Donuts do not make people fat.

As many of my posts are, this post was inspired by a client this week who loves donuts but avoids eating them as she’s worried they will make her fatter. She was lamenting how she wasn’t able to enjoy freshly made donuts at a market with her friend, and how it was ok for her friend because she’s thin. My clients very typical diet mentality meant not only was she missing out on a key aspect of health (experiencing pleasure and connecting with friends), but it also meant she found herself over-eating whenever she was served something sweet.

Donuts do not make people fat.

But thinking they will and so restricting them, which can lead to over-eating (this goes for any food), may impact weight*. But it’s not the donut that’s the problem or needs to change, it’s the thinking which influences behaviour that needs to change.

 

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Not everyone who chooses to restrict certain food finds themselves bingeing on that food, but for many people, this is what happens. After all, it is human psychology to want what you can’t have, deprivation drives desire and people experience the forbidden fruit effect and the last supper effect.

When a food is off limits it is more enticing (forbidden fruit effect) and when faced with the “forbidden” food people experience the last supper effect: “This will be the last time so I’ll eat as much as can” – or – “I may as well have it all now and tomorrow I’ll be good”. Sound familiar?

Time and time again in my practice I see people discover that are able to enjoy their “problem” foods or “weaknesses” without going nuts and eating the whole lot and that they can leave certain food in the house without eating it all. In fact, a common scenario is once people stop restricting and stop thinking about the food as a “weakness”, they buy the food, enjoy a little and then forget it’s even there!

For many people, a tendency to over-eat certain food is driven by more than just restriction. Not eating enough during the day and altered emotional states are also key and very common drivers. All of these need to be addressed in order to foster a healthy relationship with food free from distress, guilt and shame. If you feel you need help with this, I urge you to seek help from a dietitian/nutritionist trained in the non-diet approach and who works within the Health At Every Size (HAES) paradigm.

*Note: weight changes are actually far more complex than just over-eating. If a person gains weight from appearing to over-eat, we massively over-simply the issue when just focusing on food. Again, working with a dietitian/nutritionist trained in the non-diet approach will allow you to explore this in more depth.

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Diet culture sucks!

Do you want to fight back against diet culture? You can. Try out any of these responses next time you hear someone talk about food in the context of weight or “being good”.

Diet culture: “you’re so disciplined”

You: “not particularly, I genuinely look forward to eating this… look how colourful it is!”

Diet culture: “I wish I could eat that”

You: “you can! Here have some, just pop in your mouth and chew”

Diet culture: “that looks so naughty”

You: “really, I don’t think it’s done anything bad… and it’s so yummy, it’s divine!”

Diet culture: “you’re so good, I wish I could be like you”

You: “you can, it’s easy*, just eat whatever you’re hungry for”

Diet culture: “I’d get fat if I ate that…”

You: “You’re telling me if you ate this, you’d wake up fat tomorrow?”

Diet culture: “is this your cheat day?”

You: “nope, I don’t need those to enjoy my food”

 

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In summary…

No, it’s not OK to comment on someone else’s food – unless of course you’re saying how yummy it looks!

Eating a salad doesn’t have to mean you’re on a diet, watching your weight or being good. Ideally it means you enjoy and want to eat a salad.

Choosing to eat a toasted cheese sandwich or burger doesn’t have to mean you’re being indulgent, naughty or having a cheat day. Ideally you’re eating that food because it’s what you really feel like and it’s satisfying.

If you’re eyeing someone else’s lunch and thinking “ooh that looks good, I wish I could eat that…” my advice (if you asked me), would be to eat the goddamn food, you may just be pleasantly surprised!

This is just a small taste (pardon then pun), of what intuitive eating is all about… often learning how to eat intuitively again is complex, if you struggle with your eating or body image, please seek help from a professional who is experienced with intuitive eating and is aligned with HAES principles.

dietitian melbourne

 

 

 

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Cake is healthy

Context is everything, but social media grabs and headlines are generally not interested in the detail, it’s all about what gets the most clicks and likes.

The Context:

Having some sugar in your diet in the context of a nutritionally adequate diet is unlikely to be an issue. If health issues do arise, genetics, stress, activity levels and a myriad of other factors need to be considered, not just a person’s sugar intake or even their overall diet for that matter. In fact, even if a person was eating copious amounts of sugary foods at the expense of nutrition, you still need to consider the many of other factors. Quitting sugar is unlikely to address all the aspects of self-care one might need to manage their health and almost certainly will not address the underlying reasons a person is having excess sugar, if indeed they are.

