GRIT by Brit

Fun, Fierce, Fitness


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Why Dieting Doesn’t Work (and Why Intuitive Eating Does)

Most Diets DON’T Work

Before reading on, please check out this *fantastic* short video by neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt:

This post is a supplement to Dr. Aamodt’s message about the futility of dieting, from a dietitian’s perspective. I am going to take it one step further by discussing the 10 basic principles of intuitive eating, so that you can start implementing them in your own life!

*These principles have been adapted from the book Intuitive Eating, by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD.

1. Reject the Diet Mentality. Hopefully the TED talk already convinced you why you should.

2. Honor Your Hunger. So often we berate ourselves for failing to “control” our hunger, when the reality is: hunger is not something that needs to be controlled. Hunger is like a signal; it’s our body’s way of communicating our nutritional needs to our brain. To best honor your hunger, consistently keep your body nourished by eating every 3-5 hours (a normal amount of time to start feeling hunger again between eating episodes). Suppressing your hunger cues or ignoring them only predisposes you overeat later on.

3. Make Peace with Food. Contrary to popular belief, every food offers some type of nutritional values (yes, even cupcakes – carbohydrates are a much needed energy source!). It is essential to accept this fact before we can make peace with food. This is not an endorsement for eating an unbalanced diet, and of course, anything in excess will generally leave your body feeling not-so-great afterwards. But if you recognize that (what you may currently be labeling as) a “bad” or “forbidden” food can fit in to a healthy diet, then you won’t have to feel guilty or “out of control” when you have it.

4. Challenge the Food Police. The Food Police represent any rules you might have internalized about healthy eating or weight control. For example:

  • “I am only allowed to eat [insert random # of calories here], or
  • “I will get fat if I eat past [insert random time here],” or
  • “I should have a salad for lunch even though I’m really in the mood for [insert higher-calorie entrée here] right now.”

These are EXTERNAL and ARBITRARY rules that have nothing to do with what your body is asking for. Start noticing how your personal food police have been holding you hostage from a balanced approach to eating, and see if you can challenge them! Don’t worry, the only ticket you’ll get for doing this is a ticket to a healthier relationship with food :-).

5. Respect Your Fullness. This is probably one of the hardest skills to master, because fullness is not always a clear-cut sensation. The goal is to get to a place where you are comfortably full. That is, somewhere between “I definitely still need more” and “Woah, I’ve had enough.” Mindfulness is key here. You can do this by paying attention to the physical sensations in your stomach, how the food tastes and feels in your mouth, and your overall feeling of nourishment.

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. We might be physically very full but completely unsatisfied. Or, we might be just at the border of physically full, but highly satisfied. The point: deciding when to stop eating at a meal is not solely determined by physical fullness. Typically, when a meal is very satisfying, we need less food to honor our fullness. So, how do we make my meals more satisfying? By preparing or choosing food that is compatible with our tastes preferences, appealing visually, and set at an ideal temperature. Also, we can enhance satisfaction by making it a point to eat in (or create) a pleasurable ambience, and when possible, dining with a person (or people) whose company you enjoy.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food. So often, we use food to soothe, express, cope or repress feelings. While this is normal and somewhat inevitable from time to time, it’s no surprise that consistently using food to fill emotional needs can take a toll on health, and can also lead to feeling worse in the long run. Your best bet is to find more effective, non-food related ways of dealing with your feelings. If you find that you have trouble doing this on your own, there is no shame in reaching out for additional help from a trained professional.

8. Respect Your Body. Everyone is born with a naturally different body shape and size. As Dr. Aamodt points out, these traits are governed by genetics and your pre-determined set-range (aka your body weight thermostat). Very unfortunately, we live in a society that glorifies certain body types and imposes unrealistic expectations of beauty. Acknowledging this sad truth, while simultaneously accepting, respecting and appreciating your body, is a crucial element of intuitive eating. It’s nearly impossible to honor your body’s hunger and fullness cues if your mind is pre-occupied with fitting into some “ideal” size.

9. Exercise. But first, be honest with yourself about your motivation for exercising. Just like food, everyone’s tastes are different. Try to focus on the internal experience (i.e., how certain types of movement make you feel in your body, which types you genuinely enjoy, how they impact your energy levels, etc). Do something that appeals to you! Sign up for an Irish Jig class. Take a walk with your head phones and a playlist. Go for a long, sweaty run. Kick butt in a Turbo Kickboxing class (better yet, one of Brit’s!).  Zen out in yoga. Join an organized sports team. Or, come up with your own creative form of movement! The options are endless.

