Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Embracing Our Imperfections

This week I came across two very interesting videos on YouTube.  I thought I would share them with you.  They are not really related (except that they have kids in them) but they both made me think about food and how we view our bodies.

The first video is from the Jimmy Kimmel Show.  In this bit,  he's asked viewers to film their children's reactions when they tell them that they ate all of their Halloween candy. You can see their reactions for yourself.

Let's not argue the comedic value of the bit or whether parents should be pranking their kids like this and instead let's look at the reactions the kids have.  Some reactions are sweet with the kids consoling their parents and others are full blown tantrums.  The tantrums are what make us laugh but if we examine the behavior a little more, what struck me was the fact that these intense reactions highlight our kids obsession with sweets.  I'm wondering how the food environments differ in the households. I'd argue that we saw calm and understanding reactions from households where the parents don't over-restrict sweets and the tantrums are seen more in homes where candy is restricted on a regular basis.  We'll never know and there's no way to judge that but it's just my guess.  What would your child's reaction be if you pulled this prank on them?  Would it reflect your food environment?

The second video is from the Jubilee Project.  The video asked one question to 50 different people.  The question is, "If you could change one thing about your body, what would it be?"  See the reactions and answers to that question below.

Two very different types of answers, all dependent on the age of the person they asked.  Isn't it amazing how different the answers are?  Without years of body shame, the first thing that came to mind was how these kids could change their bodies to become superheros.  They didn't want smaller waists, different noses or more muscles...they wanted wings, mermaid tails and teleportation. They wanted to be larger-than life. The adult's answers were obviously much different.  Their comments reflected how most of us feel about our body and the desire to change how we look to fit some ideal. The video closes with hearing an older woman say, "A lot of people obsess about getting older and about the wrinkles.  I love my white hair.. I loved it when it started turning white.  It's one of those things, because I chose to stay this way because it just wouldn't be me if I changed the way I looked."  Beautifully put.

As you think about both of these videos, I'll leave you with this thought.  Let's support one another in our imperfections.  We don't eat a perfect diet, we might make mistakes with feeding our children and we don't have a perfect body.  But those imperfections are what make us who we are.  I for one, like many of you perhaps, could do a better job of remembering that.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Time for a Change Susie Cakes

I've had a song in my head a lot recently, Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come." The words in the chorus keep going on over and over in my head, 
It's been a long, a long time coming. But I know a change gon' come, oh yes it will
What sort of change is coming?  The change I'm thinking about is one where we stop using food as a reward for our kids.  And if I believe that change can come, then I feel a responsibility to point out positives and negatives in our community.  By speaking up, I'm hoping that we can realize where we need to improve and to acknowledge those who are helping us change our food environment. With that being said, I have to share an issue that I became aware of this week.

My kids started 1st grade this month.  It's the first time that they are being exposed to a more structured learning environment which includes weekly tests.  When they came home this week, they shared some "exciting" news with me: their teacher told them if they get 100% on their test, they'll get a free dessert from Susie Cakes, a local cake/cupcake store here in Los Angeles.

Would you like to guess my reaction? Come on, go ahead and guess? Well, I'm happy to say my head didn't quite pop-off, but I was a little shocked to hear this news. I had a lot of thoughts going on: were the teachers buying cupcakes for kids? Was the store supplying these? Were other classes receiving the same offer?  So I took some deep breaths to calm down and I did some research instead of jumping to conclusions.  I headed on down to the local Susie Cakes in Calabasas, CA to see what I could learn.  As I walked up to the store I saw the following sign:

With that, I confirmed it was a offer from Susie Cakes that our teacher just informed our class about before the test.   I walked in and asked the employee, "I see you have this offer going on.  Is it popular?"  She answered, "Very, we give out a lot of cookies.  And the student can get as many cookies as they want, just as long as they bring in a different test each time."  Oh, fabulous!  Thank goodness they can get as many as they want.  I was worried they'd only get one.  After all, if we really want to cement a "food=reward" mentality, we need to give out more than just one, right?

I know there are some of you who are thinking, 'Come on Aaron lighten up, it's just a cupcake.'  No I will not lighten up and no, I have nothing against cupcakes. Cupcakes are great and Susie Cakes makes some of the best in LA.  My problem is with the promotion, not with cupcakes.  By rewarding our kids with food (especially sweets), we set up an association where our kids grow up thinking, 'If I work hard, do well and succeed, the best way to reward myself is with food.'  That creates an unhealthy relationship with food which does not help our kids trust their internal hunger/fullness cues.  It just teaches them to seek out food when they've accomplished something or maybe even learn that food is comforting when things are difficult.

My other issue is why does our teacher need to bring this up to our class?  If she had not said anything, it wouldn't even have been on my kids' radar.  Luckily, as soon as my kids told me about this, I said, "Sorry guys, we are not doing that.  I don't use food as a reward," and there was not one more word about it.  No fight, no argument and no struggle.  I'm lucky, it could have gone very differently.  Why? Maybe because my kids understand that food is not reward or maybe it was because they know that it's not like they'll never get another cupcake.  Either way, I'm fortunate that we didn't have a food fight because of this.

So, no wonder I've been hearing, "It's been a long, a long time coming. But I know a change gon' come, oh yes it will" over and over in my head.  Change is coming and I'm done being silent about it.  I'm going to speak out about it, because we need to change how we think about food.  If my kids do well in school, if they get an "A", then I want them to develop a sense of self-satisfaction, that with hard work and effort, they are able to accomplish difficult tasks.  That accomplishment leads to self-confidence. 

Susie Cakes, I hope you will reconsider this promotion.  I know your business is to sell cupcakes (damn good ones), but please think about how these types of promotions set our kids up for unhealthy relationships with food.  Of course, it's the parents responsibility to set rules about what our kids eat but when you do this you are marketing food to kids which sets up this "fight" for some families when it comes to food.  Make our jobs as parents a little easier by reconsidering this promotion.  

It seems like an odd request to change such a popular promotion, but remember, change is gonna come, I'm going to try to make sure it will.

UPDATE 9/18/14
Because of social media, Susie, the founder of Susie Cakes was able to read my blog and was kind enough to respond via email.  I am posting the note she wrote (with her permission) for you to read.  Although we might disagree on the issue, I'm very happy that she took the time to respond to me.  

Dear Aaron,

I came across your blog post about our bakery’s back-to-school promotion and wanted to reach out personally. I greatly appreciate your honest feedback and hope I may share my story behind the idea.

