Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Mindful New Year

Photo courtesy of
Have you ever made a New Year's resolution that you haven't kept?  Did your motivation slowly decline as the months went by?  Did you feel discouraged as you realized that yet again you set a goal for yourself that you were not going to meet?  Would you like to stop that cycle?  How many times has your resolution been something about eating better or losing weight?  Would you like to free yourself from that burden of resolutions and instead feel confidently motivated all year? I think I have an answer for you!

If you scour the internet right now, you'll see a whole host of articles and advertisements.  They are giving you ideas, suggestions and tips for breaking bad habits, eating better and offering quick-fix solutions that fit perfectly into our resolution cycle.  These headlines may sell magazines or drive traffic to a website but they won't really fix the problem. To eat healthy and really change our relationship with food, we need to work hard and do some real soul-searching.  This soul-searching can be hard and we need to develop tools to help us in our journey.

There is a growing movement among dietitians, psychologists and therapists that focuses on a "mindful" understanding of ourselves. I'd like to highlight some of the better resources out there to help you become a more mindful/intuitive eater and help you change the resolution mindset.

Intuitive Eating -- Originally a book written by Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA and Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD they now have a website with some great resources.  They have a great page that highlights the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating.  Their principles might seem unorthodox but I can tell you first hand, they work!  I find this method of eating very freeing and has helped me make peace with food.  If you are someone that has struggled with weight and food, this is a must read!!

Health At Every Size® (HAES®) -- This book is written by Linda Bacon, PhD.  She holds a doctorate in physiology and an advanced degree in psychology.  She has worked with eating disorders and with weight regulation and her book details how our war on obesity is failing.  As her site says, "Fat isn't the problem.  Dieting is the problem."  The common misconception for HAES® is that it's throwing in the towel when it comes to losing weight.  That is not the case.  HAES®, like Intuitive Eating is about honoring your health and emotional wellbeing and ignoring the pressure to be thin.

Am I Hungry -- This site is a center for mindful eating.  It is run by Michelle May, MD who is a physician  who has a personal history with yo-yo dieting.  The site has a ton of great resources and Dr. May as well has a variety of trainings for those interested in learning more about mindful eating practices.

This is Not a Diet, It's My Life -- This site/blog is a great resource for anyone insterested in following Kate's journey from being a yo-yo dieter to learning to accept her body and adopt a Health at Every Size approach to living.

I hope this blog inspires you to change.  You don't have to continue to fight with food.  There is peace.  Your weight is just the result of your behaviors and you can't change one without the other.  By treating the real issue (maybe how you cope with loneliness by using food or how you endlessly search for a diet because you have a negative body image) you find a life-long solution to the real problem.   Resolve to treat the real issue that is affecting all other aspects of your life.  Resolve to talk to your self with compassion.  Resolve to break the cycle for your kids.  Resolve to abolish the food police from your life.  Resolve to adopt a life of self care.  It will take hard work and the road will be hard but in the end, there is inner-peace and a new understanding of who we are.

If you find you need help with Intuitive Eating or you'd like to learn more, I'm here for you. To schedule an appointment please call (818) 851-1414 or email me so we can set something up.  I do face to face as well as Skype visits.

Here's to a happy, healthy and mindful New Year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pizza Is A Vegetable?

News flash, pizza is now a vegetable!

The Agriculture Department proposed rules that would prevent schools from serving unhealthy foods like french fries and pizza on a daily basis to our nation's children.  Congress blocked these rules and by doing so essentially said that pizza could be classified as a vegetable.  I will let real journalists give you the details of how this all went down so check our the following links for the full scoop: New York TimesNPR and Fox News

How did pizza miraculously change into a vegetable?  Who could be responsible for such an astounding realization?  Who do you think would benenfit from pizza staying in schools? Big food corporations like ConAgra and Schwan Frozen Meals of course and that is exactly who was behind the lobbying efforts to make this happen.  Why? Probably because they supply most of the frozen pizza and french fries to schools.  Follow the money, right?  It's a sad state of our food system when this is our reality. Money talks and the health of our children walk.

There's already been some great commentary on this topic so check out these sites for some great analysis:  Food Politics, Mark Bittman, CSPI and Nation's Capitol

I'm sad and angry but honestly, not entirely shocked.  I do not like how our food system controls most of the choices that 99% of the public make.  I see so many similarities to the current Occupy Movement.  When it comes to food, we are the 99% and it seems like only 1% (the Monsanto's, ConAgra, PepsiCo, CocaCola etc.) have all the control.

What makes me more sad than this news is that we are letting this happen to us.  We are shocked that this is happening and we are disgusted by seeing how we care for the health of our children but what are we doing to change it?  Enough lip service.  It's time for action!

Maybe we need to take a cue from the Occupy Movement and take a stand.  That's what's going on in New York this weekend at the Occupy Big Food protest.

What every you choose to do, be like the Nike ad and Just Do It!  I'm not flying to New York this weekend but I'm making a concerted effort to avoid big food!  I'm voting with my wallet.  I'm also going to let my President, and my Congressional representatives know that I'm not happy with their choice!  I will also tell my professional organization (whose partners include many of the big food companies listed above) that I am sad they they are not fighting this fight.  Why haven't I received an email blast from the ADA asking all registered dietitians across the country to take action?  Surely we as nutrition experts think that pizza and french fries are not a good choice for our children on a daily basis.  Surely we should be in the forefront of promoting healthy habits to our children.  Surely we should be taking action!

I challenge you to do something!  Do not just read this blog and agree that change is required.  Make your voice heard however feels right.  Together we are strong! Together we can make a difference.  Together we are the 99%!

P.S. If my four year old twins know pizza is not a vegetable, how on earth can our members of Congress? 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Loose - What I Learned this Yom Kippur

Photo Courtesy From NYU Local
"Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose." It's a line from one of my favorite shows, Friday Night Lights. Until yesterday, it was just a line that football players said.  Today it means a whole lot more.  

Saturday I just finished celebrating Yom Kippur.  For those of you who don't know, Yom Kippur is the most significant day on the Jewish calendar.  It is the day when we atone for sins committed over the past year and ask for forgiveness from those we have wronged.  Depending on your level of observance, it is customary for most people to fast and it is the one day of the year when almost all Jews attend services at their local synagogue. 

Before I talk about my experience this Yom Kippur I need to give a little back story to some realizations I've made as a dietitian these past few months.  Through different readings and lectures, I've come to learn that I am a firm believer in intuitive eating and the idea of Health at Every Size® (HAES®).  To learn more about each of these ideas I would recommend you read the following books, Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size®.  What I like about both of these approaches to eating is: 
  1. They reject the dieting approach to weight loss
  2. They honor our hunger
  3. There is a focus on healthy behaviors rather than what a scale says
  4. They improve our relationship with food.
If you want to read a great recap of HAES vs. conventional weight loss ideas, read these two blog posts here and here from a debate at this year's Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE). It will make you think about how our society thinks about weight loss.

Let's get back to Yom Kippur.  I have been wrestling with the question, "What do these High Holy days mean to me?"  As the sun set on Friday night my wife and I asked each other our yearly question, "Are you going to fast this year?" Based on my experience with Intuitive Eating and HAES, I thought I gave my wife some great advice.  "If you are going to focus all of your thoughts on food, you will lose the meaning of the day.  How will you be able to think about forgiveness and atonement if you are obsessing about when the fast will end?" I was proud of my advice and my wife for deciding not to fast.

I myself, though, didn't take my own advice.  I was convinced that I could fast and be open to inspiration.  I woke up in the morning and prepared to go to temple.  During services, our Rabbi gave a very thought-provoking and inspirational sermon.  I was listening, but not really listening.  I was thinking about food.  I was not receptive to my own inspiration because I was thinking about food.  So I channeled my Intuitive Eating gurus and thought, "Reject the diet mentality. Honor your hunger!"  I came home and ate.  There was no guilt, no shame, no negative self-talk.   The hunger was gone and believe it or not, the inspiration that was planted by the Rabbi and by my experiences from FNCE grew.  

After lunch, my wife and I walked with our kids to a family service near our house and inspiration continued to grow.  I remembered something my wife said to me  during our discussion the night before, "I fast and I feel so bad that by the afternoon, I eat.  I spend the whole morning fasting and waiting to fail."  What a horrible feeling as a Jew to fail on the holiest of days.  I thought to myself, reject the diet mentality because for my wife and I, the fast is not meaningful, it is a diet!  A diet that we are destined to fail. 

How can we truly atone, reflect and look inward if we are fasting?  My expertise is with food, nutrition and not with Jewish law.  I know that this notion of not fasting will offend some who are more observant, but for me, I've learned that if I honor my hunger and reject my diet mentality, I will be open to the inspiration of the day.  I will be able to really look inside and atone my sins of the past year and make amends to do better the next year.  Next year there will be no discussion with my wife.  We will not fast and we will not feel guilty for that choice.

"Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose."  By avoiding the fast, my eyes were clear, my heart is now full and I know that this year, I can't lose! Shana tovah, u'metukah.  A sweet and happy new year.

I welcome your comments! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Flores Family Declaration of Food Values

My wife and I just returned from last week's Hazon Food Conference.  For those of you who have never heard of Hazon, they are a non-profit whose goal is to "help create healthy and sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond." It was an amazing three days at UC Davis filled with great learning and inspiring speakers.  We discussed issues regarding feeding the nation's hungry, making kosher food more sustainable and strategies to help our community live healthier lives by making different food choices. 

One recurring theme of the weekend was that our current food system is broken.  It is in dire need of an overhaul, which is not going to be an easy task.  Using the our Jewish values as a backdrop, my wife and I had some great discussions on the six-hour drive home.  We talked about how our family eats and how the food choices we make reflect our values.  We talked about what we are already doing and what more we are willing to do make a difference to our food system.  What follows is our first Family Declaration of Food Values:

We choose to foods that are produced/grown locally.
...choose organic products as much as possible. only pasture-raised beef, chicken, eggs or lamb and avoid all other factory farmed/raised animal products. more whole foods.
...avoid fast food restaurants. at farmer's markets.
...cook at home. dinner together.

We believe one in our city, state, or country should go to bed hungry.
...the workers who pick our vegetables, harvest our fruit and produce our food should be paid a living wage and should not be exploited.
...our synagogues can do a better job of feeding our children.
...fresh food should be affordable for everyone.

We agree to
...make informed decisions about where our food comes from.
...share these beliefs with our friends, family and community.
...use our time and money to support organizations whose mission is similar to our beliefs.
...write our elected officials in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Washington so that they support policies that help change our food system.

Are you willing to join us? 

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Power Prevention

One of my favorite sites is the Huffington Post.  It's got some great articles, especially about health, nutrition and mindfulness.  This week, I read an article called Wellness In the Workplace and the second paragraph caught my eye
At this point it is common knowledge that American health outcomes are not in good shape. In a nation where, according to the CDC, more than 75 percent of health care spending is related to chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, obesity and respiratory conditions -- many of which are preventable -- it has become imperative to examine the entirety of the American lifestyle...
I followed the link to the CDC website and started to read their 2009 publication, The Power of Prevention.  As I read, I was struck by a few different points:
Four modifiable health risk behaviors—lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption—are responsible for much of the illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic diseases.

To reduce chronic disease across the nation, we must rethink our health care system. It is essential to have a coordinated, strategic prevention approach that promotes healthy behaviors, expands early detection and diagnosis of disease, supports people of every age, and eliminates health disparities. With community-based public health efforts that embrace prevention as a priority, we can become a healthier nation. 
Prevention is the magic bullet to helping reduce many of the chronic diseases that plague our country.  It is a simple concept yet so hard to do.  Knowledge does not equal action.  Prevention requires change and change requires motivation.   As discussed above, the four risk behaviors from the CDC were: lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption.   To change any of those behaviors requires motivation and more importantly, requires the individual to take ownership in their own role in that behavior.  Yes our food system is broken. Yes many of the nation's poor live in food deserts. Yes we are too busy to exercise. But change can still happen and only if you want it to.

My biggest barrier in helping people lose weight is when someone plays the victim card.  They can not change because something or someone else is holding them back.  With all due respect, I call BS.  Changing our behaviors is hard.  It will be difficult and there will be failure.  But if you want to prevent chronic diseases, there is no alternative.

So if you are struggling with change here are some simple things you can do:
  1. Set a SMART goal.  SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable,  Realistic and Timely.  Don't just say "I am going to exercise more".  Instead tell yourself, "I will walk for 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  2. Share your goals with a friend, colleague or loved one.  Sharing a goal makes it more real and helps you stay on course.
  3. Believe that you will succeed.  Forget the past failures and remember that you are not perfect.  You should not be striving for perfection, strive for progress.  
  4. Find a support system to help you.  Part of the reason 12-step programs like Overeaters Anonymous and Nicotine Anonymous work is because there is a sponsor and group of peers there to support your success.  If a 12-step program is not your thing try finding support online through Social Media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
  5. Ask a healthcare professional for help.  Talk to your doctor, therapist, gynecologist, dietitian or whoever you trust for advice or a referral to a provider who can help you change.
  6. Start with just one success.  Something simple like taking the stairs at work, not smoking after dinner or not drinking soda is a success.   One success leads to another and all of a sudden you are doing things you've never imagined!
We are capable of so much if we just challenge ourselves.  You can improve your health and you can live a better life.  You have the Power of Prevention!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Miracle Patch

