When pizza may actually be healthier than a plate full of veggies…

Diet culture, and indeed mainstream nutrition advice, has most people believing a meal of fish with lots of veggies must be healthier than a pizza.

In fact, both meals offer a variety of nutrition and both can be equally as healthy. In some instances, unconditional permission* to enjoy pizza may even be the healthier choice.

Let’s look at some examples of what can happen when you see pizza as the unhealthy choice…

  • Your partner wants pizza for dinner and although you secretly would like pizza too, you refuse in the name of health and end up eating separately and not enjoying time together.
    .
  • Eating the fish and veggies doesn’t quite satisfy and you end up “searching” for something else, which results in you eating a tub of ice-cream later that evening.
    .
  • You’ve planned to catch up with friends for dinner and when everyone’s happy to go with pizza except you, you find an excuse not to go out with them.
    .
  • You really do like pizza and so you eat some, but then you feel awful about yourself and make a decision to restrict food (or be “good”) the next day, which then leads to bingeing behaviour.
    .
  • You miss out on the opportunity to enjoy a delicious meal that also gives you a good variety of nutrition.

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Bottom line is both meals provide good nutrition – while the fish and veggies might have more Vitamin C and B6, the pizza pictured has more calcium, iodine and zinc – but regardless of this, nutrition is only one aspect of health. Spending time with other people, sharing food, getting pleasure from food and not experiencing anxiety or guilt around food are equally, if not more, important to our overall health.

 

Unconditional permission* – this refers to freedom to eat a food without any thoughts or belief of needing to compensate for that choice. Common examples of compensation are, feeling the need to “burn” the food off, eating less or avoiding certain food over the next day or two.

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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. Eating cake will not make you a healthy person, but nor will it make you unhealthy.

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. Food alone will not harm us or heal us. 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.

Regardless of whether you agree with me on this or not, you might be thinking “but I feel so much better when I cut out sugar!”. If you’re human, chances are you changed a number of others factors along side cutting out sugar. Perhaps you started paying more attention to your overall diet, you may have started cooking more from basic ingredients, increased your vegetables and decreased your intake of more highly processed food, you may even have started paying more attention to your appetite and be over eating less often, many people also increase their activity when they make a dietary change. When all these changes occur, it’s way too simplistic to say cutting out sugar is the reason you feel better. “But if cutting out sugar means I make these other changes, then surely it’s a good thing?” I hear you say. Yes and no. If you’re someone who can make a clear cut diet change and stick to it long-term without any repercussions socially, psychologically or to how you enjoy life, then no problem. But this is not most people, most people at some point find themselves wanting to enjoy the food they’ve sworn against and then when they do eat that food, feel bad about themselves in some way. This can then lead to a problematic relationship with food which may result in the pendulum swing between being “good” and being “bad”, feeling “addicted” or a lack of control around certain food, weight gain, weight cycling and even eating disorders. While most people don’t develop an eating disorder, many develop disordered eating behaviours.

 

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With regard to any change in body weight with cutting out sugar, if a number of the other earlier mentioned changes occur along side the no sugar, can you be sure the weight change is simply due to the no sugar? Even if it was, will the change be maintained long-term? To this day we have no known dietary way to help people lose weight and keep the weight off long-term, almost everybody regains the weight at some point and the reasons people gain weight are always much more complex than just dietary.

Now that we’re on the topic of weight, let’s explore a little while focusing on diet and weight in relation to health can be so problematic. Just focusing on diet (or exercise) is always going to be insufficient 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 may be some people for whom such dietary advice appear straight forward and maintainable, this is not true for the majority. Continuing to ignore other factors such as social justice, genetics, psychology and the many assumptions around health and weight, can lead to disordered eating behaviours and increased psychological stress (such as shame, anxiety and depression) 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. Health is complex and layered and involves much more than attention to diet, fitness or weight.

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

 

Please note: Saying cake is healthy is not the same as saying eat as much cake as you want without any regard to nutrition or how your body feels. 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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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 dieting or restricting food?
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How on earth did eating well, get so complicated?

Do you remember a time when it was just cereal and milk for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and meat and 3 veg for dinner, with fruit, yoghurt and toast for snacks? This was pretty much how my family ate growing up in the 70s, 80s and 90s and we were healthy, energetic kids.

The good news is that eating well does not need to be complicated or involve special ingredients or expensive “superfoods”. The following relatively simple concepts are one brilliant way to avoid getting confused about what or how to eat, and you can apply them to just about any style of eating.

1. Eat food because you’re hungry
2. Eat food your body needs
3. Eat food that you enjoy the taste of

You don’t need to make food choices based on calories, carbs or the latest food trend – and no you don’t need to completely avoid sugar, eat “clean” or go “Keto”. That said, if you really enjoy any of these eating trends and you feel they serve you well both mentally and physically, then of course that’s fine too. 

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So let’s unpack this…

1. Eat because you’re hungry:
While this may seem like a no brainer, many people are out of touch, or have lost connection, with their appetite cues and eat because it’s a meal time, other people are eating, just in case, out of boredom or to help manage emotions. You may also decide to eat something simply because “it’s good for you”. If you’re unsure what your hunger cues are telling you, then you may need to look at getting back in tune with them – you can read more about this here.

2. Eat food your body needs:
Choose from a variety of whole foods (or core food group foods) such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, eggs, meat, fish, nuts & seeds and grains and dairy foods. While you don’t necessarily need to include all these food types in your diet, when you do eat a variety of these foods, chances are you’ll get all the nutrients your body needs without needing to over-think it, or track macros. It is possible to achieve adequate nutrition without consuming all these types of food (e.g. if you’re vegetarian or have a food intolerance), if this is you and you’re worried you might be missing out on something, perhaps chat to one of our dietitians

The fascinating thing with being in tune with your appetite and responding to true physical hunger, your body instinctively knows what it needs and craves a variety of nutritious food. Yes you will still want to eat “fun” foods such as chocolate and ice-cream, but these don’t prevent you from getting adequate nutrition from all the other foods. I like to think of “fun” foods as food you eat more for taste than hunger, or food you enjoy them in the company of others or eat simply to relax and give yourself some pleasure.

