6 Things Your Nutritionist Wishes You'd Stop?
By Joan Kent, PhD
Most nutritionists have the client's best interest at heart. We may not all agree on every nutrition point, but we do want you – our clients – to get the results you're looking for and feel great.
It's a safe guess that most nutritionists would not miss it at all if their clients stopped the following things – immediately and forever.
1. Eating "Good for You" Foods You Hate
Deprivation can make us do strange things with food. Feeling deprived can result from eating so little food that you're always hungry, always thinking about food, always ready to gnaw the legs off the furniture.
It's definitely a binge waiting to happen. But there's more to it.
Several years ago, during an appointment, a frustrated client stomped her foot at me and demanded, "Joan, do you ever enjoy eating?!"
My answer was an enthusiastic, "Of course!" True, we might need to give up certain foods – including some favorites – to get the results we want.
But the good news is plenty of delicious foods we can and do enjoy will fit into our food plan – even if we stop eating junk.
The main point is to avoid eating foods you hate. Please. Don't eat them because you heard they're good for you. Don't eat them because you read about the antioxidants they contain. Don't eat them because you're worried about your health.
Chances are your nutritionist can find a different food with the same healthful nutrients. In a food you won't hate!
Most importantly, if you don't like what you're eating, you'll feel deprived – just as if you were skimping and semi-starving yourself throughout the day.
Eating food you hate is another binge waiting to happen.
2. Using Food as Entertainment or Reward
• We eat when we're bored.
• We eat to take a break from tedious work.
• We eat to procrastinate on a work project we dread starting.
• We eat because we got through a killer workout that morning.
• We eat to celebrate that we had a great day.
• We eat to celebrate hitting our weight loss goal that week.
Feel free to fill in your own.
In one athletic training program for which I was the nutritionist, a participant refused to follow my guidelines. Why? She was working out hard and felt entitled to eat whatever foods she wanted. Who could argue with that? We all get to make our own decisions.
When her training coach took her weight and measurements at the end of the program, though, she was disappointed. Hers had all increased. It was a shame, too. She probably would have performed better in the program if she had followed the food plan.
It seems unusual that we'd eat more food – or eat junk – when things are going well. But, as just one example, endorphins (beta-endorphin) can be released when mood state is low AND when mood is "up" and positive.
Beta-endorphin "turns off" the satiety center of the brain. It makes us want to eat more. It doesn't matter whether the original trigger was positive or negative.
When we're already up, we want more of that up feeling. And we may end up eating foods that stimulate more endorphins. More sugar, please.
Maybe a non-food reward would be more advisable.
3. Using Food to Relieve Stress
Eating to relieve stress may happen when we're frustrated, or at the end of a bad day. Or in the middle of the bad day. Stress also makes us likely to go for junk food.
This might seem like a minor issue, but any stress time is a bad time to eat. The digestive system basically shuts down – reduced saliva, lack of contractions in the digestive tract, other stress changes. The body just isn't ready for food.
Because foods change brain chemistry, they can change our mental/emotional state. When our mood is low, it's almost instinctive to look for something to lift us out of it.
Even animals do it. Researchers have said that animals don't eat for calories or nutrition per se, but for "optimal arousal."
That's why food choices when we're stressed are usually big brain chemistry changers.
Sugar is a common stress reliever because it triggers changes in brain chemicals quickly.
But other comfort foods are used – frequently in large quantities. Mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, spaghetti, biscuits, grilled cheese sandwiches, chips, pizza.
If your favorite comfort food isn't on that 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. That's because broccoli doesn't change brain chem, but the toppings will.
Your nutritionist would prefer that you avoid stress-driven, high-calorie blowouts.
4. Thinking Only About Calories, Not Food Quality
I don't believe food (or weight) is only about calories in/calories out. I wrote a book chapter on it because it's an important subject.
Some nutritionists and dietitians do think a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. As the lead nutritionist in a weight-loss program, I worked with a registered dietitian.
When a participant typed "HELP!" next to the brownie listed in her food log, here was the dietitian's reply: "This is only X calories, so I'm not worried about it."
The dietitian didn't recognize that the brownie might have consequences. My specialty keeps me aware that the brownie might increase appetite, start cravings, trigger binges – any of which could last for days.
The dietitian also didn't realize that the brownie might have been the result of what the participant had eaten earlier that day or the day before.
Or that "HELP!" revealed the participant's lack of control at that moment.
I have never told a client that all calories are equal. Or that it's okay to eat a certain amount of sugar if you're within your calorie limits – and I do know RDs who say that.
When you realize sugar is a psychoactive drug, calories seem less important than what the sugar DOES.
And it's not just about sugar. We now know that saturated fats aren't as bad as we were told, but most of my clients realize that French fries are not healthful in a daily food plan. Some foods are best avoided.
At a recent presentation, a man asked about a non-caloric butter replacement. He started using it to save calories, but the junky chemicals in it made it a poor substitute. A better choice would be coconut oil, raw almond butter, or grass-fed butter – despite the calories.
Focusing on calories alone can lead to eating without mindful attention to food quality.
5. Cleaning the Hotel Room Before Housekeeping Arrives
This happens frequently. Clients expect me to reprimand them for the "bad" stuff they've been eating. (That never happens.)
They cancel appointments and reschedule, so they can eat well for a week or so – and keep a food log that shows how well they're doing. But the clients reschedule because they weren't following my recommendations.
Yet the reasons they're not implementing can reveal the pitfalls, the moments that throw them off-track. Postponing till they're sure they'll get a gold star misses those valuable discovery points.
I've also had clients cancel follow-up appointments – arguably the most important appointments. They give us a chance to discuss what has been working and what hasn't and move forward from there.
6. Too Many Cooks Spoil the Food Plan
A new client came in after meeting with her physical therapist. She presented a week's worth of food logs, based on her PT's recommendations. I suggested several changes for her health, but she was reluctant to follow them – because the PT had suggested something else.
Despite my excellent track record over many years, I get much worse results when clients try to squeeze my recommendations in and around what they've been told to do by their PT, their doctor, their dentist, the pool boy.
When it comes to your nutrition, you're free to do whatever you choose. You can wing it. You can follow steps you've found on websites – more nutrition stuff is online now than ever before. You can combine many plans and follow Paleo two days a week, the Mediterranean Diet on 2 different days, a vegan diet for 2 days, and a pepperoni pizza and beer binge the last day. Whatever you want.
But you might miss vital nutrients by eating too much of some things and too little of others. You might skip over key brain chemical info that would make your life much easier if you knew it. You might find your appetite out of control and not know why. You might have intense cravings and not know why.
Food is not as casual as we sometimes treat it. Your nutritionist wishes you'd stop treating it as if it were.
I'm available to help with aspects of your health and wellbeing that are directly related to my specialties: diabetes, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, persistent low moods, mood swings, cravings, ADD, and more. Just visit www.LastResortNutrition.com and grab your free Empowered Eating Consult. Find out how a few simple changes can make a big difference in your health and how you feel.
Brought to you by Dr. Joan Kent, best-selling author of Stronger Than Sugar: 7 Simple Steps to Defeat Sugar Addiction, Lift Your Mood and Transform Your Health.