It seems like diet-culture is everywhere. From the Paleo fanatics to the Weight Watchers evangelists, there are tons of people exalting the many benefits of various diet plans.
For some women and men being overweight does not happen because they are too busy to go for a run or too lazy to move away from the dinner table. It’s not because they don’t know what they should or should not be eating or because they have an appetite for large portions.
Instead weight can be used as a protective shield. I am often struck by the frequency which I encounter clients who use their extra weight as a protective layer that keeps them from being hurt or disappointed. It can be a way of keeping people around them at a distance and of not getting too close to people.
Extra weight can minimise looks and appearances, and draw attention from a woman’s sexuality. In a society where thinness is highly valued, people will often pay less attention to an overweight body.
Weight can be a reason not to start new challenges, such as a new job (“I’m too fat”), not to enter a relationship (“no-one would want me at this weight”), not to get on a flight (“I might not fit in a seat”).
Oprah Winfrey has said being overweight was her “shield and shame” which she used as an excuse not to have to attend parties.
She said: “(My weight) has been the go-to comfort for me. You use it as your coat and your shield, and it keeps you from doing things.
“You don’t have to go to that party because you don’t have a dress to wear and nothing is going to fit you.
The shield and shame of weight can become reasons to disengage with the world around you, to socialise less, not to leave your comfort zone. Feeling lonely and isolated can ensue. That body armour and layer of protection can come at a high price.
The well-intended inches in weight loss columns about having willpower, knowledge or motivation to lose weight miss the point for many women and men.
Bringing yourself out of hiding and working on the underlying causes of your eating and weight, such as its protective role, is key to having a healthy relationship with food. It can also help to be more aware of your emotions, write as a tool, use relaxation techniques, and seek out support and someone you trust to listen.
Perhaps it’s time to come out of hiding.back to top
Imagine you’ve had a long and tiring week, and it’s now Friday. When you walk in the door in the evening and someone asks how your day was, your respond with the word “fine”, and then head straight for the fridge for a few spoonfuls of ice-cream or seek refuge in a soft crusty loaf of bread with lashings of butter.
I recently spoke to mother-of-two, Emily, who explained that when she’s feeling annoyed or overwhelmed, her eating becomes out-of-control. It’s not a good place to be. Stuffing down your emotions- anger, anxiety- with food may work temporarily, they will always come back. Have you noticed?
It may seem daunting, but facing your dis-ease will bring you more contentment in the long term. In order to change our current behaviours, we must first understand why we are doing them in the first place. A journal can be a great place to start figuring out the thoughts and feelings that drive your actions. In Heyday’s online program we use a tracker to identify not only why/when you’re eating but to let go of what you’re holding onto.
What is it that you believe about this difficult situations or stressor?- “I feel like an idiot here- I should have said more”. It’s those ‘ice-berg’ beliefs that can trigger a feeling of being overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, followed by a drive for food.
What small steps can you take to support yourself?
It can be what you tell yourself about the stressor, “I have a choice here. I’m not powerless”, “I’m doing my best”.
Pause and take a few moments to centre yourself. Bring your attention to your breath.
So this week ahead step back, be awareness and observe how this pattern plays out in your life. Once you’re aware of your ‘ice bergs’ they will loosen their power and grip.
Be aware of the feedback you give yourself. If you don’t get a constructive response from other, then give it to yourself. Ask yourself, “What can I do to help myself?” Support is far more effective than criticism.
What you practice you get good at. If your habit is to compare, judge and criticise yourself, then you’ll get better at it. Is there a more effective habit that you could practice?
Be intentional and alert as opposed to being in a trance-like state around food. Often, we live our lives in the same way we eat – consciously or unconsciously. When you eat calmly and consciously, you will feel calm and conscious afterwards. The more attention you pay to food, the more you enjoy it, and be satisfied with less:
Pause to ask yourself, “What do I want?” before selecting food. This will help you choose something that is more likely to satisfy you.
Remember to pause while eating to notice whether you are really enjoying your food and whether it is satisfying what you want.
