The holidays can feel really anxious for those who struggle with food. I?m going to paint some broad strokes in this blog post, and hopefully it gets you thinking about how to best support yourself the next few months. I'm placing extra emphasis on the key points by putting them in all caps. I'm not yelling at you, just making strong recommendations. Well except for the first one, I am yelling that.
Ultimately, the overall objective would be to learn and practice how to avoid the all-or-nothing mindset with food during the holidays and beyond. In my mind, there are two main principles for doing so:
Let?s elaborate with a few key points about those:
If you know that a diet, restriction or deprivation is around the corner, it will influence how you behave around food. If January 1st is named the day you?ll start a diet, you?re going to throw all caution to the wind over the holidays. Might as well enjoy yourself before the suffering begins, right? SO DON'T MAKE PLANS TO DIET ON JANUARY 1st.
The good news is that you can enjoy satisfying foods any day of the year, so there is no need to get it all right now. Eating for the intent to feel satisfied is your key, especially since overeating or under eating are not satisfying (more like uncomfortable or painful).
That is probably the hardest concept of Intuitive Eating to grasp. For so long you?ve likely had a system of checks and balances. In other words, eating has been conditional. ?I can eat that if I run an extra few miles tomorrow?. ?I can have that but only on my cheat day.? ?If I eat that, I can?t eat later.? And so on.
It can feel really rebellious and wrong to allow yourself ice cream for no other reason than it?s a Wednesday afternoon and it sounds good. The worry is that once you do you?ll lose control. However, controlling food is actually a false sense of control. The food is controlling you, not the other way around.
I find it helpful to liken this to work and play. If you were to work all the time, not matter how much you love your work, how would you feel? Likely burnt out, resentful, exhausted and ready for a break. If you were to play all the time, how would you feel? Likely ready for some productivity, organization and a schedule. We all have experience with knowing what we need in that regard. It?s a natural ebb and flow and if we are listening to and meeting our needs, we allow ourselves a balance of productivity and rest.
The same could be said for food. Depending on the day, different foods can and will be nourishing and satisfying. That grey area can be uncomfortable, but it allows us to live a much more flexible and nourishing life. I encourage you to think about what you need and trust that it all balances out. TRUST THAT YOUR BODY CAN BE TRUSTED.
Eating in the absence of physical hunger happens occasionally. No big deal. But in general, hunger makes food taste better. You get a lot more enjoyment out of food if you really need it. My favorite quote from Intuitive Eating is: "If you don't love it, don't eat it, and if you do love it, savor it." YOU GET TO OWN YOUR CHOICES.
I wish you the happiest holidays!
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD
Do you feel like you have stalled in meeting your health and wellness goals? It?s super easy in the culture we live in to think you have to become more extreme or restrictive with food. Some people immediately cut back on calories or increase exercise while others may start eliminating foods, food groups or food ingredients.
Instead, I encourage you to continue to eat regular, balanced and adequate meals and snacks and look at a few other things:
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD
We all know how much I love carbohydrates, and I often encourage people to eat more of them. That?s because diet culture has taught us that carbs are bad and associates them with overeating, weight gain and increased risk for developing chronic diseases like diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and even cancer. It?s sensationalized propaganda to sell diets and very misleading information. This is especially true when discussing wholesome, unprocessed carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, fruit and starchy vegetables. But of course, ALL foods can fit when looking at overall food patterns that are nourishing, flexible and satisfying.
But I?m not here to talk about carbohydrates. As much as I love them, I always encourage balanced meals and snacks complete with protein and fats too. Let?s chat protein today, but check out THIS link for more about fat.
It?s really difficult to be deficient in protein. Most of us get plenty, but it turns out that protein timing is more important than total amount. The most amount of protein you are able to effectively use at one time is any where between 20-35 grams (range depending on your own individuals needs and will vary depending on body size, activity level, age, gender, etc). The body wants to have an amino acid pool in the blood stream at all times from which it can pull what it needs when it needs to (just like it also wants a pool of glucose, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, etc - a good reason to make sure you are eating regularly and consistently). If protein intake is inadequate at certain times of the day, the body may need to dip into stored protein, meaning lean body mass. Doing so can also impact bone health, immune system function and hormone production to name a few.
I typically recommend about .3 grams of protein per kg body weight at least 4 times a day. This will translate to 15-30 ish grams of protein for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack (or second breakfast or 1st lunch or 2nd dinner, etc?as I like to call it). In total that means anywhere from 60-120 grams of protein (again range depends on your own individuals needs) per day. That doesn?t mean you will only need or want to eat 4 times a day, but aim to include an adequate amount of protein at least 4 times.
So what are some examples of adequate protein sources?
For help in determining your own protein needs and nutritional balance, I really encourage seeking the help of a (non-diet) Registered Dietitian!
You can be vegan and vegetarian and meet your protein needs just fine. No worries there. Unless you are vegan or vegetarian because you feel like you should be for nutritional or weight related reasons. While no one will dispute the benefits of a plant based diet, those benefits can function independent of your choice to include or not include animal products. Emphasizing plant based foods is a great idea, unless it gets taken to the extreme and enters disordered behaviors of anxiety, preoccupation, obsession and lack of flexibility.
Mainstream dieting tends to be high protein/low carb. Hopefully the recommendations and discussion here help you see that adequate protein is anything but extreme, and functions best when combined with carbohydrates and fats in balanced meals.
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD
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