what’s the deal with DIM, anyways?

this was pretty much the subject line in one of our oncologists recent emails to me, and it’s a good question. Especially if you or someone you love has or is at higher risk for certain cancers, which is mostly everyone, but also if you just need another reason to eat your vegetables.

ok but first, what is DIM?
DIM, or diindolylmethane, is a breakdown product of the antioxidant indole-3-carbinol (I3C) found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage. DIM is a powerful anti-inflammatory, and because of this has been extensively studied in the scientific community for its possible protective properties against disease. More specifically, DIM may help block cancer-initiating events by increasing cellular detoxification and reducing inflammatory signaling. DIM also plays a role in estrogen metabolism. For those with or at risk for breast cancer, my area of specialty, DIM may be effective in modulating the initiation of cancer at all stages of breast tumor development. How cool is that?

spot the crucifers!

let’s talk research
as of this writing, much of the research on DIM has been done in cells or rodents, and though there have been some human observational studies published, finite recommendations can’t be made from the available date just yet. Even so, the studies have been very promising thus far. In breast cancer cell lines, the various actions of DIM has been shown to inhibit growth of human breast cancer cells in both estrogen-dependent and estrogen-independent cell lines. This is exciting because it may potentially expand therapeutic options for triple-negative breast cancer in the future. DIM has also been studied in combination with some chemotherapies, which is also promising but preliminary. I typically advise against taking any antioxidant supplements during chemotherapy treatment currently due to the possibility of affecting the treatment negatively (i.e., protecting cells we don’t want protected!), and research pointing to a possible synergistic relationship could be a game changer. But let’s be clear, MUCH more research needs to happen before recommendations and standards of practice are changed.

DIM-related recommendations I do make right now are more related to food choices. A recent meta-analysis of more than 18,000 individual cases suggested that overall high intake of cruciferous vegetables (> ¾ cup/day) was significantly associated with a 15% lower risk of breast cancer. In ladies with breast cancer, high cruciferous vegetable intake was associated with a 35% decrease in recurrence women taking Tamoxifen. So, it’s very rare that I meet with a patient without a mention of broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts. The fact that they are delicious and so versatile is an added bonus.

don’t forget that kale is a cruciferous veggie too!

so should I take a DIM supplement?
as of right now, I have to say no. Even though much of the research has been on very high concentrations of DIM, which is easier to obtain from a supplement, we need way more of it before recommending it be used. It’s also important to keep in mind that dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA and finding a brand that has been reviewed by a third party for safety and ingredient content is key. Especially since DIM has limited bioavailability, so you really need a specialized formulation of DIM for any benefits.

ok, so what should I do?
eat more vegetables! Often when I suggest adding more cruciferous veggies to their diets, people cringe a bit. This could be because they commonly cause gas or they associate them with a sub-par taste thanks to a boring cooking method or no seasoning. Both concerns can be remedied! When cruciferous veggies are consumed on a regular basis, our intestinal microflora can adapt and produce less gas (this also goes for beans!). And, cooking methods are everything when it comes to cruciferous vegetables. Roasting brings out delicious flavor by caramelizing them, and using various herbs and spices can up the flavor game even more. Here are two of my favorite, simple recipes that are always crowd pleasers.

roasted curried cauliflower (serves 4-5)


  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1-2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp black pepper (this enhances absorption of curcumin, the powerful antioxidant found in turmeric)
  • Pinch sea salt

preheat oven to 425° F. Chop cauliflower into bite size pieces and spread evenly on large parchment or tinfoil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over pieces and sprinkle curry powder, turmeric, black pepper evenly, season with pinch of sea salt. Place baking sheet into the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, until cauliflower is tender and browned. Enjoy warm and store leftovers in a sealed container for up 3-4 days.

crispy roasted brussels sprouts (serves 4-5)


  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1-2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

preheat oven to 425° F. Place Brussels sprouts on a parchment or tinfoil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle sea salt and pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes, and then toss the Brussels sprouts with a spatula. Roast for an additional 5 minutes, then turn oven off and let Brussels sit in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until tender and caramelized.  Enjoy warm and store leftovers in a sealed container for up 3-4 days.