10. Honor Your Health. Consistently eating a balanced diet that contains a mixture of *mostly* whole grains, lean protein, whole fruits and veggies, and essential fats. Again, it’s your consistent intake that counts. Healthy eating and a healthy relationship with food are inherently fluid, flexible, and imperfect!

If you have questions about any of these principles, or how to apply them to you, feel free to comment below or email Lindsay directly through the contact page of her website, Lknutrition.com.

For more posts by Lindsay (aka FalafeLover), follow her new personal blog, Falafelover in Brooklyn.


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Embracing the Healthy Side of Thanksgiving

Happy Healthy Thanksgiving Tips

Guest post by Lindsay Krasna, Registered Dietitian

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving, Grit by Brit readers!

The other night, I hosted my first family-style “dinner party” of sorts: a pre-Thanksgiving potluck/apartment-warming, Brooklyn-style. The combination of the good energy from my pals, and the scrumptious Thanksgiving-esque fare they all contributed made for one of the most fun Big Apple nights I’ve ever had! While admittedly, I ate more in quantity, and more “indulgently” than I would have on a typical night, I walked away from that meal with an incredible sense of well-being, contentment and nourishment.

Reflecting on the evening inspired me to post on this topic – The Healthy Side of Thanksgiving – because so often, this holiday gets a bad rap in the nutrition world. I mean, let’s face it, “nutritious” isn’t exactly the first adjective that comes to mind when we think of Thanksgiving… “diet buster” or “gluttony” is more like it. Furthermore, during this time of year, the media is relentlessly flooded with stories featuring tips on “how to avoid holiday season weight gain” or “how to re-work traditional holiday dishes into healthier versions.” While I certainly recognize the value that this type of information offers for health-conscious individuals looking to sustain their healthy habits throughout the holiday season, I also feel strongly that there is not nearly enough attention paid to the (perhaps less obvious) healthful aspects of Thanksgiving that we may forget to embrace and appreciate.

Thus, I’d like to draw your attention to my personal top 4 underrated (yet wonderfully nourishing, and yes, even nutritious) parts of Turkey Day!

  1. Expanded food repertoires. We are creatures of habit, and so often, we get stuck in foods ruts, eating the same things for breakfast, lunch and dinner without even realizing how routinized we’ve become. But food variety is an important part of good nutrition, too. With an extensive “food-scape” to choose from on Thanksgiving, we can use this meal to expose our palates to less familiar flavors and textures, learn about new cooking techniques, and even garner inspiration for some new meals ideas outside of holiday time.
  1. Kitchen collaboration. There is a TON of research touting the benefits of family meals. For example, children of families that cook and dine together regularly tend to have more nutritious diets and a decreased risk for developing disordered eating habits. And while meals together may not always be a realistic gig for families on a regular basis, what better holiday than Thanksgiving to make it a family affair! Cooking as a group also provides a natural foundation for bonding, which occurs through the collaboration and communication necessary for preparing and enjoying a home-cooked meal. Speaking of which…
  1. Emotional nourishment and group entertainment value.  We receive nourishment not only in the form of the physical nutrients that enter into our body through food, but also through the emotional satisfaction that comes from experiencing fulfilling connections with others. The convening of family (or friends) in a group setting such as Thanksgiving provides us a unique opportunity to bond with loved ones, many of whom we may not see on a regular basis. There is also a special dynamic that comes along with a group meal. Groups have a way of forming a life of their own, and if you take a step back and actually listen to the group’s conversation, it can be quite humorous and highly entertaining. Or, maybe this is just my family… 🙂
  1. A perfect opportunity to practice self-compassion. Remember my post on “Finding Balance?” The definition of healthy eating is: consistently blending basic nutrition principles (cerebral knowledge) with your body’s intuitive hunger-fullness cues and taste preferences (internal knowledge). Key word: “consistently.” Overindulging is TOTALLY normal and natural at a meal like Thanksgiving, when we’re presented with an overwhelming amount of food (and perhaps overwhelming people, too). If nothing else, we can use Thanksgiving to practice being compassionate with ourselves, especially after we realize we were waaaay off the mark when we reached for that 3rd helping of sweet potatoes…. (yum).

Wishing you a Thanksgiving feast that is truly nourishing!

For more nutrition tips or to get in contact with Lindsay Krasna, Registered Dietitian, visit: http://www.lknutrition.com/


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Dear (Food) Journal,

While I am admittedly no financial whiz, I am thoroughly familiar with the practice of budgeting… (after all, it’s expensive living in NYC, and a girl’s gotta eat!). A budget is a breakdown of one’s expected income and expenses, and provides consumers with the power to adjust their spending/saving/investing behavior according to their desired financial goals.

But what does any of this have to do with nutrition, you may be wondering?

Funny you should ask  🙂

Just like budgeting moola to help us spend more responsibly, we also can budget our food intake to help us improve our eating habits and overall health. Before creating any budget, however, we need to first assess our habits – right now. This is where FOOD JOURNALS come in. Food journals are a powerful tool for doing a diet inventory (kind of like expense reports!).

When I meet with a client for the first time, I usually instruct them to keep a week’s worth of food journals documenting everything they consume (including portion sizes, method of preparation, and brand). I also encourage clients to make note of any emotions before, during, and after the meal or snack. Finally, I have them rate their satiety level on a scale of one to ten (1 being ravenous, 10 being stuffed).

Food journals not only provide insight into your eating patterns — what, how much, and even how food you’re eating — they can also give you ideas about the types of dietary adjustments you can make for the better. Another significant benefit of food journaling is that the very act of tracking your food intake can actually lead to making healthier dietary choices! Food journaling has even been shown to help people lose weight (probably because it promotes more mindful eating).

Here are some examples of new insights you might discover:

  •  You’re still hungry after your typical salad + soup lunch — which also happen to be lacking in protein. Intervention idea #1: Add some beans to your salad, a slice of whole grain bread with hummus, or a greek yogurt to your lunch for an added protein punch.
  • You overeat in response to boredom, loneliness, excitement, guilt, etc. Intervention idea #2: Make a list of alternative activities you can do instead of eating, and choose one of these next time you feel triggered by one of these emotions.
  • You eat a generally healthy, balanced diet during the day, but find yourself binging on junk food every night. Intervention idea #3: Throw out the junk food you have stocked in your kitchen so that it’s less convenient (or impossible) to access at night. If you feel that completely cutting out your nightly post-dinner sweet fix is too drastic, replace the junk with a bowl of fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt instead.

There are a ton of snazzy apps and websites out there dedicated to making the pursuit of food journaling easy and fun, while offering a lot of other neat resources as well (see below). For example, Supertracker will analyze your nutrient intake based on your estimated requirements (you have to enter some additional personal data to use this feature), and offers a physical activity tracker , a recipe data base, and customized health tips.

While food journaling can certainly be a big help for checking in with eating habits, reducing mindless eating, and inspiring healthy dietary changes, I wouldn’t recommend it as a long-term intervention.  Writing down everything you eat all the time isn’t exactly practical, can get annoying, and can make you obsess unnecessarily. As Brit preaches in her last post, a healthy lifestyle (including nutritious eating) is all about BALANCE. Food journaling should not be used as a means to gain ultimate control over food. Rather, think of food journaling as check-up tool, with the intention of gaining a better sense of the connection between your current eating habits and your body’s needs.

Bon appetit, GRIT by Brit readers!

Guest post by Lindsay Krasna, Grit by Brit Nutrition Expert – A registered dietitian, psychological counseling grad student, former Israeli professional basketball player, former college teammate of Brit.


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Reshaping Nutrition Norms (and your BODY)!

Norm: “Something that is usual, typical, or standard. A standard or pattern, esp. of social behavior, that is typical or expected of a group.”

As a nutritionist and fitness enthusiast, I am always striving to embrace a healthy lifestyle and make nutritious choices (bring on the Brussels sprouts baby, woohoo!). But through my work with clients, general observations, and from my own personal experiences, I have come to appreciate the fact that putting a “healthy lifestyle” into everyday practice is no easy task. It is a true daily challenge (albeit, an ultimately rewarding one).

I believe a big reason why eating well and exercising regularly is such a struggle for many has to do with what I call unhealthy norms. Healthy lifestyle practices are often at odds with typical or “normal” behavior in American society.

For example, as you are reading this right now, think about how long you have been sitting. An hour? 2 hours? 4 hours? Maybe 8 hours? It is far from uncommon for modern day office workers to sit at their desks for long intervals. Yet, recent research suggests that repeatedly sitting for extended periods can actually cut years off your life!

