The Morality of Food Language

“Ohhh I’m being so bad by having this cookie. I’ll have a guilt-free day tomorrow and only eat clean foods to make up for it though.”

Diet talk is all around us. As much as I would sometimes like to hide my clients away in a bubble to shield them from it, the truth is that a certain amount of it is inescapable. Statements like those above seem to be the norm. In fact, I guarantee those exact words have slipped out of my own mouth in the past—many, many times. I tend to notice morality being placed on food especially when the holidays are approaching. Just watch any morning national news segment and I bet you will notice the trend yourself in the upcoming weeks.

Tune in for 3 guilt-free recipes for the holidays ahead!

or

Next, we will talk about the 5 most criminal mistakes you make while eating during the season.

When exactly did the foods we eat become a question of morality?

The morality of food language

The more I have picked apart diet culture in my Intuitive Eating (IE) practice, the more I have grown to notice the language that we use regarding food. It’s not always as obvious as words such as “good” or “bad” either. Our society is actually quite insidious in how it uses its verbiage with foods. Take a slice of chocolate cake, for example. You might hear it being described as “sinful” or “devilish”—insinuating that it’s somehow forbidden from our plates. In reality, cake is just cake. It doesn’t make you lesser of a person for eating it, just like it doesn’t make you somehow better of a person for not eating it.

Food is neutral
via Robyn Nohling–The Real Life RD

“Clean” eating is another example of our dichotomous way of thinking about foods. (I could probably write several blog posts about my thoughts on “clean” eating!) While the phrase may appear innocent, what is it implying about the way you eat if you veer from that plan? Does that mean you’re eating “dirty”? While people will defend “clean” eating by telling you “it’s not a diet—it’s a lifestyle”, there is still an element of restriction that leaves you feeling guilty when you don’t follow through perfectly.

A phrase that has stuck out to me the last year is from one of my favorite dietitian bloggers, Kylie Mitchell. She said: “the only time you should feel guilty about eating food is if you stole it.” And how true is that?! You need not feel a sense of guilt for ever eating “dirty, fake, sinful” foods.

As the holidays approach and are then followed by talk of New Year’s resolutions, I challenge you to think about how you and the people around you talk about the food consumed. Do you feel guilty for eating your favorite Christmas cookies that grandma baked for you? Do people you spend time with give a moral spin to foods? Bringing awareness to our thoughts and language around food is often one of the first strides we can take towards healing our relationships with food and looking at it in a more neutral light.

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P.S. I know I keep tossing around the term “Intuitive Eating” as if I expect y’all to know what this all entails. haha! I promise I will be posting about the details of this soon. I am currently re-reading the book in its entirety so that I bring you the most helpful information. (aka. I have a LOT of highlighted sections in my Kindle!!)  

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Your Weight

Scroll through your newsfeed on social media and chances are you will stumble across a myriad of headlines promoting the latest trend for losing weight. Whether it’s that annoying person selling Saran Wrap  for your midsection and boasting “IT WORKS”; or someone encouraging you to try Whole30 while saying “Oh but it’s not a diet“—diet culture is ubiquitous. Considering diet/weight loss is a $66 billion industry in the U.S., it’s unfortunately going to be around for the time being.

So how do we cope with living in a society that tells us we are not good enough as we are?

That is one of my goals here on Spilling the Beans—to provide you with information and insight so you are able to thrive in a world that that is constantly telling you that you need to take up less space. Which brings me to today’s topic—the number on the scale.

If you watched my video last week called What I Gained from Giving Up Restrictive Eating, then you know that I have a former relationship with the number on the scale. In fact, for all of high school and much of college, I woke up every single morning and weighed myself. I allowed that number to dictate my day ahead. If it was a “bad” number, I would blame myself for not being disciplined enough the days before. If it was a “good” number, I would pat myself on the back, but remind myself that it could always be a lower number. It was a lose-lose situation…every. single. time. Fortunately, over the years, I have learned to not let that number hold weight (pun intended) in my life. In fact, I don’t weigh myself at all anymore. My experience in clinical dietetics has been especially helpful in my outlook on weight since I know that there are many physiological influences on that number. Here are just a few reasons why you shouldn’t worry about the number on the scale:Why You Shouldn't Worry About Weight

 1.) BMI was never meant to measure health

When we go through school as dietitians and health professionals, I think we often memorize the information in front of us without pondering how that standard came to be. Take BMI (a measure of height and weight) for example. I never used to think twice about how they even came up with the equation to box you into a category such as “overweight.” What I’ve learned more recently is that BMI was actually first created in the 1800’s by a mathematician and statistician who needed a tool for statistically drawing conclusions about populations in society. It wasn’t intended to be used as a tool for medical doctors to diagnose individuals as morbidly obese. (You can read more about the BMI debacle here.) However, that is what it has turned into.

