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As I settled into my bleacher seat yesterday, about to watch my younger son’s weekly basketball class, I overheard a woman next to me yell “get your ass out on that court now!” to her 7 or 8 year-old son. The first thought that came to my mind was “did I really just hear her say that?” She continued to rant, and even made fun of her son for complaining he was so tired. A few minutes later, as the child stood alone on the sidelines while class began, I overheard his mom say “he doesn’t look so fat from this far away” to another parent. I’m not sure how this mom failed to see the smoke that was coming out of my ears; I needed every ounce I could muster to not overstep the boundary we parents try not to cross with one another and give her a hefty piece of my mind.
During this whole surreal episode, I couldn’t help but think of how this child must have felt. Being made fun of and spoken to in such a negative, disrespectful way by his own mother had to have been mortifying–or perhaps, even more sadly, he’s gotten used to it by now. Maybe I’m naive, but in my world it’s not ok for a mother to talk to her son this way (nor is it right, in my opinion, for anyone to talk to anyone else like that, period).
Putting my dietitian hat on, this experience made me think about how so many of us belittle or berate ourselves because of our appearance or body weight in the comfort of our own minds or even out loud when talking with friends, spouses, parents, or colleagues. Of course no one is perfect, and everyone has insecurities–if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be human. But if it’s not ok to be so rude and disrespectful to others, why should we be allowed to treat ourselves this way day in and day out? Negativity breeds negativity, and feeling badly about yourself can make you settle into a less than healthful lifestyle in which you’re just going through the motions (this may include relying on comfort foods and/or alcohol to numb negative feelings or make yourself feel better, at least for a little while!).
Although from time to time I catch myself thinking or saying something like “my legs are big,” I can honestly say that I have come to a place where I accept and am even happy about my body and my weight. This positive mindset and self-acceptance didn’t happen not overnight–it was a long time in the making since my overweight teen and early adult years. Studying nutrition and finding physical activities that I enjoy and that challenge me (like running, skating, tap dancing, and weight training) definitely helped me in my quest to look and feel better. Falling in love with my husband of almost 17 years also helped: he loved me for who I was, not how much I weighed (I was about 25 pounds heavier when we met). With every passing year I feel a little more at peace with my body and the shape I was given. To celebrate that, and reinforce those good feelings, I take time each and every day to take care of myself, be a role model to my children and family, and share all I’ve learned and am still learning about what it means to live a healthy and happy life with consumers.
I wish I could tell you there was a secret formula for transforming negative, sabotaging thoughts into positive, constructive ones and living a more healthful and happy life. But identifying how you feel and making a conscious decision to one up those feelings with other, more positive ones can be one tool to help you steer your own course on the road to a better, more proactive, more productive life. So my advice is to spend more time and energy each and every day focusing on and identifying the things that you like (or even love) about yourself and your body, and less time and energy on what you don’t. On a piece of paper with two columns, write down every negative thought or feeling you have about your body when it pops into your head or comes out of your mouth in one column; for each negative thought, come up with at least two positive thoughts and record those in the other column. In time, the list of things you like or love about yourself should be long; refer to this list often as a reminder of all the wonderful things that makes you you.
No one–I repeat no one–likes to be judged, looked at, or scrutinized (The Situation, Snookie, and The Kardashians are some exceptions!). If you become more positive about yourself, an added bonus is that you’ll probably become less judgmental and more of a well wisher to others as well (if you’re not already, you’ll become someone most people love to be around–and not because you’re skinny or have a six pack, but because of who you are!). Just like negativity breeds negativity, being more positive and celebrating what you love about yourself and others makes you much more likely to do the things you know you should–make more healthful food choices most of the time, and be more physically active–to optimize your health and live the best life you can.
Oprah, I’m sure you would agree. So have you started your list yet?
