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No, Carbs Aren’t Bad for You And Here Are 5 Reasons Why

Angie Viets - Katie Harvey - Carbs Are Not Bad For You

No, Carbs Aren’t Bad for You And Here Are 5 Reasons Why

Katy Harvey, RD

Photo by Ben Neale

At least once a day I’ll hear someone say something like:

“Carbs make you fat.”
“I shouldn’t eat that because it’s too high in carbs.”
“Sugar is so bad for you.”

Carbs are the current dietary scapegoat in our culture.

Scientists used to tell people that dietary fat was bad, so we started cutting fat out of our food supply. Then we realized that was terrible advice, and that there were many unfortunate health consequences of telling people to avoid it.

So now we’ve jumped to carbs being the food group that is demonized. And we’re seeing the same thing—that telling people to avoid an entire food group is making things worse, not better.

What happens when you tell yourself you shouldn’t eat something? Your brain immediately perceives the threat of deprivation and makes you want it even more. Ever heard of the “Don’t think about purple elephants” thing? (Now try not to think about purple elephants. I bet you can’t do it!)

It’s common for clients to tell me that they try to avoid carbs, only to find themselves eventually overeating or bingeing on high-carbohydrate foods.

Turns out your body is trying to tell you something in its desperation for carbs.

Reality is, no single food or nutrient is “bad” for us. In fact, by definition, a nutrient is something your body has to have. Too little or too much of any given nutrient can lead to symptoms of deficiency or excess - but the problem is the “too little” or “too much” - not the nutrient itself.

Let’s stop hating on carbs and embrace them instead!

Here are my top 5 reasons to love carbs

1. Carbs are your body’s favorite source of energy

For most people, consuming about 45-65% of your daily calories from carbs is ideal. Your body prefers to use carbs for energy (via your blood sugar - a type of carb!). Your blood sugar is the circulating energy delivered to cells. In the absence of enough carbs, your body can use protein or fat for energy, but it prefers not to because it has other priorities for those nutrients.

2. Your brain can only use glucose for energy

Glucose (your blood sugar) is the only type of energy that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, your brain can’t use protein or fat for energy. The brain alone burns about 400-500 calories (of carbohydrate) per day - that’s amazing!

 
 

3. Carbs taste good

There’s a reason we crave carbs – they taste good! This is a primitive way that our body is telling us we need them. Part of healthful eating is enjoying food that tastes good.

4. Carbohydrate-based foods contain other essential nutrients

Avoiding carbs means missing out on the other nutrients in those foods. For example, bread and cereals are an excellent source carbs, along with B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin) and folate - things we don’t get in many other foods. Carbs can also provide a lot of fiber and potassium (especially starchy veggies like potatoes, and fruit).

5. Avoiding carbs makes you crave them more

Back to the purple elephant thing. Telling yourself you can’t or shouldn’t have something only enhances the desire for it. It also perpetuates the shame when you do eat those foods, and the distrust of yourself to be able to handle them.

Bottom line:

Carbs = energy = fuel = good for you

How can that be “bad?”

Katy Harvey, RD is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) from Kansas City.  She has an outpatient private practice where she helps individuals heal their relationship with food, exercise and their body. She also blogs at Katy’s Blog.

Good and Bad Don't Apply to Eating

Karen R. Koenig - Good and Bad Don't Apply to Eating

Good and Bad Don't Apply to Eating

Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW

Sometimes we can’t help overhearing conversations, especially when someone is talking really loudly on their cell phone, as if they’re alone in the room. That happened to me recently, and I was dumbstruck over what I was hearing. A man was telling someone about an upcoming doctor’s appointment and this is what I heard: “My doctor is going to be really mad at me because I’ve been really bad. I’m eating all the wrong things when I promised him I’d be good. Man, have I been bad.”

If I hadn’t seen that this speaker was a middle-age guy, I would have sworn I was listening to a child between 6 and 12. That’s the age when we’re often preoccupied with wishing to be good and fearing being bad. That’s the age when we don’t have a huge vocabulary and use words like “good” and “bad” because we don’t have better, more appropriate words readily available in our vocabulary.

At the same time as I felt sorry for this man who truly sounded fearful of what his doctor might say to him about his “bad” eating, I had several other thoughts and feelings as well. Why is this man so worried about what his doctor will think of him rather than feel disappointed in himself that he wasn’t eating more healthfully? Would his doctor actually use the word “bad,” as if he was talking to a kid misbehaving? If this man promised his doctor that he’d be “good,” what was the purpose of such a promise? And what did the doctor say to his patient promising something?

Two intense feelings overshadowed all my others. I was angry that we’re still stuck in this good/bad food mentality which makes us feel and sound like children and gets us nowhere in feeding ourselves more nutritiously and intuitively. And, I was frightened that maybe doctors were fostering these beliefs and making a moral judgment on someone’s eating by implying goodness or badness. I couldn’t imagine doctors actually telling patients that they’re “good” or “bad,” but maybe I’m out of touch.  

I will keep repeating this message as long as I continue to hear these words applied to eating: Good and bad are moral terms. Eating a salad doesn’t make you good and eating cheesecake and Fritos doesn’t make you bad. How and what you feed yourself doesn’t make you more or less of a valuable person and says nothing about your integrity or ethics. Honesty, bravery, fair-mindedness, and loyalty are aspects of morality. Feeding yourself is a self-care and nutritional issue and, though you may treat yourself well or poorly, even that doesn’t make you a good or bad person.

