3 Things Your Nutritionist Wishes You'd Stop
By Joan Kent, PhD
Even if we disagree on some points, most nutritionists would prefer that their clients stop doing the following things – now.
1. Eating Healthy Foods You Hate
Don't eat foods you hate. Even if they contain antioxidants.
Chances are your nutritionist can find a food you'll like that contains the same healthful nutrients.
If you don't like what you're eating, you'll feel deprived – as surely as if you were skimping on quantities and semi-starving yourself throughout the day.
Eating foods you hate – like starving yourself – is a binge waiting to happen.
2. Using Food For Entertainment, Reward or Stress Relief
We eat when we're bored, or to procrastinate. We eat to take a break from tedious work, to celebrate a killer workout, or because we hit our weight loss goal that week.
We eat at the end of a bad day – or in the middle of one.
It's odd that we'd eat more when things go well. But – just one example – endorphins (beta-endorphin) can be released when mood is low, and also when mood is "up" and positive.
Beta-endorphin affects the part of the brain that makes us want to eat more.
When moods are low, it's instinctive to seek something to lift us out of the low state. Foods change brain chemistry and our mental/emotional state.
Animals do it, too. Researchers say animals don't eat for calories or nutrition per se, but for "optimal arousal."
That's why stress-foods are typically strong brain-chem changers. Sugar triggers changes in brain chemicals that are felt readily.
So do other comfort foods – mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, spaghetti, biscuits, grilled cheese sandwiches, chips, pizza.
If your favorite comfort food isn't on this list, it's probably still a state-changer.
State changing is the key. You won't binge on broccoli when you're stressed – unless it's smothered in cheese or sauce. Broccoli doesn't change brain chem much. But those toppings will.
Your nutritionist would prefer that you avoid these emotion-driven blowouts.
3. Counting Calories At the Expense of Quality
I don't think food (or weight) is only calories in/calories out. I wrote a book chapter on it because it's an important subject.
Yes, some nutritionists and dietitians do focus on calories.
As the lead nutritionist in a weight-loss program, I worked with an RD. One participant had written, "HELP!" next to a brownie listed in her food log.
The dietitian's reply? "This has only __ calories, so I'm not worried about it."
But the brownie might have consequences – increased appetite, cravings, bingeing that might last for several days.
And "HELP" revealed the participant felt out of control.
I've never told a client that all calories are equal. When you recognize that foods are psychoactive drugs, calories seem less important.
At a recent presentation, a man asked about a butter replacement. It had no calories, but the junky chemicals in it made it a poor substitute. Coconut oil, raw almond butter or grass-fed butter would be better despite the calories.
When it comes to your nutrition, you can follow what you find on websites – there's more nutrition stuff online now than ever before. You can scramble plans and follow a Paleo diet 2 days a week, the Mediterranean Diet on 2 different days, a vegan plan for 2 days, and have pizza and beer the last day.
But you might be missing vital nutrients – or skipping key brain chemical info that would make your life easier. You might find your appetite out of control and not know why. You might have intense cravings and not know why.
Food isn't always casual. Your nutritionist wishes you'd stop treating it as if it were.
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