The Body

my story

I want to help people enjoy food and eat healthy at the same time.  Food can be both of those things – it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Growing up I trusted my intuition about eating.  I ate foods that I wanted to eat, I ate as much as I wanted to, I didn’t eat too much I didn’t eat too little, I felt comfortable around food and confident in my eating.

When I was coming into the age of puberty, people started commenting on what I was eating and what I looked like.  I got comments that I ate like a bird because I never ate large meals (I would just snack throughout the day).  I would eat at meals but I never could have large meals and I needed to eat often.  That was just what my body wanted me to do.  Later in graduate school I learned that this is how humans ate in hunter gather societies.  And that this actually has certain benefits to the body.  When I learned that in graduate school I thought, “See?! I kind of knew that, why did I ever go against what my body was intuitively telling me to do?”  Around age 13 or 14 I started to become self-conscious about my food and eating and I felt like I had to prove to people that I ate. I would over eat – I ate beyond the point of fullness – just to prove to people and show people that I did in fact eat.  And it made me feel bad – both the overeating and just the comments that people had about my body.

As I grew older and got into college I went through a phase where I prioritized spending money on “going out” which meant that I prioritized spending money on drinks over healthy food.  I bought cigarettes and alcohol – I would buy food too – but as a college student I was more interested in partying than I was in having a healthy lifestyle – I wanted to have fun.  When I finished college I wanted to do something entirely different than what I studied.  I wanted to help people in some way – I didn’t know how – but I was interested in science, I was interested in the body, and my father was a physician so I thought I would go to medical school.  First I worked in research for a little bit and then went back to school.  During this time I was involved in an unhealthy relationship.  I was involved with someone who was abusive to me physically and emotionally and was very controlling.  I was depressed and started going to therapy.  I had gained weight and the person I was in the relationship with made me feel bad about it and told me I should lose weight.  I already felt really insecure in this relationship and thought that he wasn’t attracted to me anymore and I made all these wrong decisions (number one by being with this person). I started reading these magazines about health and reading books about dieting and nutrition.  Now, that I have a degree in nutrition, I can look back and realize that this information either was incorrect or not based in any science.  Probably the worst thing about that period was that I stopped trusting my body,vI stopped trusting myself and I started listening to other people.  That was my biggest mistake. Rather than listening to my intuition and what my body was telling me (clearly my body was telling me that I was not happy and that something was wrong), I thought that my weight gain had to do with external circumstances like what I was eating or how I was exercising.  I didn’t listen to what was going on with me.  During this time this person broke up with me, I didn’t get into medical school, and I reached a very big low.  I had been living with this person so I had a to find a different apartment.  I had no money so I moved in with a friend of mine who let me stay with her.  I had a job but I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing at all.

I went on this vacation and I remember thinking that I knew I had to go on this vacation even though I had no money.  That maybe if I got away from everything I would figure it out.  I’m a very driven person and smart and I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get my life together.  I went on this vacation to this beach in North Carolina and toward the end of the vacation I remember laying on the beach and surrendering.  I thought to myself, “just be to be okay with not knowing.  Be okay with where you are at right now.  It’s okay not to know what you’re going to do, it’s okay not to know what you’re supposed to be doing, it’s okay that you spent all this money on your education and you’re still no where near closer to figuring out what you’re supposed to be doing.  Just allow yourself to feel lost.”  During this vacation I made some friends and when we got back to New York we hung out.  At the time, one of my new friends was studying nutrition.  She had this textbook and she said to me, “I feel like you would really like this – why don’t you just look through my textbook?”  So I start looking through her textbook and I had this moment where I felt like this is what I’m supposed to be doing.  This is it.  This is what I’m supposed to be doing.  The next day I called the nutrition department at Columbia University and I said, “I want to be a nutritionist what do I do?” I signed up for classes and six years later I became a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Since becoming one I have felt really upset  because I still see people who are friends of mine, family members and people who I know well that are following advice in magazines and books published about “here is how you diet” and “here is how you lose weight.”  And I am in this position where I have had this experience eating by trusting my body and intuition, falling off that wagon and listening to incorrect advice that’s out there about nutrition, then becoming a nutritionist myself and rehabilitating myself back to what I knew to be true about listening to my body but adding on top of that knowledge of the science of nutrition.  I just want to share it with the world.

When I see people reading magazines or talking about nutrition that’s incorrect, nutrition that’s written by people who are not dietitians, it really hurts me.  I’ve been there too and I want to save people from not listening to themselves, from not listening to their bodies, and from listening to incorrect information that’s out there.  I feel like it’s my responsibility as a dietitian to educate people about where to get correct information about nutrition, who you can trust, and most importantly, to listen to your body and what’s right for you.  There’s no one right way to eat.   Everyone is different – we have different histories, different cultures, we grew up eating different ways, our bodies are all different and we have to honor that.

So that’s me that’s my story – if you connected with any of that then connect with me, leave a comment below, and send me some of your questions that I can answer!

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Brain Food

I read an interesting article in the Behavioral Health Nutrition Newsletter about how food affects your brain. Not about the types of foods that are good for your brain, but about how eating affects your brain.  What you eat and how much you eat involves a complex interaction between the body and the brain.  Different parts of the brain are responsible for different aspects of eating.  For example, the hypothalamus is responsible for hunger and satiety.  The prefrontal cortex is responsible for sending signals to the body to eat more or to eat leas.  And then there are also mechanisms that provide rewards.  Certain hormones are released from the brain to communicate with the body that a food is good.