*disclaimer – this post is for informational purposes only and not meant to serve as individual medical advice or medical nutrition therapy. 


black and white thinking should only be for cookies

first of all, the title… I hope black and white cookies are widely understood as a uniquely delicious morsel beyond just NYC. This also reminds me that I haven’t had one myself in a really long time…

yum (source)

but I digress, as that’s not really the point of this post. Instead, I wanted to talk a little bit about how black and white thinking can be harmful in both a diet and non-diet approach to eating and our relationships with food.

if you’re used to dieting, or even if you’re not but follow lots of “clean eating” folks on social media, then chances are you may have categorized foods into categories. “healthy” and “unhealthy”, “clean” and “dirty (??)”, “allowed” and “not allowed”, etc. at some point. Or maybe you still do. The most common words I hear of this type when it comes to foods or ones eating habits are definitely “good” and “bad.” Foods are either one or the other, and YOU are only one or the other for eating them. There is no in between and no more appropriate descriptors (how about “delicious” or “satisfying”?) and no happy medium between feeling shameful and superior. This is what most diets want us to believe – that there are rules we HAVE to follow in order to “succeed,” which is usually centered around weight loss and being “better” because of it.

sorry, I know I’m using a lot of quotes here and I sort of feel like Joey from that one Friends episode, but here it’s (“mostly”) relevant.

comic relief!

the thing is, the very core of these diets that is supposedly setting us up for success is systematically doing the opposite by design. It’s hard and nearly impossible for most humans to stick to strict rules when it comes to eating (serious health problems and allergies aside) because eating is so complicated beyond just food. And when we don’t stick to these rules, we feel as though we’ve failed. End diet. Start diet (and weight) cycling, because more often than not we’ll try another one soon with a different set of rules and promises. It’s like the most maddening hamster wheel that does not stop turning, and so much is fueled on appealing to people’s propensity toward black and white thinking. It’s not easy to get out of the diet mindset and start thinking of foods and behaviors in all shades of gray, and the diet culture is so overwhelming that this is not something we typically seek out to change unless there is a strong external stimulus of some sort. Enter: the non-diet dietitian. The increasing numbers of non-diet dietitians are an AMAZING start, and it warms my heart to see this population grow and get the attention it deserves.

but that leads me to my other point, because I’ve seen some non-diet practices be just as black and white, but on the other end of the spectrum. Here I’m talking about judging or shaming those on diets or wrapped up in diet culture, social media posts heavy on foods considered conventionally “unhealthy” like cookies, donuts and pizza and less tolerance or attention to some foods that are popularly touted for legit nutritional benefits (and yes, heralded by some “diets”), scoffs at things like salads or smoothies because they are often associated with the diet culture. I’ve been totally guilty of this sometimes and have hesitated about posting another veggie-heavy meal because I don’t want to seem “diety,” or have thought to myself, “uggghhh this person is not eating enough!” or “where are the carbs?” on Instagram before. But then I check myself – it’s hard to have the full context on most social media platforms. Often we don’t really know when or if a meal is being consumed, why and how the rest of that person’s day was, or even their health history, etc.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people out there promoting “diets” or their own disordered eating of some sort, but approaching them with the same compassion you would like in return and thinking in those shades of gray is more beneficial to both sides. Otherwise, we are just creating a bigger divide. Of course, there is also the unfollow button if any account is affecting you in a negative way, which is extremely useful.

favorite combo of late!

I’m glad the perception of dietitians is starting to go beyond us being the “food police,” which is definitely a result of diet culture. I mean hell, we have the word “diet” in our title for goodness sake and it’s hard to separate ourselves from that. But, I also don’t want to be the “non-diet police” and turn away or tear down people or any and all mention of diets or “healthy” foods. The divide this creates is, I think, making it harder for more dietitians and individuals to start thinking in shades of gray and be open to learning about the principles of a non-diet approach. I guess my point is that just because I consider myself a non-diet dietitian doesn’t mean I’m going to shame or write off those on the other side. I’m going to keep promoting eating cake and not just kale, just as I would counsel someone entrenched in diet culture to not just eat kale, but to have some cake too.

