Monday, October 28, 2013

The no dieting philosophy

"Oh, you are a dietitian... Cool give me a diet plan please I want to lose my belly fat". This is the number one line I get when I tell anyone that I'm a dietitian. Does this surprise me? Of course not... How would it shock me when I know that Americans spend on average 40 billion dollars per year on dieting. The sad truth is that all this money spent isn't showing positive results and the rates of obesity are only climbing!

What is this telling us? What is this telling you? The reality is obvious, dieting DOESN'T WORK!!
Does this mean that all of us dietitians need to kiss our jobs goodbye and that folks should give up on trying to lose weight and live a healthier life? Of course NOT! Dietitians are always going to be here to educate, coach, and motivate and folks need to take in the information to make healthier food choices while indulging on favorite foods sometimes. But is this enough? Sadly, it is not! The way of eating is as important as the food we choose to eat. In this post, you will learn about how to eat for a healthier weight and a healthier life.

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First of all, let's see how we learned that eating behavior affects greatly our diet. A couple of decades ago, researchers started to observe that french people had healthier weights and lower incidence of heart disease. We started looking at different food components in the french diet that might have been contributing to these positive effects; I'm not going to go into these food components because it's beyond the scope of this blog post. With all the research about the french paradox, researchers, and even book writers, made us aware that it's not only about the "what", but it's also about the "how"of the french diet. French aren't the only ones who follow the french paradox, in fact two other europeans countries, Italy and Switzerland, have similar eating habits as the French. So, this brings us to the point of this post.... What is the secret in the "how" of the diet of these nations?

There are 2 components to the "how" of eating:
1. The environment in which we eat
2. Ourselves which include mind and intuition

Let's start with the eating environment; How many times were you caught up eating a sandwich on the go, having a lunch while trying to finish a last minute project, or simply having dinner while watching t.v.?
These things happen often, don't they? How would you compare these meals with a nice dinner with a friend or a dinner date at a fancy restaurant? The latter meals are more valuable and memorable aren't they? You would call the "nice dinners", beautiful eating experience wouldn't you? Is this the same for the former meals? I highly doubt it.
Other than the setting, we can make some "environmental changes" to lose weight; for example:
- Smaller plates (8 to 10 inches) = smaller portions (you don't even realize it)
- Higher contrast  (Pasta on dark dish) = smaller portions
- Tall glasses = smaller liquid volume

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Now, let's talk about the self which include mindfulness and intuition; Some people think that you only use your mouth to eat, I say you should use all your fives senses + your brain, here is how:
1. Your brain: Think about what you are going to eat. That is where your nutrition education, your likes, and dislikes come into play. Ask yourself the following questions:
 - Is it good for my body? If it isn't, do I eat eat all the time or on occasions and in moderation?
 - Is it something I WANT to eat? Do I feel like having something spicy, or sweet?
2. Your sight: It is important to appreciate the way our food looks. Quite often, we eat food out of a box without even knowing how it looks like. I'm going to quote here the old saying: "The eye eats before the mouth".
3. Your sense of smell: Train yourself to recognize your food just from meters away through its scent. Some studies have shown that you tend to take smaller bites when you perceive the aroma of your food. Smaller bites result in extra chewing and a higher probability of perceiving satiety. Therefore you stop eating when you feel satisfied resulting in lower overall food intake.
4. Your sense of touch and feeling: If it's hand/finger food, sense its texture. Once in your mouth, chew properly to perceive the texture in your mouth... Is it crispy, creamy, liquid?
5. The sense of taste: Now we get to the obvious, taste your food... Is it sweet, sour, spicy?


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Finally, throughout your eating experience pay attention to what your body is telling you. Your brain receives satiety signals from your digestive system, On average it takes 20 minutes for these signals to be perceived. Therefore, you need to eat slowly and pay close attention to what your body is trying to tell you.

I hope these strategies will help you be as healthy as our European friends :)
As always, I would like to hear from you :)


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