The inspiration for SusieCakes came from my childhood memories of spending time after school with my grandmothers in Chicago, talking about my day over their freshly made baked goods. For me, that was a very special time we shared together, and I like to think it was for them as well. My hope is that parents and their children may stop in to the bakery, get a cookie and use it as a special time to talk about what’s going on in school as the year starts. Our effort is not specifically to reward a good grade, but rather to be a part of life’s little everyday celebrations and help parents celebrate the excitement of going back to school with their kids.

That said, I completely understand your surprise with the situation you were placed in as a parent when your child learned of the promotion. I realize that not every parent will wish to participate and while we do not engage in direct marketing to teachers,  I do apologize for any problems that it may have caused.

I sincerely appreciate your compliments about our bakery and you taking the time to share your concerns. I hope I may have helped to shed some understanding on our intent, and that we may be able to share in your family’s celebrations sometime soon.

Many kind regards,


Monday, August 18, 2014

What France Taught Me About Balance Variety and Moderation

I just returned from a 10-day vacation in Paris.  My wife and I went for a family wedding but we also used it as an excuse to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary and our 40th birthdays.  It was a memorable trip for many reasons and as I thought more about it, I realized that there is a lot that the French can teach us, if we are ready to listen.  So here are some things that I observed while I was there, in no particular order.

1) There is a very nice sense of balance in France.  Of course that is a word that would resonate with me, right?  There is a sense of balance when it comes to juggling work, family, friends and making time to relax.  I first noticed this just after we arrived in Paris.  We found that many places were closed during the end of July and August.  They were closed because the business owners take an extended vacation during the summer. What a way to really balance work and personal life than with planned long vacation each summer.  Secondly, walking through the city, we found multiple places to just sit and enjoy a picnic or just watch people go by.   You can see by the pictures below that we made sure to use as many of these open spaces as often as possible.

Resting along the Seine at Paris Plages

Jardin des Plantes

2) Obviously the French are known for their food and, being a dietitian, I knew that I was going to experience as much different foodie experiences as possible.  But for all the "heavy" foods that might come to mind when you think about French food, there is a very strong respect (for lack of a better word) for food and eating.  That is to say, meals are events.  Eating is a time to focus on food, friends and family and not something to rush through.  If you want to experience mindful eating, eat a meal in France.  The best example of this was at a cooking class my wife and I took.  The class started in an open-air market going through the stalls, smelling, looking and talking to vendors about what's fresh and what looks good.  After buying all of the ingredients we needed, we went back to the kitchen to cook our meal.  The spontaneous menu ended up being squid stuffed with risotto, greens and pine nuts in a fennel cream sauce.  Of course there was dessert and we made a Creme d'Almond.  All made from scratch and of course, all delicious.  Since we were in France, we just had to have a cheese and wine course right?!  The entire meal (which was really lunch) was over 2 hours (not including cooking).  A slow cooked meal that was savored the way any meal should be.  Despite the cream, cheese and dessert, there was no feeling of guilt or overeating. It was truly an intuitive eating experience.  

Table set for lunch

Squid stuffed with risotto, collard greens and pine nuts in a fennel cream sauce

Creme d'Almond

3) I don't speak French but I had my Google Translate with me all the time so I was able to interpret different words that my wife and I encountered.  Not once did I come across the words "gluten-free." In LA, it seems like I can't take 10 steps without hearing or reading the words "gluten-free."  I'm sure there are as many who suffer from celiac disease and gluten intolerances in France as there are in the USA, but it's clear that we've hit epic fad status here in LA so it was refreshing to not hear those words for 10 days and to not be judged like we were carrying the devil in our bag every morning as we left the boulangerie with a fresh baguette!  

4) France is the land of balance, variety and moderation.  Those words, which seem to be co-opted by big food companies in America, still retain their meaning in France.  Sure, not everyone eats cheese, bread and wine at every meal, and we saw our fair share of "big food" marketing and products while we were there but it's a very different mindset. Balance in all things.  Variety in food choices but also activities.  Moderation with foods by enjoying each bite.  My best example of all of those was going for ice cream at the world famous, Berthillion. My wife and I chose different flavors and the first thing we noticed was how small the scoop was--no more than a melon-ball size of ice cream but the flavor in that one scoop was beyond any I had before.  It was the most intense and delicious scoop of chocolate ice cream that I've ever had.  The French are known for their cheese and wine but I'd submit to you all that their ice cream should receive just as much praise and recognition.  

Enjoying some of the best ice cream ever

Like I said above, it was a trip that has had a lasting effect on me.  I feel inspired about food once again and confident in my convictions that ALL foods fit in moderation.  We should respect not only food, but where it came from, and the act of eating it.  

My one piece of advice is this: if you ever go to Paris, the best thing you can do is to buy Robyn Webb's book The Paris Apartment Vacation Guide.  Her advice was better than any other we got on our trip.  She guided us to markets, foodie locations, great hidden spots off the beaten path and places to enjoy ice cream!  Because of her expertise, our trip was a success!  Thank you Robyn!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Childhood Obesity PSA - The Completely Wrong Message

The childhood obesity PSA posted below has me so upset that I just had to share some of my thoughts with everyone.

Just like many other ads, the sensational tone shames both parents and kids.  It says nothing of the fact that health comes in different shapes and sizes.  It makes it seem as if a parent makes one mistake feeding their child at early age, they've doomed their child to an early death.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It's this black and white thinking that leads us to think of foods as "good" or "bad" and lead to a life of dieting and binging.

As parents we need to learn how to help our children feel comfortable with all different kinds of foods. We need to learn how to nurture our child's self confidence with food and their body.  Shame should have no place in your home.   The last thing we need is create environment that leads our children to hate their bodies, seek diets and promote unhealthy relationships with food.

This is the kind of ad that is a perfect example of what we need to change.  We need to change how we think about weight, health and food.  We need to learn to accept our bodies, tune in to hunger and fullness and we need to be comfortable enough to make peace with food.  We need more compassion and less shame.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Taking Stock

Every now and then it seems that I go through a bit of a renaissance when it comes to the world of nutrition.  Just like the science of food, my knowledge is ever-changing and new information leads to new beliefs. I never abandon my old beliefs but a new layer is added to them.  Consider my own evolution:  As a student I thought weight loss would be my main focus, helping others shed pounds would be my contribution to the nutrition world.  As a dietetic intern, I thought maybe I'd be better served by working as a dietitian for those admitted in hospitals, working with doctors and other healthcare providers to help the acutely ill to recover and play a role in helping them get better.  But then as I became a working RD, I read Intuitive Eating (IE) and that added a profound new understanding about eating which made me realize that my place is better served in the outpatient world helping individuals learn to change and improve their relationship with food.  Layer that with the belief in Health at Every Size® (HAES®) and that focusing on health rather than weight is an important factor in helping people change their behaviors.  And layers continue to be added like what I've learned about Blue Zones and weight stigma.