dogs · nutrition · running

social media “detox” + presence

it’s been a little while again, but I’m still here. I so envy the people who write interesting and thought-provoking posts multiple times per week and still manage to have full time jobs and a life. Most days lately I feel like I’m barely managing the job part, running, sleeping and keeping Peanut alive let alone having an actual life. And that’s something I’d like to change.

keeping peanut alive: priority. and also: the cutest.

so little by little I’ve been trying to think of things that take up my time but may not be the best use of that time. The first and probably most important thing that came to mind was social media. It’s almost embarrassing to think about how much time my 3X year-old self has been spending scrolling through Instagram or other social media platforms lately, especially since Instagram added “stories.” My god are they a time suck. Last week I found myself getting more and more frustrated with some of the accounts I follow – dietitians fueling the prevalence of disordered eating and diet culture by showcasing their restrictive diets or talking incessantly about eating “clean,” other folks with a genuine interest in nutrition but lacking credentials/education/experience and completely misinterpreting research. This can easily influence hundreds of thousands of people, and makes me crazy in so many ways both personally and professionally. I’ve seen how this stuff can negatively affect my patients and clients and I know how it can negatively affect me.

so I went on a social media detox/cleanse
probably the only type of detox and cleanse I’d recommend, since our bodies’ physical detox system is pretty fantastic and thorough all on its own. I made a goal (and wrote it in my journal so I’d stick to it) of not checking any social media for 24 hours – from the time I woke up on Sunday until at least mid-morning on Monday. And it was hard! I caught myself a bunch of times thinking that I could just check this or that really quick, but then I really took a step back and asked myself – why? Does knowing what so-and-so is doing or posting really matter? Not really. Is it totally necessary to post a photo of my breakfast? Maybe not. And, do some posts have the ability to affect me negatively? Totally yes. I’m not immune to falling into the comparison trap – this person ran X amount of miles or did this workout, and I only did X, or this person ate a beautiful meal in their expensive, immaculate kitchen while wearing a cute outfit with their hair and nails done perfectly and here I am in my zero counter space 900 year-old appliance tiny kitchen lacking any natural light with my hair frizzing out of control in old gross running shorts eating a bunch of leftovers all mushed together.

i post pretty stuff sometimes, but the reality is that this becomes more of an un-beautiful (delicious) mush more often than not

so, the best solution here is probably to unfollow those accounts that bother me so much and impose some limits on how much I use social media. Duh. Then I won’t get frustrated and I’ll save time. Part of me still wants to be in the know as to what is being said “out there” because I’m bound to get questions from patients at some point about this stuff, but I think there are other ways to do this.

another thing I’ve noticed lately, and especially during the social media “detox” is how much more present I felt without having my eyeballs glued to my phone every two seconds. Presence is something we talk about a lot at yoga and with meditation, and I’ve felt so out of touch with that these days – even during yoga class! So continuing the “detox” on a lower level, like only checking social media during certain times of day or a few times per day is something I’m working towards now and I’ve already noticed a difference this week. Like, I had time to write this post! So progress.

most nights I’ve been making time to do a bit of journaling as well, which easily fits into the time I used to spend perusing social media. It’s mostly a brain dump of the day or talking myself through any issues to help clear my mind before bed. Doesn’t seem like much, but I find it also helps me feel a bit more present and calm.  And I usually have the added bonus benefits of the journaling being done with a snuggly pup in my lap.

dogs · nutrition · running

catch up – nutrition news, running & puppies

I reallllly want to make posting a regular thing on here, but it will probably always be the first thing to go when life gets busy. And that’s ok, I have to be nice to myself on this one. Half-assing a blog post when I should be snuggling with Peanut on the couch isn’t useful for anyone anyways. But! Here I am with a little bit of time, so let’s catch up.

