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The Best Diet for YOU!

It seems folks are frequently looking for and trying a new diet. From Atkins to Zone, there are an infinite number of diets. What occurred to me in the past couple weeks in talking with people was that of the infinite diets we can learn, hear, or read about; they are ultimately the view of the person who wrote them.

So for fun I figured I would create a list of diets from A to Z. That didn’t take very long! Atkins, Beverly Hills, Cabbage Soup, DASH, Egg & Grapefruit, Fit For Life, Gluten-free, Hacker’s, Intermittent Fast, Jenny Craig, Keto, Low-fat, Mediterranean, Nutrisystem, Organic, Paleo, Q, Rotation, South Beach, Tongue Patch, Undiet, Vegetarian/vegan, Whole 30, X-Factor, You On A Diet, Zone.

These are all helpful in losing weight in the short term. But in the long term, following a diet that comes from outside yourself is like following a wardrobe someone else creates for you without meeting you. Or someone telling you what home to buy or how to decorate it. Or someone telling you what should be on your playlist. Or which spouse to marry, friends to have, or career/job to pursue.

When it comes to diets, it’s really like we each need to write our own book. No two people can ultimately have the same “diet book”, not in the long term. How would we write our own book? It would consider these questions:

  • What foods work for me and which ones don’t?
  • Which foods make me feel healthier, more energetic, full and satisfied?
  • Which foods make me feel tired, depressed, hungrier?
  • What places are best for me to eat? Does it work for me to eat at the kitchen table? Dining room table? Standing up? On the couch? At my desk? In my bed?
  • How much food leaves me feeling well as opposed to too full or still hungry?
  • Does calorie counting work for me?
  • Does weighing my food on a food scale work for me?
  • What times of day work for me to eat?
  • Does it work for me to eat for reasons other than hunger, like boredom, stress, social pressure?
  • Would learning to eat more mindfully be helpful to me?

The questions are universal but the answers are unique. It can be hard to find your answers. And it can be hard to follow even when you know what your answers are. By reviewing your past, especially your recent past when it comes to what, when, where, how much, how, with whom and why you eat, and what works and doesn’t work *for you* (not for anyone else) you can begin to form a rough draft of your own diet book.

Patrice and I can help you edit it, and then help you follow it. 

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Trigger Foods or Trigger Diets

You may have come across advice that says don’t deprive yourself of any food including sugar or you will just want it more. Patrice French (RNP here at IMWL) came across such advice recently in her never-ending research she does to help our patients. She asked me what I thought about someone on the internet giving advice that you should not deprive yourself of sugar (or anything else) because that is the reason you overeat it. This is sometimes referred to as the diet-binge cycle. The following is my response to Patrice:

There is a difference between dieting and avoiding substances that give you the munchies.

Depending on your specific, albeit changeable physiology, sugar can cause chemical cravings. 

There is scientific evidence for this as well as the experience of countless human beings.

Some people, sometimes, itch from peanuts. 

To think that they itch only because they are scratching is ridiculous. 

Some people at sometimes get a *real* appetite “itch” (craving) from sugar. 

Some people don’t have that sugar-induced itch, and those people may need to just quit “dieting” and love themselves.

Eventually if I love myself enough, I might stop having cravings that result *from* eating sugar.

Until then, I will continue to learn that my physiology hasn’t changed enough, and I will in fact get chemical cravings from sugar, and mood swings too.

Not just because I “broke my diet” 

In conclusion, you are the one who can know if certain foods give you the munchies (cause cravings). If they do, you will find freedom by avoiding those foods. Or you may be someone who overeats as a result of restriction (dieting). In that case, quitting dieting should result in freedom from overeating. Either way, being as kind to ourselves as we would any other human we love and care will help us let go of those “trigger” foods, or “trigger” diets. 

To your happiness and health! ~ Dr. Beth

In addition, here are Patrice’s thoughts on the subject:

“I have been discussing with my patients for the last week how they feel about sugar addiction vs emotional overeating and where they stand on the issue based on their life story and expertise. The same conclusion applies that some people can have sugars/carbs and be able to enjoy it without fear and move on. They may be emotional eaters at times but with coming here, they have learned their triggers are more mindful of how and why they are eating.

