Food Is Not Your Enemy

My Dark Fast-Food Secret
September 27, 2013, 11:08 am
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Meat, Restaurants, weight loss | Tags: ,

As a holistic nutrition counselor, my job is to help people eat better and live healthier lives. Which is probably why at some point one of my kids said to me, “What if your clients found out you were eating McDonald’s right now?”

I shrugged and said that I wouldn’t try to hide it–in fact, I would happily confess that I indulged in this meal. Here’s why.

Does McDonald’s, like virtually any fast-food chain, serve low-quality, genetically modified, factory-farmed food that is overloaded with fat, salt, and sugar? Yes. Do I advise my clients to avoid such food? Yes. And I generally avoid this food also.

But two or three times a year, I do eat it. I have to admit that while I do know that the food is disgusting, I enjoy the taste of it. You can’t beat those fries! And whenever I’m done with my Quarter Pounder with Cheese, I always wish there were just a few more bites left.

I don’t feel guilty about these meals, because I know that these two or three McDonald’s runs are not going to undo the healthy eating I do the rest of the time.

It is very important to strike a good balance with your eating–once-a-week fast food WILL lead to weight gain. But if you try to be too “perfect” or “pure” with your food choices, you can drive yourself nuts. This kind of stringency can also lead to binge-eating or secretive eating, where you end up shoveling Oreos into your mouth at 2 a.m. while everyone else in your house is asleep and unable to witness what you’re doing.

So cut yourself some slack. When it comes to your food choices, aim high, but don’t feel bad about missing the mark sometimes.

Body Acceptance, or Habit Acceptance?

The U.S. is a very contradictory culture when it comes to food and weight. On the one hand, we’re encouraged to eat at every turn, and given enormous, calorie-laden portions when we eat out in restaurants. On the other, the media consistently sends us messages that we’re too fat, either by lionizing very very thin women or by pushing fad diets on us on the cover of every magazine.

And then from another direction comes the directive to “love your body.” Those behind this well-meaning message encourage us to accept that we’ll never be the size of a runway model, that being that thin is unnatural, and that instead of dieting we should just be happy with what we’ve got.

While I support the idea that we should love ourselves and that we need to stop obsessing about fitting into a size that’s unrealistic for our body type, I do want to raise this question: Should we love our body as it is, unconditionally, if our weight is jeopardizing our health?

Is the excuse “I’m just a big girl/boy” valid if you’re 50 or more pounds overweight, diabetic, not exercising, and eating candy, ice cream, and fast food every day? If you think it is, I would argue that you’re not loving your body in this case–what you’re loving and defending are your habits. When people are truly overweight by medical measures or have type 2 diabetes, it’s rarely a mystery why. I’ve worked with several clients who are diabetic and their food tells the story: When they first come to see me more often than not they eat fast food several times a week if not every day, they eat sweets a few times a day, and they don’t exercise. If you really love your body, then why not think about changing your habits, and honoring your body by providing it with healthy food and movement that will help it flourish and feel good? And if, after altering your habits for the better, you feel the best you’ve ever felt but still can’t wear Victoria or David Beckham’s clothes, then you’ll know your body is in a good place and you should let it be where it is.

So yes, love your body. But show that love by honoring it, and treating it like it deserves to be healthy. Because it does.

Beef: Safe or Scary?

It feels like every other week we’re hearing about a beef recall due to E. coli or salmonella contamination. Either that or we’re reading how eating beef will cause everything from heart disease to cancer to global warming. What to do? Can beef be a healthy part of your family’s diet, or should you shun those Styrofoam trays of rib steaks and ground sirloin in the meat case? Read my latest column on AOL’s ParentDish to find out.

Calorie Postings Don’t Change Habits, Study Finds

You know those calorie postings in fast food and chain restaurants in New York? A new study, reported in today’s New York Times, has shown that they don’t work so well. In fact, the people studied– residents in poor NYC neighborhoods with high rates of obesity–have consumed more calories since the calorie info went up.

What to make of this? The takeaway is that cheap food trumps nutrition.

“‘Nutrition is not the top concern of low-income people, who are probably the least amenable to calorie labeling,’ said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit health advocacy group in Washington.”

This is no reason, of course, to dump this program. More information, rather than less, is a good thing. The problem is that the cheapest foods are also some of the unhealthiest. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone in the Bronx could walk into a restaurant and order a shrimp, vegetable, and soba noodle stir fry off the dollar menu?

Why Americans Are So Overweight
May 8, 2009, 9:18 am
Filed under: Food/Health Blogs | Tags: , , , ,

There are many, many reasons why Americans are so overweight: Huge portions served at restaurants, bigger and bigger bottles of soda sold in stores, and the ready availability of high-calorie fast food everywhere we turn are just some of them. Another, advertising by the food industry, was discussed in the Huffington Post this week. Check out the blog post by Irene Rubaum-Keller, and prepare to be disturbed by the maps showing our country’s rising rates of obesity.