I was on a podcast!
I’ve recently gotten into podcasts – they make for some excellent walk to work or afternoon baking listening – and my favorites are of course running and/or nutrition-related. So I was super excited when Ali started her own podcast earlier this year, and it’s (not surprisingly) fantastic. She’s an excellent interviewer and always has interesting and inspiring guests. I’m lucky to have known Ali personally since our very early blogging days (in 2010, perhaps? WOW), and was super honored she asked me to be on the show last week. I love any excuse to talk about nutrition, my job, running and dogs and it was so nice to have an hour on the phone to talk to Ali, whom I don’t see very often anymore now that she’s an official New Jersey resident.

on the podcast we talked about my job, the difference between a registered dietitian, a nutritionist, a health coach (etc.) and why it’s so important to know the difference, did some nutrition myth-busting and also chatted running and rescue dogs. It was so, so fun and I’m thankful for anyone who listened already.

post-run overnight oats with all the fixings from the other day

the new york times wrote this
if you have ever been on any sort of “diet” (so, 99.9% of us, right?) this is such an important read. Actually, read this even if you are one of the few who has never been on a “diet”, because you likely know someone just like the author. Her first-hand account with chronic dieting and body image issues is heart-breaking and so common among the women I see and women in general. This kind of disordered eating (and yes, dieting can absolutely lead to disordered eating) is often overlooked in society today because it’s so normalized and accepted. But it’s not normal to categorize foods as “good” and “bad,” to restrict foods, food groups and calories, adhere to strict food “rules” and always be striving to try the next weight loss miracle. This passage especially got me: “I decided to stop dieting, but when I did, I realized I couldn’t. I didn’t know what or how to eat. I couldn’t fathom planning my food without thinking first about its ability to help or hinder a weight-loss effort.”  Having this sort of relationship with food is a terrible and unnecessary way to live your life, which food is and always will be, a big part of. It’s so hard to break out of, especially under the influence of social media, but it’s totally possible and so freeing (especially with the help of a non-diet dietitian!). I think surrounding yourself with positive and accepting people, messages and influencers is a great way to start. And be nice(r) to yourself!

running has been A+
maybe it’s the no pressure, not really training for anything mindset, but I’ve really been enjoying my runs lately. So much so, that I’ve been incorporating some regular workouts like weekday speedwork and a weekend tempo/long run combo. Right now my long runs (or “long runs” if you are reading this in the midst of marathon training) are about 12-13 miles, which is a nice happy place that doesn’t feel too long or take up too much time but also is significant and not easy. If that makes sense. I still want to do a few fall races – right now thinking of a 10 miler and a few half marathons – and see what happens. The no pressure mindset is key, though, and I don’t want to lose the simple enjoyment of running by making training super structured and rigid as I’ve done in the past.

peanut is a doggy school graduate
peanut graduated from her six week adult doggy training class with flying colors. She passed her “test,” where she had to do all of the commands we learned, on the first try. I was and am such a proud dog mom. She has come so far in the past six months, and this class was perfect to help build her confidence and learn some basic commands. The class was at Petco, and I highly recommend for anyone with a similar rescue dog situation.

is there anything cuter?

other stuff to talk about (help!)
I feel like there is so much nutrition-related stuff I want to write about that I don’t know where to start! If you’ve made it this far in the post (anyone? Bueller?), I’d love to hear what nutrition topics you’d like to hear about. I need some inspiration!


be nice(er) to yourself

as my nutrition philosophy has evolved in the past couple of years, I’ve found myself naturally incorporating a more holistic approach into my practice. I’ll admit I’m a little wary about the term “holistic” – I feel like it’s been thrown around a lot in the wellness world to legitimize titles that lack actual credentials (“holistic nutritionist” or “holist health coach” come to mind) and it drives me crazy. But I can’t deny that the actual definition of holistic, or the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms, is something I’m behind 100%. It’s like taking the person off the piece of paper, medical chart, set of lab values or arbitrary anthropometric measurements and instead taking into account that they are a human being with human feelings and experiences, and very likely someone’s mom, grandfather, sister, son, etc. That makes a huge difference, and I like that more and more healthcare practitioners have this type of mindset (and get really frustrated with the ones who don’t). So call me a holistic dietitian, if you will.

