I began reading this book lately, it’s called “Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook.” I’ve heard so many great things about the author Ellyn Satter and this particular book has been on my reading list for quite some time…so back to the title of this book! I’m sure some of you may have rolled your eyes at the title? Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family…maybe you know how to cook, maybe you know how to eat. You’re alive right? So you’ve obviously been doing your job right. Wrong. Well maybe not everyone is wrong, BUT, as a society I think that we have lost the ideal of the happy, sit at the table, savor the food and enjoy the taste meal.
Ellyn says in her book:
Today’s eating habits are negative: Eating isn’t important. Time spent eating is wasted time. You should eat and do something else at the same time. Skipping meals is good. Not eating is a sign of superiority. Being offhand about eating is trendy. Being finicky is sophisticated. Then there are the negative attitudes about nutrition: I shouldn’t eat that. If it tastes good it can’t be good for me. Eating right takes all the fun out of food.
Ellyn is so right! As a test I opened up my Pinterest and typed in the word ‘diet’. Now, I consider diet to be what a person eats in total. The average daily intake of food. But what does Pinterest think diet means? Here are the first 6 things on the list:
- Find the best diet plan for your wedding
- February is national snack month
- The Yes/No Foods list (my personal favorite)
- 3 ingredient pancakes
- 20 snacks that burn fat
- 24 essential recipes for anyone on a low-carb diet
Now I’m sure if I opened Google or any other search engine or social media the top 6 things to pop up would essentially be the same.
As a Registered Dietitian I often get frustrated clients in my office. They have tried Weight Watchers, Herbal Magic, Detoxes, Various fat burning pills, diets of shakes and coffee, you name it, I’ve heard of someone trying it. Most people seem to be focused on one thing. The scale. Whether it’s weighing themselves or their food. I have had clients come into my office and display their phones with every piece of food that goes in their mouth accounted for, displaying their various electronics that track the calories that they’re burning and their weights meticulously written down 3 times a day. I understand it! People are frustrated. They want to be healthy and there are so many people out there promising quick fixes. Lose 20 pounds in ONE WEEK! Detoxify your liver and the weight will fall off! Weight loss is promised to be the miracle that will help you look better, feel better and cure all of your health problems. Do you know what the silent killer is? Stress!
Stress involves a whole body reaction or a physiological response and is caused by anything in our life that makes us feel threatened. This is sometimes called the fight or flight response because it gives us an adrenaline boost that can help you fight for your life or run like heck. Our body cannot tell the difference though and all kinds of situations put stress on your body. When you don’t eat enough to keep up with the energy demands your body has just for everyday functioning, when you exercise for long hours every day and don’t replenish your energy stores, when you sit down after not eating chocolate for a whole month and you eat 3 chocolate bars at once and feel incredibly guilty. All of these things cause you stress because your body is an intricate system that works together. Why do you feel hungry? Because you need food. Why does chocolate smell so good if you’re not supposed to eat it? Because you should treat yourself!
So why am I focusing on stress? Because the hormone that your body releases during stress is called cortisol and this hormone functions to store fat. Now the pathway for this process is very complicated and I’ve oversimplified it here but the research shows that people who perceive themselves to have a lot of stress have higher weights and a higher waist circumference. (For example read here, here, and here)
I will give you an example. Most people restrict their intake of food in an effort to loose weight. They skip meals, eat smaller portions, stop eating when they are still hungry or they ignore hunger signals all together. What happens internally however is that your body stops trusting you and gets stressed because it thinks it’s never going to get food again. So what happens when you finally give in to that hunger craving? Your body stores every last bit of energy as fat in fear that you won’t give it anything again.
If I bring this all together, the most important thing you want is for your body to trust you. Listening to your body and feeding it when it’s hungry is important. Ignoring your hunger cravings doesn’t make you strong and giving in to your hunger cravings doesn’t make you weak. You want your body to trust you. Eat when you’re hungry, enjoy some chocolate or candy or whatever your “guilty pleasure” is. Ellyn says “If the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers”. At the end of a session with a client who is seeing me to loose weight I often make 2 goals (along with any healthy eating suggestions). The first is, until you see me again, please stop keeping track of the food you are eating every second. Eat your main meals and if you are hungry have a snack but don’t record it and secondly, do not weigh yourself until you see me again. Stop focusing on the scale at home and focus on how you feel. Is your goal to weigh less or is it to feel better? Because if your goal is to weigh less and you never get there and deprive yourself of every delicious thing in the meantime…what is the quality of your life really like? So, please, for the love of food, enjoy all food in moderation whether it’s apples and carrots or candy and chocolate. Having a healthy relationship with food means enjoying all foods.
***if you have a specific health condition or food allergy or intolerence that keeps you from eating a specific food or type of food that is a different issue and you should speak with a Registered Dietitian to insure you are not missing out on any key nutrients and continue to avoid eating the offending food or type of food.