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Calories, Cravings & Clarity

If you are like many people, you are very confused about what to eat. There are as many opinions out there as moments in the day! One of those opinions is that there are no good foods, no bad foods and we should listen to our body and eat intuitively.

This NY Times article was shared with me by an expert whose approach has been to never restrict any food or food group at all. But this article seems to have opened his mind and hopefully it will shed some light for you as well.

The article reinforces what I teach daily, that calories do matter. The individuals in the study who consumed more calories gained weight. They gained weight in a mathematically predictable way: approximately 1 pound per week per 500 extra daily calories. People ate more calories because they ate less natural/whole foods and more unnatural/processed foods.

Nearly every rule has its exceptions, so I invite you to take away the following generalizations:  First, calories matter. I, personally, have tracked calories with myfitnesspal for the past 8+ years to maintain my weight. Second, choosing more of those calories from whole/natural foods and less from processed/unnatural foods will make you less hungry. Third, there are exceptions. Honestly, I eat those baked Lays chips and also drink some Crystal Light. But, I think I notice an uptick in “cravings” from the Crystal Light, so then I back off of it. Perhaps the best part of this article is all of the photos showing whole vs processed meals and snacks. I invite you to check it out, take away the general information, but most importantly apply to your unique truth. Please don’t not eat something just because it’s processed, try to learn if it actually makes you hungrier. Don’t eat something because it’s supposed to be healthy, surely if we spend calories on food we don’t like we are likely to be left unsatisfied and consume even more! Lastly, in the words of Calorie King: fat matters, carbs count, but calories are king! 

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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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2018 Lessons & Reflections

As the year comes to a close, I have had some time to reflect on how much I have learned through my work and I wanted to share some thoughts with you today.

I want to take the time to thank each and every one of you that comes in to the practice. Your stories are brutally honest and courageous. Your struggles are universal yet unique. I continue to be amazed and privileged that I get to listen and advise.

I have read, researched and mostly listened to your stories. I have come to recognize what things I can change about the way I approach how you feel about your body and why you want to lose weight. I want to continue in my practice to explore the origins of when your weight gain started or your issues surrounding food. I want to hear what you perceive are your trigger foods and what emotions underlie the choice to overeat.

Most importantly, there needs to be a shift out of the Diet Mentality. I want to help you re-frame your thoughts surrounding food. We need to shift the paradigm of GOOD foods and BAD foods. If you gain it is not BAD. If you lose, I want you to feel that you are healthier and not consumed by a number on the scale.  If you exercise, it is not because you are working off a muffin; it is because you are enjoying moving your body and its physical and emotional benefits.

Holidays are not to be dreaded because of food temptations. Enjoy the foods you typically wouldn’t eat. If you love mince pie, then have a piece of mince pie! If you were going to eat it anyway, don’t associate it with shame and guilt and wrap it up in negative distortional thoughts. Don’t let a piece of cake lead you down the path of “I am bad. I will never lose the weight. I am destined to be heavy all my life. Why did I do that?” Maybe sometimes you just want a really good piece of something. Savor the moment and move on.

Recognize how hard you have worked on your journey to have a healthy relationship with food. You have stepped away from chaotic mindless overeating and have settled into slow sustainable weight loss based on Your specific lifestyle. Be able to sit with maintaining your weight and that is OK. Embrace the new movement of Health at Every Size.You have maintained your weight loss for 1 year or 8 years. You are now healthier. You have lowered or eliminated your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and multiple other problems. Don’t drive yourself insane trying to obtain a number on a scale that is not attainable. Be at peace with where your body wants to be. Buy yourself some clothes, or as one person did, make your own so that you are comfortable in your new skin.

Nothing makes me happier than when I see someone who is in the “obese or overweight” BMI range but is happy and healthy at this weight. There is a lot of misinformation and bias in the media surrounding obesity. Many of the research studies are flawed and we now know that you can be healthy and obese.

Finally, I have learned that chaos begets chaos especially when it comes to how we eat or our perception of why we need to eat. Plan, prep and enjoy cooking again. We have been programmed that unless we are on an episode of Chopped that we can’t cook. There are plenty of simple recipes online that will get us back to the root of enjoying unprocessed foods and connecting to the fruit of our labors.

