hello! If you’re joining me from the now retired Meals for Miles blog, thank you and welcome (and if I am just speaking to crickets right now, also welcome!). I’m excited to still have a place where I can write (and geek out) about nutrition, running, and other random things I am digging of late.
(like farmer’s markets and local goods!)
time is flying and I can’t believe it’s almost September already, though bring it on because I’m so ready for fall running temperatures! Marathon training has been a challenge and a half this summer – I’m planning on running the NYC Marathon for the fifth time this fall (#cantstopwontstop), which will also be my eleventh marathon. How that has happened, I have no idea. But I’ll save the running talk for later…
it’s been a good ten or so months since I’ve started my current job as the dietitian at an outpatient breast cancer center, after three or so years inpatient at the same hospital. I can honestly say it regularly exceeds my expectations in a fulfilling, life-changing, pinch me I’m so lucky to be here kind of way. I’m constantly learning, teaching and/or being inspired, and it’s awesome. In addition to general oncology nutrition, a lot of the focus I have with my ladies is weight loss/weight management and the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle (for recurrence prevention). And because of this, I’ve really honed in on what exactly my nutrition philosophy is – not only to guide my practice, but to help my patients become their healthiest selves.
so I ask myself this question often: if they were to take one thing away from our meeting, what would I want it to be? What will I never budge on when it comes to my nutrition advice?
runners up to this answer include: cleanses and detoxes are useless gimmicks (also insert the money flying away emoji here) and eat more vegetables (JUST DO IT).
but my number one answer is, and may always be: there are no “good” or “bad” foods in your or anyone’s diet.
if I had a dollar for every time I hear, “I was really good today” or “Ugh, I was so bad today” when talking about the last couple of meals, I could probably buy Whole Foods. Or at least a good portion of the produce section. To understand where this categorization comes from, we first need to look no further than the media (and maybe social media even more). One day we’ll read or hear that we should never ever eat X food (“bad”), or X food is the new super food (“good”) or X food is free of gluten/dairy/grains/nuts/soy/corn/GMOs/BLAH BLAH BLAH (must be “good”); don’t even get me started on the term “clean eating.” Fueling this unnecessary labeling more are the continued popularity of fad diets. Any plan with a time limit (e.g., the “21 day diet”), restriction of specific foods or food groups, use of non-real food items (shakes, bars), severe calorie restriction or promise of extreme weight loss in a short time period, almost always labels foods as “allowed” and “not allowed” (i.e., good or bad).
(putting those berries to use!)
it’s easy to buy into the promise of a quick fix for weight loss and health, and we are hardwired to believe this can only come from avoiding whatever so and so is touting as “bad” and focusing only on what is “good,” along with a not-so-healthy dose of deprivation.
hold on a second though
Aside from so and so probably not having the proper credentials to give nutrition advice (definitely a whole separate post), what this does is creates an endless cycle of associating the intake of these two food categories with feeling “good” about yourself for eating the “good” foods and “bad” about yourself when eating the “bad” foods. Letting these very black and white food choices determine your self-worth? Feeling guilty for eating X food that you’ve arbitrarily labeled as “bad”? Not useful, friends. Neither is putting pressure on yourself to only eat what you consider to be “good,” which often leads to restriction, deprivation and in the long term, is not sustainable. Removing these labels from the mindset – which have sometimes been there for decades – and changing the focus away from a “diet” and more towards a long-term healthy lifestyle is one of the biggest challenges for myself as a dietitian and my patients. But it’s possible! Here’s what I like to start focusing on instead:
look at the big picture – the weeks and months as a whole rather than any one day, and maintaining a balance. It’s impossible to gain or lose 10lbs from eating one meal or specific food. What matters more in the long term is our overall dietary patterns, and here is where we can work on creating new patterns or tweaking existing ones to reach our goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and real progress takes time.
eat the rainbow – for sure strive for a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts/seeds, lean proteins, low fat dairy, healthy fats, but also with regular indulgences (whatever this is to you) because: life. I often have patients start out with adding color to each meal in a larger proportion than say, starchy foods and proteins. This automatically adds variety in the form of vegetables and fruits, which are filling, high in fiber and have tons of other beneficial nutrients. If we really eat the recommended (more than 5-6 servings/day) amount of these on most days, there isn’t a whole lot of room for excess junk.
eat more mindfully – removing common mealtime distractions – tablets, TV, Instagram, even books – and sitting quietly at a table is a great first step towards a more mindful eating practice. This not only helps us enjoy our foods more by actually tasting, smelling and eating them, but it will slow down meal times and allow for more awareness of hunger and fullness levels. We will almost always eat less this way, naturally.
think about how you feel – especially since making strides towards a healthier lifestyle. Energetic and refreshed as opposed to lethargic and sleepy? Most of us want to feel our best, and more often than not you’re going to feel better eating a variety of whole foods and listening to what your body needs. This is especially important for those with weight loss goals, which take time to happen the “right” way, and you’ll often feel better before it translates to the scale.
one of the things I love about my job is that there are always things to learn from the latest research and my own growing experience. While I feel strongly about this philosophy now, it will probably change and evolve along with me 🙂