Recent research has found that also the amount of food you eat impacts this communication system.  In animal studies undereating increased the dopamine response where as overeating did the opposite.  Overeating made the dopamine receptors less sensitive.  Furthermore, which is really interesting, is that undereating or overeating changes the structure and the volume of your brain!

Eating too little but also eating to much is not only bad for your body, but it is also bad for your brain, and the complex communication system that exists between your brain and your body.  I often talk to clients about this concept, but now there is actual science behind it.

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Think Dirty

I’ve been wanting to share this app for a while now.  I was late to the game in changing my skin care products.  Mostly because I just didn’t want to know how bad the stuff was that I was using.  But also, because, I didn’t know how to fix it.  Several years ago my friend told me about this website where you can enter the cosmetics that you use into the Environmental Working Group database and they will let you know if the product contains any harmful chemicals.  When I did put my products in, and saw that some of them were really bad for me, I felt horrible and defeated.  Well, what do I do now?  I thought…

Then several years later, about a year or so ago, I suppose I was ready to take action.  I attended a lecture given by a woman who was getting her Ph.D. in endocrine disruptors.  During her lecture I really understood that the products I am putting on my skin are as important for me to pay attention to as the food I put in my body.  I decided at that point that I was going to make a change.  I would no longer drink out of plastic bottles, I would do my best not to buy foods that were stored in cans, and I would take a serious look at my skin care products.  Luckily, I found the Think Dirty app.  Like the Skin Deep website, the Think Dirty app rates your cosmetics on a scale (0 being the best, and 10 being the worst).  However, unlike Skin Deep, Think Dirty will make suggestions for products that do not contain harmful chemicals, that are similar to the product you entered into the app.  I have, since using this app, replaced my face wash, moisturizer, deodorant, and sun screen.  Next up is my make-up, which I haven’t been wearing for a couple of years, but am excited to have found a line on Think Dirty that is rated all zeros.

Life isn’t perfect, and neither are we.  But at least I know that I am doing the very best I can by buying products that are not harmful to my body.  What about you?

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The anti-diet

I often struggle with identifying myself as a dietitian because the of the word “diet.” The word “diet” in general just refers to the types of foods you eat. For example, my diet today consists of fruits, vegetables breads, nuts, grains, coffee and water. However, in our culture, that is not how the word is used.

The word diet in our culture refers to something that you do in order to lose weight. So, when I say I am a dietitian, I have a problem because I am against diets and I am against dieting. The word diet and “dieting” persist in our country like cockroaches – they never go away. As soon as one diet dies another appears in its place. And on and on. Meanwhile, the majority of experts in the field, (“dietitians”), including myself, are against dieting because dieting does not work.

But instead of saying what I am against, and why I am against it, I would like to focus on what I am for.  These are the principles of the anti-diet.

Enjoy what you eat. First and foremost, like (even love) what you are eating.

Honor your body. Eat when you are hungry. Stop when you are full. Your body knows how much it needs to eat. Your job is to listen to your body.

Be mindful.  If you want something, eat it. Just be mindful while you are doing it. Be mindful of all the foods that you eat, of where your food comes from, of the impact that it has on your environment and the impact that it has on your body. When you become aware of these effects, without judgment, just mindfulness, you can truly look at your diet. You can see the foods that you are eating for what they are, you can stop eating the foods that don’t make you feel good, and eat more of the foods that do.

If you have confusion about any of this, send me a message. I am here to help. That’s my job as a dietitian and that is what I love about being a dietitian – helping people fall in love with what they are eating.

I've always loved eating @mitchinthekitchen you may see this at graduation

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On bodies, body image, and control 

I have friends tell me that I “look good” because I have “gained some weight.”  I have  friends that say my butt looks good and ask if it has gotten bigger.  Throughout my life, I have gotten comments about my body like this.  Sometimes they go in the opposite direction – about my losing weight or looking thin.  Sometimes the comments about my weight are positive, other times they are negative, but all the time they are unsolicited and unwanted.  I would like to make a habit of correcting people when they comment about my body and here’s why.

People have body image issues.  In fact, most people that I know do or have struggled with it at some point in their life.  I can pretty much guarantee that you have wished a body part looked a certain way, wanted something to be smaller, bigger, differently shaped or colored.  You have thought or said about yourself (or someone else) that you (or he or she) looks, feels, or is fat, bloated (or insert any body comment here).

This type of talk – whether it be internal toward yourself, or external towards others – is  damaging.  I struggle with the damaging internal talk – and I wish I didn’t because as a dietitian I would like to be a role model for positive body image.  I wish, that when someone commented on my body, that I would know what to say back.  However, the truth is that I don’t know what to say.  And, I wish that when someone commented om my weight that it didn’t bother me, but it does.  From now on, I have decided, that when someone comments on my body, or if I hear negative internal talk from myself, i will say, “I am committed to positive body image.  And I do not welcome comments about my body.”

Yoga babes

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What about you?  How do you feel about your body image?  What do you do when you notice yourself or others commenting on your body?