Monday, October 12, 2015

Spouses, partners, parents of loved ones with eating disorders--I need you to keep reading. Really.

You may have no idea how they're suffering. Your wife, or mother, or partner or son. It's about shame. And fear. That's why they can't tell you. That's why it's so hard for her to ask for help. I'm not placing blame, but I'm asking you to start to listen like you never have before. Because it's hard for those living with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder to say what needs to be said.

Don't be fooled by his size or his weight. People with eating disorders come in all sizes. And don't be fooled by how well she had been doing. Slips happen. That's normal. But recovery requires acknowledgement that things are amiss, and that support is available. Right there. In person. Not just virtually through this blog, or a virtual support group or a friend across the world.

Yes, they need to know that you are there for them, unconditionally. Even if you really don't understand. Even though you wish they'd just 'get over it'. Struggling with an eating disorder is something they simply did not choose.

She may not discuss it with you, seeming as if all is well. And he may deny that he's restricting or over exercising. Besides. It's so much easier to see what we'd like to see.

So if you suspect that there's something not quite right, please start a discussion. And use open ended questions, ones that can't be dead-ended with a simple yes or no response.

You just might have your blinders on to
what's really going on--right before your eyes.

Do you know how trapped she's feeling?
Like there's no way out of her misery?
Sometimes we're a bit too close to the situation to
see the whole picture.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Does this nutritionist count calories, track exercise on a Fit Bit, or limit her gluten, sugar or carb intake? You just might be surprised.

Time for lunch? Thinking about dinner?  I've gathered a bunch more pics to share from my recent meals. But first I need to respond to a couple of comments and questions you've voiced in person and on the last post.

Lean steak which I have infrequently with grilled farm-fresh
potatoes and watermelon.

Do you think about balancing your day's eating depending on what you ate earlier in the day?

Not at all.  I don't think "I shouldn't have bread again since I had some at breakfast" any more than I think "Oh, I had three fruits already so I'd better have something else for snack." I go with what I feel like, when I'm hungry. 

So you don't give any thought to your food choices?

Homemade pizza topped with artichoke and peaches.
That's not the case either. There's a balance between nutrition information and pleasure/preference that informs my decisions about what to eat. I might have lox at a meal but I wouldn't include olives, let's say, as the sodium would be quite high. And since I have high blood pressure I try to be moderate about my intake. Besides, I think it would be disgusting together. I might have pasta--white, low fiber pasta, but I don't eat a pound of it. I'll add veggies and perhaps a protein source such as chicken or tofu for some balance; the protein and fiber impact fullness which helps make the pasta meal more satisfying.  

Similarly, I'll routinely have a large salad with my pizza or I'm apt to eat a lot more pizza than I need, before recognizing that I've had enough. I happen to love fruit and vegetables so I eat them generously. But my favorite food just might be bread which I eat no less than twice a day. My latest favorite is homemade sourdough.

Do you calculate your calories? And if not, how do you know how much to eat?

I never calculate my calories. Okay. Not true. I did it once after a 2 day bike ride at my husband's request, as he was curious about how our constant eating (and cycling) measured up with our calculated need. In fact, it was strikingly right on--but calculated after the fact; I did not count my calories to limit my intake or determine my portions. When you allow your self to acknowledge hunger and not mask it with water or coffee or deny it until you 'deserve it', and respond to it with food for fuel, the system starts to work just fine.

This is a special meal I prepared from Gramercy Tavern cookbook
featuring halibut, zucchini in various forms and corn salsa.
But you also need to be eating regularly to prevent excessive hunger and impulsive eating. And it helps most of us to control the environment--removing food as a visual trigger to eat. Store food behind cabinet doors, in the fridge or freezer instead. And beware of the impact of other triggers such as alcohol, stress, and mood. Feeling a sense of hopelessness about your eating doesn't help either.

A veggie heavy pasta meal.

Do you think some people are born unable to do this and others aren't? Because I think I'm different, and this simply won't work for me.

