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.

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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.

182.5

Tonight I sat down and read the post I wrote three months ago, where I discussed what it was like to be one quarter of the way through my 365 Day Photo Challenge. At that point the challenge was going well, I was still exploring, still taking lots and lots of photos and really enjoying the effort it took daily to find pictures and post them.

So how is it going now that I am half way through this project?

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I’ve surprised myself by keeping to the project very well. This is an accomplishment for me because in the past few years I’ve had a bad case of the start-with-no-finishing habit when it comes to projects and goals. I think I’ve had maybe one day where I forgot to post – and even that was a case of having it all set to go then getting distracted and forgetting to hit “upload”. Overall though I haven’t felt as focused on this. I do not set out to find pictures daily in quite the same way I did before. My daily lunch time walks have waned in recent weeks (being instead replaced by a slight thrift store shopping addiction I’m trying to clamp down on) so i haven’t collected photos in that way. But my weekend adventuring has increased, particularly as training for the West Coast Trail has increased. This has resulted in nearly every weekend providing me with fresh scenes, new trails, trees, skies and seas to photograph. I cannot believe how much I love this place i call home.

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I think many photographers and artists like to use similar subjects or mediums, and mine would be nature (ok and Marina but can you blame me? She is just the cutest thing!). After 182.5 (ok 183, and actually at this point I’m nearing 200) photos however I am feeling a little on the repetitive side. While this is normal, and I think even reflects how repetitive every day life can be, doing the project through social media does make me want to change it up more, find more challenging subjects to photograph or even focus my daily photos on something specific.

I’ve also noticed myself using excuses such as “flash back Friday” or “throw back Thursday” more often to showcase photos from my weekend adventures. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I do sometimes feel like a cop-out when I resort to this rather than challenging myself to take a photo representing a highlight (or simply a normal boring piece) of my day. Yet, when I consider the greater circumstances going on in my life right now, I have to say things are wildly more busy in the past couple months than they ever were in the first quarter bit of my project. Now this is good, because for the last few years I felt seriously under stimulated, but it also means my focus has been off on a lot of things (hello delayed literature review for my graduate program!). So the lack in daily photo focus could simply be a window of time into what is going on now in my life.

Reflecting on this half way point, I think I can say that I’d like to recommit myself to the second half of this journey. To remember daily photos, to be mindful of what is happening in my day and post accordingly. And not be shy about it… so what if someone thinks selfies are silly or that my life might not be one high crazy adventure after another? Or that it’s too adventurous or whatever criticism someone might have. Everything is a risk in the realm of the creative – especially when we do it on the web so openly. Especially when those creative endeavours are us putting our ideas, our lives, our lived experiences and our truth out there. And I for one always feel better when I accept the challenge of being more vulnerable and honest about who I am than when I hide and go with the safe choice.

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PS I post original photos on the post that then became project photos. Mostly because while I’m a week bit tech savvy I cannot figure out instagram > my blog transfer… oh well, one day!

April

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Is it just me or has April flown by? I can’t believe an entire month has passed since I last wrote a blog post – in all honesty it seemed like just yesterday that I wrote that post.

This April has felt like summer. With days reaching the high 20s temperature wise, it’s not hard to imagine why.

My life has been busy busy. I began training for a new job – a casual position that allows me to cover sick/vacation time and work with my current three-day-a-week position and I had a minor planned surgery… so let’s just say yeah I’ve been occupied.

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As I just mentioned, I have been working only three days a week since I moved to the Cowichan Valley. This was actually a great thing because I’d started my graduate school program a mere two months before moving, so I knew the extra time to work on it would be a blessing. And it was. It has been absolutely amazing to have four full days a week to devote to life outside of work. Even when you love your work, it is work, and it takes energy, and I have a hard time believing I’d be as far into my masters as I am now if I was working full time.

What’s not nice about only working three days a week? I’ve been on a very tight budget. Being on such a budget has actually really opened my eyes to my spending habits – which has been a blessing in disguise.

So what’s coming up next for me? May is also looking like a busy month, but as I try to move forward and make this blog more a part of a business (I’m hoping to get a private practice going over the next few months) I am going to make an effort to really blog more, have a weekly/monthly/yearly publishing plan and stick to it (with wiggle room of course). So looking ahead there are a few things I’d love to write about:

– West Coast Trail: I’ve volunteered to be in charge of menu and food planning/prep. The West Coast Trail is a 5-7 day hike on the (you guessed it) west coast of Vancouver Island. I talked about it in my last blog (can you sense a theme to what’s going on in my life). Most people bring dehydrated or freeze dried meals on the hike. Buying these at places like MEC or other hiking stores can set you back $10 a meal (and that’s per person), whereas I know I can make a meal for 3 for less than that. I’m hoping to share a little of what I’m doing for that.

