What’s your [food] story?

Stories are one of my favourite things, ever. Stories are powerful. We have our own stories, we have cultural stories, we have stories of history, stories of the future and stories just for fun. Everything is defined by stories we hear and tell. They can wipe out entire races, peoples and places as though they never existed. They can validate our experiences, or make us live in doubt and shame. We tell stories about our lived experiences to create meaning in our lives; otherwise we are just going through a series of random events that make no sense. Humans like things to make sense, and to have a deeper meaning.

When I see people for nutrition counselling, I’m not often sitting there making sure they have eaten all the nutrients they need, I’m actually listening for their food story.

Our food story is the way we talk about what we eat, and the way we describe our history with food. It is how we give meaning to the food we eat.

Often I find my clients reducing their food story to one of weight; their interaction with food is simply the journey that has lead to fatness or thinness. Sadly this is not just my clients, it really is a societal way we talk about food: “good” “bad” or “fattening” are used in everyday common language to describe food. But reducing food to something that has “made you fat” or is “fattening” does you and the food a disservice.

Can you remember the first meal you truly savoured? What did you like about it? What was so pleasurable about it?

Here is my honest answer: I can remember sitting in my basement as a child enjoying the overly full feeling of a McDonald’s Happy Meal of chicken nuggets, french fries and a chocolate milkshake. Oh how divine. This story for much of my early years carried no shame, just the knowledge that this was a meal I enjoyed, but that I then moved on to whatever else I was into at the time, My Little Ponies or Barbie.

But later, as time pressed on and began to amass the cultural (North American culture) story of shame associated with fullness and “bad” foods, this story carried a different meaning. I became ashamed of my younger self’s food choices, and proud I no longer ate “that stuff”.

Here is the thing: it’s important to tune into what stories you are telling yourself, and what stories you keep hearing. Do they actually ring true to your experience? Or are they something you are simply retelling because it’s the story you’ve heard most often? Sometimes our true stories are quiet inside us, or have been appropriated by the stories told more loudly and frequently. Food does more than change our weight, often it carries with it memories of loved ones, or happy events in our lives, yet we taint it because those happy memories have led to our “weight problem” (pssst actually it was the diet, not the enjoyment).

Food is powerful, but so are the stories we tell about it, so be mindful about the stories you’re telling and listening to about food.

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Why this HAES dietitian stepped back on the scale

A lot of dietitians, and health professionals who work from a non-weight focus often recommend not weighing yourself.

Scales measure nothing other than the affect of gravity on your body mass.

You would weigh differently on the moon, in space, on Venus, Mars and Jupiter. Without anything about your body changing. So really, that number you see is a bit arbitrary.

Yet many of us allow the number on the scale to dictate how we feel, not just about our body, but our entire life. It isn’t surprising that in a world filled with fatphobia the numbers on the scale can give us anxiety and stress, or glee and delight. But giving the little metal gravity measuring box that sort of power is not good for our self-esteem, our self-worth or our self-confidence.

When it comes to your health, it is more important to pay attention to the signals your body is telling you:

– a rumbling stomach for hunger.

– the glorious ache after a good run/derby session

– the fatigue that tells you resting is your weekend plan, instead of however many hours of intense exercise you might normally do

– The light headed feeling when you’ve gone a little too long between meals 

That is what is important. Knowing your weight is not really an important matter of health for the majority of people.

So, why, you might be asking, the title? Why did you start weighing yourself again if you don’t believe we need to know our weight for any reason what-so-ever?

Maybe this story needs to start from the beginning.

I have no memory of weighing myself as a child. Weight was not a big topic in our house. Body image was never really discussed either; I can remember having negative thoughts about my body as a child (I always thought I was chubby)…

The first time I remember weighing myself I was about fifteen. It was in the Fall of a year when I’d started running and actually I’d been feeling great; energized, stronger then ever before in my life, and overall great.

Enter the scale, and a number that according to the BMI (another poor measure of health) was way too high*.

Begin dieting and an unhealthy fascination with the scale. Over my high school and early university days I weighed myself weekly, or daily in a way that was mostly just a little too obsessive. And with every change in number would be a change in mood: the number went down and I was happy. That number went up and I was devastated. So it was that I went through years of feeling up and down, up and down. Eventually enough became enough, and  I gave up the scale. Yes I weighed in occasionally; maybe once or twice a year. But over the years it became less and less.