No. I felt the same way many years ago when I struggled with a cycle of restrictive eating followed by binge eating. It feels like there's no way out. I don't buy into the addiction model for foods ( but I do see that behaviors can be addictive. So focusing on eating behaviors (which I address a great deal on this blog) is key. Search this blog for mindfulness, hunger and fullness to start.

Sure, you can do this because you must exercise a lot. 

Pasta with an indian flare-with some cashews and coconut.
Sometimes I exercise a lot, like when I'm training for my annual fund-raising bike ride. But I usually work out about 3-4 days/week (once is just a walk with you-know-who*), with an additional day of Pilates. In cycling season the rides may be long, but aside from then,  I don't spend more than an hour working out. 

And I don't intentionally adjust my food choices or portions on non-work-out days. I know my body burns calories at rest, even when I'm sitting at my desk for 8 hour days, 4 days a week. 

Hope this helps. Still thinking this is unhealthy? Let's discuss.
And by the way, all the meals above right were dinners, and those below were my lunches. Missing are the frequent PB and P (preserves of all kinds) sandwiches I bring for lunch but neglected to photograph.

A grilled cheese, arugula and tomato. Yes, on sourdough.

That's cheese hidden under the figs, and lox. Admittedly a weird 
mix, but I had little time to make a lunch when I was
running late.
Add caption

Bread and houmous, with yogurt and granola.
Lemony Lentil Stew with goat cheese, served on 2 corn
tortillas. From Drop the Diet


*yes, you know who.

Monday, September 7, 2015

You won't believe what this nutritionist had for breakfast.

And more importantly, what you can eat for breakfast, too.

I started to do a food record of sorts two weeks ago. "Why put yourself through the misery?" you might wonder? Well I wanted to send some positive messages about food, about eating, about what constitutes a normal, healthy diet, both physically and mentally. And I wanted to do it visually. Instead of fighting the diet myths—the must-eat low sugar, low carb, low fat, high protein—with words, I figured I'd show you snippets of real meals and snacks that I eat, that a nutritionist eats, on a regular basis.

I planned to do it like a food log, including everything I ate, and I mean everything. But it got tedious. And then it started to annoy me. Do I need to include the bites of sourdough bread I grabbed before dinner? Will I be sending the wrong message by showing all that I eat, as if to say "this is fine for you too in these amounts" when really our needs are so variable?  It started to get complicated.

My compromise? A brief, photo-filled post, a conversation starter I hope, to discuss what you can eat. Each of you. All of you. But brace yourself. My eating is neither light nor low anything.  I include plenty of fats, my fair share of baked goods, and plenty of pleasure from food.

My oh-so-honest patients tell me that readers won't believe me. “Sure there are pictures of foods, but how do I know that you actually ate what's shown? Or didn’t over exercise, or purge, or restrict after eating?”

You simply can't know for sure. This relationship we have, virtual or live for those who meet with me in person, is built on trust. And trust takes time to build. Send me a question, start the conversation, and let me help allay your fears about what’s okay to eat. Lunch and dinner to follow if the interest is there.

Note: If you have a medical condition that requires adherence to particular nutrition guidelines, please follow those!  If you have celiac, do not consume gluten. And if you have diabetes, seek professional guidance on an appropriate budget of carbohydrate to control your blood sugars. But if you are looking to eat, feel and be healthy, try to release yourself from the unnecessary diet rules.

Peach pancakes, topped with real maple syrup and berries. And
yes, there's always coffee with my breakfasts!

Okay, I did have seconds. Just a couple more.

Challah bread (all white flour) with cottage cheese and farm 
fresh tomatoes.

2 eggs fried in a little butter, with my homemade sourdough
bread--my recent baking obsession.

Rolled oats, raisins, apples and Maine blueberries--with
some maple syrup and milk.

There's nothing like cold cereal for a quick breakfast, eaten
with low fat milk (not skim, not almond).

I don't get to make these crepes too often, but I do love
them, filled with vanilla yogurt and fruit.

