronic dieter, resolve to break that chain. If you surround yourself with people obsessed with dieting, either ask that they don’t talk about this constantly when you are around or, find other people with more engaging topics of discussion.
  • Love it and flaunt it. There’s nothing more attractive than self confidence (well, and a beautiful smile). When you continuously work on 4 simple steps, your body image will improve over time.

 


The pictures are from Nike ads I just love! This clothing manufacturer not only produces awesome sports clothes but they encourage a better way to view your body. For more, click here.

And finally, if you are a parent reading this, please encourage a healthy body image in your child or teenager. After all, more than half of U.S. teens have had an eating disorder.