However, in the words of one of my patients “If I eat a piece of a brownie, I will go home and start foraging for more sugar and start to binge. I believe sugar is addictive for me and I know I need to avoid it”

There has been no doubt in anyone’s mind whether emotional eater vs food addict that food addiction is very real. I also feel to address this with patients in a compassionate, understanding manner is a huge relief for many who suffer and are validated. It is a great conversation to have”

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2019 New Year Message

Happy 2019 to you and your loved ones!

Over the past few weeks, people have shared with me how stressed out they feel before, during and after the holiday season. If this does not apply to you, then maybe this message won’t be helpful for you. But if you relate to feeling that the stress of this time of year outweighs the enjoyment, then I want you to feel that you are not the only one.

People feel stressed about buying gifts for people who basically have everything. Or they feel stressed about having to cook and entertain. Some people’s expectations are their own worst enemy. For others, they aren’t even fully conscious of why they are stressed. Sometimes it is a layer of grieving a loss of a loved one who is missing at this time of year.

Then there is the perfect storm of family and food. There is a saying that family pushes our buttons because they installed them. The holidays bring people together who may have unfinished business and this can bring up uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. Combine this with tons of comfort food and you have a “recipe” for overeating and weight gain.

We are also exposed to constant images of happiness during the holidays, so even if we were feeling at our baseline stress & mood level, we might feel depressed if we compare ourselves to those images.

But, enough about the negative. Another saying is: When we focus on the problem, we see more of the problem. When we focus on the solution, we see more of the solution.

So what really prompted me to write this message to you in addition to making you feel less alone, is that now is the time to plan for the next holiday season. What if you wrote a letter to your future self while this year’s holidays are still fresh in your mind? What could you do differently next year to make the holidays less stressful for yourself? What would you do differently with gift giving? What could you do differently with food and cooking? What could you do to tip the scales so that the enjoyment is greater than the stress? I am intentionally keeping these questions open-ended because I don’t have your answers, but I do know where to find them  – inside you!

See you soon! Dr. Beth

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Why Can’t I Listen to Myself?

“Why can’t I listen to myself?” This is what a woman asked last week. She said she knew she should order a salad but ordered the burger and fries.

Who is the I? Who is the self? Warning: this could get a little deep. It has to. Superficial approaches to food, eating, weight and body image give predictably temporary results. If only we could “listen to ourselves” we would be able to have ongoing balance with food, eating, weight and body image.

The “I” referred to here is the person we think we are, or were, or will be. We attach to positions and possessions, to roles, responsibilities and relationships. The “self” being referred to is the truer, inner self. Take a breath. Notice your breath. Your self is the one noticing your breath. (It’s the same one that was there before the specific person, job, bank account, house, etc. to which you are attached now). It’s not your physical body, nor is it your thoughts or emotions. We could say it’s your being, presence, awareness, consciousness, whatever word clicks for you. Does that inner self need food? (If you are in touch with it you will know the answer is no).

What food does the physical body need? Food from the earth: fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains, maybe dairy or meat depending on your belief (let’s not argue).

So who needs Cheetos, burgers, fries, candy, or too much otherwise healthy food? The I gets stressed out trying to make it all about the I. “I have to save this relationship, I have to get the kids to those activities, I have to stay at work until I collapse, I have to make more money.” The I is, well, all about the I. It takes over the needs of the body and the self. The body has needs: rest, sleep, movement, water, breath/air, nutrition. The self has needs: quiet and stillness so that it can be felt, experienced, known and listened to.

On this journey where we grow inside in order to shrink outside, it is the self that grows, the I that shrinks, so that the self becomes stronger than the I. And then…we will no longer find ourselves wondering while eating the burger and fries when we know we should have ordered the salad, “Why can’t I listen to myself?”