– Budgeting: As I was saying earlier I’ve learned a lot about budgeting this year. And yes I’ve used resources like Gail Val-Oxalate and other budgeting gurus, but it has really come down to a process of figuring out needs vs. wants and what sort of spending habits I have that do not serve me.

– Graduate school: I’d love to bring some of what I’m working for my master program into the blog. How this will look I’m not entirely sure yet – but all I can say is I love it. I never knew adult education would be so fascinating or so relevant to my own political, social and educational beliefs. Who knew that studying how we educate adults would really be about social justice???? I did not.

– Food etc: and of course I hope to continue writing about food, recipes, and nutrition ideas around health at every size and all that. Do not expect that content to disappear.

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Well that’s about it for now. I really hope you’ve had a great April as well – I know a lot of Canada had fantastic summer like weather and fingers crossed it sticks around for the next while.

Spring

I know it’s only March, but when it’s 17 degrees out and you can be out in a tank top and leggings, it doesn’t feel like spring, it feels like summer.

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But I feel it’s fair to say that Spring has sprung in the Cowichan Valley.

Still today is the last day of March, so it is the final day of Nutrition Month. I had great ambitions to get a post out every week this month, and nearly succeeded until a case of strep throat took me out last week.

So instead of continuing the nutrition month posts I thought I’d jump in with a little bit of a more personal update on life.

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I have officially been in my new home for seven months, and boy do I love it. I’m not going to lie December and January were tough months – I always find them difficult being single and new to somewhere – but things have settled a lot in the last couple months and things are looking brighter than ever. I’m even more excited for summer in my new home, I think it will be fantastic.

Things that have been keeping me busy and upbeat?

Roller Derby – I have wanted to try this sport ever since I saw the movie Whip It (which like all movies is not entirely accurate – at least not for the type of roller derby we play here). At one point when I lived up in Port McNeill someone was trying to start a team in Alert Bay – but the extra ferry ride deterred me from joining. But I found out about a team here in the Cowichan Valley through a friend of a friend and boy am I glad I did. Since I have good skating skills from years of speed skating it was fairly easy for me to pick up (though I still need to get a hang on rules and some of the finer skills), but people of all skill levels join. And my team is pretty awesome, I’m just saying.

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Ultimate Frisbee. My other favourite sport, I missed it so much living on the north island and having it back in my life again is so so great. I’ve never been a team sport person. Despite playing soccer for years I never really liked it at all, and for most of my youth I did not see the point of team sports. I liked independent sports where you wouldn’t be letting anyone else down with your terrible lack of skills. Then I tried Ultimate Frisbee and fell in love. How can you not feel cool when you learn how to really throw a disc? Isn’t that one of those childhood dreams we all had? Like flying a kite or being able to whistle?

My graduate program. I am still plugging away at this thing, it’s going to take me a few years. I had a tight timeline I wanted to follow so that I’d finish the program around my 30th birthday but I’m not sure that is going to happen. Talking to my friends who have done master programs or graduate degrees it’s pretty normal for everything to take longer then you first thought it would. I still love this program. And I’m still so excited that I decided to go back to school.

West Coast trail. In January two friends and I decided to register for the west coast trail. Despite signing up the DAY AFTER it opened for registering we didn’t get our first choice of dates. Still we’re going at the end of June so (knock on wood) we are expecting some good weather. I’ve been put in charge of meal planning (ok I volunteered. But I couldn’t pass up a chance to try some meal dehydrating!!! Just sounded too fun to pass up) and so far it’s been pretty great. Meals are looking pretty delicious too: lentil Dahl with rice, Thai peanut noodles, mushroom stroganoff… yum! As for the idea of hiking for 6 days with roughly 50 lbs of stuff on my back? Can’t say I feel totally ready for that just yet, but hopefully I will by the time the hike gets here.

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Other than that my life is pretty normal for a late twenties single gal. Evenings out with friends, dates dates and more dates (so it seems sometimes). Or sometimes just recovering from random cases of strep throat. Either way life just seems to be flying by, and I’m excited for what will probably be a fun, busy (and hot!) summer.

Prioritize Portion size?

This week in Nutrition Month our theme is portion sizes. Watch those portions people!

To be honest I have a love hate relationship with portion sizes.

Researchers like Brian Wansink have really provided a strong foundation of evidence for the fact that humans have a hard time self regulating themselves.

And I would agree.

When we buy more we eat more. When we have bigger plates, we fill them up more, and the end of the meal is determined not by our stomach but by the sight of an empty plate.

Without practice.

Portion sizes and learning how much is the right amount for you is something you can learn. But it takes practice. It takes patience. It takes work.

It also takes paying attention and being mindful.