Please be kind to yourself as you move into 2019. If your cup is empty, then what have you got to give to anyone else?  We can’t be kind to others unless we are kind to ourselves.

I hope you have a joyful holiday and I look forward to meeting you or seeing you again in 2019.

Patrice French, RNP

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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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What do Fingerprints have to do with Food?

Probably not what you think.  I’m not talking about messy fingers after eating.

I’m talking about something a patient said to me the other day at the conclusion of our visit.  We were discussing her food plan, specifically and food in general.  We were both pretty much agreeing on something that unfortunately doesn’t seem to be common knowledge: That what may be right for me may be wrong for you and vice versa. It is not a question of good/bad, right/wrong, but rather a question of ‘is this food right for me right now?’  This is when this patient said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, “Well, isn’t that why we all have different fingerprints?!”

So I really encourage you, if you haven’t already, to shift your perspective from good/bad, right/wrong to ‘what is right for me right now?’  After all, a strawberry could be super healthy, but if you have an allergy then it is not healthy for you.

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The Shift. . .For Weight Loss

If you don’t struggle with weight loss, no need to read past this line 🙂

Do you think that people who easily make healthy food choices are stronger then those who don’t?

In reality, those who make the healthy food choices don’t actually want the unhealthy food as much as those who make the less healthy choice.

For those of us that have tried the willpower way, have tried exerting our willpower against wanting an unhealthy choice; the first step to achieving permanent weight loss is admitting that we want the less healthy choice.  And herein lies the struggle.

How much energy, time, money, effort, work, resources, etc have we spent on trying to struggle, battle and fight to become the person who can resist the unhealthy choice?  Even with the help of diets, exercise, even pills or surgery, what is the evidence that this works?  Long term, even permanently.  What is the evidence that it doesn’t work? How many times had we lost and regained weight? How many times have we said, “I shouldn’t have eaten that?”  How frustrating is it to seemingly want unhealthy choices of food that make us happy in the moment, more than we want permanent health and happiness?

The Shift for weight loss is when we decide to stop directing our precious resources (time,energy, etc…) toward trying to become the person who can “fight the food”.  Instead, we decide to direct our efforts toward becoming the person who doesn’t even want the unhealthy choice.

Sound impossible?  It’s not!  When I redirected my efforts on becoming the person who wants the unhealthy choices less, it actually worked!  And, I have seen it happen in other people too.

For the sake of the length of this message, let’s just say it boils down to 2 major categories: Food & Mood.  Food triggers are those that make us hungrier rather than full (see last week’s message).  Mood triggers are those uncomfortable emotions that cause “comfort eating”.  Learning to deal with food & mood triggers takes effort, but at least it works.

To conclude, the shift occurs when we redirect our effort and resources toward what works from what doesn’t.  From trying in vain to become the person who can fight wanting to make the less healthy choice, to committing to become the version of our self that doesn’t want the unhealthy choice.

Peace of Mind does Protect from Piece of Cake!

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Stimulating vs. Satisfying

Staying on track with healthy eating can be quite challenging. There are many factors that affect the ability to stay on track. One of these is food itself.  Some foods tend to be truly satisfying for our hunger, while others will actually stimulate it.

Foods that tend to be satisfying are usually those that are closer to the way in which they are found in nature.  Examples include whole fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes and small amounts of nuts, seeds or oils, dairy and animal protein.

Foods that are stimulating to our hunger tend to be those that don’t occur naturally.  There is no Dorito bush, no Oreo tree and you won’t find a jar of nuts in nature.

None of us respond in the exact same way to these foods.  Some people can eat a serving of chips and have the rest go stale, or at least not have them seemingly talking from the cabinet.  For many people, eating foods high in added sugars, white flour, fat, salt or artificial ingredients stimulate rather than satisfy their hunger. I invite you to reflect upon whether there are certain foods that stimulate rather than satisfy your hunger.  Do a trial of a week or so without these foods and see what happens to your hunger.  It can take at least a few days for the stimulating effect to go away.  When it does, it tends to be much easier to stay on track with healthy eating.