As an anti-diet dietitian; I do my absolute best to teach people how to eat and enjoy food without worrying about every single thing they put into their mouths. There is so much shame, judgement, and stereotypes surrounding food; which oftentimes leads to dangerous and destructive food behaviors. What I have found, through my own experiences, as well as my clients’, is that the more you worry, obsess, and judge yourself and others about food, the more damaging your thoughts and behaviors become. How many of you have a friend that is CONSTANTLY talking about his/her weight, new diet, or foods they can and can’t eat? Do these people ever see results? Usually, the answer is no. This constant obsession and fight with your body is not the answer to your health and body size goals. You need to stop listening to society telling you to constantly obsess about the size of your body and what new diet plan you should start next. This is not the answer.
So, what is the answer to your weight/health goals? I do not have a magic wand or the perfect answer, but I will tell you what has worked for me and my clients.
- Stop worrying about it. The more you obsess and worry about your weight, the worse it’s going to be. Someone who has a clinically diagnosed eating disorder will tell you that 99% of their thoughts revolve around food, their weight, their body. This leaves no brain space for the things that actually matter – career, family, friends, volunteering, etc. Stop worrying so much about it and think about the other areas of your life that make you the person that others love! Think more about living your life than about how great it’s going to be once you lose those 10 pounds.
- Cut out the processed carbs. In the 80’s, fat was portrayed as the enemy. Everyone was on a low-fat diet. Manufactures were making low-fat or no-fat foods. However, this means they were filling these foods with sugar! Now we know better! Foods that are full of simple, processed carbs are one of the worst things we can fill our diet with. Cut out added sugar to the best of your ability – this means label reading. Look for ingredients like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, sucrose, barley malt, dextrose, maltose, rice syrup, and so many more! There are over 60 names for sugar on food labels. Cut out the foods that you know contain added sugar – baked goods, soda, dressings, juice, candy, sugary cereals and breakfast bars, etc. Replace these foods with complex carbs like oatmeal, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, corn, beans, peas, lentils, quinoa, and brown rice.
- Eat enough protein. When we eat, there is something called the thermic effect of food, which is the amount of calories it takes to break down, digest, and transport the nutrients in the foods that we eat. Protein, which contains 4 calories per gram, has the highest thermic effect; which means you will actually burn more calories when you eat protein. Make sure protein is spread out evenly throughout the day and eat between 0.8 and 1 gram per pound of body weight. You also want to eat high quality protein, or the foods that have the most amino acids – meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, tofu, and lentils.
- Don’t be afraid of fat! I am a proponent of higher fat diets; possibly because I crave dietary fat more than carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta and rice. We absolutely need carbohydrates in our diet; especially if you are active (which I hope you are!); however, you should not be afraid to add in healthy fat as well. Unsaturated fats, especially Omega 3 fatty acids (which are a class of polyunsaturated fats), are highly anti-inflammatory and have actually been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease. Omega 3’s are prevalent in fatty fish, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, egg yolks, flax seeds, and avocados. Fat is also very satiating, as it takes a long time to digest; therefore, it will keep you feeling satisfied for longer between meals.
- Get moving. I cannot even begin to tell you how important it is to move every day. Humans are not meant to sit around all day staring at computer screens. We are meant to move our bodies and be active. I am not saying you must run marathons or compete in bodybuilding; however, we absolutely need to challenge our bodies every day and make sure we are working up a sweat in some way! Some things to try – yoga, walking the dog, archery, horse back riding, water or downhill skiing, dancing, and gardening. There are so many benefits, outside of burning calories, to getting daily movement – decrease stress, remove toxins and control water balance, build muscles, make your body more metabolically efficient, and so many more.
- Enjoy fun foods once in a while! Everyone has heard of the 80/20 rule; and I do agree that we all need a break once a while. If you are eating plenty of natural, highly unprocessed foods most of the time – fruit, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fat – enjoying an ice cream cone with your family once in while is not going to destroy your health – in fact, it may help you! There is plenty of research showing that enjoying food experiences with your loved ones has more health benefits then missing out all the time because you’re “not allowed to eat that food”. So, I challenge you this 4th of July holiday to stop worrying about how many smore’s you’re eating and focus on the memories your making with the people that you love.
We live in the greatest country ever ya’ll. Enjoy your holiday celebrating all of the opportunities available to you!