Photo courtesy of
I can't make this stuff up folks.  A friend of mine sent me a link today because a client asked about a new weight loss plan.  It is called the Weight Loss Tongue Patch or "Miracle Patch" and it was developed by Dr. Chugay.  How does it work? Well, Dr. Chugay surgically implants a mesh patch on top of your tongue that prevents you from eating solid foods.  Ground breaking!!!  The patch remains implanted for 1-2 months.  Since you can't eat solids, good Dr. provides you with a generous supply of low-calorie liquid supplements and, viola, you start losing weight.

Check out this link for a brief report on the patch from a ABC affiliate in Philadelphia.

So where do I begin with this?  We know that this is another quick fix to losing weight.  In no way, despite the doctor's less than convincing sales pitch, does this help someone change their behaviors or change their eating habits for the long-term.  Once the patch is off and the shakes are gone, you will not have any tools to help you maintain your weight loss.  You won't know how to incorporate more whole grains into your diet.  You won't know how to read a food label or learn how to cook healthier.  You won't learn how to manage your emotional eating.  You won't change your relationship with food.  You will most likely gain the weight back and you search for a new quick fix. And so the cycle will continue.

This is just another gimmick that unfortunately, we're buying into.  The total cost for the procedure (which only lasts 8-10 minutes) and a 30-day supply of shakes is $1800-$2000.  So if Dr. Chugay is implanting 2-3 of these "miracle patches" each day, he's making $5600.  Not a bad haul for just 10 minutes of work per client.  Bravo Dr. Chugay...bravo!

As much as I hate what Dr. Chugay is doing, (oh and I hate it a whole lot), I'm a little more upset at us as a society.  If we heard about this "miracle patch," laughed and never gave Dr. Chugay another thought other than the joke that this is, he'd slither out of our consciousness and into oblivion.  But no, even though we scoff at this, he's making a living providing a service to his clients.  From the ABC report I mentioned above, one of Dr. Chugay's clients said, "I'm the type of person who doesn't care how you lose the weight, just as long as you lose it.  I would do it again."  Sad!

Losing weight is hard.  There is no quick fix.  This tweet from Bonnie Taub-Dix MA, RD, CDN says it all, "Your weight is just a symptom of a greater problem: your eating habits. Treat the problem...not the symptom."  AMEN!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Edible Education

I was lucky enough to spend a day at a workshop with Field to Plate called "Edible Education to Nourish the Nation."  The workshop combined two of my favorite things: 1) learning about healthy foods and 2) cooking.  Our instructor, Amanda Archibald, RD, provided us with some excellent information and tips on how to translate our nutrition knowledge as Registered Dietitians into a culinary experiences.  The first part of the morning was spent talking about flavors, how to include nutrient dense foods into simple dishes and demystifying the art of cooking.

Next we got to apply that information by spending the rest of the morning cooking simple, healthy dishes.  We were divided into 4 groups of 2-3 people in each group.  Each group focused on one main ingredient.  I was in the greens group and the other three were, legumes, whole grains and vitality salads.   After about 1 hour we had 15+ dishes ready to sample (pictured above).

The food was delicious of course but more shocking to me was how easy it all was.  None of our recipes called for more than 10 ingredients and each group was able to prepare at least 3 dishes in an hour.  One of our dishes was polenta (made in a microwave) with sauteed greens and gruyere cheese.  I've never made polenta in a microwave but it showed that even if you don't have a stove, you can still cook.

After lunch we focused on one main question:  How do you help your client put the food in their mouth instead of just telling them about it?  One of Amanda's points that hit home with me was to focus on getting people to eat whatever whole foods they have in their kitchen.  People enjoy eating what they love and by understanding the flavors and textures that compliment that food, you can help add the nutrition to the meal.  We are not going to change people's tastes.  But we can show them that by adding just a few nutrient dense foods, they can still eat the foods they love and live a little bit healthier.   It all starts with the experience that a healthy meal does not have to be expensive, labor intensive or bland. 

Today was just another example that the food revolution is coming.  There are a lot of people out there that are making a big impact on how we think about food and I am proud to join them.

See you in the kitchen!