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The Gratitude Diet

When we are filled with thankfulness, we tend not to overeat – simple yet powerful. See for yourself this Thanksgiving. We can call it the Gratitude Diet if you like.

I used to take everything for granted, the opposite of gratitude. Then I learned that I would need to change my perspective on everything in order to stop stress & emotional eating. A way of practicing gratitude is to say to ourselves, “what’s the prerequisite to this ‘problem’? (For example, if there is a flat tire there must be a car. If kids are misbehaving, there must be kids. If the spouse is letting us down, there is a spouse. If the job is stressful, there is a job.) We don’t want to ignore the facts of the situation, nor the human feelings that may be present, but we need to balance the negative with the positive. This is true balance. True balance is not denial of the negative for the positive, nor denying the positive and focusing on our eating more in balance. The more balanced we are mentally, emotionally and spiritually, the more balanced our eating will be. This is inescapable. Since this is the holiday of Thanksgiving and gratitude, what better time to include this practice, as it has the effect of protecting us from overeating (peace of mind protects from piece of cake).

As someone who used to take everything for granted, and experience life quite a bit fearfully and pessimistically, I want to share a strong memory when I knew I was shifting into this Gratitude Diet mindset: Nearly 15 years ago, shortly into my recovery from overeating it was a magnificent spring day and we took our then little boys to an Easter egg hunt. When one of the mothers complained there weren’t enough eggs for all of the children, I spontaneously responded with, “because it’s such a beautiful day, more people came then they expected!” To that, my acquaintance said, “my aren’t you the optimist!” I turned around to see who she was calling an optimist and realized it was me!

I invite you to try this practice over the next few days as you prepare for, engage in and wind down from this Thanksgiving holiday. Please do share your experience with me, I would love to hear about it!

With gratitude for being with you on your happiness & health journey.

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An Ounce of Prevention

Frequently people ask for tips, tools, tricks or techniques for dealing with their appetite in the evening. After fifteen years of personal and professional experience, it’s clear that once we are over-hungry (or whatever you personally call it), it’s all but too late. In other words, once the part of us that wants to eat in a way that may be harmful to our bodies is stronger than the part of us that wants to eat in a way that is healthful for our bodies, it’s extremely hard at that point to stop ourselves from the unhealthy habit.

Sure, you know the advice: chew gum, take a walk, take a bath, exercise, munch on veggies, “grab your mate instead of your plate” (just heard this one), read a book, watch TV, play a video game, just say no, pet your dog or cat, plan a trip, color, do a craft or hobby, etc. This advice never worked for me simply because none of these was as effective at generating calming chemicals in my brain as food was. If they were, then I would have done them!

The reason that we often want extra/unhealthy food at the end of the day has to do with stress. As stress builds throughout the day, we can feel more and more distressed: mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially. This distressed part of us needs relief and knows where to find it. All of the tips, tools, tricks and techniques at that point just might not be enough to stop us from doing the one thing that makes us feel better.

This is where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure comes in. What if instead, we were able to keep the stress that builds during the day from turning into a mountain of physical, emotional, mental distress? Then the part of us that needed relief from food wouldn’t be stronger than the part that is committed to the long term goal of wellness.

By practicing mindfulness in the morning, we make sure that we “wake up” the part of us that is able to stay present in the moment, the part of us that doesn’t want or need to soothe/harm ourselves with food. By practicing mindfulness throughout the day, we notice the stress in real time, learn to be present for mental, emotional physical and relational reactions to it, and respond with more effective thoughts, words and actions. This leaves us feeling less stressed out at the end of the day and more able to choose healthy food and eating habits.

Unfortunately, going into more detail is beyond the scope of this week’s message. So, I invite you to talk with me about mindfulness during your visit. By practicing mindfulness, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure by preventing those difficult evenings filled with difficult to control hunger.

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Peek-a-Boo, I See You!