One of the studies often sited is when Brian Wansink and his team provided movie goers with stale popcorn, and whether people had a medium or a large they ate about the same amount as they did when the popcorn was fresh… and the folks with a large sized bag (despite THINKING they ate the same as those with medium sizes) actually ate more. And while this sort of cognitive dissonance between what we think we ate and what we did eat is normal, I would also point out most of us are doing pretty mindless eating when we’re at a movie with a giant bag of popcorn in front of us.

On the flip side

It probably seems to this point I agree whole heartedly with the idea of portion sizes. Most countries have some sort of guide of portions of food in food groups, along with daily numbers of portions. In Canada it’s mostly the Canada Food Guide – which is admittedly controversial at best.

Almost every diet I’ve ever seen also has their own versions of portion sizes, along with total numbers of each food portion to eat in a day. Usually these portions are equal or smaller then the CFG, but they are almost always fewer servings – particularly of starches etc.

The issue I have is that this can end up being the same problem as mindlessly eating large bags of popcorn; if you simply follow a prescribed formula of portions you can also be ignoring your hunger and fullness signals, and end up restricting yourself because even though you are starving you’ve already eaten your daily allowed intake of grains or what have you.

So what can we do

I don’t see anything wrong with learning about portion sizes. But instead of simply going down to one serving (or whatever is given as a number meal amount) at a meal immediately, check out how much you are currently eating first.

This is the big starting point that we often like to skip: awareness of WHAT we are CURRENTLY DOING. We like to jump right into the changes, the portion cut backs, the different meal numbers. Etc.

From there decide if the number of portions (be it one, two, three or naught) is working for you. Do you leave the table satisfied but energized? Are you still hungry? Or too full? Be curious, not judgemental. Don’t tell yourself that you are such a pig for being hungry only 30 minutes after eating one serving of pasta or rice or chicken. Simply allow that to be what your body tells you. Then make changes – do you need a little more at meals? Or maybe better snacking is what would best work for you since two servings of pasta leaves you sleepy after dinner.

I know I sound like a broken record, but when it comes to our diet, to changing it or to being healthy it really is about awareness without judgement. Judgement and shaming do not make us want to change. Usually they make us rebel against the voice by eating more loudly and proudly, or sneaking it behind our own back.

To Conclude

Portion sizes can be a place of learning. Mindless eating can take the form of eating too much or too little; we can always get the supersized version of what we want to eat, or we can follow restrictive diet plans that allow little wiggle room. Awareness of what we are eating is important. And looking at how much food we comfortably eat, whether it meets standards like CFG or not, without judgement is also key to finding balance and healthy eating.

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.

Nutrition Month–let’s get ready

March is nutrition month, and this year Dietitians of Canada is asking you to take a 100 Meal Journey.

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Image source.

A what now? You might be asking.

What it is

Every month most people eat roughly 100 meals. When trying to make new healthy habits around eating you have 100 opportunities to make small changes that can add up to big health benefits. When it comes to goal setting and making habit changes a lot of us have a habit of doing something really big or doing a whole lot of different things all at once. This ends up being no good. Too big of a change and we get shocked and the change doesn’t stick. Too many changes and we get overwhelmed and revert back to what’s easy: the bad habit we want to change.

Time to get SMART?

A lot of goal setting talks about S.M.A.R.T goal setting. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Reasonable and Timely (ok the words are sometimes different but always with the same gist).

An not SMART goal: eating more fruits and vegetables.

A SMART goal: I will eat an extra serving of vegetables at every weekday lunch meal.

I don’t love S.M.A.R.T goal setting because it doesn’t make you dig down to your why. You can set perfectly great SMART goals but if you don’t dig into the why behind them they can leave you feeling unfulfilled.

So going back to the vegetable goal – that’s great but if you don’t have a why figured out, it probably won’t stick.

Why?

We know vegetables have lots of benefits but if you’re just doing it “because it’s the right thing I should be doing”, you probably won’t keep with it. “To be healthier” also probably doesn’t mean much.

So what does “the right thing” or “being healthier” actually mean to you? Does it mean having more energy in the day? Is it so you can get through the afternoon at work and have energy when you get home to your family?

Answering the why to our goals can be enlightening. Suddenly things like “lose the last 10lbs” become about “staying healthy and alive so I have energy for my grandkids when I’m old” – which is much more meaningful (no judgements if your health goals are not that deep – we all start somewhere).

Whatever you do…

Keep It Simple. Remember this is a 100 meal journey; you have 100 opportunities this month for those small changes. Should every meal involve a new goal? No fricking way. But pick a goal, maybe one or two, and you have a 100 Meals at which to work on it. Will you fail a couple times? Probably – but look at those slip ups with curiosity instead of judgement and you might surprised at what you learn about yourself.

Hop on over to Dietitians of Canada for some more ideas on goals and what’s coming up next for Nutrition Month!

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