So here I am, like an onion, with all these layers, some new and some old.  So today's post is sort of a "taking stock" of where I am.

Here are some of the current beliefs.

1. At my core, I believe in IE as a model for eating.  It is a fundamental belief that is at the heart of my practice.  What I take most from IE is the notion that all foods are equal and that I will continue to try to not label foods as good or bad.  My neutrality towards food is not how most of the world of nutrition functions.  We labels things in black and white and with that we add a moral judgement to foods.  That judgement transfers onto us when we eat those foods we've labeled and that clouds our ability to pay attention to internal cues of hunger and fullness.

2. Next, I believe that we are doing a disservice to our country by continuing to fight this ongoing "War on Obesity." This way of addressing the issue of weight is incredibly stigmatizing and potentially damaging, especially when it's focused on our nation's children.  When there is a war, there are winners and losers.  Lose weight and win, stay heavy and lose. Black and white, no middle ground. What a horrible message to send to our children.  And how do we define winning anyway--losing weight? And at what cost?  With such an intense focus on weight, we perpetuate a diet mentality that sabotages our ability to trust our internal cues.  This focus on weight blinds what our real focus should be, healthy behaviors and not healthy weights.

3. Just like the name of this blog, I believe in moderation and balance.  I know there are many dietitians who disagree with me but for me and my practice, I find that moderation is possible.  And when I say moderation, I mean that all foods can be a part of your diet, without judgement, because again, that is how we really make peace with food and begin to tune into what our body tells us.  But this is an area where I begin to struggle, because the term "moderation" has been co-opted by big food companies. This leads me to my next belief:

4. There are things inherently wrong with our food system.  I believe that we rely heavily on overly-processed foods that have allowed big food companies to exert a strong control over our daily food choices.  I don't like the way foods are marketed to kids and I don't like how my professional organization is sponsored by big food companies. I struggle with the nuances of IE at times like this because even though I don't label a candy bar as good or bad, I still don't want it marketed towards my kids and I don't want it used as a reward for their good behavior.

5. Despite what seems to be popular belief, I refuse to demonize sugar.   Sugar is not the root of all our nutritional problems and to think that if we just go sugar-free we'll fix the problem is overly simplistic and setting us up for future problems. That's part of the reason that I won't go see the movie "Fed Up". The other reason I won't see the movie is because of how it addresses childhood obesity and my fear that we are stigmatizing our nation's children.

6. I am not a food elitist, (and to call someone that is rude) but I think that we should be eating more whole foods and spending more time in the kitchen.  Cooking more meals at home helps us connect with our food.  Connecting with food helps us appreciate where our food comes from.  With that respect we might learn to eat with a deeper understanding and eat slowly, paying attention to hunger/fullness/satisfaction.  That doesn't mean I never eat at In 'N Out, it just means that it's not somewhere I go every night, every week or every month.  It's a "play food" that my family will eat on occasion because we enjoy it.  That is moderation.

7. I'm sick of the constant flood of new diets and religious-like zealotry of nutrition beliefs about food.  If I really stay true to my IE roots, then my body dictates my food choices and I tune into that. So if I want to eat more organic, locally sourced food because that's what makes me feel better, then bully for me!  If your body says to eat gluten-free because you think that you feel better because of it, then good for you.  Either way, my diet is my business and I'll be happy to respect yours as well.  That being said, I do have one caveat: if you are going through each different diet plan--one after the next--with the goal of losing weight, then that's where I have an issue because when our diet mentality drives our food choices, we lose sight of the big picture and ignore really listening to what our bodies are telling us.

8. I believe that children are naturally intuitive eaters and that if we, as parents, just take a step back and help foster that skill, many of the food issues we deal with as adults might never be passed on to our kids.  I believe that using a division of responsibility with feeding kids is vital to helping children learn to trust their own bodies internal signs of hunger and fullness.  It's my responsibility to plan a balanced meal with "play" foods and "growing" foods and it's my kids' responsibility to eat, choosing whatever is on the plate and how much of it they choose.

9. Lastly, I believe that we are diverse in our body size and in our eating habits.  As a private practice dietitian it is my goal to provide an environment where my clients can learn to trust themselves around food, to accept their body, to become confident in their cravings, to help them learn what moderation means for them, to help them feel confident around food, to find the joy of movement and to learn to stop worrying about food and enjoy life.

I know that some of these beliefs might seem in conflict with each other but that is why I struggle.  I guess I'm not very black and white with my beliefs.  I sort of fall in the middle on many issues which can make it a challenge to find an identity as a dietitian.

So here I'll stay in the middle ground, enjoying the world around me and hopefully finding some friends along the way who agree with a little, some or most of what I believe.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Weight Stigma: Bad for the Body and Mind and Soul

This past week, I was fortunate enough to attend a symposium on the UCLA campus on Weight Stigma that was organized by a campus research group, Dish Lab.  It was a very interesting day and I learned a lot. 

Some high level things that really stood out to me were things like this:

  • Dr. Abigail Saguy discussed how the media frames the issue of weight.  If we frame it as a public health crisis we have the potential to unintentionally create negative consequences for anyone who is heavy.  
  • Dr. A. Janet Tomiyama presented some of her research that showed being told you are too fat correlates to higher BMI later in life.  Weight stigma leads to increased stress which then leads to increased cortisol levels.  Those high levels of cortisol may then lead to and trigger more weight gain which leads to more stigma.  
  • The keynote speaker, Dr. Brenda Major, shared how stigmatization leads to negative health-related behaviors. She also discussed that unlike other minority groups that might be stigmatized, those who are heavy tend not identify as a group or express pride in being a member of the group.  

As I sat there, I thought more and more about how weight stigma is so pervasive in our society.  From individuals to the media to even government, "obesity" is bad and if you have that "disease" you have a problem that needs to be fixed.  You are a burden on the healthcare system and you need to change. But what I finally realized was this: if you agree with Dr. Major's assertion that stigmatization leads to unhealthy behaviors then we need to understand what are these unhealthy behaviors.  It dawned on me like a lightning bolt: "Maybe the most common unhealthy behavior that anyone whose been stigmatized because of their weight has engaged in is dieting."

If you are heavy and feel shamed because of it (like many people do), you'll do anything to change that feeling of shame.  And unfortunately, the only way most people know how to fix it is to try to lose weight by going on a diet, and they might succeed for a short time but then the law of averages will likely take over and just like the other 95%, they will regain their weight and all of a sudden they are back to square one.