In each series of the online programme, there are mindful eating tips, how to stop eating once you’ve had enough and how to feel satisfied afterwards. Satisfaction doesn’t just come from physical fullness but from also fully enjoying the food you choose.
Check out www.heydayweightloss.ie for further details.
Send your comments or questions to Bernadette at email@example.com.
Wishing you good health,
Dr. Bernadette Rock (PhD).back to top
However, the reality is that diets have to been shown to improve health outcomes or result in sustained weight loss for most people in the long-term. Dieting can also invoke feelings of guilt and shame when foods deemed “bad” are consumed.
So let’s say you’ve been down the dieting path before and you are tired of having a stressful and unpleasant relationship with food. Enter a new approach to ending the war on your body and making peace with food: mindful eating….
Check out the full piece here.
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An email recently from a client worried about her six-year-old daughter’s fixation on food read:
“My daughter eats a balanced diet, but has an interest in food that I don’t think is healthy. She hangs out at a snack table at a party. She just likes food but doesn’t moderate well or stop until she’s told. I’m worried that she will develop an unhealthy obsession with food and wonder why she is drawn to it. She’s young, and I’m concerned.”
Her concerns are common place among parents. We worry about our kids’ consumption of junk food and also fret about how to pave the way for a healthy body image. It can all be a minefield. It’s never too early, as a parent, to influence how your child interacts with food. Encouraging better food habits needs to start in childhood
Tell them the Truth About Food
Even small children can be influenced by the power of advertising. We’re all familiar with our kids’ demands for yoghurts or cereals with cartoon characters on them and other food items on the aisles of a supermarket. Your child is never too young to understand the word ‘No’. Cushion this by telling them that there are certain foods that we need to limit in order to be healthy and strong. Give them information such as “There are 5 teaspoons of sugar in that yoghurt”. Giving them information like this will actually enable them to make their own decisions as they grow.
End the Conflict!
The dinner table can quickly become a place of conflict. Children pick up on this and it can translate to negative food connotations and eating patterns in later life. If your child refuses to eat a certain food, such as broccoli, ‘forcing’ them to do so at dinner time is only going to reinforce the negative perception they already believe. I know of adults who still refuse to eat carrots.
Instead invite your child to help you to prepare dinner. By actively engaging them in the process – helping to prepare or chop vegetables, you can encourage them to ‘taste’ as they go. Quite often, they see this as a ‘fun’ activity – one in which they can be ‘in charge’ for themselves.
“I’m not hungry”
At some point every parent is used to hearing at the dinner table “I’m not hungry”. It is quite possible that your child is not hungry and they could have been consuming ‘invisible fillers’ all day – drinks! The biggest offender in this instance is juice. If your child does not want to eat at mealtimes and claims that they are not hungry, do not force them to eat. However, do not offer a ‘substitute’ after dinner. A child who is not hungry at dinner time should never be ‘rewarded’ with an after dinner treat.
Switch off the TV!
Although this sounds obvious, many children eat their snacks and meals in front of the TV. This habit leads to a lot of mindless and extra eating. Mindless eating is one of the most commonly cited food issues that I deal with in adults, with many people eating an entire packet of biscuits or crackers whilst they watch their favourite TV shows. Not allowing the habit to develop in the first place is going to be of tremendous advantage to your child. So switch off, or at least pause, the TV while your child eats a snack or dinner. Try not to pair eating with watching TV. Allow them to consciously enjoy their food. Otherwise, you are encouraging an unconscious eating pattern
None of us is a perfect parent – the perfect parent does not exist. However, it is possible for you to take small steps to raise a healthy child who understands the benefits of choosing the right foods at the right times.
For tips and advice go to https://www.facebook.com/HeydayWorld/
Dr. Bernadette Rock’s online weight management programme helps you change your mindset around food and weight.
