Eating Disorders: Valentine’s day love

Facing a bad relationship or the lack of a relationship on Valentine’s Day naturally instigates self-criticism, and eating disorders thrive on self-hate. Eating disorders have touched many of the women and some of the men[1] in my life; my heart goes out to each of you.

vogue-cover

The woman on this magazine cover symbolizes perfection, society’s ideal body type, and a call to action: “Shape Up”.  This insinuates that the reader is not perfect, unlike the model, of course. Other titles on the cover also play into our stereotypes, and suggest that events like “A Foodie Gets Fit” or “A Model Fights Her Eating Issues” are newsworthy. Yet the magazine’s main article that month was “Fashion to Flatter Every Figure.” Thank you Vogue for addressing eating disorders, but no thank you for ingraining these stereotypes even further into our minds in the process!

Here a chart depicting how someone with an eating disorder thinks:

dysfunctional-eating

This looks confusing because it is. Having an eating disorder means you’ve been misled into a cycle of self-ideology, self-criticism and self-disappointment – you constantly realize that you are not perfect (because nobody is) and yet you compare yourself to the model society presents: You look at that model on the magazine cover, see that idealistically airbrushed image, and then pick apart every way in which you are different.

People easily forget that they are unique and beautiful. We forget that there are many others out there who have gone through similar struggles, who would be willing to help support them and begin a healing process.[2] [3] [4] [5]

Planning a reasonable, healthy diet can support healing because eating disorders are about the loss of control and short-term emotional thinking, whereas being healthy requires full control toward achieving a long-term goal. Determining to follow a healthy diet that you’ve researched can help to prevent, moderate or even realize that you have a disorder. Eating regularly helps, as does avoiding foods that shock your system, like sugar, or foods that slow down your system, like highly processed foods (most packaged foods are processed). Planning balanced meals and preparing food helps you not only eat healthy but to take the time to appreciate the work that goes into it. This strategy can help you regain nutritional balance and boost self-control.

Have goals and stick to them as best you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you stray. Disappointment, especially self-disappointment, fuels eating disorders – don’t go there! If you mess up simply acknowledge it ws a mistake and go back to your plan as if you had never left it. In fact, a recent study on the psychology behind eating disorders concludes that “facing modern temptations [tasty foods abound], it is impressive how many people remain in normal weight range today.” [7] Nobody is perfect.

anorexia

Post-Workout Protein

protein-scrabble

Building and maintaining a healthy body requires knowing when it needs nourishment. Besides eating consistently throughout the day and listening to hunger signals, the most important time to eat is within 30 minutes of your exercise routine.  This is the one time you really should not wait until you are hungry because this is when your body is primed to absorb protein nutrients in particular. Remembering to ingest protein soon after workouts will give your body a boost by helping it run efficiently and effectively.[1][2]

The best sources of protein are from lean poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. If you choose plant-based foods like tofu or beans, make sure that your eating something alongside them that will balance out the amino acids that are absent from them.[3][4] As always, if you eat a 40:40:20 ratio of protein:carbs:fats, then you’ll be set.

Another potential protein source is drinking a protein shake. As with any food, be careful reading through the ingredients, particularly avoiding added sugars or chemicals. There are many different types of protein powders with which you can make your own shakes, and such products also need to be scrutinized carefully. Livestrong recommends whey protein and also discusses alternatives like casein, which many bodybuilders prefer.[5]  This form of protein is highly processed so many people choose to avoid it; personally I’ll make a shake if I’m in a rush but generally try to stick to a whole food alternative.

It’s up to you to decide what you want to eat based on how your body feels after eating different things post-workout. Whatever I choose, I plan ahead so that I ingest protein within that narrow window of time when my body is primed for it.

Never Go Hungry!

start-journey-today

I ate healthy food for two years and remained slightly overweight, even though I was watching what I was eating. I would eat enough but irregularly, which meant that my body would store excess into fat and then eat away at my muscles until the next meal. I regularly put my body into starvation mode and prevented it from working properly. Now I know I should never go hungry!

I didn’t have the proportions right, which I discussed last week, and I certainly did not eat appropriate portion sizes.

Being healthy is not just about watching what you eat, but how much you eat and how often. This may seem obvious, but I didn’t realize that under eating, even by a little bit each day, can have even more destructive effects on your body in the long term than overeating.