what a photo bomb ❤

these days it’s very rare for me not ask patients about their stress levels, sleep, exercise habits and relationships (with food and humans) because when it comes to overall health, these are just as important as nutrition. And they all affect each other. In fact, one phrase I’ve found myself repeating the most lately is a very simple, “be nice to yourself!” The first time I said this to a patient I myself was taken aback a bit as it just popped out. The patient was about “mom age” (so, around the age of my mom, or mid-60s), and beating herself up over not looking a certain way, choosing to eat XX for dinner the night before, etc. After I said it, I almost thought she was going to look at me like, “ok yeah sure, what do you know” or “how about we stick to nutrition here?” Instead, she visibly relaxed and agreed with me, and we spent most of the session talking about how she can do just that – be nicer to herself. It sounds so simple, but it’s something so many of us (myself included) can do better.

this doesn’t have to mean calling in sick to work and escaping to a luxurious beachfront resort for an extended vacation, buying yourself a crazy expensive handbag or getting a massage every other day. Being nicer to yourself can be way more simple (and affordable) by learning to recognize negative self-talk and redirect to a more positive mindset. Kind of like this:

  • instead of punishing yourself about a “bad” food choice by restricting the next meal or meals, try to remove labels from foods – there is no “good” or “bad”. Have what sounds good to you and know you’re nourishing your body with a variety of foods
  • instead of forcing yourself through an intense workout if something hurts or you’re super tired because of the “calorie burn,” think about how powerful rest can be for both the muscles and the brain, and how different exercise feels when you enjoy it
  • instead of comparing yourself to women on television/in the movies, on social media or magazines and feeling badly for not looking just like them, drop the comparison game – it won’t get you anywhere and can be an endless cycle of “she wore it better.” Plus, who knows if those people are truly happy or not, and isn’t that way more important?
  • instead of automatically saying yes to a date you know will go nowhere, another project at work or another engagement party for someone you sort of know, don’t. Know it’s ok to say no and make plans with yourself. This could be a solo dinner, netflix and a glass of wine or an early bedtime. Whatever YOU want
  • instead of following social media accounts that can trigger any and all negative thoughts and behaviors, unfollow them! If they don’t serve you in a positive way, they’re not useful

maybe this sounds too simple, but it can be surprisingly hard to break out of habitually negative thoughts and behaviors. It takes a little bit of work and some time, but asking the question “how can I be nicer to myself” in certain situations is a great way to start.

sometimes that means snuggling in your most comfy spot

think about how much brain space and time that could be freed up to focus on what is truly useful to you in a positive way.  I know I’ve personally found it hard to be present for the things that matter in life when I spend too much time beating myself up over the shit that doesn’t. So let’s all be nicer to ourselves. We totally deserve it.

nutrition · running

endurance sports and low carb/ketogenic diets

I almost don’t want to mention this for fear or “jinxing”, but my running has been feeling good lately. Even in the almost constant gross heat and humidity, the miles have flowed a lot better than they have in a while. I don’t think it’s real rocket science as to why – I’ve been taking it easier, running with no pressure, resting a bit more and doing other things like yoga, barre and nothing. I liken this to taking a running “chill pill” and I think it’s sort of working.

because I was feeling all the feels about running this past weekend, I decided to go on a longer run down the West Side Highway and Hudson River Park. I love running down there, but usually only do so when marathon training because it’s an out and back run and takes a long time. The solution? Take my metro card and subway back home when I felt like it and was near a subway. I’ve actually never done that before because I don’t really like being soaked with sweat far away from home and always end up getting cold. But! YOLO, right? So I headed out for what I thought would be 10 or so miles without any fluids (there are tons of fountains) or nutrition (usually don’t use this for runs under 12-13 miles).

happy place. but from the winter/spring of 2016 as I usually don’t like taking my phone out mid-run

it was such a beautiful morning and I loved being out there without any sort of pacing plan or route. After about 8 or 9 miles my energy started getting a bit low, which is pretty normal for me these days since I take Peanut for a walk before my runs now and haven’t really nailed a new pre-run fueling plan. My usual half a banana doesn’t really cut it so much anymore. So, ok. Low energy, no fuel, but I had a credit card and an idea of where I could get the subway and a snack. The only thing is that it was a bit far away – I was downtown near Battery Park and the WTC and I wanted to be in Union Square. Those three or so miles uptown were tough, and as I neared my destination my legs felt more and more like heavy bricks. I felt so depleted, and I probably used my last glycogen store as I triumphantly pulled up to the Juice Generation on 18th street. All I could think about was slurping down something cold and sweet, and decided on an acai bowl because I’ve been wanting to try one for a while.

