Posts Tagged healthy eating

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?

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"Don't procrastinate".....growing up, I heard that expression in my home over and over from my dear (dare I say old) dad. I don't think my dad was speaking specifically to me when he said it (maybe he was talking to my mom and brother, the creative, perhaps less organized ones in our home). I was and am still very much like my dad--we are a bit type A, like things to be organized and to always have on hand extras of whatever we need (in case we run out). And with the exception of writing thank you notes and such, I was never nor am I now a put-it-off-til-tomorrow kind of girl, especially when it comes to anything work-related. I always like to be prepared!

To help you ring in the new year on a healthier note, I had planned to write a blog with simple tips for eating and living better; but I think my dad, a smart and successful attorney (or as he likes to call himself, a country lawyer) was on to something when he told us to not procrastinate or put off til tomorrow what we can do today. In honor of my dad, I decided to write "5 Simple Diet Do's to Eat Better and Get (and Stay) Fit" over the course of the next week and a half to celebrate the last days of December.

Now I'm not a scrooge (I swear!)--I know it's holiday and vacation time for many, and the temptations are overwhelming and routines and schedules are different. But holidays, celebrations, weekends, and other challenging times are just part of the fabric of our lives. To live a healthier life and be successful at long-term weight management, we need to treat ourselves well--or at least better than we typically do--each and every day (or at the very least, on most days).

I hope my 5 Simple Diet Do's inspire you to get a jump start on changing your food and fitness behaviors one step at a time. It is my hope that applying these tips to your life will help you not only be healthier, but that they'll pay you dividends in 2010 and beyond.

Diet Do #1: Eat Only When You're Hungry

Hunger is a basic sensation that drives us to eat; it’s shaped by a variety of factors including our genetic makeup and the environment to which we’re exposed throughout our lives. Appetite is a mental desire for food and may have nothing to do with hunger; the sight or smell of tempting food can boost appetite and lead us to eat when we’re not hungry.

If you’re overweight and want to take a few pounds off, or if you're an emotional eater, learning to eat only when you're hungry (and not in response to visual or olfactory cues or when feeling stressed) can help you eat less, curb your calorie intake, and lose some weight.

So the next time you eat, ask yourself “Am I really hungry?” before you dive into the meal or snack. If the answer is no, wait a bit longer before you eat. If you can work a little longer, run errands, or do something else that doesn't involve food until you truly feel hungry (but not ravenous), great. I realize this is easier said and done, and sometimes because of your school or work schedule you don't always have control over your time (especially your meal times). So if you're at work or school and only have breaks at certain times and know if you don't eat when you have the chance you'll end up starving (and overeating) several hours later, have something to eat, but keep the portion small (for example, have a small snack like a low fat yogurt and/or some nuts, or have only half of your lunch like 1/2 sandwich).

If you know you're not hungry, but for one reason or another the sight, smell or thought of food makes you feel like it's calling your name (perhaps you're used to eating at certain times every day, whether you're hungry or not), try to get yourself out of the habit of eating by the clock or in certain situations by arming yourself with distractions: you can take a brisk walk, listen to music, write an email or text, knit, or simply call a friend. At the very least, you can sip on some water or seltzer, chew a piece of gum, or suck on a strong mint or breath strip. You may find that over time, you break the habit of eating when you're not hungry; when you do eat, you'll probably end up enjoying it even more and feeling more satisfied when you're finished; I know I do!

For more information, please see my web site,

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Several months ago, I was fortunate enough to meet and spend a few minutes with Oprah. Meeting her and speaking with her was a lifelong dream of mine, and I am still overwhelmed that we had the unique opportunity to stand face to face.

