As I gear myself to head “back to school” with the local college students, I am reminded of the importance of my work, which includes counseling for students with nutritional issues. A great majority of my clients are students who battle with body image struggles, the majority of which began in childhood. The lifelong effects of dieting at such young ages have been detrimental to their mental & physical health. When I first began my career as a registered dietitian, I never imagined I would view dieting as a negative. As aspiring dietitians, we were taught that fat is always equivalent to poor health & the final goal was a “healthy” bodyweight, which really was code for thin. Luckily, scientific research & clinical experience has proved us wrong. There are many different body types that are considered healthy & many of those don’t fall under the standards of what society considers “skinny.” As a responsible clinician I feel it is my duty to educate others about the importance of healthy living that does not involve any form of dieting. That is why this op-ed was so profound for me. Christy Harrison I a registered dietitian whose practice focuses on helping clients recover from disordered eating. I strongly encourage you to read these op-eds written by Harrison in response to the release of Kurbo, a kids “dieting” app released by Weight Watchers.
Why you should never give your kids this app
It’s the way we were born eating
Just a few takeaways:
“As a registered dietitian who specializes in helping people recover from disordered eating, I strongly recommend that parents keep this new tool — and any weight-loss program — away from their children.
Our society is unfair and cruel to people who are in larger bodies, so I can empathize with parents who might believe their child needs to lose weight, and with any child who wants to. Unfortunately, attempts to shrink a child’s body are likely to be both ineffective and harmful to physical and mental health.
Over the last 60 years, numerous studies have shown that among people who lose weight, more than 90 percent gain it back over the long run. For example, a 2000 study [CW: weight-stigmatizing language and numbers used] of adults 20 to 45 found that less than 5 percent lost weight and kept it off long term. And a 2015 study [CW] of more than 176,000 higher-weight people age 20 and older found that 95 percent to 98 percent of those who lost weight gained back all of it (or more) within five years. A 2007 review [CW] of the scientific evidence found that most people likely gained back more.”
Summer is officially here, which means the farmer’s market is flourishing. Every year I marvel at the bounty of color-yellow & green squash, bright purple eggplants & rosy red tomatoes, just to name a few. My Saturday morning farmers market visits often resemble a kid in a candy store & by mid-week, I realized my fridge is still overflowing with fresh produce. A baker at heart, I found the perfect way to utilize the extra zucchini I have on hand. This particular recipe I discovered years ago, it is the perfect combination of zucchini & chocolate (ironically the creator of this recipe has a blog titled just that, Chocolate & Zucchini).
115 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature or ¼ cup olive or canola oil plus ¼ cup unsweetened apple sauce
240 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
60 grams (1/2 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
150 grams (3/4 cup) unrefined blond cane sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons strong cooled coffee (optional)
3 large eggs or 4 egg whites and one large egg
350 grams (2 cups) unpeeled grated zucchini, from about 1 1/2 medium zucchini
160 grams (5 2/3 oz) good-quality bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
Confectioner’s sugar (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a 25-cm (10-inch) round springform pan or a 22-cm (8 1/2-inch) square pan.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. In the bowl of a mixer (or by hand in a large mixing bowl), beat the sugar and butter until fluffy.
4. Add the vanilla, coffee, and eggs, mixing well between each addition.
5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, chocolate chips, and about a third of the flour mixture, making sure the zucchini strands are well coated and not clumping too much.
6. Add the rest of the flour mixture into the egg batter. Mix until just combined; the batter will be thick.
7. Fold the zucchini mixture into the batter, and blend with a spatula without overmixing.
8. Pour into the prepared cake pan, and level the surface.
9. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes, run a knife around the pan to loosen, and unclasp the sides of the pan.
10. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar or a chocolate glaze if desired.
When I first read this Washington Post Wellness article, I admit I scoffed at the very notion of “non-physical exercise.” The author poses the question “could non-physical exercise or “exertion of daily living” offer the same benefits as regular physical exercise?” The current CDC recommendation is 60 minutes a day of physical activity), which sounds daunting to someone who does not enjoy exercise in any form.
Most of us are familiar with the benefits of exercise-lower risk of cancer, coronary heart disease, depression, & obesity to name a few. While I personally find exercise enjoyable, I understand there are many who find exercise punishing. For my clients that do not enjoy any type of physical exercise, we work on finding nontraditional activities that will get their body moving.