But here’s where it got sticky for me. At first not weighing myself was protective: I was stopping myself from giving my low self-esteem and inner critic food for the fodder. I could be “feeling fat” (ie not good about myself) and step on the scale and have it confirmed – by not feeding this voice in my head I protected myself at a time I needed to grow. But. But. But. Not weighing myself never felt empowering for me. It was great when I maintained a lower weight that was socially acceptable. But when I gained weight and avoided the scale, I’d feel a similar anxiety and I knew I was simply avoiding a number that in my head still held the power to make me feel terrible and bring my good mood crashing down.

So I stepped back on the scale.

A little stipulation here: parallel to this weighing/not weighing journey I also did a lot of inner work on stuff that had nothing to do with weight. I healed a lot of the other issues that had been masked by this weight obsession. After doing all this work, when I eventual decided the denial I was holding towards the scale was actually not allowing me to move forward, I had to flip the script towards the scale. Instead of allowing the number to dictate my mood, I decided my mood (contentment, acceptance if not some form of love/like for my body) would dictate how I felt about that number. A weight above the “healthy BMI range” hmmm, interesting. On with the day. What do I have to do at work today?

The truth is you don’t have to weigh yourself at all. In fact I think stepping away from the scale is an important part of the health journey for many. If you fear not knowing what you weigh that can also be something to reflect on… what does the idea of not monitoring a number on the scale bring up? Anxiety? Why? Do you trust your body enough to not need a weight to give you permission to eat? And sometimes weighing yourself can also be an empowering step towards body acceptance: towards loving yourself at any and every size you might experience. And in the end, well, there really isn’t any one right or wrong way.

Self Care Day

Did you know today (Saturday) is national Self Care day?

I’ll be honest, the term self care always irked me a bit. When I first began to hear it, the term seemed to always be associated with a limited scheme of things: pedicures, manicures, spa days, shopping or all about pushing “me first”. (I believe my early experience with self care probably came from women’s magazines…

It always seemed to be more about spending money on unessential things that would supposedly relax you. Sadly, they were all things I never found particularly relaxing.

So I wrote off self care as overly indulgent and generally selfish (big judgements? yes. But we are talking teenage Bronwyn here, please forgive her).

After finding out that Saturday was Self Care Day, I looked into it a bit more. Self care according to the International Self-Care Foundation is actually more about daily habits that keep you healthy.

Now that’s a self care regime I can get behind. If you check out their infographic, they define self care purely in terms of health: first understanding health and improving health literacy, then as the daily habits around physical activity, healthy eating, and general life management that can be helpful for you to live a balanced and healthy life.

With this in mind I began to realize I was doing a lot more self care then I realized. Because I think a lot of self care looks like my original teenage experience, I thought I’d share some things you can do (or may be doing already) that I think are truly pieces of self care.

Get Outside

Whether it’s a run through your neighbourhood, getting your hands dirty in your garden, a walk with friends, or a hike or bike ride through the woods, getting outside is one of the biggest self care things you can do. Lots of evidence supports getting out into nature but if that’s not your thing, the next best thing is simply getting out of the indoors. Sure we now have Pokémon-Go, but usually getting outside involves less screen time, more action and definitely being more present. And if you get lots of movement from your outdoor time, even better.

Get Moving

My first point lends itself well to my second point. Move every day. As more and more jobs become sedentary, and a lot of the relax time becomes couch-centric, getting yourself moving every day is the absolutely bestest thing you can do. Don’t believe me? check out this video – I won’t spoil it for you, but I love this little video and think it’s basically kinda amazing what a little exercise can do for your well-being!

Eat Well

Eat healthy food you like, but don’t let it rule your life. I’ll be the first to admit I love healthy food. I was raised on whole grains, real peanut butter, and a decent assortment of vegetables (ok I was a picky kid who wouldn’t eat potatoes but would totally mow down some French fries, but whatever). What I’m saying is I didn’t always like ALL healthy food, but I always liked some healthy food ( such as rice, chicken and broccoli, which was what I remember having for dinner most often). Yes I want you to eat your vegetables, yes I think we live in a sugar and deep fried filled world, where all too many of us are easily overindulging, but I don’t want your pursuit of healthy eating to cause you more stress. This in fact is when healthy eating becomes a bigger issue then it needs to be. (PS struggling with healthy eating, finding a balance and making it happen? I can help with that! Get in touch, and check out my services page for more information – end of shameless plug).

