Just eat more celery and less meat pies!

Want to lose weight?

Just eat more celery and less meat pies!

While most people should recognise this as ridiculous advice, is it really any different to the message of just eat more veggies and less “junk”? As in, if losing weight were that simple, surely the millions of people who have tried to lose weight would have been successful by now. In addition, the current common wisdom around what is required to control body weight is mistaken (weight loss is not a simple equation of eat less and move more), which helps explain why no one is able to do it.

If we were machines and could just program our food for the day, then just doing what is suggested by this “common wisdom”, might actually be possible – but we are not machines, we are complex organisms with complex emotional and physiological needs and desires. You can’t simply instruct someone on how to eat to meaningfully* lose weight – oh wait, that’s what most weight loss programs try to do – it’s no wonder they don’t work!

*meaningfully, meaning in a way that benefits the individual mentally and physically over their life-time

non diet dietitian

So why isn’t it as simple as just eat more veggies and less “junk”?

Factors that influence food choices:

  • How hungry you are
  • Awareness of how hungry you are
  • How long since you last ate
  • The type of food you late ate
  • The type of food that appeals to your taste buds
  • The type of food available
  • History of dieting
  • Past or current food restriction
  • Emotional state
  • How tired you are
  • How much sleep you’re getting
  • How much stress you’re under
  • Your hormones and metabolic factors
  • Any medications you may be on
  • Where you’re next meal is coming from
  • A sense of when and what you’re going to be eating next
  • How active you’ve been
  • What you’ve got on for the rest of your day
  • What the other people you’re eating with will eat
  • What other people are telling you you should or should not be eating

I’m sure there’s many more, so feel free to add more in the facebook comments.

Eating celery over meat pies, or less extreme, advice to eat more veggies and less highly processed food does not take into account or address any of these factors, in fact, placing the emphasis on the food could exacerbate a number of them. Now, I am not for a second staying eating more veggies is not a worthwhile pursuit, or would not benefit health. Instead, I am wanting to highlight that very often, well meaning dietary advice falls way short of the mark and only serves to perpetuate our culture’s unhelpful and often very damaging diet and weight loss industries.


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We must stop pathologising people in bigger bodies.

Not everybody in a larger body is unhealthy and calling people “obese” does nothing to help people care for their health.

For example, a few weeks back on the radio, the headline “Obese men have worse sperm quality” was read out by one of the presenters.

When (many) people hear the word “obese”, they hear unacceptable, bad, undesirable, disgraceful or serious problem. Having a high BMI does not mean you are any of these things.

People can be classified “obese” as per the BMI scale and have perfectly good health and for men, good sperm quality.

In fact there is not one health issue that only larger people get. Thin people can suffer all the same health issues, including low sperm count, but we don’t pathologise all thin people – we don’t even have a word equivalent to “obese” for thinner people. Or if thin is the antonym, it doesn’t carry the stigma that the word “obese” does.

Yes there are people in larger bodies who have behaviours that may adversely influence their health, but there are thinner people who fit this bill too.

How do we know these men with low sperm quality have low quality sperm because of their weight and not because of a lifestyle factor such as diet or activity levels? We don’t.

If we, as a population, really care about helping people live healthy lives, we need to stop making people in larger bodies feel awful about themselves (weight stigma). How does making people feel shame about their body and terrible about themselves motivate people to change? It doesn’t. In fact, this study published in the American Journal of Public Health, shows how the public health implications of weight stigma are widely ignored and how this adversely affects health.

Obesity Stigma: Important Considerations for Public Health – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866597/

Tackling weight stigma is one of the tenets of the Health At Every Size (HAES) Movement. You can learn more about HAES and other resources that back up why we must stop with the “war on obesity” here

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Want to learn how to nourish your body without having to restrict food? Learn about intuitive eating with our ebook Nourish.

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As a dietitian, I don’t sell “the dream”…

As a dietitian, I don’t sell “the dream”, be that the weight loss dream, the health dream or the happiness dream. I don’t sell it because I can’t, and nor can anyone else despite the claims made, the shiny TV shows, the millions of followers or the millions of dollars.
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I learned fairly early on in my career that part of my job as a dietitian is to pick up the pieces, the pieces from broken dreams. I don’t see my job as something sad or secondary, I see my job as something healing and powerful, something with the potential to show people, that’s you, that you can find within yourself what it is you’re really looking for. And when you do this, you can finally stop the search for the next best thing that will turn your life around. You can stop blaming food, or looking to food for the answer to health and happiness, and you can stop hating your body. And when you learn to do this, you can truly be free to find whatever health and happiness means to you.
For those of you who watched 60 minutes on Sunday, I have a few points about Peter F’s new book.
Awesome that he’s dropped a stack of weight and feels great, I don’t begrudge him for that in any way, shape or form.
But his claim that sugar was the main villain and that everybody else should do the same… let’s look at that more closely.
From what he said he ate and drank, a large portion of the food energy he cut out wasn’t from sugar, it was from alcohol (ethanol). FYI a bottle of wine has less than 6g of sugar.
He also pointed out he ate too much food. Food is a combination of fat, protein and carbohydrate (sugar is a carbohydrate). Again he didn’t just reduce his sugar intake, he ate less food. In addition to the decrease in food and alcohol, Peter significantly increased his exercise, again not a sugar thing. I strongly suspect the sugar angle is simply to get the headlines and of course it has worked as a brilliant money maker for several others.
His message for men, “don’t be a weak bastard”, I’m sorry Peter but shaming people does not lead to long term changes in health behaviours, plenty has been written on this. Here’s a starting point www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201506/11-reasons-never-shame-anyone
Now, to be clear, many people do have too much added sugar in their diets and this adversely impacts on health. Dietitians work to help people understand this and change their eating behaviours in a way which is both enjoyable and sustainable. For many people, just cutting things completely out of their diet is neither enjoyable or sustainable, and many people’s eating habits actually end up worse when they try these more extreme measures, as dietitians we see thousands of these people. Of course some people are able to go cold turkey and that’s fine. But can I just make the point that when you have a book deal and a prime time TV segment, money can be a great incentive…. and when you’re not making $$$ from cutting out sugar, you’re motivation might not be as strong, at least not long-term.
That aside, complete avoidance of sugar is not necessary, many people enjoy good health without having to quit sugar. Lastly, as I’ve explained many in my blogs and on The Moderation Movement, health is much more complex than just what we eat or how much we weigh (see my Health At Every Size and Managing your food blog categories).
dietitian melbourne

Which day is healthier?

Have a look at the food listed in the following two days, which day do you think is healthier?

healthy eatingDay 1


B: 2 Weet-bix, banana, milk + coffee

MT: Apple + handful of nuts

L: Sandwich with chicken & salad

AT: 1 slice of toast with vegemite

D: Pan fried meat or fish with baked potato, carrots, broccoli & green beans.

S: Cup of tea with milk + dark chocolate


dietitian melbourneDay 2


B: Smoothie with kale, banana, berries, chia seeds and almond milk

MT: Fresh squeezed juice (apple, carrot, beetroot, celery) + handful nuts

L: Quinoa salad with spinach, pomegranate & organic chicken

AT: Date & coconut protein ball

D: Pan fried meat or fish with steamed carrots, broccoli & green beans.

S: Cup of green tea + raw organic dark chocolate


So what is the difference?

Neither one is healthier or “better” than the other. Both days are nutritionally adequate for both macro and micronutrients, and dietary fibre.

You might be surprised to know that the amount of naturally occurring and added sugar is fairly similar for both days – day 1 has 66g sugar while day 2 has 62g sugar. 

Both plans have equal amounts protein and saturated fat. One main difference is that day 1 has more energy from carbohydrate and less from total fat than day 2.

Another key difference is the cost of the food and I think you can guess which one is more expensive.

One of the reasons I put this piece together is so that people who don’t have the inclination and financial means to follow a day 2 style eating pattern, can understand that we don’t need to follow the latest food trends or eat so called “superfoods” in order to nourish our bodies well. There’s nothing wrong with incorporating the latest food trends, but they aren’t necessary for good health and for many people they add to the confusion around healthy eating. 

Social media “wellness gurus” have over-complicated what it means to eat well and to the point that my clients no longer feel that toast or a sandwich are healthy food choices, or are “good enough”. Another danger of this hyped up view of healthy food is that some people, for whom such elaborate eating is out of reach, end up thinking it’s all to hard, so why bother even trying.

I’d love to hear your comments or thoughts on Facebook!



The more you cook, the less you eat and the better your nutrition.

cooking ultensils smallWhen you prepare and cook most of your own food using mostly fresh produce (or someone in your partnership or family does), the need to worry about getting enough nutrition is virtually abolished. You will also most likely eat less. 

As Michael Pollan explains in his book ‘In defence of food’, traditional cultures who still prepare and cook their own meals from ‘real food’ (as in not manufactured or highly processed food), have much less diet related disease than Western cultures. These cultures don’t need to know what nutrients in are what food or that cooking tomatoes in olive oil makes the anti-oxidant lycopene more available, they just cook and eat real food and as a result get all the nutrition they need. 

Nutrition science, in combination with the food industry manufacturing supposedly healthy food based on this science, has complicated nutrition to the point many people feel they don’t know what to eat anymore. Certainly nutrition science and the manufacture of food is useful to a point, but we have got carried away and ‘real food’ has been left behind. 

There is a theoretically simple solution to much of our nutrition woes. Start preparing and cooking more of your own food (real food) and stop eating so much manufactured food. I say theoretical as many people have organised their lives in such a way as to leave little time for thinking about what to eat, little time to shop and very little time to cook. We are a ‘fast everything’ culture. The food industry knows this and provides us the solution with fast food, ready to eat meals, take-away food and a plethora of packet mixes and the like to make any cooking you do as speedy as possible. 

The weight loss industry also offers a way of eating that requires minimal effort when it comes to eating. Pretty much every diet is offering you a short cut to the time required to truly eat well and it has failed miserably. 

Cooking your own fresh food does more than just increase the quality of the food you eat. The increased amount of time you spend immersed in thinking about and preparing what goes into your body, means you may start to eat less. There are several reasons for this. 

  • You tend eat more mindfully as you appreciate the effort that went into the entire process. Don’t believe me? Try it. Also see what I refer to as ‘the dinner part effect’ below.

  • You get to decide how much you need to eat. Fast food, take-away and even healthier ready to eat meals or restaurant meals are a one size fits all. Often, a 6′ 10″ man is given the same portion as a 5′ 2″ woman. Yes fast food comes in small, medium and large, but I know many smaller people who still order large as it’s “better value for money”.
  • When food is better quality, you get more “bang for your buck”. Each bite gives you a richer food experience and provided you are eating mindfully, this helps with eating less.

“I don’t have time to cook!” I hear you say. Or perhaps you feel you can’t cook. 

To the former I say, if you cannot make the time to feed yourself well, perhaps you need to reassess your priorities in order to better manage your health. If you work long hours, one hopes this is remunerated appropriately and then perhaps you can afford to pay someone to cook up a week worth of food for you. As discussed in ‘In Defence of Food”, we humans of Western culture allocate a lot less of our income to eating well and spend a lot more money on health care than do other cultures. There is something a miss with this distribution of income. 

To the latter I say, start cooking more. Cooking is like learning to drive a car. We are not born knowing how to drive, we learn through instruction and practise. Use recipes to instruct you and start practising, you’ll surprise yourself how quickly you pick it up. You don’t need to cook like they do on cooking shows, that’s what restaurants are for, just stick to basic meals. 

The Dinner Party Effect. 

If you have ever thrown a dinner party, you’ve probably had this experience. You spend much of the day thinking about what to eat, carefully selecting food (usually from a market rather than the supermarket) and then preparing and cooking the food. You set the table to look special and make sure the atmosphere is just right to heighten the enjoyment. By the time you finally sit down to eat, you find you don’t need to, or want to, eat as much as perhaps you would normally. 

Why is this? 

Quite literally, your senses have spent the day immersed in food and along with eating more mindfully (you are more focused on the food to get a sense of what your guests are tasting), the nice setting and pleasant atmosphere all add up to a much richer experience and you don’t need as much pleasure from the food itself. 

You can achieve all of this on a much smaller scale with every meal you eat. Buy and cook your own food, sit in a pleasant place and eat the meal mindfully without the distraction of TV, your computer or other gadget. 

Bottom line, if you really want to escape the dieting world and truly want to better your health, start buying and cooking more of your own food. Ensure the bulk of this food is whole fresh food with minimal processing and minimal packaging. 

When food is better quality, you get more “bang for your buck”. Each bite gives you a richer food experience and provided you are eating mindfully, this helps with eating less.


Sugar free does NOT equal healthy


Brownie cherryAt a get together with friends on Friday evening, one friend arrived with a coconut chocolate slice she had made. She proudly announced the slice was sugar free.

“So it’s not sweet”, I said. “No it’s still sweet, I used rice syrup instead of sugar”, she said. Bemused, I said “but rice syrup is sugar”. Her response, “oh you know what I mean, it’s fructose free”.

While many will argue otherwise, a small amount of fructose in your diet is NOT harmful. All fruit and some vegetables contain fructose and they are certainly not harmful to our health, they are of course, very nutritious and necessary for optimal health.

What bothers me is this notion that eating “sugar free” (fructose free) equates to being healthy. Most people would benefit much more from eating more vegetables than worrying about avoiding sugar. 

So why has the “sugar free” message received so much publicity and have such a huge following? 

A: Marketing.

“I quit sugar for life” with the statement that “sugar is the new tobacco, the health scourge of our times” is much more likely to sell books than say, “I doubled my vegetable intake” with the tag line “now I am the healthiest I’ve ever been”.

In addition, you can “quit sugar” but still eat lots of sugary foods as per the I quit sugar cookbook that “features more than 108 desserts, cakes…” What the? I wonder if the majority of people eating their “sugar free” cakes and biscuits are eating enough vegetables? Probably not given less than 10% of Australians do (refer to survey data below). 

My message is simple. Eat plenty of healthy whole foods, especially vegetables and you can enjoy a little sugary (or fatty) indulgence and still be very healthy! 

Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-12
http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/C549D4433F6B74D7CA257B8200179569?opendocument

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