Category Archives: Diet

Why you should ignore the forthcoming US Dietary Guidelines (and pretty much all other diet advice)

Full disclosure: I am a Rancher’s daughter and I love a good steak. I raise my own chickens so I can have fresh eggs. I am currently drinking my second cup of coffee while writing this.

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Did you catch the sneak peak at the US Dietary Guidelines? All I can say is SIGH. It’s not that I don’t think what you eat matters. It matters. But it matters in more than just the sugar, salt, fat way. It matters in the: I like this/don’t like that, this reminds me of my grandmother’s cooking, this makes me feel energized way. It matters. But it is not the only thing related to your health. I don’t even think it matters as much as many experts try to tell you it matters.

Perhaps I have dietary guidelines fatigue after all this time. I gave up on prescribing diets (for otherwise healthy people) years ago. Because there isn’t enough good and conclusive research to say what a perfect diet is. Additionally, we cannot control for the myriad of different bodies and metabolisms.

It’s not that I don’t agree we should consume less added sugar. My concern is demonizing any certain nutrient. We did that with fat and everyone increased their sugar intake. So what will it be this time? From a public health perspective I would be in favor of most people decreasing the added sugar in their diet; specifically soda, sports drinks, fruit juice and desserts. I think this would be a good thing.

Though coffee has not been mentioned before it was a previously demonized food. Years ago many people switched to decaf and then switched back when concerns were raised about the decaf process. These were unfounded by the way. Perhaps they switched because they missed the pick me up or because of the awful caffeine withdrawal headache.

I strive to be an Intuitive Eater every day. To tune in to my internal hunger cues. To block out the external cues (when appropriate). To notice the moving from emptiness to fullness as I eat. To tune in to how food makes me feel. To enjoy the flavors and textures. To give thanks for the blessing of nourishment.

Tuning in may help you notice too. You may notice that the sweet drink pick-me-up is followed by an awful “crash.”. This type of introspection can help fine tune this aspect of the diet. Though it’s no substitute for restful sleep sometimes we just need a cup of coffee as a pick-me-up.

Do you really need Dietary Guidelines to tell you this?

Maybe you just need permission to be The Boss of You.

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday. Does that leave Sunday for Detox?

Today my internet search of the word “detox” came up with over 67 million hits. The subcategories include detox diet, detox tea, detox smoothie, detox juice, detox cleanse, detox fast, etc. Branching off of that are detox baths, detox yoga, detox brushing. The list goes on.

I do want to differentiate this post is not discussing detox from substance abuse of alcohol, illicit and prescription drugs.

In my area of expertise, dietetics, the pseudoscience of detox never even comes into our training. Well, actually that isn’t exactly true. We do extensively study biochemistry, physiology and advanced human nutrition. Most specifically the liver, kidneys, lungs and skin and the role they play in excreting the byproducts of metabolism. Of course the colon has a role to play in that excretion as well. These byproducts are not exactly toxins in and of themselves but if allowed to accumulate they would certainly be toxic and detrimental to the host.

Team detox will tell you your food is full of toxins (which are never defined or clarified) and that these toxins build up in your bloodstream, fat cells, colon, liver, etc. leading to excruciatingly vague symptoms like fatigue, bloating, dark circles under the eyes, brain fog, sugar cravings, etc. Instead of advising an appointment with a person’s Primary Care Provider to rule out any potentially serious illness the answer is detox. If you elect to undergo detox you will be presented with, of course, a list. The list will include foods to eliminate (usually for a specific amount of time) and foods to incorporate, which often are juiced or pulverized into a smoothie. I have yet to see any specific mechanism of action for how cayenne pepper, lemon juice, or grade B maple syrup (commonly included detox ingredients) detoxify the body. Know why? They don’t. But this prescriptive “diet” is actionable. People feel like they are doing something. Conveniently, the side effects of this detox which are most assuredly from ketosis or inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract (according to the peddler of nutrition “facts”) are signs it is working. This, of course, is based on the years-ago-debunked theory of autointoxication. Autointoxication is the theory that rotten components in fecal matter were absorbed into general circulation and were the cause of disease. Science has not given this theory any credence since the 1920s. A logical person will tell you that if one were concerned about keeping the colon healthy one would feed it rather than starve it. It is known that starving a digestive tract will cause it to atrophy which WILL cause the bacteria in the digestive tract to leak out into the rest of the body. This is one of the reasons people in a coma are fed via a feeding tube. It’s not just about delivering nutrients (that can be done via the bloodstream) but also about preserving the integrity of the digestive tract.

What is the non-diet approach to detox?

The non-diet approach would not specifically tell you “not” to do these things. You are, after all, the boss of you. But this dietitian would definitely inform you of the risks both short and long term. You would be informed of the prescriptive “bossy” nature of these techniques that do not honor your internal hunger and satiety cues. You would be informed of the lack of scientific rigor behind these claims. They would be identified as another “diet” – meant to keep you locked into the cycle of believing there’s a specific correct way to eat. Forgiveness would be discussed. Perhaps judgment was clouded by the recent holiday. Perhaps you didn’t eat mindfully and let the festivity, the joyfulness, the celebration skew your honoring of self. It’s okay. Accept it. Learn from it. Then let it go.
There are more holiday gatherings to come in the next few weeks. Don’t fall back on those old “tricks” of water loading, fiber loading or any other formerly used compensatory techniques that denied your body the nourishment and your soul the full engagement in the festivities. Try the delicious food that many of us only eat at Christmas time (I’m looking at you Aunt Bill’s Candy).
Do it with the full engagement of your senses to maximize the pleasure and minimize the guilt!

Enjoy your food, enjoy the festivities, and enjoy your life!

Self-care is taking the time and energy to care for you

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My recent extended absence due to work commitments provided an excellent opportunity to delve into vacation/too busy to ______ mentality. I am one that can easily get caught up in this thinking. The place I traveled for work was close enough to drive but far enough I had to stay in a hotel. Having my own transportation and a kitchenette made things easier. Above is a snippet of my first trip to buy groceries. I had also brought a few items from home such as a paring knife, cutting board, measuring tools, flatware, and dishes that can go in the microwave. This post is not to show how perfect I am as a dietitian or to ask you what your excuse for not eating better while traveling. But more as about what I did to help me feel better. You see, this work commitment required very long hours and I would be more inclined to just not eat rather than eat something that would not sit well in my stomach. This, naturally would lead to fatigue both in body and mind. Dining out too much tends to upset my digestion. I don’t know why (I have my theories) but I cannot eat too many meals in restaurants without digestive upset.
Though the hours were long, I made time to connect with old friends that live in the area, read, play my ukulele, take walks, take pictures — things that make me happy. Things I needed to do to take care of myself. Self-care is not about perfection. It’s not about being so inflexible I had to cook all my meals ahead of time and transport them in a cooler on my trip. It’s not about declining to go out to lunch with my co-workers. It’s right there in the title; it’s taking care of yourself. Whatever that means to you.

*This is not an endorsement of any of these product. These are just things that I like to eat or in a few cases wanted to try.