2.) Weight is influenced by many factors

Part of the reason that weighing yourself is problematic is because it is normal for weight to fluctuate. Weight is influenced by hydration status, phase of the menstrual cycle, medications, hormones, and (probably most importantly) genetics. In fact, there have been studies in the past which indicate that genetics play a significant role in determining body weight and adiposity as shown in twins who have been raised in different environments from birth (1, 2). In addition, our bodies have a set-point range in which our bodies like to operate. This means that our bodies have a “happy weight” that they like to stay at through a feedback control mechanism (3).

3.) Weight does not tell the whole story

Just as weight is influenced by many factors, it also doesn’t tell you the whole story about your body composition. The number on the scale does not tell you your muscle mass. It does not tell you your bone size. It does not tell you your waist circumference. It does not tell you your blood pressure. It does not tell you your lab values. It does not tell you your strength. Need I go on? As I mentioned in my video last week, all your weight really tells you is how gravity is pushing down on the mass of your body at a given time. We place a lot of value on a number that tells us a whole lot of nothing.

Value on a number

4.) Weight does not make you more or less valuable

One of things I hate most about society is how we are promised some kind of miraculously perfect life…if only we lose weight. We see this all the time. People promoting a weight loss program paint a grim picture of what your life currently looks like. They always show people loafing around with dissatisfaction for life. Then, Voila! Somehow all of your problems have vanished. You are promised more energy, sex appeal, and enjoyment in life from doing xyz plan. However, I can tell you that any problem you are currently experiencing in life likely has very little to do with a number that flashes across the scale when you wake up in the morning. That number does not tell you anything about who you are as a person. It doesn’t tell you what your passions are in life or the good you are bringing to the world.

You deserve a place in this world no matter what size you are.

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References

1. Maes, H. H., Neale, M. C., Eaves, L. J. (1997). Genetic and environmental factors in relative body weight and human adiposity. Behav Genet, 27(4), 325–351.
2. Stunkard, A. J., et al. (1990). The body-mass index of twins who have been reared apart. N Engl J Med, 322(21), 1483–1487.
3. Harris, R. B. (1990). Role of set-point in regulation of body weight. Faseb Journal, 4(15), 3310-3318.

 

Managing your Stress with Self Care

Today I had originally planned to post a yummy chickpea salad recipe that I created recently. Instead, I was attacked by the “S” word. You know, the one that sneaks up on you and leaves you overwhelmed.

Ahh, Stress! My old friend.

The last month of my life has been a bit more stressful than I had anticipated. (More details on some of the “why’s” soon.)  As a result, some nights you feel like posting a fun recipe, while other nights call for self care. Instead of a recipe, I thought I would share some of my self care tools that have helped me tackle stress and feeling overwhelmed in the last year. (Most of these are included on my Favorite Things page on the sidebar. Feel free to check out the full list.)

Before I get into some of the methods for stress management, I wanted to shed some light on why it is important to address your stress/anxiety and develop a game plan. Do we need some stress? Absolutely! Stress is a biological response. Think “fight or flight”. When you are experiencing acute stress, your brain responds by releasing transmitters, peptides, and hormones to allow your body to return to a state of balance (1). Cortisol (along with epinephrine) is one of the hormones released when you are experiencing stress. You have the stressful experience. Cortisol is released. Stress ends. Body recovers. 

Unfortunately with the fast-paced lives that many of us lead, we often allow ourselves to be constantly under stress with no time for recovery. When your body is repeatedly exposed to chronic stress this is called “allostatic load.” This includes the neurotransmitter response as well as behavioral response, such as poor sleep, lack of exercise, and making less healthy eating decisions (2). Over time, this may lead to chronically high cortisol levels, which in turn can lead to blood sugar imbalances, immune system suppression, inflammation, GI problems, and fertility problems (3).

Alright, alright–we all know stress has its negative consequences. Let’s get into the practical side of things.