Options for non-physical exercise in a nutshell:
- Move more (think of a fidgety second grader)
- Sit less (Americans spend an average of over 40 percent of their working days in a chair)
- Engage in home maintenance activities (housework that involves labor such as making beds, carrying laundry up the stairs, gardening, etc.).
- Schedule walking meetings at work, move trash cans away from your chair, take the stairs.
For more details on non-physical activity, I highly encourage you to read this article. Bottom line, exercise lover or hater, we all benefit from more movement in our day.
Sunshine and spring have finally made it to Virginia. Fresh strawberries, crisp lettuce & of course asparagus, just to name a few of my spring favorites. Spring brings a much greater appreciation for the simplicity of fresh, local food. The farmer’s market is showing signs of spring, inspiring me to break out some of my classic seasonal recipes. This recipe is an old favorite I bring out when the first asparagus comes to harvest in Lynchburg.
Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Zest & Cheese
· 1-pound asparagus
· 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
· 1-2 tablespoons finely grated hard cheese, such as 3-year gouda or parmesan
· 1 tablespoon lemon zest, plus lemon slices for garnish
· Salt & pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Fit a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Cut the last inch from each stalk of asparagus and discard. Spread stalks out on a prepared baking sheet.
3. Drizzle with olive oil, using a pastry brush to coat each stalk, or simply turning the stalks over with a fork until they are well coated.
4. Sprinkle with cheese and lemon zest, and then season with salt & pepper.
5. Bake for 10-13 minutes, until tops of the asparagus, start to turn crisp and stalks are bright green. They should be tender through. Serve hot, with lemon slices for garnish.
Source: Foraged Dish
Recently, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of educators about nutrition. My focus was on “wellness’ and what that actually means. We live in an era of diet culture (often masked as wellness) and one of the biggest challenges is navigating our way through the misinformation. Over the years, my stance on diets has evolved and I would now consider myself an “anti-diet” dietitian. I work with clients to support body positivity & intuitive eating. I encourage clients to shun dieting “rules” and focus on nourishing their body with good food. This philosophy is certainly not meant to oversimplify the challenge of weight loss (39.8 % of Americans are considered obese), but to accept the reality that our current culture of dieting is not working. The following opinion piece Why You Can’t Lose Weight on A Diet is a must-read for anyone who has struggled with their weight and/or eating.
Diets don’t work for sustainable for weight loss.
In the past, I have written about diet culture & the challenges of weight loss maintenance. It’s no surprise that in 2019, diet culture continues to persist with the promise of easy, long-term weight loss success. While there is ample research that shows diets (i.e. a calorie deficit) result in weight loss, long-term adherence is challenging. Fad diets are difficult to maintain and eventually resumption of former eating habits is pretty much guaranteed. Subsequently, the weight returns, often more than the original amount lost.
The current diet trends aren’t actually new or cutting edge, just “recycled” versions of diets in years past. Remember Atkins? Currently rebranded as the Keto diet. The Keto diet has brought the return of the high fat, low carbohydrate meal plans. While this diet can certainly result in weight loss, long term maintenance of this diet is unsustainable & a long term low carbohydrate diet can have health consequences. Other diets such as Whole 30 & Paleo, cut out whole food groups, which automatically eliminates essential nutrients. Despite rebranding as “lifestyle” changes, they are in fact diets.
The best diet for a for a healthy lifestyle is really no diet at all. Consuming fruits & vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts/seeds, plant oils & water is the way to go.
Yet, will you continue to gravitate toward the promise of quick weight loss? What are you willing to sacrifice in terms of your lifestyle & physical well-being in order to attain thinness? Ask yourself these 5 points (courtesy of Lisa Andrews, Med, RD, LD) the next time you decide to embark on the next fad diet.
- Does this plan exclude one or more major food groups?
- Would it be impossible to follow if you went out to eat or traveled?
- Do you need to take a handful of supplements to meet your nutritional needs?
- Is the meal plan short term or long terms? Can you sustain this way of eating?
- What will the plan cost you? Not just in terms of financial cost, but consider your physical, mental & social health.
Adapted from Food & Health Communications
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
According to the latest editorials in lay papers, the puzzle of weight loss is one step closer to being solved. A new, complex research study has lead to promising headlines such as “A low carbohydrate diets leads to greater weight loss.”
