Tori, our marketing director, recently asked me some questions about a new lecture I’m giving called “The Restriction/Chaos Diet Cycle”. When I answered these questions, I immediately wanted to post it here for anyone who has been in the class and needs a reminder, for future guests to become familiar with my nutrition philosophy, and for those unable to be at the Resort that may find this information helpful.
What is your new lecture and what is it about?
The new lecture is called The Restriction/Chaos Diet Cycle, and anyone who has experienced it, knows exactly what it is about! There is a prevailing idea that when you feel chaotic or out of control around food and feel unable to trust yourself, that a diet or set of rules will solve it. I disagree. In my experience, restriction isn’t a solution for chaos, it causes it. Why would you need to rebel when there isn’t anything to rebel against? When people feel emotionally and physically deprived, they will experience intense cravings and increased hunger resulting in eating foods they feel are off limits. This results in feeling guilty and shameful, and ascribing it to a lack of will-power and self-control (2 very misguided terms when it comes to food), but it is neither. Feeling full and satisfied from your meals is your solution. Not feeling full and satisfied is what leads to problematic behaviors. Legalizing foods that contribute to fullness and satisfaction (carbs and fats in particular which are typically off limits in diets) and including them in well-balanced and regular meals and snacks will lead to a more moderate, peaceful and healthy approach.
What is the reasoning behind the switch to now offering a new one?
I actually didn’t change the lecture content so much, just the title to better represent the subject matter. It was called Learning To Trust Yourself With Food, which is essentially what I hope people will be able to do as a result of this lecture. Instead of relying on diets and rules that will only result in chaotic behavior, I hope to help people find a more moderate, sustainable, effective and sane way to meet their health and wellness goals.
Can you talk about your non-diet approach to weight loss and healthy eating?
I would love to. I wholeheartedly believe that health is a product of healthy behaviors and not determined by weight. So often individuals engage in very unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to lose weight (restriction, reliance on supplements or low calorie/low fat food alternatives, inadequate nutrient intake, bingeing, extreme and unsustainable exercise, etc) which leaves them in poor health, even if their weight loss goals are achieved.
Obviously as a dietitian I promote wholesome food choices, I just prefer to talk about them outside the context of weight. When someone chooses to manipulate food in order to manipulate their weight, I find that it comes at the expense of fueling their body in order to feel energized and satisfied and instead are left feeling unwell and unsatisfied.
To avoid extremes in eating (restriction/chaos), I feel it important to increase the window of tolerance for what foods and behaviors you find acceptable. When following a diet, you could even just eat a banana and feel like you have cheated, and who wants to “cheat” with a banana? The mentality typically is “if I’m going to cheat, I’m going to cheat good” and you ditch the banana in favor of the hot fudge sundae. By allowing a wide variety of foods from each food group (fruits, vegetables, proteins, fats, carbohydrates…and yes, even desserts and treats!), you will find that you feel more satisfied with less cravings and less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors around food.
For more on this, I would recommend Linda Bacon’s book Health At Every Size.
Why is restriction or restricting ourselves not as effective as a non-diet approach?
As I’ve mentioned, being overly militant or restrictive tends to lead to chaotic behaviors – the all or nothing mentality. When you look at food neutrally, not good or bad, you are able to make decisions that are in your best interest. If you have a diet mentality, that might be hard to wrap your brain around. But it is because you see all food as equal that you are able to make decisions that are in your best interest rather than out of fear, deprivation or restriction.
Current research shows that the best treatment for disordered eating behavior is to find a place for all foods in the persons meals and snacks. The assumption often is that if an individual has a chaotic relationship with a particular food, that they should avoid it. We actually find this increases disordered eating behaviors. Unconditional permission to eat has been shown to lessen preoccupation with food in general. Restriction actually causes chaos, rather than being a solution for it. When you know you can have what you want, within the flexible boundaries of regular meal and snack times where wholesome foods are available, its more likely you will be able to make a decision that is in your best interest rather than out of fear, deprivation or restriction. While that process will take time and require patience and perseverance its well worth the effort to find a peaceful and trusting relationship with food.
What is self-care? Why is it so important?
I like to say that I specialize in self-care plans rather than diet or weight loss plans. I find that it’s much easier to want to take care of yourself than fight against yourself with a diet or weight loss plan. The truth is that when your body feels well taken care of, you will find YOUR health weight. A body that is starved to only result in overeating, does not feel well-taken care of. Resilience and health comes with a more moderate, peaceful approach.
I also believe that health is much bigger than what you do or don’t eat and definitely what you do or don’t weigh. When someone starts to think about health in terms of self-care, they realize that their emotional, mental and spiritual health are just as important as their physical health. However, when you are living in the extremes of the diet cycle, it’s likely that you aren’t feeling well physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually.
So self-care is a holistic approach where we look at the big picture. While a self-care plan will look different for everyone, many will have these in common: regular, well balanced meals and snacks, adequate sleep, physical activity you ENJOY, meaningful work, connection with others,
and last but definitely not least…positive and supportive self-talk.
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD