Just wanted to post another invitation to follow me at my new website, lmwellness.com. I notice that there are still a number of people who are visiting this site (kimthedietitian.com), yet I have not posted in many months. I fear they must think I am lazy! Not so. I have just been posting in a different place. Join me there!
Tag Archives: dieting
Someone once said to me, “Kim, the doctor just told me that I am obese.” She sounded devastated . . . and desperate. “Obese” is such an emotional term for many people. It is technically defined by a certain body mass index (BMI). Defined in this way, it is very mathematical, very exact, and simply factual. It is a number after all, not a feeling, right? Or is it?
In fact, being labeled obese has a very emotional meaning for many people. “Obese” can feel like a judgmental term. When one is told they are obese, it often sounds more like “You are really, really fat.” Panic is a natural reaction, along with shock in many cases: “UGH, I had no idea I was THAT fat!”
Whether someone has just learned they are clinically obese or has just felt “really, really fat,” the results seem to be the same. Feeling unacceptably fat appears to make it harder for people to lose weight; in fact, it looks like it might cause them to gain. Recent research on the subject was really no shock to me.
I have been telling weight loss clients for years that the first step toward improvement is accepting where they are. Then, putting a focus on changing behaviors instead of obsessing over numbers will help with forward movement in a healthy direction. Once this happens, tension releases, desperation lightens, and change is possible. The alternative is lots of stress, often using food as a soother, leading to weight gain, not loss or even maintenance.
The research report states that three studies “found consistent evidence that perceiving oneself as being overweight was associated with increased weight gain.” In fact, even people who just felt overweight (but were not) gained. The perception seems to be the important point. This makes perfect sense, since what we perceive is what affects emotions, not necessarily what is actual, factual reality.
“Individuals who identified themselves as being ‘overweight’ were more likely to report overeating in response to stress and this predicted subsequent weight gain,” according to the authors. “These findings are in line with recent suggestions that the stress associated with being part of a stigmatised group may be detrimental to health.”
The report also noted that the gains may have come from emotional reactions to being considered unacceptable, OR they may have been the result of aggressive dieting. Brilliant! Can we finally all agree that crazy, rigid dieting is not effective . . . unless of course you are trying to GAIN weight.
This one was a surprise! A co-worker said her husband heard the app discussed on the WTMJ morning news show. (Click the link to check it out.)
On Monday, a nice article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel talked about the phone app I developed. I thought the writer, Lori Nickel, did a nice job of understanding my passion and translating it into a very readable format. (Just click the link to read it.)
I have a client on my mind. We met this morning, and the conversation was interesting. “I am struggling,” she said. I found myself asking lots of questions to understand exactly what the struggles are and what is causing them.
What I learned was that she is still having trouble controlling sweets at work. (People bring them in.) After digging deeper, we discovered that she really doesn’t think she can resist eating the treats at work. Although she avoids the room they are typically in, all it takes to trigger the “I can’t resist it” belief is the mention of cake or other treats by a co-worker.
She does feel conscious of the fact that there is a choice to eat it or not, but in reality it is not a choice at all. The mindless part of the habit is in the deeper belief that she cannot resist treats when they are available. Checking with herself in-the-moment about whether or not to indulge is really just going through the motions. The deeper (and less conscious) belief tells her she is not strong enough to really have a choice. Call it a perceived “willpower disability.”
Add to this challenge the guilt that accompanies the inevitable “choice,” and it adds fuel to the fire of the belief: “See, I knew I couldn’t resist. I never can.”
Beliefs are strong. And they are most often unconscious. This can make a “conscious” thought a mere habit instead of a realization of actual choice. There is a big difference between realizing on a superficial level that you can eat something or not, and really believing it. In other words, it is possible to choose to eat something and also truly believe that there was a choice not to eat it. In order for the latter choice to exist at all, one must believe that this is possible, at least sometimes. And, of course, there are all kinds of choices that exist between the two extremes of all and nothing.