Chocolate croissants are rich, but sometimes there's nothing
I'd rather eat. So I have it as breakfast, instead of as a snack.

Tempted to lick the plate, but I didn't.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

FB and your diet, weight, fitness & happiness: A cautionary post about comparing.

Everyone is so happy. And doing so well, always having a great time. They’re all eating amazing food and managing their weight. They all look so healthy, too. And their kids are always smiling—they have the perfect families. Everyone else is so good at exercising—Map My Ride/Run and other apps prove they’re doing so much better than you running and cycling and walking. Yes, by comparison you hardly rate.
Hardly his happiest or his best mug shot.
Posted with permission.

Or so it seems.

It was quite timely that my patient whom I’ll call Beth, described her frustration having spent too many hours on Facebook. (Imagine that. Spending too much time on social media.)  She saw far too many ‘friends’’ photos displaying beach-bound bodies with a confidence she doesn’t possess. Like those ‘before and afters’ from diet ads from Diet Center and Weight Watchers (where the print too small to read confesses that these images are of rarely occurring weight loss that normal people don’t usually experience nor maintain in the real world) they showed what everyone else was capable of—except for her. These photos of Beth’s friends and acquaintance were beautiful—looking slimmer, happier and more fit than her for sure. 

Or so it seemed.

These pictures of friends struggling
 hardly get seen.
Ok. Raise your hands if you post pictures of yourself that you'd rather destroy. Right. We only post our best shots, the ones that get the ‘likes’, right? And we surely don’t see people throughout the day, at all times, when they may be looking their worst—like we see ourselves. No early morning “I-just-rolled-out-of-bed” shots posted on FB.  And did you know that some ‘friends’ even use apps which photoshop their pictures, like they do in magazines with airbrushing? Yes, it’s even possible that some pictures you’re thinking are real have been touched up. 

Comparison is a tricky business. You only see a small slice of a person’s life, of what’s really going on. The rest, no doubt, is projection. They ‘seem’ happy, or healthy, or content. But maybe it’s just how it appears. Their exercise level may be awesome, or excessive or a rare event advertised to their Facebook friends.

No, these imperfections don't make
it to FB.
Your friend who’s lost all that weight may have cancer, or may be struggling with anxiety and depression, causing her to feel anything but happy. Or fit. Or relaxed. The bikini clad acquaintance may be so preoccupied with what she believes she can and can’t eat that she hardly enjoys herself at the beach, or when she dines out, or even when at home deciding what she could possible have for lunch.

Yet another recent study showed that using social media can have a negative impact on our eating behaviors including binging, purging and using diet-pills. “Both online physical appearance comparison and online fat talk were associated with greater disordered eating” the study by Dr. Bulik and colleagues showed. Without the comparing, however, greater Facebook use was associated with decreased disordered eating behavior. So it’s all how you use it. "Comparison is the thief of joy"--I can't agree more with this quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt.

Looking neither happy, nor energized.
I was actually quite miserable here.
Maybe it’s time to challenge your Facebook and social media friends. Are they capable of posting a picture where they don’t look so awesome? Can they post the ride or run where their speed was less than impressive?  I doubt that most can bring themselves to do so—but wouldn’t that change things?

I’d love to hear what you think. So please leave a comment! And thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The very low sugar, low fat healthy diet—an oxymoron.

Kristen knew to avoid fats—except for those in nuts (which she included in very limited amounts) and certainly those in dairy and oils. Fats are bad. Period. She loves fat free yogurts, but those she omits because of the sugar. Same with milk, which she truly used to enjoy. Now she uses fortified water aka lite almond milk. Seasonal fruits, even the organic stuff—completely stricken from her diet, you know, because of the sugar.  Whole grains—well those have those god-awful carbs so those are out too. Yup, that leaves… lean poultry and fish and non starchy vegetables.

No wonder meal planning is a challenge.

No wonder she struggles to not binge following a day of deprivation.

No wonder her energy level is low, and her thoughts are preoccupied with food and eating.