Come out, come out where ever you are! Last week I was reminded where calories can hide. One woman was eating extremely healthy and exercising, but was gaining weight. Another woman’s boyfriend was gaining weight even though he was eating healthy and exercising. A third woman I met in a different setting wanted to come to the practice. Her body has the exact same weight as mine and she is 4 inches taller then I am!

The first woman had been having a peanut butter smoothie from one of the many diets promoted by wellness doctors who are downplaying the importance of total daily calories. Turns out the smoothie was 500 calories and she had no idea. She thought she didn’t have to account fro total daily calories at all, as long as she followed the healthy food plan.

The patient waited until her boyfriend was receptive and kindly asked if together they could take a look at how much peanut butter he was eating. It turned out to be 1000 calories worth!

I witnessed the last woman over-consume red wine all evening, to the point of not being in control of her behavior. I felt a profound amount of compassion for her. But of course, it is easy to see where the (in her mind) “extra” weight comes from for her: wine calories.

If you find yourself saying, “I eat healthy and exercise yet I can’t lose weight,” please ask yourself if there could be hidden calories especially from healthy fats like nuts, nut butter, avocado, guacamole, hummus, olives, olive oil, seeds, etc… Also look honestly at how much you are drinking. It could be true that you eat healthy and exercise, but how many calories are you eating and drinking? We just can’t know with absolute certainty unless we are willing to do the experiment and measure and/or weigh our food for at least a day or a week so that we can really see what we are dealing with.

The good news is, as soon as the first woman put her food on a food scale, she lost more weight than she had in a long time! Please let me know what we at IMWL can do to support you on your journey to health and happiness!

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Where in the World was Dr. Beth?

Last week I had the good fortune to experience continuing medical education in a retreat setting. I would like to share some of my experience with you. The retreat was held at Omega Institute, about a 3-4 hour drive in Rhinebeck, NY. Their website is www.eomega.org. I invite anyone who needs or could use a break from the busyness of daily life to plan a retreat. If not at Omega, I would love to share some other options with you. Omega does close in the winter, but offers retreats in Costa Rica for those so inclined.

My teacher for the week was Dr. Paul Epstein. You can learn more about Dr. Epstein at drpaulepstein.com; and here is a link to a short video where he, coincidentally, discusses the role of mind-body medicine in weight loss: Paul Epstein – How true healing comes from within – Integrative Wisdom. A great article by Dr. Epstein can be found here: Can Illness be an Opportunity?

So what does this all have to do with you and me? The week at Omega with Dr. Epstein mostly reinforced and refined my personal and professional experience: that food, physical activity, medications, surgery, supplements and social contacts all have their place in our moving to and maintaining a healthier weight. But as he says, we can really only expect lasting weight loss when we “connect the cell to self,” because our “biography becomes our biology.”

So as you and I consider the right for you food, physical activity, medical care, etc., let’s continue to include your relationship with yourself, your thoughts, beliefs, feelings and emotions. After all (say it with me now), “Peace of Mind Protects from Piece of Cake”.

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Color Your Way to Health

Last week, I had the pleasure of teaching mindfulness to a gentleman who was honest about my instruction not holding his attention.  It just wasn’t doing it for him to look out the window at the trees, listen to the traffic or the fan, pay attention to his breath or his body.

Thanks to my own mindfulness practice, I accepted rather than resisted his truth, which my ego could easily interpret as criticism of me. Mindfulness teaches me to shift from judgement to curiosity.  He went on to share that he has been doing some interior painting and finds it takes great concentration to paint around, but not on, the brass hardware.  Now there is something that holds his attention he said, but the painting project will soon come to an end.  I thought he might enjoy painting classes, but knew something we shared was our hesitancy to spend what we consider to be a lot of money.  I told him I had an idea which if he didn’t like he surely could toss right into the trash.  I pulled up the Amazon website, turned the monitor toward him with simultaneous hope that he would like my idea and as much neutrality and non-attachment as I could muster.  On the screen was a photo of a Mandala coloring book.  His face appeared to light up.  Yes! This is something that could hold his attention and be affordable.  I recommended he try thin markers, colored pencils, and gel pens to out which he prefers to work with.