Being conscious of thoughts is important, but sometimes it takes looking deeper, especially when feelings of failure and disappointment keep popping up. If the thought of an option to make a self-controlled choice is habitually followed by discouraging thoughts (“What makes you think you really have any choice at all, you spineless disappointment?”), those thoughts probably point to a deeper belief that keeps that habit going.
To be clear, it is still a good idea to keep from deliberately making choices too challenging by surrounding yourself with temptation. Let’s face it – some kinds of food are just really, really hard to resist when they are too accessible. There is no need to test your strength by leaving a whole cake out on the counter. That’s just not very kind!
Choosing to eat any particular food is not the problem. Knowing you could choose not to have something and having it anyway feels so much different than eating it because you feel too weak-willed to have any choice. How much enjoyment can there really be in that?
My daughter has a new dog. Dolly is sweet and cuddly, but there are problems with her roaming the house alone. For one thing, there is another dog, one who is not exactly thrilled to have a newcomer taking away her status as “only child.”
Crating Dolly seemed like the answer. It would separate the dogs while my daughter was away, preventing potential conflict. Sounds like a good solution, right? There was only one problem . . . a BIG one. She cannot tolerate the confinement.
When she was left in a wire sided crate, she managed to open the door and get out. My daughter found her loose in the house. The next step was to try a plastic sided crate. She couldn’t open the small door to it, but – believe it or not – she did manage to CHEW through the side of the crate! She literally ate her way out.
Confinement in the house is fine, because it is a bigger space, but that little box was not at all OK with Dolly. After consulting a dog trainer, my daughter was told that she probably cannot be crated.
I could not help but think about how this applies to setting boundaries with eating. We all have a need for some boundaries. Without them, there is no feeling of control at all, and that feels awful. But boundaries that are too confining are miserable and ineffective.
And, like Dolly, when the rules are too rigid, we too will “eat our way out.” We all are different relative to the amount of wiggle room we need, but we are all similar in our need for comfort within the boundaries. Some dogs do fine in crates – in fact they feel cozy and comfortable – while others like Dolly just need more room.
If you often find yourself eating your way out of your eating plan, you may want to ask if you need a different plan. It just makes sense.
Did you know that Friday was National Donut Day? I did not.
This was brought to my attention – alas, too late! – by a client who updated me on this very important holiday. While giving an update about the past week, she mentioned that she and her husband had to have a donut on Friday for this reason. She chose it, enjoyed it, and did not feel regret later, so this was viewed as a successful choice.
This got me thinking: How many days like this are there on the calendar? I was surprised, but now I am so much more educated on the subject! Yes, there is a National Pizza Day, a National Cupcake Day, a National Cheeseburger Day, and a National Jelly Bean Day. There are also days to celebrate chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate ice cream. Is anyone surprised?
Hmmm. Is there a National Carrot Day? It turns out there is . . . AND a National Carrot Cake Day. National App Day? Sure, AND National Apple Pie Day. There is no National Cauliflower Day, nor is there a National Collard Greens Day, but there is a National Brussels Sprouts Day. Go figure!
Anyone looking for an excuse to splurge on sweets every day of the year is probably in luck. Today is probably something like National Cinnabon Day, but don’t take this as a reason to run out and get one . . . unless you decide to consciously choose it, enjoy it, and not regret it later – and you don’t need a special day on the calendar to do that.
If you are a mother, I hope you find the time to mother yourself today. This can be very VERY difficult for many women to do without guilt. I know, because I spent too many moments martyring myself to others’ needs when my kids were small.
When offers of help came my way, my response was always something like this: “Oh, no, I don’t need any help. Yes, I AM exhausted and overwhelmed, but no . . . (heavy sigh) . . . I can manage.” I felt more uncomfortable asking for help than doing everything myself. I wondered, wasn’t asking for help a sign of weakness, or worse – selfishness?
A turning point came when a close friend made a perfectly-phrased comment: “That is so sad that you won’t allow others to love you.” Hmmm . . . “won’t allow . . .”: that was the part that hit me. This was a choice I was making, one that might not actually be serving anyone, maybe least of all the well-intentioned people who did love me and WANTED to help.