Tree Pose

Stress Management Tips

1. Yoga

I, like many people, love a good sweaty gym session. I love that rush of endorphins you feel after having a great run or reaching a PR at the squat rack. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying those exercises. However, I do think it is important to acknowledge when your body may benefit from lower intensity workouts. When you engage in high intensity exercise, this also releases more cortisol. Therefore, if you are in a season of your life where you are already dealing with chronic stress, you are adding more cortisol to the machine. Sometimes we can handle this well. Sometimes we cannot. Listen to your body. 

This is where exercises like yoga and pilates come into play. For me, yoga has been a huge help in managing my stress. Yoga practices are centered around love and listening to your body. Whether you choose to go to a class or practice at home, either is fine. I have done both and enjoy each for different reasons. Due to my current schedule, I have developed an at-home practice. Some people like to free-style, but I prefer to use a video for guidance to avoid injuries. Search on YouTube and you will find plenty of yoga videos that suit your personality. One of my favorites is Yoga with Adriene. More recently, I pay for subscription to One O Eight.

2. Meditation

Whenever I mention meditation, I get the feeling that people are thinking “what kind of hippy business have you gotten into now, Amanda?!” For some people, meditation may seem quite foreign and even weird. I used to think the same thing. However, I can tell you from experience how beneficial it has been for me in managing my stress.

I was first introduced to meditation in high school—though I didn’t realize it at the time. Just before a big cross country meet, my coach brought his varsity runners to his office. He had us all spread out and lay on the floor. We were instructed to close our eyes. Meanwhile, he described the details of the race that was coming up, including everything from how the sun would feel on our skin to the adrenaline at the start line. This is a different type of meditation than I use currently, but I remember feeling amazed. I felt more calm for the race ahead—which is a big deal because I struggled with pre-race anxiety my entire running career.

Fast forward to today, I currently try to squeeze in meditation every single day. This may sound like a huge commitment when you are already stressed…but if you have 3 minutes, you can meditate. I primarily use an app called Headspace. Right now, I have just been using the free features, but you can upgrade to the premium option. The app also allows you to set the length of your practice.

When I first started meditating I noticed my mind wandering A LOT. That’s okay! Meditation is not meant to control your thoughts, but rather to notice them and learn to let them go. The deep breathing utilized during meditation is beneficial in and of itself. It allows you to slow your heart rate when you are feeling anxious and think more clearly. I typically meditate in the morning to start my day off with a positive attitude and set my intention for the day ahead. Sometimes I meditate during my lunch break as well.

Even if you are skeptical, just give it a try once!

3.  5-Minute Journal

When I was growing up, I journaled frequently. It felt good to let out whatever I was feeling in the privacy of those pages. These days, I prefer a simplified journal app on my phone—5-minute journal. Each morning, I am prompted to list: 3 things I am grateful for, what I will do today to make today great, and a daily affirmation. At the end of the day, I am again prompted to list: 3 amazing things that happened today and how I could have made today even better. I am not naturally a positive thinker, so this style of journaling helps me focus on the positives in my life. When I start and end my day with gratitude, I feel more calm and thankful for my life. You can also add a picture from the day. I like this feature for when I scroll back through old posts for a memory of that day.

Other tips:

  • If experiencing work stress, take a break and go for a walk or try one of the above tips. The act of stepping away and taking deep breaths will allow you to reframe your thoughts and come back to your work with a clear mind.
  • Nourish your body well. This may seem like the last thing you want to do when you are stressed. Even if you don’t feel like preparing a ton of food, do your best to make one food decision at each meal that is beneficial to your health. (For example–if you choose to have pizza for lunch, could you add some veggies on the side?)
  • Talk to someone. There is nothing wrong with seeking help. I’ve been to a counselor before and I know many people that regularly go to one. While it’s fine to talk to a friend or family member you trust, if your stress is really impacting your life, I encourage you to seek therapy. A trained professional is well-equipped to help you.

While there are many other tips that I didn’t include, I hope this was helpful for you. The takeaway message is to listen to your body. Recognize when you need to slow down and take care of yourself.