hit the spot in a major way.

and all this got me thinking of another nutrition trend I just can’t get down with, and that is endurance athletes going on “ketogenic” diets. One principle of the diet is basically running on the depleted state that I unintentionally ended my run on Sunday. It’s miserable. And I’d hate for anyone to purposefully do that to themselves under the false belief that it’s going to help them get that PR.

what exactly is a ketogenic diet?
these are diets very low in carbohydrate, low in protein and very high in fat, with the goal of putting the body into ketosis. This is when there is a build-up of acids called ketones in the body, as a result of burning fat stores in the absence of glucose. A true ketogenic diet is something like 5 percent carbohydrate, which is very hard to do unless you’re eating butter and cheese all day and have some direction from a dietitian. In fact, most athletes who say they are on a ketogenic diet are often just on a low carbohydrate, high fat diet because they are consuming too many carbohydrates to achieve ketosis. That said, though, they are still consuming far too little carbohydrates to fuel their activity!

so what is the point?
there has been some recent hype touting performance enhancements achieved by drastically cutting carbohydrates and increasing fats, with the idea being the body will burn more fat as fuel. We don’t necessarily need to achieve ketosis to do this. The body has limitless stores of fat and very limited stores of glycogen, so this is thought to be a much more efficient fuel source and one that can help us go longer, faster. It sounds good on paper, at least.

but that’s really all it is, and it’s not for lack of research. If an individual begins consuming a low carbohydrate, high fat diet, the body will physiologically adapt by increasing fat oxidation and reducing carbohydrate utilization. But while our capacity to use fat for energy enhances when we have consistently limited carbohydrate stores, this does not translate to a better performance in endurance events. There is a lot of recent research to back this up. If we train our body to use a less-preferred source of fuel (fat), it will also do so during an endurance event like a marathon. The problem is that all it really wants is carbohydrates, which it has adapted to use less of. Even if you carbohydrate load in the few days before said event, the body remains less efficient at using glycogen stores once it adapts to using more fat.

one of my fave carbohydrate forms – toast!

more research
this study is the most recent and thorough I’ve read, and I had the pleasure of listening to one of the study investigators – Dr. Hawley – speak at FNCE last year. He talked about the study a bit (it had yet to be published) and gave such compelling evidence as to how and why low carbohydrate, high fat and/or ketogenic diets just don’t work for endurance athletes. His study used elite race walkers who were all put on the same intense training program, but one group followed a low carbohydrate, high fat diet, another a high carbohydrate diet and another a periodized carbohydrate diet (still high in carb, just spread out differently during the day). At the end of the training program, all athletes had improved aerobic capacity, but only the high carb and periodized groups experienced an improvement in race performance (a timed 10K). This is because, as I mentioned above, when we adapt to a high fat diet by increasing fat oxidation, we also adapt by using less carbohydrates and reduce carbohydrate oxidation. It’s this adaptation that limits performance capacity.

another important point is that our brain and central nervous system also depend on glucose (what carbohydrates are broken down into) to function. And if we are in a state of depletion, we also may not be thinking clearly. This can effect things like pacing, perceived effort and even simple decision making during a race. Not really a recipe for success, right?

in conclusion…
still, the anecdotal evidence persists and with the help of social media, one or two “success” stories can and has snowballed into a real trend. I don’t think this one will last forever, though, with science firmly rooted against it. And because even anecdotally, if you look at the plates of most top endurance athletes, they are more often than not generous on the carbohydrate front. And that is for good reason.