Just today, Evelyn Tribole, co-author of Intuitive Eating tweeted this:

It was an intersting research article discussing glucocorticoids and how they may play a role in weight gain.  Ever been shamed, made to feel less than or discriminated against?  It's pretty stressful.  Ever go on a diet or feel an intense drive to lose weight?  It's pretty stressful.  If we take some information from this article then we see that continued stress plays a role in our eating behavior.  BOOM!  Lighting bolt again for me.  Weight stigma, stress, dieting may be a cycle of events that dooms us to a constant struggle with our bodies and with food.

In the end, the day was more than just a day of learning, it was one of those days that was a real game-changer for me.  It solidified what I already know is true about Intuitive Eating and making peace with food but it added a new and very important layer to that understanding: feeling shamed because of your weight is not just bad for your ego, but it's bad for your health.  Although I wish we could change society and how we view those who are heavy, I can't.  So instead we need to start by changing how we view ourselves. Learning to accept and appreciate the body you have today is vital to learning to have a healthy relationship with food.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday

Late last week I got a tweet from Debra Riedesel, RD, LD (@NutritionistaRD) asking if I'd participate in the Registered Dietitian version of What I Ate Wednesday.  Check out the #WIAW and #WIAWRD hashtags to learn more. 

Honestly, I only reluctantly agreed.  My hesitation was and is this: as an intuitive eater, I really do honor my cravings while also listening to my body so sometimes my food choices are not "typical" for a dietitian.  Publicizing what I ate for a day would open me up for judgement not just from the readers of my blog but my colleagues.  I could have taken the easy way out and eaten like anyone else does when they are being judged--perfectly health with all the right amounts of fruits and veggies--but that's not me.  I'm not a vegan, I don't eat 100% organic and I add real sugar to my coffee.  I eat well but not "perfect" so for me it was a scary proposition to do this.  But, as I wrote earlier this week, I can be a slave to fear, so to continue to break free, I decided to participate.  As I thought about it more, I realized it's a perfect opportunity to explain how you use intuitive eating on a day-to-day basis.  With that in mind, with each photo, I'll explain not only what I ate but also give you insights into how hungry I was when I started to eat, how full I was when I stopped and how satisfied I was after.  Hopefully you will find it interesting and check you judgement at the door.

Breakfast: non-fat greek yogurt, an almond butter and homemade jelly sandwich, an apple and a cup of coffee.  I ate this meal at work. I usually get into the office at 6am and eat at my desk. Because the day is ramping up and there are many distractions, I usually spread this meal out over about an hour or so.  
Hunger level: 5 out of 10.  Fullness level: 5 out of 10.  Satisfaction: 6 out of 10

What I Ate Wednesday
Non-fat Greek Yogurt, apple and almond butter and jelly sandwich

Where I work, we're lucky to have a different food truck come by each day of the week.  I like to go down to the trucks because I like the variety of foods that are offered and I really love the fact that I can get some really delicious meals depending on the truck.  If I don't eat at the truck I usually get a sandwich or salad from our hospital food court.  On this day, the truck served Mexican food and I ordered a shrimp burrito with rice, fajita veggies and cheese with a bottle of water.  
Hunger level 7 out of 10 (I got out there late because I was busy). Fullness level: 6 out of 10 (with 1/4 burrito left) Satisfaction: 5 out of 10.  Not the best burrito I've ever had but it was pretty good.

What I Ate Wednesday
Shrimp Burrito

This particular Wednesday was a little unusual because I was not going home right after work.  Once a month I go to the Elyse Resch's office with other health care professionals for a Intuitive Eating Supervision session.  It's a great experience to sit with one of the authors of this book and learn together. 

Since I wasn't going home, I had some time to kill on the westside of LA and so I ran over to The Original Farmers Market to buy some horseradish for our Seder but I figured it would be a nice place to walk around before the meeting.  As I was walking, a hipster cup of coffee sounded good so I went over to Short Cake (owned by Nancy Silverton and Amy Pressman).  I got a cup of "pour over coffee" and watched all the people walking by.  True "me time" and what a treat! 

What I Ate Wednesday
Hipster coffee

If you have ever been with me when it comes to choosing what to eat, you might have observed that I hate a lot of choices.  It overwhelms me so the less options the better.  As I walked around, there were so many options of places to eat that my head was swimming.  Chinese, Cajun, Spanish tapas, Mexican, Irish, pizza, vegan, French, Greek, seafood, Middle Eastern and hamburgers were just some of the options.  I was also honestly obsessing about #WIAWRD so I had a seat and started to really think about what I wanted.  I also realized that I could probably check online to see what's near me and really make a choice that was right for me.  And all of a sudden, the haze lifted, and like a bolt from above I saw that there was a Mendocino Farms Sandwich Market just across the street. Halleluyah, baby!  I love me a good sandwich and from all that I've heard, this place is very good.  So I strolled across the street and when I walked in the first sandwich that caught my eye was called "A Sandwich Study in Heat"  Perfecto!  Turkey with a chili aoli, lettuce, avocado, gouda, and jalapeno relish.  Right up my alley.  I also got a side of quinoa with spinach and beets.  What a treat!
Hunger level: 5 out of 10. Fullness level 6 out of 10 (with 1/4 sandwich left). Satisfaction 9 out of 10!

What I Ate Wednesday
A Sandwich Study in Heat with quinoa beets and spinach

By the time I got home from my session it was 9:15pm and I was tired and inspired at the same time. It had been a great session and my mind was buzzing even though I was really beat (hey, I get up at 4:45am!).  I wanted a treat so I had some Trader Joe's cookies and a 1/2 glass of soy milk to wrap up my day.  Hunger level 3 out of 10. Fullness level 2 out of 10. Satisfaction level 7 out of 10.  

What I Ate Wednesday
Cookies and soy milk

The WIAW Dietitian Tag! #WIAWRD
This blog post is a part of a ‘dietitian tag’ to see what other registered dietitians from around the world really eat!
To carry on this tag all you need to do is:
1) Copy and paste this section (marked within the ******) to the bottom of your WIAW blog post.
2) Tweet/Facebook the link using the hashtag #WIAWRD (What I Ate Wednesday Registered Dietitian).
3) Add your blog post link into the section below.
4) ‘Tag’ 2-3 other dietitians to carry on the tag via email! – Tags coming soon
Previous WIAW Blog Posts (add yours here along with where you’re from!):
Nic’s Nutrition – Weekend Edition (West Yorkshire, UK)
Gemma Critchley, Dietitian Without Borders (Liverpool, UK)
Nic’s Nutrition – Week Day Edition (West Yorkshire, UK)
Helen West, Food & Nonsense (Uluwatu, Bali)
Diana Chard, Bite My Words (Nova Scotia, Canada)
Mark McGill, Glipho (Ottawa, Canada)
Debra, Sensitive Dietitian’s (Iowa,Florida, New Jersey, USA)
Aaron Flores, Balance Variety and Moderation RDN (Los Angeles, CA)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How an Intuitive Eater-Environmentally Conscious-Fighter For Social Equality-Dietitian Celebrates Passover

As far as Jewish holidays go, Passover is one of my favorites.  As a child, I loved it because of the food.  My memories are filled with fantastic brisket, homemade gefilte fish and matzah with chopped liver.  As I've become and adult, Passover is still my favorite holiday but now for different reasons. There's still the food, of course, but now I love the meaning.  