Below I discuss 3 of what I believe are the unhealthiest prevailing norms, followed by a few alternative strategies to help your overcome them. I hope at the very least, this article inspires you to become more aware of how the norms of American society may be antithetical to your health, so that you can take measures to live a healthy lifestyle on your own terms!

1. Sitting Pretty

Sitting for 6+ hours per day is pretty typical for a modern day office worker. But as I mentioned above, sitting for extended periods has seriously negative long-term consequences. Our bodies were just not made to sit for long periods of time.

Alternatives: Try and sneak in movement and/or standing whenever you can. If you work in an office and email is the traditional mode of communication, walk to a colleague’s desk and deliver your message in person instead. Organize lunchtime walks with one or a few colleagues. Hit up the gym on your lunch break. Walk to do your errands after work instead of driving. Stand on the subway/train instead of sitting. Set an alarm to stand and move every hour. Finally, try using a pedometer to track your steps and help keep you motivated — like BRIT!

2. Must.Eat.Meat

What do you think of when you think “traditional American meal?” Probably something along the lines of a big hunk of meat, maybe with a small salad, side of potatoes and a starch. Research shows that the amount of meat Americans eat is actually quite excessive compared to the amount we actually need, and over-consumption of meat has been linked to obesity and cancer. It is also financially and environmentally more costly than vegetarian protein sources.

Alternatives: Meat can be a great source of complete protein, heme iron, and vitamin B12, and I am not knocking it by any means. What I am suggesting, is re-framing the concept of the traditional portion size by thinking of meat as a condiment, rather than the main attraction of the meal. You may also want to try experimenting with other sources of protein too: beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan, low-fat dairy products, whole grains. I personally think they are just as tasty!

3. Office Temptations

Sweets are often included at meetings, and/or used as a symbol of celebration — between colleagues’ birthdays, holidays, an accomplishment in the department, etc. There is always an occasion to indulge in the workplace. But research suggests that the more occasions we have to eat, the more prone we are to taking in calories in excess of our needs.

Alternatives: Be reasonable. While you don’t necessarily want to be “that person” or skip an office celebration, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your health by putting junk into your body at every opportunity. Be secure in your choices (or refusals), and try and learn to become comfortable with saying “no, thank you.” Or, if you feel it would be impolite to refuse what is being offered, take the cupcake, and say you are going to save it for later because you are not hungry now. If you don’t want it later, chuck it. This is not wasteful in my mind – the junk is better off going into the garbage can than wreaking havoc in your body!


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Weighing In on “Weighing In” – Facts about stepping on the scale every day

Guest post by Lindsay Krasna, Grit by Brit Nutrition Expert – A registered dietitian, psychological counseling grad student, former Israeli professional basketball player, former college teammate of Brit.

Imagine if you stepped on a scale every day, recorded your weight into an excel spreadsheet, and then created a chart representing your weight trajectory for a whole year. What, if anything, might you learn about your body weight pattern? And what, if anything, would be the effect on your weight itself?

My dear friend Carly Pacanowski, a Cornell nutrition researcher and fellow Registered Dietitian, has spent the last 3 years investigating these types of questions. And her research as yielded some pretty remarkable results: Carly and her team found that people who simply stepped on a scale and recorded their body weight each day were more successful at losing and/or maintaining their weight!

Recommending daily self-weighing as a weight loss tool remains controversial though, and for good reasons. Although daily weighing may help some regulate their body weight, critics have expressed concern about the impact this routine might have on the psyche. After all, we are not robots, and for a lot of people, weight is not just a number. Would seeing your weight pop up on the scale can negatively impact your self-esteem or trigger upsetting emotions? Even if daily self-weighing does help you lose or maintain your weight, would it cause you psychological distress? Could it lead to a weight obsession, or in extreme cases, lead to an eating disorder?

 I sat down (well, actually, went on a walk 🙂 with Carly to get her thoughts on the practice of daily self-weighing. Read on for her expert opinion, so that you can decide for yourself whether or not self-weighing is a habit worth incorporating into your daily routine.

Lindsay: How does self-weighing supposedly lead to weight loss/maintenance?

Carly: This is actually still not completely understood. There are a few different mechanisms proposed for how daily weight monitoring can help prevent weight gain/may even facilitate weight loss. One idea stems from the school of thought behaviorism – that the feedback (weight) of the consequence of our actions (eating/physical activity) is necessary to inform future behavior. The way I like to think about this is like a long term biofeedback. This includes not only weighing oneself daily, but also viewing a graph of their weight trajectory over time. All participants in the studies we do use a computer program to view the graph as well.