 

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With regard to advice to lose weight, aside from the fact we don’t know how to help people do this and keep the weight of long-term, the reasons people gain weight are nearly always much more complex than just dietary. Just focusing on diet (or exercise) is completely inadequate with regard to addressing factors that affect weight, some of which are out of a person’s control and some of which can be attributed to behaviour. Even with those that may be attributed to behaviour, the things that drive human behaviour are complex and we over-simplify behaviour change with black and white, generic, dietary advice such as cut out sugar, reduce portions, eat less etc.  While there are some people for whom such changes appear straight forward and maintainable, this is not true for most people and can lead to disordered eating behaviours, a messed up relationship with food, psychological and physical stress along with increased shame, anxiety and depression, all of which adversely impact health independent of diet or body weight. In fact, many of the things people do in an attempt to lose weight do not qualify as self-care. For example; crash diets, detox diets, going too long without food or not eating enough food (and putting the body into starvation mode), no longer taking pleasure from food and eating, not socialising as much for fear of eating the “wrong” food, exercising too intensely or too often and the list goes on.

So how can you manage your health (practise self-care) without quitting sugar, restricting food you enjoy or focusing on weight loss? It is very possible with a non-diet/HAES approach.

Health is complex and involves much more than a person’s diet or fitness level.

Please note: Saying cake is healthy, is not the same as saying just eat as much cake as you want without any regard to nutrition and the myriad of other factors that contribute to health.

I actually prefer to say that cake is neither healthy nor unhealthy, it is just cake. I stated “cake is healthy” to do exactly what media tries to do, get people’s attention. Absolutely cake can be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

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It’s ok to choose not to include certain food in your diet

As a non-diet dietitian, I don’t often post about the choice not to eat certain food, or to follow particular style of eating.

When it comes to nutrition and how we eat, nothing is black and white. There is no one right way of eating and no one wrong way of eating.

Unless you have a food allergy or intolerance, no one food type will cause you ill health and no one food type will give you health.

Just as it’s ok to eat whatever you feel like, it’s also ok to choose not to eat a certain food or type of food if that’s what feels right for you.

Having a highly nutritious diet does not make you immune from health issues and having a less nutritious diet doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll suffer from a diet related disease.

Because we can’t be black and white, we can’t say that following a particular style of eating is wrong, even if we don’t agree with it.

However you choose to eat and whatever label you might put on it, such as low carb, paleo, vegan, sugar free, as long as you are making this choice because it’s what feels right for you, and it doesn’t cause any distress, then this is not going against non-diet or intuitive eating.

dietitian healthy eating

Recently I had dinner with a friend who has chosen a low carb way of eating. We were able to share a delicious meal and she simply chose not to eat a couple of things. This caused her no distress and she didn’t feel she was missing out in any way. However, the difference between my friend’s experience with eating and most of my clients, is my clients have often had a life-time of struggling with their eating and body image, without the dietary changes yielding the results they had hoped for.

As nutrition professionals, we need to respect other people’s decision with how to eat, if that’s what they’re comfortable with and especially if they haven’t asked for our opinion. As nutrition professionals, if people look to us for guidance, then we have the right to advise as we see fit and in a fashion that holds up to our clinical experience and to current evidence. As individuals, we all need to consider that what works for us, may not be what’s best for someone else, and we also need to respect other people’s decision with how to eat, if that’s what they’re comfortable with and if they haven’t asked for our opinion. Discussing nutrition with people you know well and perhaps giving some tips is most likely fine – however – unless you are a nutrition professional, you probably shouldn’t be giving specific nutrition advice to the general population, or people you don’t know well.

As a non-diet dietitian, I encourage my clients to lift any food restrictions or food rules and to start enjoying all foods. For people who have experienced distress with their eating and body weight/size for many years, this is an important first step. It is important because the restrictions or food rules have not brought about the desired changes, at least not long-term, and very often the person is trapped in a cycle of disordered eating and damaged psychological health. Breaking this cycle, requires healing one’s relationship with food and body and this requires lifting restrictions around food. However, once a person has healed their relationship with food and body, they may then find themselves in a place where they can manipulate their diet in a way that feels right for them. 

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Chocolate is not unhealthy.

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This is something I often say to my clients. It’s very common for people to feel they “have a problem” with chocolate (insert other sweet food). When I ask my clients what they feel the problem is, the answer is often along the lines of “it’s bad for you” or “I eat too much of it” or “I need to lose weight”.

Let’s start with “It’s bad for you”…

No one food on its own is bad for your health. Eating 50g (or even 200g) of chocolate is not going to adversely affect your health, eating 10kg of chocolate in one sitting – if it were possible – would likely put you in hospital and quite possibly kill you! But so would eating 10kg of broccoli or drinking 10L of water in one sitting. The point being, it’s “the dose the that makes the poison”. 

This is when my clients might tell me “but I can’t just stop at 50g of chocolate, once I start, I can’t stop”. While there may be a number of reasons for this, one of the key reasons is labelling chocolate “bad” and trying to restrain yourself from eating it. At some point, restricting your eating nearly always leads to over-eating or binging, this has been well documented and if you have ever tried to control food intake through restriction, you’ll know what I am talking about.