Recently my wife and I have started to host Seder for our families.  It's always a special night for us because we try to take some time to plan a haggadah that brings meaning to our families.  Before I go too far, though, let me explain a little about Passover for all the non-Jews reading.

Passover is the holiday that is celebrated in the spring, around the same time as Easter.  The holiday is celebrated in many ways but the primary way that most families celebrate with a meal called the Seder. In this meal we read from the haggadah.  The haggadah is a road map, if you will.  It explains symbols, tells you when to recite certain blessings and most importantly, it tells us the story of the Exodus.  The story of the Exodus recounts the Jewish bondage in Egypt and how Moses, with the help of 10 plagues, freed the Jews from slavery.  If you want a recap of that, try watching the Ten Commandments.  

The story of the Exodus is not why I'm writing this blog, though. I'm writing because Passover is meaningful on so many levels.  We celebrate Passover to remind us that we were slaves, to remind us of the sadness and bitterness of slavery and to help us remember that slavery is still around us today and it's our duty to help those enslaved to find their freedom.  

Slavery is a very important theme of the Seder and as the holiday approaches, I thought a lot about that from many different perspectives.  I've thought about it as an advocate of Intuitive Eating.  In that sense, I think of those that are a slave to a diet,  imprisoned by food choices and without freedom to eat what they love.  As someone that sees a broken food system, I see slaves all around.  From those workers that don't receive a fair wage for growing or picking my food, to the animals that are mistreated in commercial feedlots.  As an individual, I notice how I'm a slave.  

My slavery is not in the literal sense but I think of what really holds me back.  The thing that I am a slave to is fear.  I'm fearful that I won't succeed in business.  I fear that with every new blog post that no one will read it or that I'll say something that will offend someone.  It's that kind of fear that holds me back from doing what I love, from putting myself out there and from really trying as hard as I can. Fear is what makes me think I'm not as good as others in my field. It's fear that stops me from putting on my running shoes and getting back on the pavement. 

Mine might be fear but we all have our own forms of internal "slavery" that hold us back.  I like Passover because it's time to reflect on this issue and try to be better in the next year.  Even though it's uncomfortable to think about, I like that this holiday is a safe way for me to reflect.

Let me share with you how an Intuitive Eating loving, environmentally conscious, fighter for social equality, dietitian, father, husband and Jew honors the spirit of Passover in our annual Seder and after:  
  1. We buy only grass-fed, humanely raised beef.  We choose a local ranch Novy Ranches as our purveyor of choice. If you want to see the brisket recipe I use, read this post I wrote a while back. 
  2. We make our own gefilte fish using wild caught salmon and halibut.  You can find that recipe here.  
  3. When purchasing foods for our Seder, we try to buy Organic and local products when possible
  4. As we eat our dinner, I will slowly and listen to my body.  I will stop when satisfied and try not to eat to uncomfortable fullness. 
  5. My wife and I supplement our traditional haggadah with readings that help our family and friends reflect about their own personal experiences with Passover.
  6. Despite the fear, I continue to put myself out there.  Each post is a labor of love and my thoughts are my own and I have to learn that I should not apologize for believing what I believe.
  7. No matter how scary, I will continue to network and build a name for myself.
  8. I will fight to keep fear at bay but also remember to acknowledge that my fear is real but it is only my perception.  
I hope you've enjoyed this post and if you celebrate Passover, I'd love to hear how you celebrate your Seder.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fool's...I Wish

I thought of many different April Fools jokes I could play on my readers/followers but then I realized the truth can be even more foolish than a prank.  A diet so laughable that it sounds like a joke but sadly it is real.  So, here's the first (and hopefully last) edition of the "Real Life Weight Loss Plan I Wish Was A Joke."

My friends, I present to you the 5-Bite Diet.  This awesomely horrible diet is based on the book, Why Weight Around by Dr. Alwin Lewis.  The plan is simple: eat 5 bites of anything you want at lunch and 5 bites of anything you want for dinner.  All you need to follow this plan is the ability to count to 10. Sounds easy enough, right?  I know what you're thinking, "Only 10 bites each day? Won't I get hungry?"  Sure you will but here's the good news: you get to drink as much no-calorie drinks as you like.  Woohoo.  Rejoice.  As much diet soda, water, or tea as you like.  You might also be thinking, "What about all the vitamins and minerals my body needs?  Is 10 bites a day enough to get those essential vitamins and minerals?" The good Dr. Lewis has you covered by having you take one multivitamin each day (which does not count as one of our 10 bites, thank goodness).

Why 5 bites per day you might ask? Dr. Lewis says it's like having your own gastric bypass and that over time your stomach will shrink.  And with eating only 10 bites, the weight will just come off.  Wow, you think, Doc?  Dr. Lewis should get an award for such forward thinking.  Let's have someone lose weight quickly on a plan that they can't sustain and--viola--call it a day.

Dr. Lewis cares, though.  He doesn't want you to fail so you can pay $50 a year to join his online community and have access to his membership boards and weight loss tracker.  If that's not enough support, for $2,000 you can get weekly sessions with Dr. Lewis for 3 months.  That's 12 sessions at $166.67 per session.  Sound expensive?  Well, think of all the money you save if you are only eating 10 bites per day.

I don't even know where to start on this one.  First of all, I'm appalled that he's getting away with this. This is such a ludicrous plan that I'm surprised it's even still around.  Secondly, what kind of integrity does this man have?  I don't think I've ever seen a diet promote disordered eating patterns more than this one.  Shame on Dr. Lewis for fueling this behavior.  My hope is that this is the last time we ever hear of this diet.  May it fade away into oblivion where it belongs.  Sadly though, there will be more like these to come and I will have to write another post like this next April Fools Day.

