The Truth: it’s a scary thing, really. I often struggle with the question, “how much do I share?” This is a public forum; how much should I let out into the open internet abyss? I try not to over-share while still being honest enough to let people know that I relate to all areas of nutrition and eating.
Lately, I’ve been questioning how healthy all this internet nutrition chit-chat really is. Every day, my twitter feed is inundated with health talk, fitness goals, people’s weight updates, and nutritional recipes. Granted, I am part of that… but then there’s the other part, too—the part that isn’t shared quite as openly. The part of us that eats a balanced snack and then grabs 2 cookies on the way out of the kitchen; the part of us that eats a healthy dinner and then snacks on a handful of tootsie rolls while watching The Biggest Loser; the part of us that starts the day with lofty gym goals but ends up calling it quits after a 20 minute slow-paced walk on the treadmill. And those are the parts that I’m not willing to lie to you about. They exist in me just as they exist in nearly every other person. And frankly, if I’m not honest with you here, I’m afraid you’ll fall prey to orthorexia thinking. Health isn’t perfect—it will never be perfect, so don’t think that it’s perfect for anyone else, including dietitians.
So here’s a personal post about me and 6 of my own food sagas…
MY TRUTH #1: I grew-up eating tons (and I do mean tons) of junk food.
As a kid, I often lived on hostess cupcakes, McDonald’s, Twinkies, Lunchables, and potato chips. I loved anything sweet—cake, cookies, ice cream, sugary cereals, candy. By the time I was about 10 or 11, I was not necessarily a healthy weight. But, eventually, I learned to enjoy walking and biking and I learned to start balancing what I ate with physical activity.
Lesson: It took years to understand real health, but I got here (and I’m still learning). Everyone deserves to learn what health means to them in their own time. Don’t rush yourself into a brand new diet tomorrow. Take small steps towards your health goals. Be realistic and patient with yourself and your body.
MY TRUTH #2: I used to live on artificial sweeteners.
After going through years of over-consuming sugar, I switched to over-consuming “diet” foods. Splenda became my best friend. And while going through school to become a dietitian, all my fellow classmates used and loved Splenda, too. There is much debate out there about whether or not artificial sweeteners are actually bad for you—do they cause harm to your body? There are ample studies that one could use to support either side of the argument, truthfully. In my own opinion, anything fake isn’t good for your body. Your metabolism was designed to digest and utilize real foods (protein, fat, carbohydrate, water, vitamins, and minerals). These nutrients are all chemicals, so I don’t necessarily want to say that your body isn’t designed to metabolize chemicals; however, your body is not designed to metabolism man-made chemicals, such as artificial sweeteners, food dyes, and other additives. Because we don’t digest them, they (artificial sweeteners) pass through without being metabolized and thus we don’t take in any calories. Over time, this process can be damaging to your system. Additionally, your brain does not release hormones to let your body know that it’s full and satisfied; hence, you never actually feel satisfied; thus, you continue to consume more food than you originally intended. To me, this pattern just doesn’t seem natural or healthy.
Lesson: Today, I do not consume artificial sweeteners on a regular basis. I only purchase stevia (made from an herb) to sweeten my tea or coffee. I don’t buy diet foods. If I’m in a pinch and don’t have access to stevia, I use real sugar over fake sweeteners. Learn to remove fake products from your diet. One step at a time, of course. For example, ixnay the light yogurt for plain, full fat yogurt.
MY TRUTH #3: I, too, battle gastrointestinal problems.
I openly admit to excluding gluten from my diet due to the fact that it does cause me to become severely ill (even a small amount of it). However, I also have IBS and an esophageal ulcer. I have to watch out for certain “problematic” foods that upset my stomach, such as melon and carbonated beverages. I also have to be careful with certain textures of foods that I have a difficult time swallowing when my ulcer flares up, such as raw carrots.
Lesson: I have learned to truly listen to my body. It’s a long (very long) process of trial-and-error, and I have slowly grown to listen to my body signals. I do my best to understand what my body wants while avoiding that which it truly does not want. It’s a constant learning process, and frankly, I’m still learning every day.
MY TRUTH #4: I eat candy, too!
Who doesn’t eat goodies now and then? People seem to assume that dietitians never eat sweets or treats. Well, I can’t speak for all dietitians, but I know that I certainly indulge. I love ice cream and rarely go a day without a piece of dark chocolate. In fact, right now at home, I have a bag of Dove dark chocolates and a bag of tootsie rolls (yes, I was being honest in the opening paragraph).
Lesson: Don’t be afraid of treats—or any food for that matter. Food isn’t meant to be feared. It does not have to control you. It’s okay to let yourself enjoy those treats which you truly love. But also remember that they are meant to be treats, so try your best to get ahold of that habit of eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s every night. Eat ¾ cup, instead… small goals make bigger impacts.
MY TRUTH #5: I learned to love, honestly love, health food—and you can, too!
As my #1 confession stated, I grew up eating junk food. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned to actually enjoy and appreciate health food. As a child, my favorite foods included cinnamon toast crunch cereal, McDonald’s “chicken” nuggets, Dairy Queen Oreo blizzards, and Kraft macaroni and cheese. However, I no longer eat any of those foods and I do not crave those foods…ever. The foods I crave now? Oatmeal, bananas with peanut butter, eggs, avocados, cashews, fresh berries, and okay, ice cream once in a while
Lesson: You can rewire your brain to crave healthier foods. Sugar is addictive and your brain is wired to become addicted to sugar—even more so than cocaine. The food industry only makes matters worse. They create recipes to be extremely addictive and spend millions of dollars on advertising which triggers cravings through various senses. You must desensitize yourself from these foods (i.e. sugar) and learn to appreciate real food. Your body does need protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Carbohydrate is the primary source of glucose, the preferred energy source for your body. However, carbohydrate is not only found in breads, pastas, cookies, and cereals. It is also found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. I recommend obtaining most of your carbs through fruits and vegetables and consuming a moderate to small amount of whole grains (primarily oatmeal, quinoa, amaranth, and some brown rice).
MY TRUTH #6: I still have MANY nutritional goals.
For example, I still need to work on consuming more vegetables and slightly less fruit. I’m a fruit addict, so I tend to eat quite a bit of it while forgetting that vegetables are just as good. Hummus and carrots, tomatoes and avocado slices, cucumber sticks, roasted mushrooms with a drizzle of cashew butter.
Lesson: We all have goals—whether they are to eat more veggies, less candy, or less refined grains, they all are important to our health. Take small steps towards those goals and don’t be too upset when you have an off day. It happens, life goes on, and you can only move forward from this moment. Don’t worry about the past or over plan the future. Choose to live in the present and make the best decisions you can for yourself today.
As always, happy eating, and remember to be gentle with yourself. No one is perfect, don’t think that they are! Even those people who are posting perfectly balanced dinner pics and their latest run time—they may have left out the picture of the Egg McMuffin they ate for breakfast this morning.