See www.heydayweightloss.ie for further details.back to top
As parents, we often fret about whether our children are “getting enough”. A mother recently stated to me, “my daughter just won’t eat for me”. I replied, “but why would she eat for you? Shouldn’t she eat because she’s hunger and wants food”. That mother’s statement highlights how dinner time can be a place of conflict, a battle field where power is played out. Here’s what NOT to say if your child is a fussy eater:
“You’re not getting dessert if you don’t eat more of your dinner”
Using dessert as a threat or a sweetener (no pun intended!) is so tempting especially when you know that most children love nothing more than a sugar trip. But here’s the problem- it shows that you’re eating savoury food simply to ‘get to’ the sweet stuff, and that the savour food is not to be enjoyed, but to be eaten under duress. It also shows to your child that you’re a little desperate. It’s an indirect but clear message.
“Eat it up. I don’t want to see anything left on your plate”
Ah, the sins of our parents! How often were you told as a child to “eat it up, that’s all you’re getting” or “your father worked hard for that food”? One of my memories of dinnertime as a child is sitting around the table with my 6 siblings and being warned to “eat up everything before it goes cold”, or “there are children starving in Africa so eat it all up.” And so we all obligated by licking out plates clean, literally, as if that would somehow help alleviate a famine in another continent. Clearing the plate was usually met with parental approval, “well done Bernadette. Aren’t you great!”
Childhood eating habits can be so deeply engrained, and it’s tempting to tell our children the same message, “eat it all up”. Don’t do it. These messages are often based on guilt and the need for approval. Be aware of how your own childhood eating habits can lead to extra eating for your child, and sometimes means that we do not always need or enjoy the food we eat.
“Good girl, you ate all your bolognese!”
You might say this in a fun and happy way, but you may also be sending the message, “It’s good when you eat it ALL”, or shouting the message “I really want you to eat it ALL!”, “You will receive approval when you eat it all”. It’s much better to instead praise your child for activities, such as doing well with homework, clearing away their toys, or leaning how to read the time. After all, eating is our most basic instinct, and it should be enjoyable.
“You’re not leaving the table until you eat your peas”
Have you ever stood over your child and insisted that the now cold greens are eaten? Then step away. Don’t do it. You have more chance, not less, of them choosing to eat a food if you don’t tell them to – and not just in the short-term. Research found that a majority third-level students whose parents had insisted they ate a food as a child, later did not didn’t eat that food when they left home. The students viewed the parent as the “winner” and themselves as the “loser”.
“You’re so fussy with food”
Even if your child would happily live only on plain cooked pasta or cereal, do not refer to them as ‘fussy’. This label gives them a reason not to eat. After all, no one is expecting them to eat this, and instead expecting them to wrinkle their nose in disgust when the dinner placed in front of them. It tells them, “I am a fussy eater, and that’s just the way I am”. Don’t let them hear you telling it to other people either.
Dr. Bernadette Rock delivers workshops with Dietitian, Paula Mee.
Their upcoming workshop on 23rd May is called ‘Secret to Mindful Eating & Weight Loss’.
HeyDay’s online programme can help you enjoy a better relationship with food and weight.
See www.heydayweightloss.ie for further details.back to top
So much is said about losing weight that sometimes it can be hard to sort fact from fiction. Most diets, no matter how wacky, that provide a set of rules and encourage people to eat fewer calories than they need, will result in weight loss. But are fad diets healthy, can they be maintained and do they help people keep the weight off?
Low-carbohydrate diets can be high in fat
Some diets, such as the Atkins diet, are very low in starchy carbohydrates (pasta, bread, potatoes and rice) which are an essential source of energy. While you may lose weight on these types of diets, they are often high in protein and fat and can cause side effects such as bad breath, headaches and constipation. Many low-carbohydrate diets allow you to eat foods high in saturated fat, such as butter, cheese and meat. Too much saturated fat can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Detox diets are not effective
Detox diets are generally restrictive and difficult to stick to, as they usually involve the avoidance of foods or food groups including wheat, dairy and alcohol as well as all processed foods. These diets are characteristically low in calories which can lead to side effects such as feeling tired, headaches, light-headedness and nausea. While weight loss experienced on a detox diet may be very rapid, it is frequently regained soon after returning to normal eating patterns. Moreover, they can be dangerous if followed for a long period as they can be lacking in essential nutrients. Healthy eating is about choosing a variety of foods from all the different food groups!