Get Involved

I mentioned that when I first heard about self-care it would often have the adage of “me first” and considering I likely heard of self-care in women’s magazines or on Oprah, it makes sense: many moms and women feel a lot of guilt when putting their needs first or even just on par with those of their loved ones (you shouldn’t, this is the air plane mask rule of self-care: put yours on first then your kids because if you die you are useless to those you love). So I understand the messaging, but it always bothered me because it always seemed to be about taking time away from being involved in your family, your friends and your community to go for a pedicure. But from my viewpoint spending time with your friends and family, where you are fully present and engaged, is so crucial to taking care of ourselves. I also think volunteering is one of the best things you can do with your time; our communities are built on volunteers and the more helping hands the better it goes. For me personally this has meant being involved on my sports teams outside of just practice, or helping out when I lived in residence, as well as being active and involved in my profession. In the end taking care of your community helps to take care of you.

Reflect on what is working in your life

Self Care really comes down to the every day habits we create. Yes moving is great, but if you only go for a run every three months it’s not doing you much good. A walk every day for thirty minutes is better. The same goes for everything else: it is what you do regularly that will effect your health in the long run. So take a look at your habits: do most of them serve you? Or do you have a few unhealthy ones that just take over? Be mindful of where stress enters your life. We all have stress but a big part of it is how you deal with it: do you avoid it and complain or do you get to work tackling the nagging tasks that are haunting your sleep?

So I know this isn’t a long list, but it is a bit of a long post! So I’ll end it now but what do you feel you do for self care? Are there habits or daily things you do that you never considered self care but are?
(PS I know I did a lot of judging on the mani pedis but if those are your things that’s totally cool! I wanted to present some alternatives for those of us who don’t always like those things, or can’t always afford them. It’s more about thinking (critically) about what we call self-care and what it actually could be.)

WCT Training: Juan de Fuca trail prep

Hello all!

Happy May, happy May Long Weekend to those of you who get a long weekend. I kinda can’t believe it’s here to be honest. This spring season is just flying by.

This weekend my West Coast Trail buddies and I are doing our overnight “practice” hike for the WCT: the Juan De Fuca Marine Trail.

What is the Juan De Fuca?

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The Juan De Fuca is another trail located on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It goes south from Port Renfrew towards Sooke and Victoria and the total trail spans about 47km.

My friends and I are planning to do 37km, from China Beach to Parkinson Beach (on the map).

I visited Sombrio beach, which has a road access campground, a few weeks ago when a good friend of mine visited from Vancouver. It was gorgeous. I can only hope (and really I have been told) that the rest of the trail is as beautiful.

The Itinerary

Day 1: leave early for a 9-10am hike start from China Beach. Target campsite: Bear beach which is a mileage of 9km. This day is “moderate” according to the trail map.

Day 2: this will be the most difficult terrain day according to the trail map. We are aiming for 11km to get to Chin Beach.

Day 3: In actuality this might be the hardest day; we will be covering not only the hardest part of the trail, but it will be our longest day at 17km. We’re hoping that our packs will be lightened by this day from eating all the foods (we have, for instance, 8lbs of snacks/lunch foods alone…)

What’s in the packs

Each of our packs weigh about 28-31lbs, which is pretty good. Most trail hikes I have seen recommend women exceed no more than 1/3 of their body weight in pack weight, and I believe we are all below that.

Food:

Marina is curious about this food

We have decided to go with the two meals a day (breakfast and dinner) and rely on a variety of snacks for our lunch/day time eating.

So we needed 2 breakfasts and 2 dinners for this hike.

What this looks like:

For breakfast:

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Oatmeal with dehydrated whole milk, raisins and/or trail mix.

“Scrambled” Eggs with “cheese” and salsa. This recipe was inspired by the Backpacking Chef. Sadly I do not own his book so I took a guess at how to dehydrate eggs using polenta a rehydration medium. If it turns out I may share the recipe!

Snacks:

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Various trail mixes, dried fruits, snacky things, nuts, seeds, candy, etc. etc. to the point of 8lbs.

For dinners:

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Mushroom Stroganoff with egg noodles

Lentil Dahl  (mix of two recipes, here and here) and brown basmati rice.

For beverages:

Tea, instant coffee and powdered whole milk, and likely Gatorade (still to be purchased).