As both a long-time fan of Oprah and her show, and as a registered dietitian who was once overweight and now enjoys a healthy, active lifestyle (and a sane, sensible relationship with food), I feel tremendous empathy towards Oprah. I know what it feels like to have food call your name, to overeat, to always think about food and what my next meal is, to feel like I have no control over how much I eat, and to not like my body or be ashamed of how I look. While these may not be Oprah's exact thoughts or feelings, many people feel badly when they're overweight and sometimes it's hard to know how to break the cycle and turn an  unhealthy way of eating and living into a more healthful one. Through hard work, education, and persistence, I was able to lose weight and keep it off successfully, permanently, and healthfully. Through all the writing and other work I do, it has been and will always be my goal to help others find their own way towards overcoming food and diet-related struggles that prevent them living--as Oprah always says--their best lives.

Like many of my colleagues and friends (and others who work in healthcare, and/or have lost weight and kept it off themselves), I would love to share my expertise and experience to help Oprah work out her weight and food issues once and for all. But while I may never be lucky enough to see Oprah again (not to mention work with her), I decided to take the ball into my own hands and start a blog entry called "From Me to Oprah: Tips for Managing Weight and Life." Through this blog post which will appear periodically over the next year, I will share my thoughts, feelings, and ideas about how to manage weight and life. While it is my not-so-secret hope that somehow, someway, Oprah will read The Zied Guide blog, these posts are also meant to help, inspire, educate and empower anyone who struggles when it comes to eating, exercising, and living a healthful and fulfilled life.

Today, I'll share with you my thoughts about dieting. Dieting is undoubtedly one of the public's favorite pasttimes. Some of us who work in health-related fields might smirk, grimace, or even get downright upset when we hear about the latest popular quick-fix fad or best selling diet book (especially if it promises great, fast results). People oftentimes cling to these new plans or programs especially when anyone they know--friends, colleagues, family members, or even mere acquaintances-- have had success with them). But while I may not personally agree with or like the concept of any particular diet--giving up favorite foods, consuming too few calories, or avoiding particular foods or food groups, I think it's safe to say diets are truly here to stay and as a registered dietitian, I need to accept that but continue to work with others to help them steer their own course in the diet maze.

As a registered dietitian and former overweight teenager and young adult, I have learned to think of diet not as a four letter word but as a way of eating. To me, the word "diet" has come to mean what I eat every day. It encompasses the foods I choose, and in what portions, each day to keep me energized, to feel strong, and to get the key nutrients I need to maximize my health. For me, the word diet is not negative, but positive. Through the years, I have learned how to create my own personal diet that I can enjoy and sustain. It may not be perfect, or ideal for anyone else, but it works for me, and helps me maintain a healthy body weight and have energy to do all the things I want to do (which includes running around with my 11 and 7 year-old boys).

When people ask me what diet is right for them, or they ask about a new diet book they read or heard about, I ask them a few key questions: Does the "diet" 1) include real foods from all the key food groups; 2) provide enough calories to keep you energized throughout the day; 3) include regular physical activity and exercise; 4) sound like a flexible plan they can "go on" and stay on not for a finite period of time but for life (and adapt as personal needs and preferences change over time). If the answers to these 4 questions are all yes, that's a great start. If one or more of the answers is no, then I usually recommend adapting the plan to their personal lifestyles. There are parts of all diet plans that can be helpful to many people in their quest to lose weight and keep it off, and as a registered dietitian I try to help people find and create their own personal way of eating that not only helps them lose an appropriate amount of weight for them, keep off their weight, and at the same time stay healthy (not to mention be pleasant for others to be around as well!).

So Oprah, if you're reading this, I know that when you're truly ready, you will find a "diet" that's right for that's flexible, takes into account your personal tastes, food preferences, and eating style, and that you can live with. Making food choices does not and should not cause anyone to feel stress or guilt; instead, making food choices should be positive, and be seen as an opportunity. Food can and should be enjoyed and respected, and used as a means for helping you get and stay where you want to be both physically and mentally. I know you can do it, and so can any of you who truly want to change your life in a more healthful, positive way.

Sources: My Oprah Encounter:

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