Fad diets are often far-fetched
Some fad diets are based on eating a single type of food, such as cabbage soup or raw foods, while others make far-fetched claims that you should cut out certain foods based on your blood type. Often, there is little or no evidence to back these claims up. These diets can be difficult to keep to in the long term and if followed over long periods, they can be very unbalanced and bad for your health. You may lose weight in the short term, but it’s much more advisable to lose weight gradually and to be healthy.back to top
Imagine your health as a jigsaw, lots of small pieces that all together create a picture of you and your health. No single piece, like joining a gym or going on another diet, will determine good health. Instead it’s all the small changes and steps that lead to a balanced and healthy picture. From my experience working with patients and clients, I’ve gathered four of the most crucial steps that add up to major changes.
To help you get on track, I’ve knocked 15% off the price of Heyday’s online weight management program this month.
No more ‘all-or-nothing’
Rigid rules, extremes and being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ around food set you up for disappointment. People with weight difficulties often have high standards for themselves and can be perfectionists with their eating. If it’s not perfect, then it’s not good enough. So a few extra biscuits extra lead to the notion that “it’s all ruined”, and half the packet of biscuits is then gobbled, followed by a large serving of guilt. A few biscuits will not ruin your picture of health. But a constant habit of ‘all-or-nothing’ eating will have a negative impact. Getting up from minor set-backs and drawing a line under the extra few biscuits is crucial, instead of continuing the eating. That in-between balance is vital.
Start to differentiate between needing to eat and just wanting to eat. Pause before eating, and ask yourself, “Is this hunger or habit?” Your eating may be more about boredom, stress or wanting to treat yourself. If food is only meant for stomach hunger, then there must be at least one other way of meeting these needs without relying on the tub of ice-cream.
By making a clear choice either, “yes, I’ll have it and enjoy it” or “no, maybe later” you’re empowering yourself to care for you. Step back from the inner critical voice telling you what you ‘should’ and ‘should not’ eat. Instead make deliberate, defined choices. This will help you trust yourself around food.
End automatic eating.
When you eat while you’re on the phone, watching TV, driving or just grabbing a handful of crackers while you happen to be in the kitchen, your eating goes unnoticed by yourself. That’s why at the end of a meal you might still feel unsatisfied and look for more. You haven’t really had the food and experienced the taste. Separate your eating from other activities. So when you eat, just eat, and really have your food. Taste and enjoy every bite.
Eat with the deliberate intention of nourishing and feeding yourself. Appreciate the food, and slow down instead of shovelling forkfuls into your mouth, and filling the fork while you’re still chewing. Then you’re more in charge in food, instead of feeling out of control.
Don’t exercise because “I ate two desserts and better spend an hour in the gym”. This sort of thinking associates exercise with punishment. Instead exercise to feel strong, energised and connected with yourself. Find an activity that you enjoy and can schedule. Small consistent steps are far more effective than one leap, which tends to be temporary. This year focus on the small steps and create a beautiful picture of good health.
Wishing you a healthy year in 2016,
Dr. Bernadette Rock (PhD).back to top
Eat When You’re Hungry.
Avoid eating to relax, or because you are bored or anxious. Take a walk or do something you enjoy instead.
Do not skip meals.
Start the day with a healthy breakfast. Eating three meals a day helps your body have the energy it needs and it prevents hunger.
Control your portion size.
Use a standard 9 inch plate, avoid bigger plate sizes. Aim for half of the plate to be filled with vegetables. Avoid seconds.back to top
This is a really simple guide to portion control. A well balanced plate with the correct portions is a critical part of successful weight loss and weight management. Click on the plates to see the details!back to top
What do you hear when you listen to ads telling you that you have “4 weeks to fit into your LBD”, or to “tone your tum for Christmas”, “drop a dress size before Christmas”, or advising “how not to ruin your diet during Xmas”. Me? I heard fear, failure, and the reinforced message that I could not be trusted around food. That I needed the rules of a diet to tell me what and how to eat, or I’d eat everything that was not nailed down (looking back, not true!)