Self-care is a primary need for any kind of quality giving to be possible. This is a need, not an indulgence. I have learned this well over the years since my children were babies, and now I find myself sounding a little hypocritical when I repeat the well-worn wisdom “When mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.” Obviously this is a lot easier for me to follow now that I am an empty-nester without even a dog to care for anymore.
I get it now, and it’s not too late, because there are still plenty of people who would like me to get involved in various investments of my time. Many are people or causes I truly value, and sometimes I say “yes,” but not always, and certainly not automatically without thinking first. Learning to say “no” occasionally has allowed me to give more joyfully and freely when I choose to say “yes.”
The basics of self-care include quality sleep, balanced nutrition, manageable stress, and enjoyable movement – sometimes called “exercise,” but the key is “enjoyable.” Interestingly, they all affect one another. It is hard to eat well when one is not sleeping well or is too stressed out to feel balanced. Staying physically active can affect sleep quality, eating choices, and stress level. You get the idea.
Can you imagine how much more difficult it would be for someone to eat well if they are not caring for themselves with the bare bones basics needed to feel balanced? Does playing the martyr sound like a healthy strategy to you?
Maybe you have already figured this out, but I notice what seems to be a disproportionate number of women trying to lose weight who are not meeting their most basic self-care needs. Sometimes the best first step to addressing eating issues is to take a good look at the status of self-care.
Are you mothering yourself well? Make today a day to commit (or re-commit) to this very important role. Yes, we are all responsible to some extent for others, but we are first responsible to ourselves. No martyrs, please! That kind of giving is not sent with the best motivation anyway. The best kind of giving is the joyful, conscious, deliberate type. Enjoy your day!
“Paralzyed by information.” This is a term a client used today. I thought it was a brilliant way of describing what so many people are feeling in these times of information overload. The definition of paralysis is “a loss or impairment of voluntary movement in a body part, caused by injury or disease of the nerves, brain, or spinal cord.”
What my client meant was similar. She felt a loss or impairment of voluntary movement, but in this case it was behavioral movement toward health improvements. As long as we are looking at definitions, lets consider the slangy abbreviation “TMI.” When a person has too much information, it tends to muddy up the head space, leading to an inability to move forward with any kind of certainty or hope for improvement.
Information is great. I love research. I love technology. Still, without a reliable system for weeding through it all to come up with what is truly valuable for an individual, it is just plain HARD to make sense of it. Vastly different philosophies about how to eat all present information that seems factual. Long lists of references make them all seem legit.
I try to be very honest about what I believe to be accurate and what seems less conclusive. The unfortunate truth is that there is simply no style of eating with completely conclusive evidence that it is THE WAY for everyone. Personally, I don’t think there ever will be one best way for everyone.
The positive side of that is . . .
You get to decide for yourself! For those of you who hate any uncertainty, this is disappointing. You would really like to have a black and white, 100% proven method to (at least try to) follow. Eating is just not like that.
That is good news for those of you who want complete freedom of choice. Ultimately this is the best way for all of us – choice. We are much more likely to do something we feel we have chosen.
So what do we do with all of that information? How do we choose what is best for us?
Sort through it, test it if it seems like a good idea. See what happens FOR YOU. It’s not a double-blind placebo study, but it is really the gold standard for your best health. Studies are valuable, very valuable, but nutrition studies are only pieces of information to consider along with what you notice about your own body’s reaction to different eating styles.
A carefully considered, mindful assessment of information is the best cure for information paralysis. Trusting personal observations and instincts will always lead to more certainty and forward movement toward better health – without all the worry!
Hunger grabbed me around 3pm today – not unusual. When I’m home on the weekend, that is when I tend to drift into the kitchen and start searching for just the right snack that can hold me over until dinner.
Today I used some leftover roasted vegetables (mushrooms, eggplant, carrots and red pepper) and a couple of slices of avocado to fill butter lettuce leaves. After a light splash with good quality balsamic vinegar, I rolled them up and enjoyed a delicious, albeit messy snack.