In the mean time, don't be a fool.  Listen to your body.  Trust that you have the skill to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.  Make peace with food and say goodbye to your restrictive behavior.  Love your body, no matter what shape.  You are worth the space you take up.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Oy Vey, Again With the Candy!

One of the hardest things about people really embracing Intuitive Eating is that there's a lot of gray area when it comes to eating.  There are few things that are really black and white when it comes to Intuitive Eating so there are a lot of nuances that we can learn about ourselves as we learn to listen to our bodies. I like this gray area. It means I'm thinking about it rather than just being passive.

With that context in mind, I'm feeling very conflicted about something and I'm going to try to lay out why this issue has me going back and forth.  Being Jewish, one of the lesser known holidays (to non-Jews) is Purim.  I'm not a Jewish educator (like my wife), so I'll leave it up to you go read about the full meaning of the day but let's just say it's one of those holidays where we really celebrate!  Think costumes, carnivals, parties and of course, food.  One of the mitzvahs of Purim is to hand out food to friends and family.  The food that is handed out is called "mishloah manot."  Given today's food culture, you can imagine what kind of food gets handed out these days.  The traditional food is a cookie shaped liked a triangle called hamantashen but these days it doesn't stop there.  Since we've had kids, I've paid more attention to the food we receive and I'm noticing more and more candy and less traditional items.  Basically, it's turned into Halloween for the Jews.

Why do we give out food?  The reason comes from the Book of Esther.  There's a passage in there that says,
"the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor." Esther 9:22 (emphasis mine)
I wonder how "sending portions one to another" turned into giving our kids bags and bags of candy?

So here's my dilema: I treat the holiday the same way I do Halloween (which you can read about here).  I use Ellyn Satter's principles to help our kids build trust in themselves as competent eaters.  On Purim, just like Halloween, I trust them with their bags of candy.  They have permission to eat their candy and they know how to self-regulate when it comes to how much is enough in one sitting.  I try not to label the food as "good" or "bad" (which is very hard for me) and I give them space to make their own food choices.  But even though I trust my kids, I am questioning "Why is candy the default choice for sending food?   Why has the 'sending portions one to another' become food that is not worthy of really being called food at all?"

My kids are responsible eaters.  I trust them with a bag of candy and they do not abuse that trust. They don't binge and they don't eat it all in one sitting, but I worry about the other kids who are not being raised to be competent eaters.  I worry about how parents are going to take away their kids candy or throw it away, or make their kids feel bad for eating it.  I worry that, as a community, we are sending the wrong message about how we should eat.  I worry that I'm being too judgemental about this as well. I mean if I really feel like there are no "good foods" or "bad foods" than why do I care that my kids get piles of candy?  I care because I am a member of the community.  I care because I'm a parent.  I care because some of this stuff is not really food at all.  I care because I want us all to have a healthy relationship with food.

It's not a black or white issue.  There is no right or wrong here.  There is just gray area and room for discussion and maybe a better understanding of what are we feeding our children.  My hope is that we begin to look a little closer to the true meaning of the day instead of just another opportunity to give out candy that turns my kid's tongues blue.

Here's just some of this year's loot:

candy from Purim 2014

Instead of the emphasis on food and candy, why not find a different meaning to focus on.  Like the maybe the tweet below can give us a good place to start.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Even A Dietitian's Kid Throws a Food Tantrum

I write a lot about feeding kids so as a parent and a dietitian, I guess I've become sort of an expert on the topic.  I haven't put in my 10,000 hours yet but hey, it's about progress not perfection right.

Anyway, just because of my training, beliefs and experience, by no means is my family immune to the dreaded "food tantrum".  So take a seat, fasten your safety belt because you are going to hear what happens in the Flores household when one of our kids loses it...over food.

Before I go any further though I need to put in a disclaimer and sign-post for you.  I'm sharing this experience with you all to show that even with the best intentions, there are always going to be bumps in the road.  Also, our food choices and methods are our own. It's a combination of Ellyn Satter and Intuitive Eating but it's not 100% in alignment with each of these but it works for us. That being said, here we go.

The real tantrum that exploded onto us on Sunday night was over dessert.  Yes dessert.  Part of the meal that 99.9% of the time is handled perfectly well with our kids.  But not this time.  This past Sunday though one of my kids went all atomic on us because all he wanted was a cookie.  Literally 30 minutes of screaming and crying that almost all consisted of, "Daaaaaaahdeeee I want a coooooookie!!!!" over the simple request for a cookie.  

So why didn't he get a cookie for dessert?  Well we have a simple rule in our house that we've had in place since the kids have been born.  If we have one very sweet dessert during the day, we don't have another sweet dessert at night.  We still have dessert but something less sweet.  We don't use those words with the kids though.  We use the words "play food" and "growing food" in our house.  Regardless of what words you use, simply put, if we have a lot of play food (sweets) during the day, we try to have some growing food (less sweet) for dessert.  

This past Sunday, the day of the event in question, we had another in a series of global warming winter days.  That is to say it was warm.  86 degrees warm and we just left a soccer game where we were sitting out in the sun for 60 minutes.  We were hot and we all wanted something cool so as a treat we decided to go get shaved ice...which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.  Well because of the shaved ice earlier in the day we were not going to have another sweet for dinner.  Again, not a new rule but for some reason it really didn't fly that night and before we knew it, we were in full tantrum mode!

Tantrums are the worst!  All you want is for it to end but it won't.  There's no quick end to it.  It's one of those things that once the tantrum is in motion, nothing is going to stop it so you better just buckle up and ride it out.  And when the tantrum revolves around food, it adds another layer of complexity to it (at least for me.) 

So what did we do to get it to stop? We gave him the cookie of course.  I mean c'mon, the kids rule the house right?  So we just said, "Sorry to make you so upset.  Of course you can have a cookie, just stop crying."  NOT.  We tried to reason, we tried to explain but to no avail.  The screaming and crying continued. "Daaaaaahdeeeeeee. I juuuust want a cooookkkeeeeee!!"  

What did we do then if giving in to it was not an option?  We stayed consistent with our previous actions is what we did.  Believe me, my wife and I each lost it at various times during the tantrum but we stayed unified and rode out the storm.  Eventually our kids calmed down and a hug and some cuddling brought the situation to a close but it was not a pretty scene in our house when that was going on.  Once the dust settled though the tantrum was over and everyone was back to normal in just a few minutes.  From DEFCON 5 we quickly went back down to "situation normal". 

Here's the interesting thing though, after about 5-10 minutes of crying, the tantrum was not really about the cookie anymore.  It was about getting his way and the cookie was just the fuel to that fire.  As my wife and I looked back on it we also realized that the tantrum was probably never really about the cookie.  The kid was tired from a busy day, a fun sleepover the night before and from playing in a soccer game.  And I'm sure the hour time change because of daylight savings was a factor too.  