There are very few photos of me at my biggest, as I became quite adept at the head and shoulder selfie, or I insisted on being the one to take the photo. Several women have mentioned to me that they hide in photos, with their children as little props in front of them. I also hid in black clothes; black trousers were a staple in my wardrobe and I have a memory of constantly tugging down my top so it covered my bum, which I believed was the size of a small island.
I was intelligent, well-educated and fun-loving, but I felt fat. I was acutely conscious of the reactions of others towards my body and my eating. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me when I overheard a family member say “she’s eating AGAIN” or when a complete stranger looked in abject horror at the plate of food in front of me and then at my face. I can still feel the pain even as I type this. It seems that the acceptable reaction of people around overweight people is to be disgusted, and the dutiful place of an overweight person is to feel ashamed and small, very small (oh, the irony!) I felt so painfully inferior.
I was obsessed with counting calories and points, of trying to be in control but then losing control as I shovelled food into my mouth. I lived in fear that that my weight and fat would never change. After all, I had tried every diet and none worked. I didn’t want this body, but I didn’t know how to leave it behind. I felt utterly helpless.
Yes, it was indeed my choice to eat. But weight loss or the struggle to lose weight is not what it is all about. I spoke to a client recently who revealed that part of the reason why she has remained fat is because she is in an unhappy relationship and that extra weight means that intimacy is less likely. Meanwhile, a 34-year old man and Heyday member mentioned that staying fat is a reason for him not to start a relationship. If we allowed ourselves the space to understand our weight, instead of constantly piling pressure on ourselves to lose it, it would bring us closer to a ‘normal’ relationship with food. I learned that you cannot lose it until you first own it. For me, my weight meant that I could stay in the background, without attracting much attention. I hated my weight and my body and I didn’t want to be fat, but I was still attached to that extra fat (pun not intended!)
How we eat mirrors what’s happening with and around us. So suggestions such as “move away from the table” or “how does someone allow themselves get so fat?” (which I have been asked) implicitly lack understanding and convey a very narrow belief that fatness and being overweight are all about gluttony, lack of discipline and willpower. But that makes no sense given that you have discipline to do so much else in your life, such as raise a family or go out to work, and given that willpower is only a short-term burst of energy that usually ends quite abruptly.
So to the adverts that urge you to “lose weight in time for Christmas”, to hell with that. That diet mentality implies “be good until Christmas, then have a blow-out for 2 weeks”, then “lose weight as your New Year resolutions”. The best you can do right now is to start liking yourself as you are right now, and not wait until you have lost the weight. Start to give yourself the chance to understand what your extra eating and weight is all about. After 15 years of experience I realise that you are far more than what the scales tell you that you are, or what the looks of others tell you what you are.
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My fridge beeps when the door is not closed after 30 seconds. This beep has become a reminder to take my head out of the fridge because in under 30 seconds I can munch through a chunk of apple tart or a handful of crackers, while telling myself, “I’m not really eating”. Are you keen to shed a few pounds but find that your weight loss efforts are punctured by your very own sabotaging behaviour?
Often we want something in our lives but behave in ways that are contrary to achieving our goals. It’s uncomfortable letting go of food, and waiting until you’re physically hungry to eat. You might feel resistant to finding new ways to treat yourself that do not involve the biscuit tin.
So what if the secret in managing self-sabotage lies in being comfortable with feeling uncomfortable? A few examples:
Holding onto weight:
Most people who lose weight regain it again, along with a few extra pounds, and here’s one reason why. Some people feel distinctly uncomfortable when they receive compliments or attention about their weight loss. A new slim body means a smaller version of yourself. Some clients feel more vulnerable or exposed. Others feel anxious about the increased sense of personal power or confidence that weight loss can bring. An online client, Amy and mother-of-two, recently confessed that she was afraid that “more would be expected of me now that I’m losing weight”.