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References:

1. Schwabe, L., Joels, M., Roozendaal, B., Wolf, O. T., & Olitzl, M. S. (2011). Stress effects on memory: An update and integration. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Review, 36(7), 1740-1749. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2011.07.002.
2. McEwen, B. S., Gianaros, P. J. (2010). Central role of the brain in stress and adaptation: links in socioeconomic status, health, and disease. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1186, 190-222.. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632. 2009.05331.x.
3. Aronson, D. (2009). Cortisol–Its role in stress, inflammation, and indications for diet therapy. Today’s Dietitian, 11(11), 38. Retrieved from todaysdietitian.com .

Pumpkin Almond Pancakes

I have a confession for you all. I don’t like Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

I can almost hear your gasps of shock from here.

It’s true. I think there was a point in college where I tried to like them, but now I’ve accepted that I will probably never be Team PSL. However, I do like to celebrate the flavors of fall in other ways. Last year, I made pumpkin pancakes from this recipe for the first time.  Since then, I modified the recipe to my liking and came up with these Pumpkin Almond Pancakes.

After a bit of a stressful week, I decided to unwind and indulge in these beauties over the weekend. While I already like pancakes to begin with, the pumpkin gives you an added boost of fiber (promotes fullness and digestive regularity) plus beta carotene & vitamin A (think sharper vision).

Tasty pancakes and nourishment? Sounds like a win-win to me!

After drooling over my dietitian friend, Kailey’s pancake pictures on her Instagram , I finally decided to ask her how she makes her pancakes so fluffy. (Seriously, her pancakes are perfection every time!) Her tips for pancakes were: baking powder, whipped egg whites, cook on medium, and allow batter to rest for 5 minutes. And just like that, my pancake making skills have been forever been changed! (Thanks, Kailey!!) 

Check out the recipe below and for a printable version click here.

What are your favorite fall recipes? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

I Think You Should Just Go for It

After thinking of a million excuses as to why the “timing isn’t right” for this website and delaying its launch for the last year and a half, the day has finally come. I kept telling myself that it needed to be just right—as perfect as possible. However, in the last couple of weeks, it dawned on me that it will never be flawless. And you know what? I’m okay with that. In fact, I don’t even want it to be flawless. Sometimes you just have to go for it. Let the chips fall as they may, as they say. After finishing my dietetic internship at Illinois State University in May of 2016, I knew that I wanted to pursue a social media presence of some kind. All throughout college, I loved writing for my personal blog and I soon discovered that dietitians have an incredible community online. While I may have been putting off this website, I’m also thankful that it has taken me this long. Over that time period, my philosophies regarding food and nourishment have transformed in the most rewarding way possible. And I’m ready to spill the beans!

In determining my focus for this website, there were a number of factors in my life pointing me in the direction of body positivity and self-acceptance. In my work as a dietitian, I recently came to a conclusion about a trend in my outpatient population: they all share too much doubt in their self-worth. Why? Because they are not the size they want to be or a desired number on the dreaded scale. It all boils down to never feeling good enough. Yet, after countless diets and secluding themselves to avoid “bad” food, they still aren’t happy. Even if they do reach their goals, the mind instantly discourages— “but you could always do better.” All of this quickly turns into an endless cycle of weight and diet obsession. No wonder we’re all exhausted! I don’t know about you, but  I can think of at least a hundred other things that I would rather be doing than thinking about my weight.

Here enters Intuitive Eating (IE)  and Health at Every Size (HAES)—my nutrition knights in shining armor. After discovering these two movements, the way I approach nutrition counseling and my personal eating patterns has forever been changed. Wait! You mean my body can actually let me know when I’m hungry/full and I can reject the diet mentality? Sign me up!  For those of you who are suspicious or have never heard of these concepts, bear with me! I will be sharing more perspective on these topics in upcoming posts. (For now, browse through the websites or take a look at the associated books.)

As for me personally, it has taken a long time to arrive at a place of confidence and acceptance of myself. In fact, if you’ve known me for years, you might be asking yourself what the heck happened to the old Amanda. I’m sorry the old Amanda can’t come to the phone right now… (Sorry! Couldn’t help myself with the T. Swift reference opportunity–probably won’t be the last.) As someone who used to weigh herself every single morning and allow that number to dictate her day, I can tell you how liberating my new outlook is. I will be sharing more about my personal journey to body positivity throughout this blog. For now, read here.

I can’t wait to re-enter the blogosphere and share insights, videos, recipes, and eventually podcasts with you all. Feel free to email me any time at (rdspillthebeans@gmail.com) and connect with me on InstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn.