Food Shame

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For a number of reasons, I’ve been thinking a lot about food shame lately.

I am a person who loves to eat, and who eats what I love. I would be thrilled if it were that simple, but over time, it’s become something much more than that. I wish I could live whole-heartedly by this mindful and intuitive eating philosophy, but I feel pulled in so many directions. Here are the food-shaming sources that I’ve been really sensitive to lately:

  1. The “sugar is the devil” message. Has anyone else noticed how diets seem to centre around some sort of “moving target?” First it was fat, then carbs, and now sugar. Having a donut, a cinnamon bun or a piece of cake is now considered naughty. While I aim to be mindful of how much sugar I intake (though I am a total sweet tooth) it can be very dangerous to vilify any food so much that it feels like we should honour restriction and will power over mindful self-care.
  2. The willpower and self-control focus of eating. I find weight-loss shows can give really contradictory and confusing messages about this, and the diet industry can be to blame for this message as well. I get the sense that if (and when) I gain a lot of weight, people see it as a failure of my willpower, and I can imagine that lots of other people feel this way about themselves. The fact of the matter is that there is so much more at play behind weight loss/gain beyond self-control and willpower. Food intolerances, digestive issues, hormones, mood/emotions, physical injury, etc. are all sources of weight loss and gain. When I lose or gain weight, there are all sorts of reasons for it, just as I’m sure there are for you.
  3. The people we know. I swear, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to know any one from any background (gender identity, SES, family status, etc.) that does not have some sort of hang-up with food. Of course, there is an extreme end of this spectrum (e.g., disordered eating), but even before that point, we all have mixed up messages about what we should put in our bodies and how we might look as a result. I’ve come across so many people who compare themselves to others (I don’t escape blame on this either) and who (typically unintentionally) make comments that are triggering for me and for others. I ask that if (and when!) I do this on the blog, that you don’t hesitate to let me know. We all have our hellish histories with food, but I don’t want mine to make your present relationships with food any more difficult or unsafe.

What I wish for my readers and myself is the same thing: that we can all eat in a way that nourishes our being, without fear of judgment, reproach or shame. I hope that we can give ourselves what we need, that we can eat what we love and love what we eat.

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Mixing a carb and a protein

Afternoon, readers!

I wanted to share a common nutrition tip that I often take for granted. My dietician suggested that I work towards balancing all meals AND snacks with a carb and a protein source.

Here are my suggestions for snacks that meet the criteria:

  • Homemade trail mix (mine is a handful almonds, pepitas, dried cranberries and raisins)
  • Greek yogurt with homemade granola
  • Sliced fruit or crackers with nut butter
  • 3 or 4 crackers with a “domino” serving of cheese/laughing cow cheese
  • Home-popped popcorn with melted butter (not the most balanced but so delicious!)
  • Applesauce and almonds

I remember I protested, saying “But what about veggies? I need to eat more veggies.” My dietician was right when she said that people have limited success when trying to incorporate more veggies into their snacks. Instead, she suggested I try to “hide” more veggies in my meals, whether that be in a breakfast smoothee, pasta sauce, pizza, etc.

I’m really into the dietician’s suggestions so far, but she said that based on my health history, I should try a low-FODMAP regime. I’m not sure what it involves (other than avoiding cow dairy, certain produce and some gluten sources) or the science behind it, so I’m going to do some research. Next week I’m away on a trip to Dominican, but when I get back I’m sure I will have lots to share about my low-FODMAP experience.

 

The Tipping Point

Hello, old friend. It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog entry. Like my diary, I write this blog on an as-needed basis, and I haven’t felt I’ve needed to health blog.

Until a few weeks ago.

I have been in complete denial about putting on a significant amount of weight in a very short time. I’ve been tremendously happy lately, celebrating a number of exciting career achievements and new family members and engagements of dear friends. In other words, I’ve been eating a lot of celebratory food. I’ve been tremendously sad and angry lately, recovering from minor whiplash after being rear-ended, and growing increasingly frustrated at my financial instability and distance from career goals. In other words, I’ve been eating a lot of comfort food. Have you ever had the experience feeling as though your emotions (both positive and negative) are the ones in control of your eating, rather than your self? The worst part is, I was utterly unwilling to admit that this was happening to me.

And I invested in the lies I was telling myself about my binge eating/drinking. I did a bunch of online shopping, 3 or 4 sizes up, and told myself that it was nothing at all; everyone changes sizes from time to time. I would look in the mirror and think “I just ate too much last night and I’m bloated” or I would tell myself that seeing myself 12 pounds heavier than just a few months earlier was not hurting me. I invested a lot in myths I needed to create in order to not break down about my body.

But the myths weren’t holding up. The tell-tale signs were there. My expensive workout gear, that I refuse to replace at this point, fit snugger. Exercising felt substantially harder. Worse, my blood pressure is higher than it’s ever been before- perhaps because of stress, but I also know it’s because I’m not taking care of myself and my health.

And here’s the hard part: it feels impossible to acknowledge that I’ve steadily put on almost 30 pounds since I started grad school, while still being kind to myself. The number of the scale tells me that I weigh as much as my boyfriend did when we first met (a hard pill to swallow in a society that suggests that women must weigh significantly less than men, regardless of body composition). I’m struggling to offer myself kind words when I hate that I’ve put on so much weight. I don’t know how people who have yo-yo’ed in their weight manage the barrage of emotions associated with gaining and losing weight. I can hardly manage this first instance.

The self-compassion exercise I’m most working to engage in is imagining what I would tell a cherished loved one coming to me and explaining to me their weight issues (Neff, self-compassion.org). What would I tell them? How would I say it? I imagine I would softly say that I can imagine how hard it is to feel like something is so out of your control, and that I would do whatever I could to help them feel strong again. I imagine that I would remind him or her about my love for them, and that I will walk beside them in their journey to be healthy again, if they would let me.

In my moments of deep-seated self-criticism I hear myself using harsh, patronizing words and an aggressive tone. I say words that touch upon maladaptive core beliefs, that assign self-blame and that suggest that I am weak and incapable. Where is that soft, loving, compassionate voice? I miss her.

So let me tell you about my tipping point. I weighed myself and, at 160 pounds, decided that I needed better manage my habits. I made an appointment with an incredible dietician. She never once asked me about my weight; she only asked if my clothes fit tighter than usual. She is having me keep a food diary, with my symptoms of digestion, mood, etc. listed on the other side of the page. She also suggested that I didn’t necessarily need to eat less, but to shift my eating to earlier in the day, to avoid going into “food debt” which can cause binges in the evening.

I’m just getting started on making changes. My goal is to feel healthier and more in control. In just two weeks, and without major dietary changes by any stretch (I’ve only cut out beer, which destroys my stomach), I feel so much less bloated. I feel much more in control of what food and drinks I consume, and even simply writing my food down has made me so much more mindful of my consumption. I want to make it clear that it is not my main goal to lose weight, but it would be a happy accident if I lost a few pounds! It’s going to be a long effort, but I want to work towards better managing the relationship between my eating and my emotions.

 

 

The WORST Meal of the Day

I feel as though most people would agree that lunch is the WORST. It’s hard to plan ahead for, it seems to be the meal that could be eaten at way too wide a range of times (11 AM or 3 PM lunches, when you’re hard at work, aren’t uncommon) AND it’s usually eaten from behind a computer screen. You’re taking a 15-minute-lunch break, right? So then it’s time for Facebook, news online, etc.

The fact of the matter is, if you can, it’s a great idea to get up and walk around a bit when you’re taking a lunch break. You’ll feel much more refreshed, especially if you can manage to get outside and walk, than if you stay seated. If you eat lunch in a staff room, take your 15 or 20 minutes to eat, and then suggest walking around with a colleague… I did this last summer and it was fantastic! If you’re like me, your job and your life are way too sedentary… I really need to start doing something about it. Squeezing all my movement into one hour of working out isn’t doing enough, according to this article and many others like it: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/sitting-for-too-long-can-kill-you-even-if-you-exercise-study-1.2918678

Oh, right… lunches… let’s get back to the fun part: FOOD!

Here are a few ideas to make lunch food packing a little easier:

  1. Plan. Unfortunately we hear this a lot, but it’s because it’s THAT important. Find planning that works for you. Some people like to make all their lunches for hte week on Sunday night, some the night before, and some first thing when they  up. Find the timing that works for you.
  2. Leftovers. If you have a fridge and microwave at work, this is KEY! You’ll notice in the lunches I post, most meals involve leftovers.
  3. Invest in a cooler lunch bag. Not just a hipper lunch bag, but a lunch bag that keeps your food cool! Every since I bought a Roots lunch bag at Costco, I’m much more excited about packing my lunch.
  4. Look for packaged food that are as close to real as possible… look for yogurts, granola bars, apple sauces, trail mixes, etc. that are reasonably portioned, with easy-to-read ingredients and no added sugar.
  5. Consider treat day. Just like in grade school, it’s nice to have a day of the week that you buy a part of your lunch out. Maybe even pack the money in your super cool lunch bag (see tip #3). I usually allow myself a fancier drink at Starbucks on Fridays. Sometimes I’ll get an order of anitjitos instead, at my favourite place on campus. Obviously this doesn’t work if you don’t have access to these kinds of places. If you do, though, it’s fun to save the treat for a special day of the week or when you really need it, knowing that you’ve earned it by packing your lunch each day.
  6. Fruit!!! Especially if you don’t have any at breakfast, lunch is a great time of the day to pack grapes or berries– it’s even easier if you include fruits like apples, pears, peaches, etc. that require even less prep!
  7. Supplement your lunch with snacks that you keep at work. My favourites: almonds, snappea crisps, extra granola bars, and sometimes I’ll even bring skinny pop (or other pre-popped popcorn). This is so nice on days when I haven’t packed enough, or I’m extra hungry after my workout.
  8. Pack more. I think many people would look at my lunch and be surprised by how many calories I eat around noon. My defence- I workout in the mornings AND I’d rather load up on calories in the morning rather than later in the day, when your body has a harder time burning them off. ALSO, why have we created a culture where people look at your lunch and judge it, or compare it to theirs? Don’t be that person who compares their lunch- unless you tell someone that their leftovers look or smell unreal, and that you want the recipe!

Here are some pictures of my lunches from 4 days… Note, this is the most boring thing ever I think. But I love looking at what people pack for lunch, so I thought I would post in spite of the boring-ness.

This one is leftover broccoli and cheese frittata, grapefruit segments, a homemade pumpkin muffin, a true-to-nature cranberry bar and a grapefruit perrier.

This one is leftover broccoli and cheese frittata, grapefruit segments, a homemade pumpkin muffin, a true-to-nature cranberry bar and a grapefruit perrier.

This one includes carrots and cucumber slices, chocolate milk, a cranberry true-to-nature bar, and some kind of leftovers... I think it might be taco salad. YUM.

This one includes carrots and cucumber slices, chocolate milk, a cranberry true-to-nature bar, and some kind of leftovers: fish with homemade tartar sauce and sweet potatoes. YUM.

Pasta salad made the night before, a homemade pumpkin muffin, cucumber slices, a brazil nut true-to-nature bar, and a greek yogurt.

Pasta salad made the night before, a homemade pumpkin muffin, cucumber slices, a brazil nut true-to-nature bar, grapefruit perrier and a greek yogurt.

Carrots and celery sticks, apple, apple sauce, brazil nut true-to-nature bar and leftovers. I use a "wine writer" which is a marker for wine glasses to differentiate my leftovers from my boyfriend's :) Note that I also have a cold pack, because it was a hot day and I didn't want my leftovers to spoil.

Carrots and celery sticks, apple, apple sauce, pumpkin muffin, brazil nut true-to-nature bar and leftovers. I use a “wine writer” which is a marker for wine glasses to differentiate my leftovers from my boyfriend’s 🙂 I also have a cold pack, because it was a hot day and I didn’t want my leftovers to spoil.

Yours, in health…

Trying the Trends: Spin, Overnight Oats and Pedometers

Back again! And today I thought I would give some reviews on some health and fitness trends. I always like to try trends for myself and would encourage you to do the same. I might not be vegan, for instance, but I might try for a few days. I’m a fan of trying everything once when it comes to health and fitness trends- with the exception of those silly waist trainers I see on the Kardashians.

    Spin

What it is: Around 60-minute classes offered at gyms in a room full of bikes; popularized for me by Kimmy Schmidt’s Soulcycle fiasco 🙂
What I did: All-terrain offered through Goodlife
The verdict: 5 stars ***** AMAZING! I can see how this is super addictive. My one word to the wise– whatever bits you have below the waist will hurt immensely after your first try. My resident spin expert says “don’t let this deter you. You’ll build up tolerance in no time!”

    Overnight Oats

What it is: Oats put in a jar/tupperware with a bunch of other ingredients to sit in your fridge for you to eat the next morning
What I did: Ground chia, 1% milk, large-flake oats, banana and peanut butter (a recipe recommended by a friend, although she used almond milk)
The verdict: 4 stars **** It took me two days to get into this, but I can actually feel myself craving it in the morning. It’s easy to make a few days in advance. My favourite thing about it was eating it before a morning run this week. I couldn’t believe how good I felt after compared to other breakfasts I eat before I run.

    Pedometer

What it is: “Smart” pedometers (e.g., a Fitbit) measure different aspects of your lifestyle, such as sleep, steps and heart rate.
What I did: I’ve had my Garmin Vivosmart since January 2015.
The verdict: 3 stars *** I love my pedometer and wear it almost all the time. I have heard from friends with Fitbit that the Garmin is much more accurate in terms of a step count, and I believe it to be true (it doesn’t pick up any arm movement as a “step”). What I don’t like: how it looks, how slow the Garmin syncing process is (compared to the Fitbit, specifically), and the heart rate monitor that came with it. I would recommend this particular pedometer, but definitely not the sold-separately heart rate monitor. It’s a great pedometer if you like to be connected to your text messages AND I love that I can tap it twice to see the time.

I’ll continue trying trends and offering my reviews- and I hope you’ll try health and fitness trends to, while being critical about what actually feels good and suits your lifestyle!

 

 

My Favourite Healthy Recipe: “Fiesta Stir-Fry”

I admit, I have two separate Pinterest boards related to food. One is called “Food Porn” and the other is called “Health(ier) Recipes.” The reason that I call the second one “health(ier) recipes” is because the word “healthy,” when describing food, is so loaded. Almost every food and drink can be criticized for something, whether it’s because the food is non-organic, non-Paleo, GMO, highly caloric, non-nutritive… I mean, we’re even being told when we should drink water to reap the most benefits. Is there seriously a wrong time of day to drink water?

Healthy has become complicated.

But it doesn’t have to be. If we look at the definition of health, it usually includes something about being “free from illness or injury” and when we look at the definition of healthy, it usually includes something about being “good for you.” It’s pretty simple. My personal definition of healthy food is the stuff that makes you feel good (not bloated), that keeps you full longer, and that helps curb cravings for less nutritive food.

So based on that definition, I present my recipe for “Fiesta Stir-Fry.” What I love about this recipe is that it is made from ingredients I often have on hand- and so many ingredients are optional, so you can play around, modify and enjoy!

Fiesta Stir-Fry
Serves: 2-4
Prep: 5-10 minutes Cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
2 boneless chicken breasts, diced (can be omitted if vegetarian)
1.5 cups quinoa (red or white)
1 Tbsp. olive oil (or some other fat that will prevent ingredients from sticking to the pan)
1 tsp. minced garlic (optional)
1 can diced tomatoes, or 2-3 plum tomatoes, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (can be omitted too!)
1 red or white onion, diced
1 avocado, sliced (optional)
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
3 Tbsp. chili powder (I prefer a more mild variety, but this is up to you!)
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. stevia or 1 Tbsp agave syrup (optional)

Directions:
1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.
2. In a LARGE frying pan, heat oil/fat over medium heat. Add onion and garlic (if using) and sautee until soft and fragrant. Add chili powder and cumin. Add chicken to pan and cook until no longer pink.
3. Add diced tomatoes and black beans. Cook for a few moments, until sauce from tomatoes is simmering.
4. Add sweetener (if using) to frying pan.
5. On plates or bowls, arrange cooked quinoa, then cover in tomato/chicken/bean mixture. Top with avocado and cilantro, if using.

Enjoy!!!

Fad Foods Don’t Have to be Bad Foods

superfood_S

I have a lot of trouble with food changes. I’m extremely resistant when anyone suggests that chia seeds are amazing, or that kale chips are “even better than real chips.” The fact of the matter is that I will rarely enjoy the healthier alternative more than the sugary, salty, fatty version. That said, fad foods don’t have to be terrible. You just have to play around a bit to find a way to consume these foods (if you want to include them in your diet). Here are a couple of suggestions I have:

1. Kale… as I mentioned, I’m not really fond of kale chips. Instead, I like my kale in the 7 superfood salad available at costco or other grocers. The package comes with a dressing, but you can make it healthier by creating your own vinaigrette.

2. Grapefruit. I have always loved grapefruit, but you do have to ensure that eating this little miracle doesn’t interact with any medications you’re taking. I like slivering a grapefruit and topping it with stevia to make this one a sweeter treat.

3. Flax/chia seeds. I only use flax seeds at this point, but I am making a point of picking up some chia the next time I go grocery shopping. For me, the trick with flax is that you can add it to so much and it actually makes somethings taste better- like smoothees and oatmeal!

4. Spinach. I find the way that I can eat the most spinach is by sauteeing it with a little oil (grapeseed, olive or avocado), minced garlic and lemon. It amazes me how much of this amazing food you can eat this way!

5. Quinoa. This is an extremely versatile superfood carb. I like cooking a bunch and turning it into salads. One thing I also enjoy- cooking up some sweet potato until soft, mixing in an eggs and a bunch of quinoa. If you roll this into patties and fry it in coconut oil, you have an amazing vegetarian, paleo and often organic (if you buy the ingredients organic) snack.