As the 2010 Winter Olympics have just come to a close, the American Dietetic Association’s annual National Nutrition Month is finally here. To celebrate NNM’s theme, From the Ground Up, I was inspired to put together a simple list of 31 tips and tricks to help you boost your nutritional fitness this month and beyond. It is my hope that after reading these 31 simple do’s, you’ll be inspired to try one each day for the entire month, or at the very least infuse several of these into your life more often. If you do, you’ll likely lose weight and feel energized and great, not to mention markedly improve the overall quality of your diet. Please post comments about those tips you find most helpful and how you incorporated them. Eat well and enjoy!
1. Try one new food today from the fruit group. Fresh, canned, dried or frozen varieties are all fine (but make sure none contain added fat or sugar).
2. Drink at least 4 to 6 8 ounce cups of plain water. Keep a water bottle on hand that you can refill and be sure to wash thoroughly at day’s end.
3. Have at least 1 cup of non-starchy, dark green vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, romaine, kale, or spinach, for example).
4. Have at least 1/2 cup of beans or peas, preferably in a low sodium form.
5. Have two healthful snacks each day that cover two food groups; examples include one green apple, sliced with 1 tbsp nut butter, or 1/2 cup low fat yogurt mixed with 1/2 cup berries.
6. Drink at least one or two cups of skim or 1% milk; have it by the glass, in cereal, in coffee, or in recipes.
7. Limit alcohol to no more than about 100 calories (about 5 ounces of wine, 1-1/2 ounces distilled spirits, or 12 ounces of light beer).
8. Plan a treat that adds up to 100 calories (two small cookies, or 4 Hershey Kisses for example).
9. Leave a few extra bites on your plate at all meals.
10. Drink all caloric beverages out of an 8 ounce cup ONLY.
11. Have an ounce of nuts or seeds (preferably raw and unsalted) as part of a snack or meal.
12. Don’t waste more than one bite on any food that doesn’t taste good (or is not worth the calories).
13. Have breakfast within an hour or two of waking up; include 1 cup low fat/skim milk, 1/2 ounce nuts/seeds or 1 Tbsp nut butter or 1 egg, and at least one whole grain (oatmeal, whole wheat cereal, whole grain bread or English muffin or pita).
14. Eat only while sitting down at a table.
15. Brush teeth/rinse with mouthwash after each meal; floss at least once during the day.
16. Make a big salad (2 cups worth) with lots of colorful non-starchy vegetables.
17. Have 4-6 ounces of fish, healthfully prepared (unbreaded, unfried).
18. Have a 1 ounce equivalent (oz Eq) of whole grains each time you eat. 1 oz Eq = 1 slice of whole wheat bread, 5 small whole grain crackers, 3 cups air-popped popcorn, 1/2 cup whole wheat pasta or brown or wild rice.
19. Go meatless for the day; incorporate other protein-rich foods like beans, soy foods like tofu or tempeh, low fat dairy foods, and whole grains.
20. Try one new food today from the vegetable group; opt for something bright in color (bright green, orange, or yellow).
21. Instead of going out to eat, ordering in, or getting take out, cook or prepare all your food at home for the day.
22. Have 1 cup of soup. Look for broth- or vegetable-based kinds, preferably with less than 400-500 mg sodium.
23. Replace your usual 100% fruit juice with 1 cup or a piece of fresh fruit (like a whole orange, apple, or cup of berries or pineapple).
24. Instead of cooking with salt, try to flavor food with sodium-free herbs and spices.
25. Instead of having your usual fruit-on-the-bottom or flavored yogurt, go for plain low- or non-fat yogurt (or Greek yogurt) and add 1/2 cup of berries, 1-2 tbsp of nuts, seeds, or dried fruit, or 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce.
26. Before having your usual bed-time or after dinner treat, ask yourself “Am I really hungry or am I eating this out of habit?” If the answer is no, skip it and instead brush, floss, and rinse with mouthwash to end your day of eating.
27. Instead of a whole sandwich, have only half; balance the meal out with fresh fruit or some grilled or raw veggies.
28. Turn off all disractions (including your cell phone) at every meal and snack; really focus on your food.
29. Clean out your refrigerator and freezer (and of course throw away all spoiled or expired food).
30. Clean out your pantry (throw out all spoiled and expired food).
31. Think about what you should eat more of, not what you shouldn’t eat.