If you feel out of control around certain foods or feel unable to trust your appetite, you may benefit from talking with one of our dietitians or one near you who can help you with this.

3. Eat food that you enjoy the taste of:
Eating should be pleasurable and there is a huge variety of food that is capable of providing both nourishment and pleasure. By eating food you enjoy, you can nurture a healthy relationship with food and your body, and you never need feel like you’re on a diet or missing out. Eating food you enjoy is also a maintainable way of managing your eating well for life. Whoever said “If it tastes good, it must be bad for you” was wrong – this is simply a diet culture message designed to confuse you and make you reliant on following a diet rather than trusting your own body.

Why not calories?

If you choose a food based on calorie content, are you considering your appetite, how the food will taste and whether or not it will satisfy you? If you are, then the food is likely a suitable choice. If you’re choosing a food purely because it’s low calorie, you may not find it as satisfying and you’ll end up craving and eating something else. 

Why not nutrients?

Similar to calories, if you’re choosing a food because it’s low fat, low carb or sugar free, you may not find it as satisfying and still be craving something else. If you eat a food because it’s full of vitamins and you’re not hungry, you may be giving your body nourishment it doesn’t actually need. Routinely eating when you’re not hungry can make it harder to work out when you’re actually hungry. 

Note: Non-hungry eating is a very real battle many people face and you may benefit from talking with our dietitians or one near you who can help you with this.

Why not the latest trend?

Most diets, or dietary advice, rely on external rules or cues to help you manage your eating. By this I mean they suggest you eat certain types of food and restrict others, they may also ask you to weigh and measure food portions and/or track your calories. For most people, a more powerful and sustainable way to manage your eating is to learn how to listen to, and act on, your internal cues of hunger and fullness. This way you don’t need to rely on an external source to guide you with what, when and how much to eat. Trusting your internal cues also gives you the freedom to manage your eating when you’re out of your usual routine, travelling for work or on holidays – the times that pretty much everybody finds they are unable to stick to their diet or meal plan.

I am not saying that various diets or food trends are wrong or don’t help anyone, I am just describing an alternative way to manage your eating. Although, listening and trusting our appetite cues is our default way of eating – babies and kids do this until they are taught otherwise.

If you’ve spent years, or a life-time, looking externally for the solution to your health through various diets or diet programs, perhaps it’s time to start look internally. Just some food for thought.

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The diet culture we live in has a very black and white way of thinking about food.

If you believe diet culture (and this includes the “wellness” industry), it seems food will either harm you or heal you. 

Food is seen as either good or bad which often then translates to “I’ve been good or bad”. This is simply not true and can be highly problematic as I talk about in this blog.

This way of thinking (we call it diet mentality) – which is sadly very common – really limits our brains capacity to reflect and to be flexible.

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As one participant explained at our latest workshop, she didn’t realise there were other options, for her it was either a matter of expecting to feel good about oneself or bad about oneself based on the food choice. It was a matter of, “if want to be good, I better not order the chips”.

The black and white thinking that one should either feel “good” or “bad” based upon their food choice, meant choosing to eat a food seen as bad could only lead to feeling bad. As chips are often seen as “bad and fattening”, choosing to eat these meant feeling terrible about oneself no matter how delicious or satisfying they were.

It was a pleasant revelation when she heard different ways of thinking about food and how one might want to feel, such as…

“What do I feel like eating?”

“What will satisfy me?”

“What am I hungry for?”

“I want to enjoy the taste of the food”

“I want to be able to share this meal with my friends”

“I want this to be a really pleasurable experience.”

“Those hot chips look amazing, just the way I like them!”

What black and white thoughts do you have that limit your ability to reflect or be flexible with food? What happens when you do eat the food you label “bad”? How do you feel about yourself and how helpful is this with regard to taking better care of your health, both mental and physical? How does this type of thinking effect your relationship to food and your body?

If you would like to learn more about how problematic our diet culture/the “wellness” industry and diet mentality can be, please check out our ebook Nourish.

dietitian melbourne

 

 

 

Do you have a healthy relationship with food? – take our free quiz to find out
.

Want to undertand how to nourish your body without dieting or restricting food?
Get a taste of what’s involved with with our ebook Nourish.

Click the banner to grab your copy today!

non-diet dietitians Melbourne

 

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 ate sweets and thought she was “addicted” to sugar.

Donuts do not make people fat.

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

 

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Not everyone who chooses to restrict certain food finds themselves feeling “addicted” to that food or over-eating it, but for many people, this is what happens. After all, it is human psychology to want what you can’t have and restriction can result in – as the sayings go – “the forbidden fruit effect”, “deprivation driving desire” 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 can experience the last supper effect – “This could be the last time so I’ll eat as much as can” – or – “I may as well have it all now and I’ll be good tomorrow”. 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 once people stop restricting and stop thinking about the food as a “weakness”, is 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.

dietitian melbourne

 

 

 

.

Do you have a healthy relationship with food? – take our free quiz to find out
.

Want to undertand how to nourish your body without dieting or restricting food?
Get a taste of what’s involved with with our ebook Nourish.

Click the banner to grab your copy today!

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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

 

 

 

Do you have a healthy relationship with food? – take our free quiz to find out
.

Want to learn how to nourish your body without dieting or restricting food?
Learn about intuitive eating with our ebook Nourish.

Click the banner to grab your copy today!

non-diet dietitians Melbourne