These anxieties can push people back to the comfort of old eating habits. Instead can you start being aware of your specific fears and anxieties? If you are concerned about giving off an air of confidence when you lose weight, can you remind yourself, “It’s ok to feel more confident”. Similarly if you’re uncomfortable about increased attention, can you reassure yourself that “I can cope and I can handle attention.”
Amy mentioned that she walks into her local bakery telling herself that it’s just a loaf of soda bread she’s buying, but knowing full well that it’s croissants and scones that she’s really going to buy. It’s like a form of trickery. Once you learn to be honest with yourself, set aside the internal arguing, and make clear choices around food, either “yes, I’ll eat it and enjoy it” or “no, maybe later”, you will be more likely to succeed at healthier eating. This means asking “What is the best I can do to support myself today?”
Allow yourself get hungry:
If you want to manage your weight then it is crucial that you get comfortable with feeling hungry (not very hungry or you might end up eating yourself out of house!) Do you eat because people around you are eating, because someone offers you food, or because it’s ‘normal’ to eat lunch at 1pm? What would it be like if you choose not to graze throughout the day, and wait until you start feeling hungry? Remind yourself that it is normal that it will uncomfortable in the beginning.
Give yourself a chance to take the first step:
“what’s the point in even trying. I’ll probably fail anyway”. Instead of sabotaging yourself by giving in before you’ve even started or when you don’t see immediate results, can you view this process as an opportunity to figure out what your extra eating is about, a chance to get connected to yourself, instead of just focusing externally on the rules of a diet.
So can you give yourself the opportunity to stay with the initial discomfort? Instead of thinking weight loss, think self-care, “This is my opportunity to start caring for myself”.
Have a HeyDay
Heyday’s supportive online programme has recently been re-developed at www.heydayweightloss.ie.
Send your comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you good health,
Dr. Bernadette Rock (PhD).back to top
When it comes to making a dish healthier – there are 4 key steps:
- Reduce the amount of an ingredient
- Replace one ingredient with another
- Increase the amount of an ingredient
- Improve flavour using healthier options
Reducing the amount of an ingredient: FAT
- Grill instead of adding fat (always use the grid when you grill)
- Stew or poach meat instead of frying (meat should not be allowed to boil)
- Steam or boil vegetables instead of roasting
- Use less oil or no oil (e.g. fry onions in a small pan or microwave in a little water before adding to the dish)
- Fry without fat (e.g. browning meat with no fat then drain off any fat produced)
- TIP- you can dry fry tender cuts of meat e.g. steak or bacon in a non stick pan
- Use a spray oil: choose an unsaturated fat, e.g. sunflower oil
- Use a griddle pan instead of frying
- Try using less fat than recommended in the recipe
- Trim off visible fat/skin before cooking
Replacing one ingredient with another
- Use skimmed or semi skimmed milk instead of full fat milk for sauces, soups, main dishes or puddings
- Replace cream with low fat natural yoghurt or low fat crème fraiche
- Choose low fat spreads instead of butter or margarine
- Use lower fat cheeses
- Use lemon juice, vinegar, or natural yoghurt instead of mayonnaise or French dressing
- Use lower fat cuts of meat
- Use wholemeal varieties of cereals or flour where possible
- Use beans or pulses to make meat go further or for a meat free meal
Increasing the amount of an ingredient
- Use more rice and potatoes
- Add root vegetables e.g. carrots or swede to soup and stew recipes. Include beans, celery, fruit, nuts, seeds and dates in salad
- Try dried fruit sprinkled on cereal or stewed as a pudding
- Add onions, celery, toms, green and red pepper, mushrooms, aubergines, marrow and courgettes to savoury recipes
Improving the flavour
- Sprinkle curry powder, crushed garlic or mixed herbs over meat or chicken before cooking
- Add bay leaves for extra flavour
- Use nutmeg or cinnamon with fruit
- Add pepper instead of salt
- Experiment with fresh herbs in recipes e.g. basil in tomato dish, dill with fish, and mint with boiled potatoes
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