Also in my pack:

Thermarest/foamie

Sleeping bag

Iodine water tabs, mole skin, swiss army knife, sunscreen, bug spray, bear banger, mini first aid kit, lighter, fire starters, 3 liters of water

Clothes: long johns (top and bottom), leggings, socks x 5 pairs, underwear x 4 pairs, rain jacket, extra warm jacket layer, extra t-shirt, and flip flops for camp. (I’ll be wearing: socks, underwear, sports bra, t-shirt and sweatshirt, shorts + )

Hat and sunglasses

Extra pegs for tarps

DSLR Cannon D50, journal + pen, iPod, phone (can last three days on super power saving mode)

The only thing that will change between this hike and the WCT will be the amount of food we are carrying (and maybe the total number of underwear and socks we have packed).

So that’s it folks! I’d love to hear how you have prepared in the past for overnight hikes, what has worked, and what hasn’t and I promise to be back next week with a “Hike Report” (just like all those race reports out there!).

Till then, take care.

On the biggest loser debacle

Hello,

Happy Friday!

I was really hoping to sit down this week and write a great post about some nutrition related thing, but it never happened. So I thought I’d take a quick moment and comment on the big hubbaloo that happened last week around the study on the biggest loser that came out.

First a couple links to great blog posts discussing it:

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff: http://www.vox.com/2016/5/10/11649210/biggest-loser-weight-loss

Regan Christian: https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2016/05/06/the-biggest-losers-big-surprise/

Really I’m not sure I can add much more. To anyone who pays attention to research around weight loss, weight focused health or obesity research this is just one more study in a long list of studies affirming this one idea: long term extreme amounts of weight loss is not easy, very often not sustainable and in general not actually healthy.

I think Dr. Freedhoff says it best when he talks about being a runner as a metaphor for weight loss. If we considered only Boston Marathon qualifiers to be successful runners, we’d have a whole lot of not-real-runners out there.

The truth is the focus on weight, and thus weight loss, as a health measurement is a fallacy that keeps getting promoted as fact. There are a lot of companies, organizations and people dependent on this myth being taken as fact. The diet industry does not want you to win at weight loss because it would be a financial loss, they also don’t want you to stop trying because again financial loss. Even a lot of health and medical institutions have a large buy in to weight loss as a panache for all your health ailments; if they can promise you weight loss it’s a visible way for them to prove they’re improving your health, but sadly their promises fall short so often.

Tied into all this is of course some of our North American societal ideals: being thin is a desirable trait, a measurement of attractiveness, and don’t even get me started on the morality we have attached to food, nutrition, thin and fat bodies, and the constant hunt for “bettering” ourselves through health.

While I am all for people living healthy lives, health should support the best life you want (and like) living. You don’t owe health to anyone, and you certainly don’t owe anyone a constant battle for a thinner “better” you. 

One of the hardest parts with this is giving up the dream of the perfect body, and the perfect life it supposedly promises. With the amount of fat stigma, fat shaming, and fat discrimination that exists it is easy to see why many of my clients hesitate to give up dieting (until they’ve lost 10 more pounds, then they will!). This is one of the hardest pills to swallow. If I can leave you with one thing it’s that there is a lot of awesome people writing about just how they figured this shit out – you are not alone, and blogs like Dances with Fat (link above) and fabulous ladies like Virgie Tovar and many others are there to give words of wisdom on how they gave up dieting and embraced their bodies against the odds.

So I am going to leave this for now, before it becomes an epic rant – but you know I will be back to this topic sooner then later.

Quality Counts: a different perspective

When it comes to food quality really does count. Diets high in processed foods are often linked to chronic diseases, while low processed, as close to the form Mother Earth gave them, foods tend to be linked to healthier outcomes.

But when it comes to food it is easy to think what we eat is the only quality thing that counts, but there are other parts of our meal that count too.

Quality counts in how you eat

I know it might sound weird, but the relationship you have to food – when, why and how you eat, can have huge affects on your health. Today I want to focus on the quality that matters for how you eat your meals.

Take for instance the family meal; something many struggle to have in this day and age of busy on-the-go lives. But the number of health benefits that exist when a family takes the time to sit down and eat together are numerable. Family meals promote healthy relationships for adults and children; not just with other human beings, but also with food. This is one of the beautiful things about food; it is a place where we can connect.