Before you clear your pantry of carbohydrates, you may want to rethink your strategy. First, this was a study about body metabolism, not weight loss. Second, study participants dietary intake was carefully controlled & monitored, certainly not an accurate depiction of our westernized lifestyle.
Bottom line, more research still needs to be done to truly determine if we metabolize calories differently from fat, carbohydrates or protein. And as Dr. Katz so bluntly puts it “If you are a seeker of dietary magic, you aren’t going to like the answer: the people most successful at maintaining weight loss for the long haul eat sensible, balanced, carefully portion-controlled diets, and exercise routinely. “
Some food for thought editorial:
Last month’s blog discussed how Intuitive Eating has completely changed the way I approach nutrition education with clients. Intuitive eating features 10 principles. I was reminded of Principle # 4 (Challenge the Food Police) when I came across this article titled “Guilt Free Foods are a Lie”. It’s no secret that food advertisers manipulate our emotions when selling their products: ‘”eat this, not that” “guilt free indulgence” the list is exhaustive. Advertisers have taught us to believe that food is a moral choice and sadly we have fallen for it. Many of my client session’s focus on the intense guilt felt when a “bad” food choice is made & how they want “do better next time.” We should nourish our bodies with good food because it makes us feel good, guilt should never be a motivator for healthy eating (and exercise). Food is essential for life; lets make peace it & enjoy every bite.
* Intuitive Eating Principle # 4 Challenge the Food Police. Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with many different types of clients as they journeyed toward weight loss & wellness. I was self-motivated to eat well & exercise, so I made the naïve assumption that empowering people with knowledge would naturally lead to better choices and hence weight loss. Sadly, this assumption has been proven wrong time and time again in my personal experience. The great majority of clients actually possess quite a bit of nutrition knowledge, however, knowledge does not always translate into action. A person struggling with obesity does not want to be told how to count calories when they have been doing it unsuccessfully for years. There are actually many examples of this “preaching to the choir” type nutritional education, but at some point in my career, I assumed that perhaps I just wasn’t teaching them right & nevertheless, I persisted.
My epiphany came when I attended an eating disorders conference and learned about Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating is an evidenced-based, mind-body health approach, comprised of 10 Principles and created by two dietitians, one of whom lead the conference session. I walked away from this conference feeling completely inspired and ready to change the way I approach nutrition education. The transition to an intuitive eating approach has not been easy; changing your relationship with food and your body is certainly scary. And despite my best attempts I still get many requests for “strict meal plans” and “tell me what to eat since I don’t trust myself.”
To date, my most successful outcome was with an overweight client who learned to love herself. While she may not have lost many pounds on the scale, she learned how to embrace her genetic blueprint & focus on the strength of not only her body but also her mind. “Healthy” eating & exercise” came as a natural consequence to the more internal changes she made in her life.
Lastly, I wanted to share these points made by an RD who embraces the philosophy of Intuitive Eating.
Enjoy food..all food
- Tap into your intuition and listening to what you need. If that means that meal prep stresses you out or you have to choose to take a nap over going to the gym, that’s ok!
- Believe that people of all shapes and sizes can be healthy and that you don’t need to lose weight in order to improve your health
- Believe that you can feel calm and confident around food without counting calories, weighing or measuring anything
- Believe that in order to truly heal your relationship with food, you have to completely leave nutrition out of it (at least to start with)
- Believe that any kind of external factor including diets, meal plans or calorie restriction of any sort will result in diet backlash including guilt, shame, stress, overeating and binging.
- Don’t believe in labeling food as “good”, “bad” or “forbidden”
- Don’t believe that it is your lack of willpower that has caused you to “fail” at dieting or losing weight (hint: it’s the diets fault)
- Don’t believe that there is any good diet
- Don’t believe in shaming people into making changes to their eating
As a dietitian, I am always on the lookout for science-based research regarding health and nutrition. The search almost always leads to obesity and how to treat/prevent this epidemic; but recently I was led to something quite different. “Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong” is both a horrifying and thought-provoking article. Though not technically a science-based read, it certainly has merits in regards to how we treat this severe public health crisis. I encourage everyone to take the time to read this important article.
“For decades, the medical community has ignored the mountains of evidence to wage a cruel and futile war on fat people, poisoning public perceptions and ruining millions of lives”
*Note: This article includes raw interviews and limited strong language