Banishing "Perfect Eating"

My friend recently brought to my attention the discussion of food blogging versus orthorexia and asked my thoughts as a future dietitian. It's a sticky situation. On the one hand I want to blog about delicious and nutritious food, but on the other hand I understand that diet culture is out there and disordered eating is prevalent. For that reason, I hope that my posts and my pictures do not make it seem that I am a "perfect" eater. There is no perfect way of eating. And just because I will soon be a dietitian does not mean that I should be held to such a standard or that I should make others feel that they should eat a certain way. Moving on to my eats.

Breakfast this morning was slow and involved a peanut butter banana yogurt (I got very excited when I saw this in the store), corn flakes, a sliced banana, and a big scoop of peanut butter. I LOVE peanut butter and it's full of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. I put it on so many things and a breakfast without peanut butter is incomplete in my mind.

Even though I woke up a bit later than normal and had what I thought to be a heavier protein breakfast I was hungry at 10:45. I sliced up a pineapple that I bought the other day and ate a few wedges before ultimately deciding to make lunch. Sometimes your body is hungry for a meal at odd times. Listen to your hunger, not the clock. But if you listen to the clock some days, you do you. Sometimes I eat because it's "lunch time." I made breakfast for lunch because Julie introduced me to the glory of siracha on eggs last week. I made two fried eggs on toast with smoked gouda cheese and siracha. Gouda may be my favorite cheese...so tasty.

Planning on having some extra vegetables at dinner since I haven't had any yet today, but that's okay. I had quite a bit of vegetables yesterday and like I said there is not perfect way of eating. Just because you eat a huge amount of vegetables does not make you a perfect eater. Your body needs a whole mish mash of foods to get the nutrients that it needs.

I finally dragged myself out the door for my run. This week I have six days of running planned instead of five. When I asked my sister why she said that "sometimes you have to do stuff you don't want to do." Thank you. Luckily for me the four miles were not bad. They weren't great either, but definitely better than my runs have been lately.

I came home to do a little bit of strength in the form of planks, bridges, hydrants, and clams. I am actively trying to prevent injury these days. And then I got to the good stuff: refueling. I had a small bag of popcorn with a mishmash of almonds for healthy fats and protein. I had some salted almonds and cocoa roasted almonds. I cannot get enough of these cocoa roasted almonds! Better than chocolate covered in my opinion.

I had class in the afternoon and walking in the sunshine and then going to my favorite class made for a good afternoon. And I did some planning for the week so I was feeling less stressed. Unfortunately I recently got an assignment back with edits from six editors and then immediately felt overwhelmed again. Therefore a glass of wine after dinner was needed (okay, so it wasn't needed but I wasn't handling the stress well and decided one glass of red wouldn't hurt. #antioxidants).

Dinner was pretty bland because I was running 19 miles the following morning and I didn't want to risk stomach issues. Therefore the roasted brussels sprouts stayed in the fridge and I mixed together leftover spaghetti, ground turkey, onion, frozen mixed vegetables, pesto, and of course cheese! I also made a piece of toast with butter and garlic for my homemade version of garlic bread. It was a hefty meal and definitely overshot my hunger, but did not feel too overly stuffed. It will definitely fuel me on my run.

As much as I wanted to watch Gilmore Girls all night long I decided to work on my edits. Three hours later and it's still a work in progress. But there is always tomorrow. Deep breaths, maybe a glass of wine, and a good night's sleep cures all. And a best friend who is there to listen.

Sweet(s) Love

If you want a cookie eat a cookie. If you want ice cream eat ice cream (it's FREE CONE DAY so you better be eating ice cream). If you want a donut eat a donut (I want a Holy Donut). img_5773

(How many times will I show this picture...)

It's Girl Scout Cookie season. It's Easter season. It's OFFICIALLY creemee season!!! Heck, it's Spring and it's rainy and that just makes me want to enjoy some sweets (hello, instant gratification).

creemee

I came across an article today that left me speechless. I won't get into the specifics of the article because let's be honest, the journalist was just doing his/her job. The article was a perfect example of what is called diet culture (aka restrictive eating, labeling foods as good/bad/off-limits, calorie counting, etc.), but it inspired me to write this post.

Let me break this down. First, all cookies/cakes/ice creams/donuts are not created equal, nor should they be. Sure the peanut butter cookies have more calories than the plain sugar cookies or an ice cream with mix ins like nuts or candies has more calories than a plain vanilla. The peanut butter cookies contain peanut butter, though (shocker, I know), which is nutritious and has vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein, etc. "Plainer" sweets have fewer nutrients, but also fewer calories. No cookie is better than another. A cookie is a cookie (and I love cookies). No ice cream is better than another. None are good. None are bad. Maybe some taste good and maybe some taste bad, but cookies/cakes/donuts/ice cream do not have moral value. Eat because you want to or because you are hungry. Consider the nutrients that you're providing for your body. Consider how the food makes you feel. Does the food bring back memories?  I remember all my previous free cone days in the land where Ben and Jerry's originated and this may be my last one here for a while (grabbing a tissue). Today I tried Frozen Flakes, which is Ben and Jerry's rendition of Frosted Flakes. I grew up eating Frosted Flakes every day as a child and my dad always commenting with, "Theyyyy'rrreeee great!" when he came downstairs in the morning.