 Lindsay: What are the potential benefits of daily self-weighing?

Carly: Benefits of self-weighing include increased information about body weight and body weight patterns/fluctuations, which can lead to increased awareness of your eating behavior. An added benefit of daily weighing for women is that they learn to expect a monthly change in weight when they are menstruating. Daily self-weighing may help women recognize and become accepting of this natural change when they see that it is a normal part of their monthly cycle.

 Lindsay: What about the potential risks of daily self-weighing?

Carly: For some, daily self-weighing is clearly not a good idea. Other researchers have found associations between frequency of weighing and unhealthful weight control behaviors (excessive restricting, excessive exercise, purging, etc.). On the other hand, there are also associations between daily self-weighing and healthy weight control behaviors (consuming more fruits and vegetables, improved portion control, etc.) More research is needed to identify those who will benefit versus those who might be adversely affected by this practice.

 Lindsay: What would you tell someone who is considering daily self-weighing?

Carly: I think I’d first be curious to know their intention for adopting the practice. There is better data showing that daily self-weighing is effective for: 1) preventing gradual weight gain that comes with age, and 2) for preventing regain after weight loss. There is less evidence for self-weighing leading directly to weight loss. But then again, this could simply be because there have not been many studies done on the latter.

Lindsay: Anything else GRIT readers should know about daily self-weighing?

Carly: Whether this practice is beneficial or not really depends on the person. While some may find it to be psychologically detrimental, it works very well for many others who find it to be a useful tool to help them notice a small weight gain before it gets out of control. If you do decide to weigh yourself daily, it is important to be both aware and honest with yourself about the trade-offs.

To learn more about Carly and her research on weight regulation, check out her page: http://www.human.cornell.edu/bio.cfm?netid=crp56

GRIT readers, feel free to share your thoughts, reactions, and personal experiences with daily self-weighing. This is a very new topic, and it would be great to hear your feedback too!


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Drink Coffee to Control Weight and Make Better Love ;-)

G’ Morning, GritBrit fans! As my still sleepy eyes gaze around my room this morning and squint away the bright NYC sunshine seeping through my blinds, my half-awake brain remembers that I need to get working on a guest nutrition post I promised Brit. I have been brainstorming ideas all week, but at the moment, all I can do is think about one thing: coffeeeeeee!

And that’s when it hit me. I’ll post about COFFEE! Just give me a moment to finish this cup….

Yum. Okay. Now, let’s chat about java 🙂

A cup of joe can serve you well

First, you may be thinking, what is this nutritionist pumping up coffee for? It’s true, coffee has historically been a controversial topic in the nutrition field. Stunted growth, jitters, and even heart disease are just a few of the ills that were said to be linked with too much joe drinkin’.

But times are a changing, folks, and that’s old news. The latest research about coffee proves otherwise. Keep reading to learn more about why coffee is, in fact, GOOD for you (*in moderation*), and how to drink it to get the maximum benefit for your bod!

What are the benefits associated with drinking coffee?

  1. Increased energy levels
  2. Improved athletic performance
  3. Improved brain function
  4. Improved mood
  5. Alleviation of constipation (ewww)
  6. Improved sex drive (yay!)
  7. Reduced post-workout muscle pain
  8. Protection from certain cancers, Parkinson’s Disease, and Type 2 Diabetes
  9. Coffee contains very few calories and high levels of antioxidants

What IS moderation?

2-4 (8 oz) cups.

How do you recommend drinking coffee?

Time? Morning is best to avoid any interference with sleep. It is also fine to spread your intake throughout the day if you prefer — just make sure it’s not creeping past 3-4pm, and isn’t totaling a quantity greater than the above recommendation. Coffee-ing (okay, I this isn’t an actual verb) about 30mins before exercising can also provide an awesome boost to your workout.

Milk? Skim milk, low-fat milk, soymilk, or none = all good options.

Sugar? Skip it, and avoid the excess calories. If you need some sweetness, opt for a sugar substitute (these do not cause cancer – that is a myth!). I personally like Splenda.

Disclaimers:

*Coffee is not a sleep replacement. If you find that you need coffee to stay awake throughout the day, you may need to re-work your sleep regimen.

*Many of the claims and suggestions contained in this post are not applicable to those with caffeine sensitivities and certain medical conditions such as heart irregularities, GERD, etc.

Questions? Comments? Leave ’em, and let’s chat. I’m am happy to clarify any/all of your coffee concerns!

ENJOY 🙂