Emotional hunger is another reason and this can be complex and often needs to be addressed with a skilled practitioner such a dietitian or psychologist who works in a weight neutral and non-diet space.

One of the biggest paradoxes with our dieting world, is that restricting food often leads to over-eating whereas allowing yourself to eat what you want when you feel like it, actually makes it easier to decide you’ve had enough. After all, when something is available all the time, we cease to be as excited by it and after a while, we may even lose interest. There are many biological, physiological and psychological reasons for this, which are explained in the books listed here.

In addition, when something tastes good and brings pleasure, why on earth do we insist this is bad for us? I think we can blame diet culture for this.

With respect to “I eat too much of it”…

When I ask my clients “what makes you think you eat too much?” The answer is usually to do with the sugar or fat content (or calories) and the idea that you can’t possibly lose weight eating chocolate. This is where it’s important to separate health from weight loss. There is clear evidence that shows people do not need to lose weight to see improvements in their health and in fact, focusing on weight loss often leads to poorer health. Click here for research. These facts aside, it is possible to eat chocolate and be a weight that is right your body.

If you can learn to separate your eating habits from weight loss, you can learn to enjoy chocolate, really enjoy chocolate, no guilt attached and still improve your health. The Non-Diet or Intuitive Eating approaches can help you with this. Separating your eating habits from weight loss can be difficult and you may need help from a skilled practitioner.

Lastly, I would like to argue that enjoying chocolate (insert other sweet food) is actually healthy. The ability to enjoy eating without fear, guilt or anxiety is pivotal to having a healthy relationship with food and your body. Having a healthy relationship with food and your body is vital for your overall health. Research shows time and time again, that the better your feel about yourself, the more likely you are to engage in healthy behaviours be they related to eating, being active, social or your mental health.

Thanks for reading and as always, I’s love to hear your thoughts on Facebook! The Moderation Movement.

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Stop restricting and you may find you eat less

It is not uncommon for people to misinterpret the concept of unrestricted eating, as a free for all with food; just eat as much sweets as you want without any regard to nutrition or health. In fact, once people have true full permission to eat, as with the non-diet approach, the opposite tends to happen.

Many have the belief that “if I allowed myself to eat that food, I’d want to eat it all the time.” However, what people start to realise, is having full permission to eat a food, can mean they start to want it less. 

In the traditional weight loss (weight cycling) and/or “healthy eating” world, a common aim is to reduce intake of particular foods, especially more highly processed sweet foods. Let’s use the humble sweet biscuit as an example.

When you are focused on weight loss or “health”, choosing to eat less sweet biscuits usually revolves around reducing calories and sugar and being disciplined or “good”. Ironically, this type of approach leaves most people eating more sweet biscuits (and therefore more calories and sugar) and feeling “bad”.

Why does this happen?

Each time you’re faced with the prospect of a sweet biscuit, you think “I shouldn’t eat that” and for a while you may be able to resist the urge – but how long does this last? Have you ever been able to completely cut a food from your diet long-term (and I’m not including food allergies/intolerances here)? I know some people can do this, but the fact is, most people can’t. When finally that urge gets the better of you, what tends to happen? You go nuts for the food and eat more than you would normally, or you might find yourself bingeing. This type of approach is responsible for the following phenomena:

  • The “what the hell” effect – “What the hell, I’ve blown it now, may as well go the whole hog!”
    .
  • The “last supper” effect – eating all the food now as tomorrow you’re never going to eat it again
    .
  • The “I’ll get while I can” effect – eating more now as tomorrow you’ll be “good” (or start again on Monday)
    .
  • The “I’ll just finish this packet/container so it’s not in the house and I’ll never buy them again” effect
    .

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With non-diet approach, the choice* to not eat the sweet biscuit is simply because you’re not hungry for it, or don’t feel like eating one in that moment. A key difference with this approach, is that when you do actually feel like having the sweet biscuit, you have the opportunity to enjoy it without any sense of doing “the wrong thing”. You may feel like having more than one, but you don’t go nuts and over-eat because you know you can enjoy another one tomorrow or the next day or the next day…

So while the non-diet approach doesn’t restrict any food, it allows you to avoid all the above mentioned effects. When you don’t fall into these diet traps, your eating and nutrition can take on a new look, one that actually promotes healthy behaviours and benefits your health.

*Please note: reaching this point can take time, if you’ve been dieting or restricting food or struggle with how you feel about your body, you will likely need to go through a process of unlearning what you’ve been lead to believe is the best way to manage your diet, health and weight. Non-diet dietitians can help you do this.

dietitian melbourne

 

 

 

Do you have a healthy relationship with food? – take our free quiz to find out
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Want to learn how to nourish your body without having to diet or restrict food? Learn about intuitive eating with our ebook Nourish.

Click the banner to grab your copy today!

non-diet dietitians Melbourne