becoming a non-diet dietitian

while my core nutrition philosophy is not something I’ve wavered on too much since becoming a dietitian, it is still evolving somewhat as I gain more experience and sift through fun new research, as it should. One big thing that has changed is that I rarely weigh patients or clients and I very rarely put them on diets (this of course excludes those with more severe medical issues, etc.). Ok technically that was two things, but work with me here as I have a story.

such a hearty and delicious breakfast – quinoa/oats with almond milk, cacao powder, sweet local berries, banana, chia/hemp seeds, coconut and lots of almond butter

when I was first starting out as a clinical dietitian, I did some extra work helping run a medically supervised weight loss program. I needed the money and wanted any and every experience possible, but thinking of this now I absolutely cringe. The program was extremely strict in that participating patients had to have a particularly high BMI, were put on a VERY low calorie diet and had to eat meals provided by the program that were packed with sodium and a laundry list of junky chemicals. I would have to hold sessions every week with a pre-planned lesson (courtesy of the program), mostly with tips on how to only eat these awful, prepackaged foods and manage crazy hunger levels. Every single patient who was on the program had tried dozens of diets already, lost and gained hundreds of pounds and were ready and motivated to give it another go. This would be THE diet that would help them lose weight and keep it off for good. Only, it didn’t. They all lost a lot of weight initially, which is common in super restrictive diets, but it was impossible to maintain over any longer than a few months. Bingeing or being “bad” was common, and much of the lessons were all about getting “back on track” or being “good.” I’ve never been a fan of those terms, but I really thought I could help these patients who so badly wanted to change. Each week I’d add more of my own ideas into the lessons and less of the programs, but at the end of the day realized it wasn’t something I could ethically do anymore. Patients would get so upset when their weight loss slowed or the numbers on the scale varied slightly, the episodes of bingeing would be followed by severe shame and depression, and they were almost always beating themselves up over something related to the “diet.” This was something I wasn’t very prepared for. Working with patients on their relationships with food wasn’t a topic I learned much, if anything, about during my dietetic internship but is so crucially important. Not to mention the fact that what crazy restrictive diets actually do is make weight loss harder by seriously messing with hormones and metabolism.

diets don’t work.

not only do diets fail to address the dieters relationship with food, which is very often THE most important issue, but they impart unsustainable restrictions on foods, food groups, calories and often put foods into “good” and “bad” categories. There may or may not be consistent “weigh ins”  or assigned crazy amounts of exercise. Plans like this are almost always sustainable for a week or two, when motivation is high and the initial weight loss may occur. But after that, not so much. We as humans can only deprive and restrict ourselves so long until we physiologically and mentally reach a breaking point. This could be manifest in an hour-long binge on everything in the pantry followed by severe shame, quitting the “plan” entirely or on the other side of the spectrum, lead to an even more restrictive eating pattern and diagnosable eating disorder. Because diets also wreak havoc on our hormones, our bodies become more resistant to weight loss every time we enter into a new restrictive and stressful eating pattern.

lovely wild salmon with greens, roasted chickpeas, sauerkraut, avocado, side of sweet potato fries and peanut

There’s a statistic from a past research survey that estimates as many as 75% of women report having unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food and their bodies. This is the diet industry’s vulnerable and impressionable target audience. What diets essentially do is fuel these unhealthy thoughts further and fool us into thinking we need some gimmicky eating plan to make us “better.” They don’t help us work on our relationship with food or why these thoughts are occurring in the first place, making it nearly impossible to change.

This is why I’m such a fan of intuitive eating, because it’s not a diet, and it focuses on changing our thought process when it comes to eating and our relationship with food. It takes something that was once so easy for most of us, even if we have to go back to our toddler days, and that’s eating intuitively what we want when we’re hungry and stopping when we feel satisfied. There’s definitely more to it than that, and the book Intuitive Eating is an awesome resource.

being a “non-diet” dietitian and totally entrenched in this ideology, I often forget that having a non-diet mentality is still not very common. At least once every day I have a patient who comes in expecting to be put on a scary “diet” in some form and is shocked when I explain to them what we are actually going to do. I love seeing their reactions and I love even more how happy, fulfilled and hopeful they seem after our appointments. There is no fear of failing or vows to stick to something super strict or else. It’s awesome. And that’s the way it should be.