Second, why can't we enjoy desserts (or all foods for that matter) in peace without thinking about what we need to do to burn them off? This stimulates disordered eating and the dichotomous thinking that sweets are bad and once they touch our lips we need to compensate because immediately that cookie goes straight to our hips. Wrong. We are sculpted by society to believe that we "need" to cut back later in the day (aka restrict) or burn off what we should not have just indulged in in the first place. That is disordered eating. Dessert is part of normal eating. Cookies are food. Donuts are food. Ice cream is food. Dessert is not the enemy. Sweets provide calories, fat, carbohydrates and some protein (maybe).  What makes dessert different from dinner or breakfast? NOTHING. Because sweets are not bad. Eating cookies is not wrong.

apply cake

Legalize all foods, including Girl Scout Cookies, donuts, ice cream, etc. And if you can't then seek out a dietitian to help you trust your body and learn to enjoy all foods again. I am not saying this is an easy process. But what I am trying to say is that the media supports diet culture and society encourages restriction. If this is ever going to change we need to look at articles with a critical eye and wonder if what is being said is supporting the diet mentality. Guaranteed most of the time it is. If you truly want a cookie eat the cookie and enjoy it. If you want to go to Free Cone Day then enjoy Free Cone Day! Every eating event is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your body. Isn't that exciting?

 

Special thanks to my friend Christine for editing this post and providing insight.

Sweet Teeth and My Journey

My family has sweet teeth. I love sweets so much that I definitely have more than one sweet tooth...and it's definitely genetic :) Whenever I go home my dad tries to convince me to make him cookies and if I agree he will eat quite a few when I am not looking. I've started saving him cookies whenever I don my baking cap. img_5629-1

All over the internet these days you see posts about "clean eating", how to cut back on sugar, healthy this, unhealthy that, and. so. on. I cringe when I see these titles and I never read the posts. As a future dietitian I understand that certain foods are more nutritious than others, but I do not label foods as healthy or unhealthy or good or bad. Yes the vegetables, whole grains, and legumes that I ate for dinner were more nutritious than the handfuls (yes, multiple) of chocolate chips that I had afterwards. But food does not have moral value and so the chocolate chips cannot be bad. Chocolate chips are simply cane sugar, cocoa, butter, soy lecithin, and vanilla extract. And you know what, they tasted delicious.

I have been trying to be more mindful lately and really that means being aware of internal and external hunger cues. Today my hormones and my level of tiredness were definite sources of motivation that led me to the cupboard. And I knew I was in a chocolate mood and I accepted that. Therefore, I let myself finish the bag, which was a few handfuls. Sure I could have had less, but I chose to eat the chocolate chips. I knew I was eating out of tiredness, frustration, emotions, etc. Today was one of those days after 8 hours of work and a midterm that I did not have the energy to be intuitive and to analyze why I was eating dessert and what I could do differently. My schedule has been completely out of whack since Spring Break and I acknowledged that and let myself have a larger than usual treat. It's been a trend lately.

img_5824

(my treat a few nights ago)

This is not to say that I am not using mindfulness, because I am. I am aware of the reasons behind my choice to eat the chocolate chips. I am aware why I felt driven to consume them.

Some people argue that "people would eat healthier if they just had more willpower..." Is that really all it is? If I had more will power tonight would I have eaten fewer chocolate chips? Maybe. Maybe not. Would I have felt less stress? No. I probably would have felt more stressed by depriving myself of the instant gratification that comes from chocolate for me. And stress can cause it's own problems on the body. Hello tension headaches, upset stomached, and anxiety. Would I have been healthier if I had eaten fewer chocolate chips? No. Because a few handfuls of chocolate is not going to define who I am or my eating habits or eating style. For the most part I consume whole grains, fruit, vegetables, lean meats, legumes, etc. Sure I love my chocolate and most days I only have a piece or two to cure that craving, but some days I have a few handfuls of chocolate chips and other days I have a thick slice of peanut butter pie.

Eating these foods do not make me a failure. Healthy versus unhealthy is not black and white like the media and society makes it seem, but rather a continuum and honestly any foods can be a part of a healthy lifestyle. I feel that I am being healthy by allowing myself a few extra handfuls of chocolate to unwind after a long day and what has already been a long week. I am putting less stress on my body. I have added to my health by consuming nutrient dense foods throughout the day and these chocolate chips do not mitigate or take away from that. It's all about the entire picture.

And it's not just about willpower. One of my favorite presentations by one of my professors talks about willpower and how you only have so much of it. If you use all of your willpower and decision making capabilities in other areas of your life (aka at work and school or while exercising) then it makes using willpower to eat "better" that much harder. So no, willpower is not the answer.

Eat to obtain nutrients for your body.

Eat for pleasure.

Eat alone.

Eat with friends.

Eat at home.

Eat at restaurants.

Give your body the nutrients that it needs and deserves, but also acknowledge that eating is so much more than biological. It's social and cultural. It's an event and it can be therapeutic. For these reasons eating is complex. This is why normal eating emphasizes eating a variety of foods (while not labeling foods as good or bad) and overeating or under-eating on occasion. Normal eating is broad and all encompassing so eat and be you. Don't let eating (or certain foods) define you. 

Emotional Eating

Grab a cup of tea (or a glass of wine) and let's be real with each other. I'll go first. I am an emotional person. Like last night I watched This Is Us and could not stop sobbing...not just like subtle tears streaming down my cheeks but can't-catch-my-breath sobbing. In my defense, it was a very sad episode. I won't give anything away. Just go watch it. If you don't cry you are made of stone. The emotions can happen for no apparent reason. Some days you get a little stressed out or a little sad or lonely and turn to something that you find comfort in. That could be food. For many people it probably is. For me it is.

What's your comfort food? I'll take anything with cheese or chocolate...literally the two best foods out there. Gooey chocolate chip cookies are my jam. People who eat cookie dough I don't get you...you're eating potential! Jk jk. To each his (or her) own. 

megan-and-cookies

Sure there are other things to do when you're feeling a bit emotional, or a bit off balance. But that doesn't mean that emotional eating is the wrong choice or the wrong thing to do. It's natural. It's part of normal eating (Satter, 2016). You have the choice. And if you choose food, that's okay.

Today I came home from work exhausted and feeling like I was coming down with something. I was tired. I missed my parents and Julie. I wanted so badly to play with Izzie and Lyla or even just cuddle with them. I felt frustrated with myself for not getting much homework done last week. I felt overwhelmed trying to figure out when I would get my runs accomplished this week. I just had so many feelings and nowhere to put them.

megan-and-smores

So when I went grocery shopping and American Flatbread frozen pizza was on sale I knew it was a sign. Or really I would have bought it anyways. I also had to buy beer for the chili I plan to make this week. I came home, curled up on the couch, had some carrots and homemade buffalo dip and cooked up the pizza. It turned out to be a great frozen pizza. Not as great as going to the actual restaurant, but pretty darn close. A nice cold Vermont beer made the meal complete. I also had a few chocolates because why not? But admittedly I felt guilty for eating more than what the nutrition facts label called a serving and for having chocolate, too. But just like Julie said in her post about running plans, menu plans or serving sizes don't know that you are having an off day, that you are hungry, or that you just want/need a little extra comfort in your life (Morris, 2017). They are guidelines, not rules that define you as good and bad. Let's let go of the dichotomous thinking all together.

I listened to a mind blowing podcast the other day. It was a Food Psych episode with Isabel Foxen Duke, who said that feeling guilty about a certain food means that the food still has some control over you (Harrison, 2015). I was running and nearly tripped while having this huge ah-ha moment. Isabel and Christy continued to talk about how not keeping food in the house means that the food still has the power and ultimately is a form of restriction (Harrison, 2015). What the...heck?! I have been restricting myself of chocolate because I feel guilty whenever I eat "too much" or "too frequently". I have been restricting myself of chips, crackers, and cereal. These foods I have never kept in the house because I don't feel in control around them. I have been restricting. 

25th-birthday

So what do I do now? Honestly, I take a step back. As Isabel says in the podcast episode, if I were to make a plan that would mean putting more control and more restrictions on myself (Harrison, 2015). Rather than putting chocolate into serving size baggies I am going to just let it be in my freezer. I have crackers in my pantry and cereal on top of my fridge. They are there if I want them. I walked through the grocery store telling myself I could buy chips if I wanted to. Turns out I didn't want chips. Every night I tell myself I can have chocolate if I want it. And most nights I do. That could change or I just really enjoy chocolate and will have it most nights. Either is fine. Some day maybe I won't have to eat a full serving to feel satisfied. Right now, I am a work in progress. Sure taking a step back scares the hell out of me. But my huge ah-ha moment this week made me realize what I want the most.

I want...

To be free of the control that food has over me.

To embody Ellyn Satter's definition of normal eating (Satter, 2016).

To help others mend their relationships with food.

 

To be free.

 

References:

  1. Satter E. What is normal eating? Ellyn Satter Institute. http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/hte/whatisnormaleating.php. Accessed February 24, 2017.
  2. Morris J. Tuesday thoughts - Adaptive running. Jules on the Run. https://julesontherunnh.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/tuesday-thoughts-adaptive-running/. Posted February 22, 2017. Accessed February 24, 2017.
  3. Food psych - All episodes. Christy Harrison. https://www.christyharrison.com/all-episodes. Accessed February 24, 2017.
  4. Food psych #36: Food sanity - How to stop fighting food with Isabel Foxen Duke. Christy Harrison. https://www.christyharrison.com/foodpsych/2/isabel-foxen-duke-eating-disorders. Posted January 27, 2015. Accessed February 24, 2016.