The same goes for those of us who are family or child free. Eating with friends has many health benefits, as food is the perfect medium for socializing – and even us introverts experience health benefits from time with friends. Even when eating alone it is important to respect the time around food; mindful and intuitive eating both show that preparing a meal you will enjoy, creating a space that is inviting, and sitting down to mindfully enjoy that meal without distraction (no TV, no computer, no phone!) improves health outcomes. Not only that but you will be more satisfied; think about how quickly you mindlessly eat your dinner but still feel hungry after eating in front of the television. Or go through an entire bag of chips without feeling the fullness factor.

Do you feel the pressure?

It is hard to think about adding one more thing to our already full plates, or about cutting out something to fit in daily family meals. Culturally in North America there is great pride in being busy, in doing all the extra-curricular activities, and it can be hard to say no (particularly if they are things your kids love). Not only that but there is already a lot of pressure on parents to do a “perfect” job raising their kids, and having perfect family meals can be just one more place we shame and blame parents.

So in the name of trying to decrease the pressure, or spark some creativity around the how of your eating here are some ways you can incorporate this idea into your life.

For the Family Meal:

– The family meal does not have to be dinner. It can be lunch, it can be breakfast. Whatever meal you can find that allows you to sit down all together and eat is the meal that works.

– It doesn’t have to be every day. Despite our perfectionist beliefs, something is always better than nothing. Many of us might be weighed down with work, school and commitments on weekdays, but if there is one meal, one day a week when everyone can get together that still gives you benefits. A nice Sunday brunch or dinner? Awesome if that’s what you can do, that’s what you can do.

– Get everyone involved; have family members switch off who plans and cooks the meal. Get your kids involved in choosing the meal, helping get groceries and cooking. Everyone benefits from having basic cooking skills and the younger you begin to develop them, the better they will be.

For those of us who are single:

– It can be so hard to motivate yourself to cook a healthy meal for just you. Fortunately lots of easy meals are totally healthy; pasta with a meat or vegetarian sauce, salad and some protein such as chicken, tofu or beans, tuna melts, grilled cheese and soup…. good healthy food doesn’t have to be fancy. Speaking from personal experience; when I finally stepped off the dieting wagon I decided giving myself interesting and new meals was important for my self care. I chose a new recipe every few weeks to try, because I love to cook I knew this would be good for me. I also don’t mind having three or four meals a week that are “left overs”. This won’t work for everyone, you have to figure out what you like doing around food (throwing everything in the crock pot, maybe just eat fun and healthy sandwiches or wraps? Whatever floats your boat) to best have meals that are healthy and satisfying.

– If you really can’t imagine going to all that work just for yourself invite friends over (since eating out gets $$$ and isn’t always health friendly), or even organize a community kitchen style get together where you cook as a group and have meals for everyone to take home with them.

– Try to eat less in front of the TV and more in silence. Even try setting the table for yourself (yes it totally makes the meal feel special). Do I do these things all the time? No, but when I do it feels amazing.

So as week 2 of Nutrition Month rolls over, remember quality counts around food in many different ways. You can change what you eat, how and why you eat depending on your goals and circumstances, so go a head try to change up the how and see how it helps you.

How Do you Actually Want to Eat

So if you weren’t trying to lose weight, how would you be eating?

I’ve posed this question to many of my clients. many of whom have been trying to lose weight for their whole lives. Their first diet started before they were fat, because they felt fat. And each decade has been defined by what diet group they were a member of; Atkins, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, the cabbage soup diet, the Master Cleanse… The list goes on.

Most come into my office, still hoping to lose weight. Sure that I have the diet to end all diets, that I have a secret meal plan up my sleeve so they can finally leave the dieting merry go round (sadly you just have to get off, before losing those pesky 10lbs).

As they proceed through their diet recall, each morsel of food that enters their mouth is justified by every food rule they have ever heard:

“Eggs for breakfast because they have protein. But only one because two is too many!”

“I can’t eat carbs; they are my downfall. Carbs are evil. I’ve only ever lost weight not eating carbs.”

“I shouldn’t eat after 7pm. I try not to eat after 7.” (and do you eat after 7? Actually I don’t know. But I try not to)

So when I ask them how they would be eating if they weren’t trying to lose weight they are flummoxed. Such a concept has not entered their mind since before their dieting days. Even the ones who are not actively dieting live with the plethora of food rules in their head, constantly circulating and directing their food choices.

Most diets tell you that you are either dieting or falling off the wagon. There is no concept of normal eating; the diets tell you the way you want to eat is to binge on junk food on whatever food is currently forbidden. Chronic dieters have been fighting a battle (against what they believe is falling off the wagon) for so long they can’t even remember what eating before the diet looked like. But they know (have been told) the eating and food enemy is out there, and it is their natural state, which they must fight.

What the diets don’t tell you is the very act of dieting creates the act of falling off the wagon. If you aren’t on the wagon to begin with  you can’t fall off. There is nothing inherently wrong with eating foods you enjoy. In fact permission to enjoy those foods makes them more satisfying, and you will be less likely to overeat them.

So ask yourself: “If weight loss weren’t the focus, how would I like to be eating?”

Think about it, the answer might be surprising.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2016

Today is the start of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, a campaign that seeks to raise awareness of eating disorder prevalence and their deadly consequences.

In Canada, roughly 600,000-990,000 people have eating disorders1 at any given time. 80% of those with eating disorders are women and girls. Factors contributing to these mental illnesses include genetics, social, biological, and cultural factors1. Eating disorders can affect anyone, female, male, any and all ethnicities, all ages, and all sizes.

While it is very important to not reduce eating disorders to being about weight (which they honestly are generally not about, instead often the focus on weight, food and eating is actually a coping mechanism for other larger issues in the person’s world) living in the weight and food obsessed culture that exists definitely doesn’t help. Many people go for years without diagnosis because their BMI does not match criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, or their eating habits simply seem “strong” and “controlled” rather than the unhealthy obsessions that they are. In fact someone who is obese and engages in dangerous eating disorder behaviours that result in weight loss is more likely to be rewarded and praised for their efforts rather than cautioned or questioned.

Eating disorders also have a reputation of being a rich white girl’s issue, but they are most certainly not. Men, women, girls and boys of any nationality, ethnic background, and social  can be suffering from this mental illness. I have seen eating disorders strike all ages; from children to adults. Some people will live their whole lives with an eating disorder, some will recover, and some will die from their illness.

Treatment of eating disorders is an area the province of BC is attempting to reform, because of the lack of services available and a growing need. In-service treatment facilities (where clients stay for treatment) are minimal and have constant wait lists, and services provided outside of these facilities are also vastly underfunded and difficult to access (mostly because there are too many people seeking treatment, and too few people working in this area). Many health professionals also do not feel comfortable working with this unique population (of course this is not unique to eating disorders, any “specialty” area can mean most general health practitioners do not feel confident in knowing the ins and outs of that issue).

Fortunately there are some resources available to folks who might be looking to find out more. If you or someone you know has, or might have, an eating disorder here are some of the helpful websites you can access to find out more or what to do to help:

Kelty Mental Health

Looking Glass Foundation

NEDIC

And never forget to talk to your health care practitioner, doctor or nurse practitioner, because they will help you find services in your area as well.

Meanwhile you can also participate in the Provincial Eating Disorder Awareness Week campaign #Purple4PEDAW and don’t forget to wear purple (and check out the purple landmarks across BC) on February 5th to help raise awareness of this difficult disease.

1. Eating disorders among girls and women (2014). Report of the standing on the status of women in Canada. Accessed January 31, 2016 from: http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/hoc/Committee/412/FEWO/Reports/RP6772133/feworp04/feworp04-e.pdf

Mindful Eating

Have you heard of it? Do you practice it, have you tried it?

I didn’t know this, but was alerted by this post at Upbeet.ca, (a wonderful blog by fellow dietitian Melissa Baker) that today, January 28 2016 is the inaugural Mindful Eating Day.

According to The Center for Mindful Eating, mindful eating is:

Mindful Eating is allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom. By using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body, acknowledging your responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment, and becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating you can change your relationship to food.

Mindful eating is near and dear to me, I first discovered this idea when I was nineteen and coming off several years (it felt like a lifetime at that point) of chronic dieting, and looking for a better way to think about and manage how I eat.

Mindful eating is about recreating your relationship to food. It is about paying attention to what you eat, without judgement. Being without judgement around food is a challenging task, because it is counterculture to our current North American Chronic Dieting mindset.

Instead of asking yourself;

“Will this make me fat?” “How good is this food for me?” “I must make sure to only eat x number of calories/carbs/grams of fat” “I am so bad, I can’t believe I ate that”

You have to ask yourself:

“Do I like this?” “Why am I eating this?” “How full am I?” “Do I want more?” “What else is going on while I eat?”

When it comes to healthy eating we aren’t used to asking ourselves those kind of questions. We think calories, carbs, fat, and protein, iron, calcium, vitamin C. But mindful eating is about the entire experience of food and eating. It is about pleasure, and enjoyment around food.

Mindful eating is also about giving time and space to food and eating; no distractions, no eating as a task secondary to work or the TV or whatever else you might often do while eating. Some might call mindful eating a meditation around food; because to truly answer the questions mentioned before you have to be paying attention to what you are eating.

A person’s relationship to food is often the step that gets missed when we discuss healthy eating, and it’s a shame. I would argue it might be one of the most vital steps to healthy eating. When we learn to feed our bodies what we’re asking for, and listen to our bodies own intuitive hungers, we get much better at feeding ourselves in the way we need to be fed.

While Mindful Eating was my gateway to this way of rethinking my relationship with food, it is by no means the only way. Other methods include Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, as well as Ellyn Satter’s Eating Relationship and definition of normal eating.

Find the way that works for you, and today try to find the time and space to be mindful around the foods you eat and ask yourself those questions.

Lifestyle Change Vs. Diet… a cheat sheet

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As we roll into the new year, you are probably being bombarded with commercials for all those “lifestyle changes”.

That’s awesome! You might be saying. No one is dieting anymore. Everyone is lifestyle changing!

Here’s the thing, remember that quote by Shakespeare about roses? It’s not the word rose that’s beautiful, a rose would be a rose whatever we called it.

And so would a diet.

The problem is that lifestyle changes are often actually just diets renamed, but guess what, they suck just as much.

So in case you’re wondering how exactly you can tell the difference here is a little cheat sheet for you.

How to tell if It’s a Diet

1. Asks you to cut out a food group, such as starchy carbohydrates

2. Focuses on avoiding hunger like it’s the devil

3. Talks about also never letting yourself get too full

4. Prescribes only X number of calories (often very low, and does not consider your age, gender, or activity level)

5. Talks about drinking water/eating vegetables/broth/something low calorie for the express reason of filling up or avoiding hunger (see #2)

6. Vilifies certain nutrients like sugar or fat (and tells you to Never Eat Them Again!)

7. Talks about “stages” or “phases” – as in cut out carbohydrates for 5 weeks then add it back.

8. Gets you to give yourself shots of hormones that mask your hunger

9. Describes you (the potential client) as “out of control around food”

10. Blames all your problems on either food, your eating or exercise habits or your weight

11. Talks in extremes; you are either dieting and healthy or not dieting and binging (Hint: these are actually different sides of the same coin)

12. Has you drink 2 shakes and eat one meal a day

13. Doesn’t ask what motivates your eating habits and how healthy habits around eating, exercising (and simply living) fit into your life

14. As continued from number nine – talks about how all your life problems will be fixed when your BMI is xyz

15. Describes itself with words like “detox” or “fast”

16. Asks (or requires) you to buy their special meal or supplement products

17. Promises amazing, unbelievable results (but has fine print saying results not typical – and yet still puts the blame on you if you don’t lose the weight/keep it off)

18. All the people in the commercial talk about their multiple failures… but THIS DIET is THE ONE and suddenly all their food issues are solved.

Or a Lifestyle Change

1. It talks about your life and what else might need to change other than your eating or exercise habits

2. Asks about how food, exercise, and health fit into your life – and how they can enhance your life.

3. Wonders if maybe your life problems are related to, well, your life and not your weight (ie working in a toxic environment that sends you right to a comforting bowl of ice cream or a calming glass of wine after work? Yeah dieting won’t fix that…)

 

I’m not against new years resolutions. I’m not against changing your health habits. But this year, instead of just aiming (again) to “lose those last 10lbs” consider what is really bothering you in your life… and make a lifestyle change in that area. If it turns out your health habits do really need an overhaul then that’s fine, go with it, but avoid the diets disguised as lifestyle changes if you can. And if you’re avoiding the real issues and trying to tame your life through food, then have a sit down and get honest with yourself. It’s not easy to really look at what’s bringing stress into your life, but it is the only way to truly bring permanent changes into your life.