Hi everyone! I read an article on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website that inspired this post today. The article is directed towards children, however, with the abundance of fad diets, negative body image, intense focus on a number on the scale, and frequent use of terms like “cheat day”, this article is also worth a read for adults. We are very good at defining our self-worth by a number on a scale, yes I am guilty too, but life is so much more enjoyable when we get over the number on the scale and start remembering how to enjoy food again.
I have recently noticed several people following the ketogenic diet. For those of you that do not know, this diet is high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables. Yes, this diet does seem to contribute to weight loss and there are studies that support its short-term use for weight loss, but we do not know the long-term effects of this diet. There is speculation that this diet may lead to renal disease and osteoporosis with long-term use. I know everyone is searching for that quick-fix for weight loss in hopes of keeping the weight off and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that diet simply does not exist. Yes, restrictive fad-diets like the ketogenic diet can help you lose weight quickly in the beginning, but is a diet like this really sustainable long-term for you to keep off the weight for good? More times than not the answer is NO. We lose the weight just to gain it back and then hop on the next diet fad and our weight begins to yo-yo. This is not only unhealthy for your body, it is also very taxing on your mind.
I want to share with you my story of my relationship with food and how it lead to me becoming a registered dietitian.
For as long as I can remember I have always focused on my weight and body image. In high school most of my friends were thin and I wasn’t. I wasn’t large, but I just wasn’t as thin as they were and I thought that I needed to look like them in order to have their confidence and feel good about myself. I would restrict my food intake by skipping breakfast in the morning, because that’s what my friends did, and I would eat smaller meals at lunch and dinner with a snack somewhere in between. I still ate, but not nearly enough for what my growing body needed.
High school came and went and I was still not happy with my body image. So when I started college I began following fad diets and I did lose some weight, but not as much as I wanted to. It wasn’t until the summer after my first year of college that I got serious about working out and eating right, or at least what I thought eating right was at the time. I got to where I was working out 1+ hours a day and obsessing over not eating more than 1200 calories a day – which by the way was not nearly enough calories for my, then, 19-year-old self. I wasn’t paying any attention to what kinds of foods I was eating. I was just paying attention to the calories. There were days that I would eat maybe 900 calories of real food and the splurge the last 300 calories on ice cream. This obsession with restricting my calories lead to me binge eating one day a week, which lead to three days a week, which then lead to almost every day of the week. I ended up gaining about 30 pounds from that and became the heaviest I have been in my adult life. I knew this was not healthy and knew that I needed to make a change. This is when I decided to officially change my major and become a registered dietitian.
After changing my major and going through the nutrition courses, I began to understand that you simply cannot deprive yourself of any of the food groups – including “cheat day” foods. Your body needs fat, it needs protein, and it also needs carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables contain many disease fighting nutrients that your body needs. You also need that piece of cake every now and then to keep your mind at ease. It took me about two years to lose those the 30 pounds I had gained, but I did it the right way and here I am about 5 years later from that low point in my life. I have been able to keep off the weight and I feel the best I ever have because I do not deprive myself any more. If I want a cookie and ice cream I give myself a cookie and ice cream. I do this so my mind does not obsess over it. It is that obsession and describing these foods as “bad foods” that lead me down a bad path before and I don’t want to go back there.
Most of my meals consist of a protein, a starch/grain, and one or two vegetables. I also snack 3-4 times a day, I choose foods such as cheese and crackers, fruit, a graham cracker and peanut butter, carrot sticks – sometimes with hummus or dressing dip, or Greek yogurt with granola. I also make sure to exercise at least 15 minutes a day – occasionally I can do 30 minutes - but every little bit helps. This helps me increase my energy for the day and improves my overall mood. Since I have stopped following the restrictive fad diets and started listening to my body by feeding it a more balanced diet, I have never felt better. It’s also exhausting following a restricted diet and after saying goodbye to the fad diets and all of their unkept promises I have been able to maintain my weight for 3 years now.
I wanted to share this with you because people are paying attention to you. There were several figures in my life growing up, and currently, who are focused on the number on the scale and have tried fad diet after and so I follow fad diet. And I followed the same path for a while. Children and loved ones watch what we do even if we don’t realize it. When they see you following these fad diets and justifying your self-worth by a number on a scale they will be more likely to do so. It is so so so important to teach our children and other loved ones the importance of focusing on food for health rather than focusing on food for weight loss.
You don't have to become a dietitian to form a healthy relationship with food, but you can most certainly talk with one to help you enjoy your food again.
Here is the link from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics if you would like more information on how to build a more positive relationship with food for yourself and for your family.
Thanks for reading!