There are many ways to exercise our awareness, that part of ourselves that is our presence, our being, consciousness, the part of us that is not our thoughts, our emotions, our body, or events.  When we experience awareness, we find that “peace of mind that protects from piece of cake”.  As we exercise our awareness, we find that we “grow inside to shrink outside.”  And though of course there is a bit more to it, this is the beginning of how we can color our way to health.  It doesn’t hurt that it is nearly impossible to color while eating.

There are many sources to download free printable coloring pages – here is one to try:

https://www.theshabbycreekcottage.com/101-coloring-pages.html

 

 

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Is Everything you know about Obesity true?

Last week an article from Huffington Post entitled, “Everything you know about obesity is wrong”, went viral. The article covered obesity, weight loss, patients, doctors, biology, psychology, the environment, and almost everything else, and how it’s all connected. In this post, I share my thoughts about some of the topics in the article.

A person who has a higher than average weight reading the article is likely to be left feeling hopeless about losing weight and slightly more hopeful about just accepting it. In fact, when my own weight was in the obese category, I remember feeling hopeless about my ability to lose weight. I began transitioning into thinking, “I will just be fat.”  I started making my own fat jokes, “it ain’t over till I sing!” (get it?) By the way, the article also reminded me that something happened to my brain at my highest weight and I lost all semblance of a connection that what I put in my mouth had anything at all to do with my body weight. Yes, I honestly remember that experience clearly.

Like anything else, the article illuminated some truth, but not the whole truth. The following are some highlights:

  • Almost all people gain almost all their weight back with diet & exercise (they maintain 5-10 lbs weight loss after 1-2 yrs). Appetite suppressants improve results. Surgery improves results more.
  • Weight bias exists and can have negative effects. I am sorry for the pain anyone has ever experienced from being, or feeling judged or marginalized due to their weight. I wish everyone with any weight took to heart the sign in our scale room: “YOU ARE NOT YOUR WEIGHT!.” Here I would like to say if I have ever said or done anything like any of the doctors in the article, please let me know. I bet that most of the doctors in the article may have said or done something harmful without realizing its effect.
  • Exercise and healthy food affect health regardless of weight. Studies also show that weight affects health independent of exercise and healthy food. All three can be true at the same time. We live in a very all or nothing society right now. Both/and is usually closer to the truth, as in both healthy eating, and exercise, and body weight all affect our health.
  • Genetics affect our weight. But it turns out that genetics are not our destiny. Genes can be turned on and off by lifestyle changes.
  • There are people with high weight who don’t have metabolic complications like diabetes and cholesterol. This could be true for people who eat more fats than sugars, the weight goes more to their back than their front, which can be hard on their joints.
  • It’s fair to say that the causes of excess weight can be quite complicated. Environment, social contacts, biology, psychology, nutrition, physical activity, marketing, genetics, and even more factors can affect one’s weight.

The Huffington Post article is long and raises a lot of different points about a lot of things. So what I would like to say is that if you or anyone feels happy and healthy at a higher than average weight, then that should be accepted. We should accept ourselves and others while also moving in the direction of greater health and happiness as we understand those experiences for ourselves. If you feel like a failure for not being able to lose weight and keep it off through diet and exercise, please please don’t, as doing so is extremely rare. If, however, you feel unhappy or unhealthy, you don’t need to give up hope. Why? Because there was at least one major piece of information that was left out of the article.

What the article failed to mention is that our bodies behave very differently when we are in a stress response than when we are in a relaxation response. In the stress response, our appetite and metabolism are different than in a relaxation response. It is stressful to have someone yell at you, “Eat less!” It certainly is insensitive on their part in the very least. However, we can learn to change the way that stress happening outside of us affects us inside. This is what we call growing inside in order to shrink outside, because peace of mind protects from piece of cake.

So read the article (or don’t). Talk to me and Patrice about your reaction so that we can have a rich conversation about your thoughts and questions and how we can best help you be the happiest, healthiest version of yourself in your own eyes and not in anyone else’s.