Your body eats away at muscle before fat stores because muscle is easier to break down for fuel than fat. [1][2] The only way to burn fat is to focus your body on building muscle by providing it with plenty of nutrients and exercising. While I was eating relatively healthy food and working out, I still did not support my body properly: certainly not enough to be happy with my results. This was frustrating and discouraging, but figuring out the solution has been a rewarding process.

There is no universal solution to portion sizes. Every body burns energy differently.  But everybody experiences the same cues when they are satiated. The problem is that the cues most will notice often happen with a ten or fifteen minute delay. The key is to figure out how much food you need to feel content, without triggering your body to store away the food for later. This also means that you must exercise regularly so that after a meal your body is focused on forming muscles, as opposed to fat stores.

Another way to prevent your body from going into starvation mode is eating at a snack whenever you are hungry. Things that can satiate your hunger in small portions are generally relatively high in fat or protein. They include nuts, avocados, berries and cheese, and I always keep such snacks on hand. They’re in my desk at work, in my pantry at home, in my purse and even in the car.  If I undereat at the previous meal, or I’m running late, I always make sure that my body has something to continue fueling it until that next meal. I also make sure to snack a bit before going into a work meeting that could run long. No excuses!

Basic Food Component Ratios

Guess which indulgence I picked for this graph. Hint: they sell these in the coffee shop where I am people watching and writing from.  (Answer at bottom)
Guess which indulgence I picked for this graph. Hint: they sell these in the coffee shop where I am people watching and writing from. (Answer at bottom)

Until recently, I fed into the food pyramid or food plate approach that we are taught in school. Unfortunately, this didn’t work as well as a scientific method that I learned to use when measuring out portion sizes in p90x. That program and many other weight-management programs use the three basic components of foods to measure your daily intake, as opposed to the food groups of the FDA. Each food is made up of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

A healthy individual that is trying to maintain weight will ration about 40% carbohydrates, 40% proteins and 20% fats each day. The basic food component ratio depends on your goals: if you want to gain weight you generally eat more carbohydrates and fats, whereas if you want to lose weight you generally choose a more protein-rich diet.  It’s is important to realize, however, that each food item generally will contain all three of these nutritional building blocks.

Apart from the nutrition label that you can deduce an approximate ratio from pretty easily, sites like nutritiondata.com can help you determine what these proportions are for each food – eventually you’ll catch on by grouping foods together, like beans and chickpeas. The first two weeks of figuring out the basics of doing this tested my patience, but it was definitely worth the work to re-balance my diet and develop sensible food awareness for the rest of my life.

Answer to the caption above:  Dark-chocolate coated coffee beans.

My First Change: A commitment to water

How Soft Drinks Impact Your Health

How Soft Drinks Impact Your Health
How Soft Drinks Impact Your Health

This video poignantly presents the obesity epidemic as a result of our sedentary lifestyle and calorie consumption, not because of the individual choices we make in where our calories come from. The Coca-Cola Company is right that every calorie counts, but cutting calories is not the key to reducing obesity! If you drink a soda, you’re slowing down your body’s ability to process anything else that you may ingest. Consequently, you won’t walk off the soda because your body’s reaction to it is a lot more complex.

My strategy: Cut out all drinks but water. You’ll feel a whole lot better, especially after the first two-weeks of adjusting. For the first day or so you can also put greens in water, like a cucumber slice or sprig of mint, if you strongly dislike plain water – but eventually your taste buds will adapt to its non-sweetened flavor.

Non-caloric and natural alternatives to water include tea and coffee with no additives, particularly decaffeinated versions (caffeine may negatively impact you, I’ll post more on that later). Strive to completely eliminate other drinks from your diet. Drinks you may perceive as healthy, like fruit juice, still have lots of sugar (I’ll be debunking myths about fruit juice later this week). Alcoholic beverages are not only harmful to you because they lower your inhibitions but also because your liver and pancreas have to work overtime to metabolize the alcohol. Furthermore, drinking too much can lower your immune system.[1] Also it’s good to avoid better-for-you drinks like milk, protein shakes, Kefir or Kombucha for the first two weeks because they will not fill your belly like solid food.

As The Coca-Cola Company says about the obesity epidemic, “finding a solution will take continued effort from all of us.” This simple drinking adjustment will help you reduce the number of calories you consume daily without the negative effects of drinking soda. Keep in mind, though, that this is just one part of being healthy.

As a side note:

The Atlantic published an article this week about American’s beverage choices and the chart below, it’s nice to see that people are increasingly choosing to drink water over other drinks. (click on the chart for the full article)