So, why share this experience with you?  Because even with the best plans for "normal eating" and division of responsibility, there will be issues.  It's inevitable.  The key is how do you handle it when it happens.  Will you stay consistent?  Will you cave in to stop it?

Have you had a tantrum over food?  If so, how'd you handle it?  What did you learn from it?  As always, I look forward to your comments. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Dietitian Goes Shopping. Spoiler Alert: It Does Not Go Well

Forgive the following rather personal post but I need to share an experience I had that hopefully will be enlightening for many of you.

Recently I've come to realize that I need some new clothes and like many other "typical guys" out there, I don't care much for shopping.  First of all, it takes a long time.  Secondly, I hate trying on clothes.  Thirdly, it's expensive and I hate spending money on clothes, and last but not least, I have really very little sense of style.  I haven't purchased new clothes for years so when I decided to embark on this endeavour, I knew I really needed a whole new wardrobe.

So like any other married man, I decided to bring my wife along and we headed off to Nordstom. Since my wife was with me and I was doing this of my own free will, I was honestly sort of excited for the adventure.  We walked in to the Men's department and the salesman comes up and I begin to tell him what I need.  He starts to show me some clothes (in my size) and I say, "But I heard I shouldn't have pleated that true?"  I figure he must be a scientist like me and he's read all the latest peer-reviewed fashion journals on pleated vs. flat-front pants and there must be a definitive answer on the matter and he says, "No, you can wear whatever you want."  My wife sort of glares at him and I trust he knows what he's talking about so I go and try on the pants.  They fit but not perfectly and I ask, "Do you have other pants?" and he answers, "I don't have many choices in your size. It's these or those."  I try the others and they fit worse than the first so I settle for the lesser of two evils.  Then I ask about shirts and he has a similar answer, "In your size you have a choice of these two styles," both of which I don't think scream fashion at all.  They wimpered, "Take my lunch money please."  Not the message that I wanted to project or that I normally feel, but it's exactly how I felt in that moment.

At this point, I've gone from excited completely dejected.  Nothing in my size looked appealing. Having been much larger than I am now, I knew that I shouldn 't even go close to some stores because they wouldn't have my size, but I figured a size 40 waist was not too much to ask for a large department store like Nordstrom to carry.  So I return to the dressing room to try on another of my pleated pants and as I am trying on clothes in the changing room, a tear comes down my face. An honest to goodness tear!  I was not expecting that tear and I think it really caught me off guard.  Having been heavier before, I was used to feeling horrible about my body but I hadn't had that feeling in so long.  After all I lost weight but  more importantly I learned how to listen to my body.  It was years ago that I felt so weak.  I mean it was just one year ago that I finished my first marathon--somthing I thought I could never, ever, in 100 years do.  But in that moment, I was ashamed of what my body was and I was surprised at how strong and quick that feeling came on.

Feeling horrible about myself, I changed back into my original clothes and left the store with my wife. I told her, "I need to get out of here," and that's what we did.  I was angry, sad, and upset.  I didn't just feel bad about the shopping experience, but I was upset because I thought all of that body self-loathing was behind me.  I felt like a fraud.  Who was I to be teaching and helping others with Intuitive Eating and body acceptance, if I didn't accept my own body?  What kind of hypocrite was I?  All that advice I gave to people.  All the insights I helped them make.  Had it all passed over me and was I just living a lie?  If I was really this ashamed of my body, then what am I doing with this career of mine and why would anyone come and see me in my practice?

That feeling took a while to go away and after some more tears and a very open conversation with my wife, I felt better.  Not great but better.

But the story doesn't end there.  The very next day, I had some free time and I decided to head back to a different Nordstrom to see if I could do better.  I went right up to Customer Service and I said, "I heard you have personal shoppers here.  Is there one available today that could help me because I need help."  I waited while the lady called to see if anyone was available and in a few minutes, Jerry came up to meet me.  Jerry was a listener!  I told him about my experience the day before, my job, what I wanted, what I needed and then I let go and gave Jerry control.  He was great.  He showed me a ton of different clothes but what I noticed most was that he never said anything referencing the size of my clothes.  He never said anything about having limited options.  He just brought me clothes and I tried them on.  After 2+ hours, I had done considerable damage on my credit card but I felt great with what I had purchased.  I had a whole new wardrobe that I could wear, that fit me and that I'm sure my wife will love seeing me in.

As I was paying, I had a very interesting converation with one of Jerry's other clients.  The three of us were talking, I was making jokes (as I usually do when I'm in a good mood) and he said, "Are you a writer?  You should write comedy!  Maybe you're a lawyer."  I said, "Nope, none of those.  I'm a dietitian" and he says to me. "With a body like that?  Come on.  Serioulsy, what do you do?"  "I'm really a dietitian." Now maybe because I was joking before he thought that this was just another joke but it wasn't and without him even thinking about it, he tried to shame me for my weight.  But here's the interesting thing, I didn't care about his comment.  It was interesting from a weight-stigma point of view but I was not offended.  The comment literally rolled off my back, onto the floor and evaporated into thin air.  No self-loathing, no anger, no sadness.  Just me, my new clothes and his judgement.

What a difference a day makes.  Maybe it was my mindset going into shopping, maybe it was Jerry, maybe it was a the fact this store had more options for me or maybe it was all those things but this experience left a much different feeling.

As I sit here writing this blog I can see so many lessons for all of us in this:

  • We are not perfect and we should never try to be.  If you have body issues, some days, weeks or months may be better than others but remember, just because we have risen from a deep valley, doesn't mean there won't be another one in the future. 
  • Having support is so important.  Without my wife, that feeling of loathing and self-hatred would have lasted much longer.  We all need that champion to help us.  
  • The fashion industry does not believe in size diversity!
  • I am not a fraud or a hypocrite.  My issues are my own and nobody is perfect.  But the fact is, I've been down the hole that many of you are in right now and I can help you out!  My own issues don't make me a liar or a hypocrite, they make me authentic and empathetic to where you may be right now.  It reminds me of a story that is told in The West Wing (best show ever by the way).  Watch the clip below to see what I'm talking about.

  • Don't ever judge someone by their body size.  Telling someone that is thin that they should, "eat a cheeseburger," is no different that telling someone who is heavy that they should, "just push away from the table."
Intuitive Eating is a process and progress is not linear.  There are good days and bad days but the hope is through it all, we continue to listen to our bodies, honor hunger, honor fullness, honor our body and enjoy the simple pleasure that is living life as authentically as possible.

Also, I'd like to thank Jerry and Nordstrom for such a great experience.  I can't wait to wear my new clothes.  Maybe I'll add some before and after pictures when my clothes return from the tailor!  

As always, I'd love to read your thoughts and comments.

UPDATE 2/23/14
I thought I would update you all about what happened after I published this article.  Through the power of social media, Nordstrom became aware of my experience at their store.  I've heard of their amazing reputation for customer service but I was surprised at how quick their Twitter account manager contacted me and how soon they got word to the store managers at the locations that I visited.  The store manager from the first store, Hossey, called me and we had a great conversation.  I elaborated on my experience in her store and like any good manager, she listened to my concerns.  As expected, she was very apologetic but I wanted to be clear with her that I was not looking for anything to happen to the salesperson that I worked with. I explained that I wrote this piece as a way to share my experience but also as a catharsis to help me process the event.  Hossey said she wanted my permission to share the post at her next staff meeting and I of course agreed.  I am so happy with how Nordstrom responded. Maybe this experience will help them be more conscious of the words and attitudes they use with their future customers.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Thoughts on the Biggest Loser

Biggest Loser
Courtesy of NBC
This week, the final episode of this season's Biggest Loser aired. This episode has made headlines across the internet because the winner, Rachel Frederickson, went from 260 lbs to 105 lbs and when she appeared at the finale, appeared too thin.  The uproar that ensued has focused on how Ms. Frederickson's weight loss looks unhealthy and the show is promoting unhealthy eating habits.  I agree on all aspects of this argument but I'd like to point one thing out for this post.

Let's put ourselves in Ms. Frederickson's shoes for just a moment. She was put in this situation of her own free will but the show adds some unimaginable stress on the contestants.  To learn a little about some of those pressures, read this great article by Golda Poretsky here. The show sets up very unrealistic situations to help promote dramatic weight loss like excessive exercise and restrictive eating habits.  Being a former athlete, maybe Ms. Frederickson has had previous exposure to this environment. This controlled setting is all in the name of health, but as we can see from this year's finale, health is really not achieved by such drastic measures.

But again, let's go back to Ms. Frederickson.  The uproar is about the show and these horrible tactics they use, so let's not go too far and blame her for participating.  If we say, "She's not healthy, she looks too thin, she's anorexic," is that any different than us pointing to someone who is big and saying, "Look at her, she's huge, she's not healthy?"  We might be quicker to come to the defense of the larger individual than the smaller one but either way we are judging them based on size.

As a proponent of Health at Every Size®, I need to remember that I should never judge anyone's health by just looking at their body.  Is Ms. Frederickson's weight loss shocking? Yes. Is the Biggest Loser promoting an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise? Yes.  Does Ms. Frederickson have an eating disorder? I have no idea.  She's not my client and I've never talked to her.  The public has no idea what is going on with Ms. Frederickson or her past medical history.  Let's just remember, we are judging the show and not her.   Shaming is shaming no matter what size the person is.  

What do you think?  Did you watch the finale and if so, what were your thoughts?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

5 Things Every Parent Should Know About Feeding Themselves and Their Family

I recently spoke to some parents from my children's school about Intuitive Eating and feeding kids.  Here is some of the topics I discussed.  

1) Food is not good or bad! -- A cookie is just a cookie. It’s value is that of calories from carbohydrates, protein and fat and nothing more. The cookie does not judge you. It’s just a cookie. Negative thinking about food leads to poor long-term eating habits like restriction and binging.

2) The War on Obesity is not one worth fighting -- Health can come in many shapes and sizes. Your health is determined by your behaviors and not your weight. Making weight the focus of health, can lead to a negative body image and an unhealthy relationship with food.

3) Your body image will be passed down to your kids -- Body image is a learned behavior so be conscious of your "body talk". Is there “fat shaming” talk in your house? If you shame/hate your body, you child will learn that behavior.  Learn to love your body no matter what shape or size so that your children learn to love theirs as well. 

4) Children are naturally intuitive eaters so learn to nurture that skill instead of stifling it -- Children are born with the innate ability to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Forcing your child to eat when they are not hungry or full can override their natural ability to listen to their own bodies cues of hunger and fullness.

5) Adopt a division of responsibility when it comes to feeding your kids -- It is your job to put a healthy meal in front of your children and it’s their job to eat it. Include plenty of "play foods" and "growing foods."  Once the plate is in front of them, let them choose what and how much to eat.  That means try to not bribe them by saying, "Have another bite of chicken or you won't get dessert."

Monday, January 20, 2014

What Is A Healthy Weight?

One of the questions I get asked a lot from my clients is, "What is my healthy weight?"  It is a difficult question and one that doesn't really have a short answer.

If I was a dietitian who didn't believe in what I believe in, I'd probably answer something along the lines of, "Well your healthy weight is when your Body Mass Index (BMI) is in the normal range (18.5 to 24.9)"  But I don't believe that.  If you've read my blog before, you're not surprised that even just typing that phrase, makes me cringe.

So how would I define a healthy weight?  I asked my wife what she thought that meant and I think that her answer pretty much captures how I feel. "Your healthy weight is the weight you are at when you stop worrying about your weight."  I would tweak it just a little to say, "A healthy weight is when you focus on health, not your weight."

But what does that mean and what is health?  That my friends, is where the real conversation begins.  As with all things, the real question might not be what is asked but rather why are you asking?  Why are you wondering about that? Why is finding your healthy weight important?  Why do you include "weight" in the question?  Shouldn't the question simply be about finding your health?  I've shared the graphic below many times and it's on my Facebook page but it really helps illustrate why weight should not be at the center of the question but rather your health should be at the center.

When weight is the focus, we do anything to change it and that can lead to difficult relationship with food.  So let's take weight out of the equation and just focus on health.  

So what does health look like and how do you find it?  Well it's not just one thing it is going to be a whole host of things.  If I had to boil it down to a list (because we all love lists), here's what I would say a "healthy" person is doing on a regular basis (in no particular order). 

1) Connecting with friends and/or family on a regular basis.
2) Finding pleasure and satisfaction in everyday things
3) Moving their body 
4) Finding ways to reduce stress
5) Getting adequate sleep
6) Finding time to stop, unplug and truly rest
7) Listening to their bodies cues on hunger and fullness

Of course the problem is that these things are hard.  There's no simple solution to health and tryting to improve one thing on the above list is not done in a vacuum.  Getting healthy touches all parts of our lives and it takes work. 

What does health look like to you?  Can you take "weight" out of the equation and instead focus on learning to just be healthy?