Why can’t I decide what to eat?

If you're like Kristen, you get so over-focused on what you shouldn't eat that you're challenged to figure out what to eat.  Your endless food rules about nutrition, weight and health leave few foods to eat—and enjoy. 
I've lost count of how many patients came into my office these last weeks, stating: "I have no idea what to eat anymore. I just can't decide." These are patients of all sizes and conditions—patients with anorexia, and those with binge eating disorder and bulimia; and those struggling with their climbing weight and obesity in spite of their attempts to eat healthy. And they’re all ruled by unnecessary food rules.

Wrong, wrong, wrong about fats!

Like Kristen you too may be fat phobic, in spite of the updated newest guidelines for Americans 2015, which have removed the notion that total fat should be avoided. Got that? There is no evidence to support a recommendation that total fat should be restricted—neither for weight management nor for health and disease prevention. 
Really? How can this be?
At the 2015 Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) there was a wealth of research showing that diets rich in fats from plants sources—with nutrients like mono unsaturated fats (think avocado, peanuts and olive oil)—and in omega 3s (think salmon, sword and tuna in addition to walnuts and flax) help reduce abdominal fat distribution which is the greater health concern than obesity.

And, wrong about carbs and weight gain!

Also at the ADA, extensive research was presented concluding that macronutrients—the protein, fat and carbohydrate balance of your diet—ultimately have no impact on your weight. That's right. Numerous large studies including a well-done Harvard study confirm this.
I know, I know, it’s hard to believe when you’ve already been sucked into the misinformation of carb and sugar toxic diets and fat phobia.

You’ve lost sight of the bigger picture. In spite of eating a diet full of healthy foods including protein sources, fruits and vegetables, grains and fats—your calorie intake can become reduced to the point of providing inadequate calories for your day to day need. You get fuzzy headed, feel fatigued and decision-making about food becomes challenging. Rules and restrictions consume you, so you're at a loss to figure out what you can eat. I mean if you know you can’t eat gluten or that carbs are toxic or fats will make you fat and sugar is poison than what's left? How can you choose what to eat when there's so little that allowed?

Remember when you used to simply eat?

Move from micromanaging your foods.

How can you loosen the reins? Start to shift your thinking from micromanaging your diet. Rather than hyper focusing on each individual food item, on every nutrient or component of your intake, consider the bigger picture.

Consider OJ.

I walk through the supermarket noting the orange juice selection. Remember orange juice, the juice of oranges naturally high in vitamin C (and lesser known for its high potassium and folic acid content)? Only now it’s available calcium fortified. And get it with pulp—it’ll make you think you’re getting more fiber, when in truth there’s no difference. Add omega 3s while you’re at it—just get it with fish oils (quite a disgusting thought, personally). My point? Why are we thinking that one food has to be everything to our diet? Can't oranges or orange juice just provide us with the nutrients it's known for?

Must our pasta be whole wheat and protein fortified or be banned from our diet? What if you started with white pasta—yup, no fiber, all carbs, delicious pasta? You don't need to have the whole 16 oz. of it. By itself it's hardly a balanced meal. But surely you can find a solution to that, right?
Yes, you can add vegetables—for vitamins, for volume and texture, for fiber and satiety. Feel the need for protein at that meal? Add a glass of milk, some cheese, some shrimp or chicken or smoked salmon.  See where I’m going? 

Maybe think even bigger picture. Perhaps some meals are higher carbohydrate, but your protein is met from other meals or snacks?  Maybe you had a Greek yogurt high in protein or some nuts, for instance.

It's time to aim for balanced meals and a balanced day of eating, rather than hyper focusing on some 'perfect', ideal foods and eating style. Imagine even including a baked good simply because you enjoy it, as a snack when you’re hungry—contributing to your energy needs for the day, in addition to the wholesome foods you strive to limit yourself to.

Now that’s healthy eating.

Thoughts? Questions? Does this resonate for you? Are you out there reading? Please share with anyone who might needs some reality checking! Thanks!