So, could all of you who are reading this please take a pledge, on your own behalf and for the benefit of others, to avoid applying these words to your eating or fitness behaviors? And, if a health care provider uses them to describe you or your behavior based on your efforts in these arenas, please give them this blog to read and tell them about my new book, "Helping Patients Outsmart Overeating: Psychological Strategies for Doctors and Health Care Providers."

Karen R. Koenig, Angie Viets

Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSWis an international, award-winning author of seven books on eating, weight and body image, a psychotherapist with 30 years of experience, a health educator, and a popular blogger. Her expertise is in eating psychology and helping over-eaters and binge-eaters improve their self-care and become “normal” eaters. She lives and practices in Sarasota, Florida.
Visit her website

Sleep: An Essential Yet Overlooked Component of Recovery?

If you’re not getting enough high-quality sleep then you are missing out on a huge component of recovery.

Our culture has a funny attitude towards sleep. We love it (because it feels good!) but we also act like it’s a weakness. People boast about how they only need 4 hours of sleep to function as if that’s a noble thing. You don’t hear anyone bragging about how they make sure to get a solid 9 hours of sleep every night. It’s seen as “indulgent” or “lazy.”  

Is it lazy to have lower levels of inflammation in your body?
Is it lazy to be more productive at work?
Is it lazy to retain information when you’re studying?
Is it lazy to lower your risk of cancer and Alzheimer's disease?
Is it lazy to let your body repair itself and increase your muscle strength?
Is it lazy to be more creative?

I don’t think so. Sleep does all of these things.  

The irony is that people who don’t sleep often make it sound like they’re using their “extra” waking hours doing “productive” things like working or exercising. What they aren’t acknowledging is that they’re shooting themselves in the foot because the things they are trying to accomplish are infinitely harder without proper sleep.

What does any of this have to do with eating disorder recovery?  

Everything.

The initial phase of recovery involves stabilizing the eating disorder behaviors and restoring physical health. Even if you can’t see or feel it, your body has internal repairs to do from being inadequately nourished. This is true whether you have anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder or anything in between.  

The recipe for these repairs is nutrition + sleep. The repairs require the substrate of food and lots of sleep. In fact, when you're sleeping is when the actual action happens. There is a shift in your hormones when you are in deep sleep that promotes growth and repair.  

Our best shot at deep sleep happens between 10 pm and 2 am. That’s when humans naturally fall into the deepest sleep based on our circadian rhythm and the earth’s light and darkness patterns.  

Tips for getting great sleep

  • Have a bedtime routine - Create a routine that lets your brain and body know that you are winding down and getting ready to sleep.  
  • Go to bed at a consistent time each night - Your body needs to have a predictable bed time to make falling asleep easy. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even weekends.  Sleeping in will throw off your bedtime schedule the next night.
  • Have a fluid curfew - Cut yourself off liquids about 2 hours before bed time to give your bladder plenty of time to empty before bed. We don’t want you waking up because you have to pee.
  • While you’re at it, have a caffeine curfew too - Everyone’s body processes caffeine at different rates. Regardless, caffeine stays in our system for hours and even if you don’t feel the buzz, it can still be impacting your sleep. A good rule of thumb is to cut yourself off no later than 2 pm.  I personally have been shooting for noon as my cutoff time.
  • Avoid screens in the bedroom - The glow from your TV, cell phone, tablet or computer makes your brain think that it’s light outside. And light = awake. It interferes with your body’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone that is higher at night and helps us sleep. And don’t think that taking a melatonin supplement will counteract it because it doesn’t. Your body gets desensitized to the melatonin supplements after a while anyway. Try reading a fiction book before bed - something that gets you out of your own head and doesn’t have you thinking too hard.
  • Keep your room dark and cool - We sleep best when there is no light (not even a night light), and when our environment is cool. In fact, studies have shown that the optimal sleep temperature for humans is 62-68 degrees F. That’s pretty chilly to a lot of people - and if you are struggling with body temperature regulation due to the eating disorder, you may need it a little warmer than this.  

There are tons more things you can do to help yourself sleep better, but these tips are a great place to start. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep through the night, talk to your treatment providers and they can help you figure out what’s going on. It’s common for people with eating disorders to also struggle with anxiety or insomnia, and there are lots of things that can be done to help with that. 

Give yourself the gift of great sleep. You’ll be shocked at how much better you feel. 

Katy Harvey, RD is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) from Kansas City.  She has an outpatient private practice where she helps individuals heal their relationship with food, exercise and their body. She also blogs at Katy’s Blog.

What to Do When Your Eating Disorder Throws a Tantrum?

Photo Credit:  J  ulian Santa Ana

Photo Credit: Julian Santa Ana

Does the eating disorder ever kick and scream inside your head, demanding that you obey and making you feel like crap if you don’t?  

It’s like living with a toddler in your head.

This rings even truer for me now that I have an actual toddler who is throwing tantrums.  During a recent tantrum, I was sitting there thinking about what to do and it went something like this:

-What is he upset about?
-Can something be done to help?
-Should I give him what he wants, or should I set a boundary and say no?
-This is really hard.  
-I notice that my body is really activated right now - my heart is beating faster, my stomach hurts, and I just want to spring into action.
-I am feeling angry, frustrated, helpless and sad.  
-This is totally like when the ED throws a tantrum!

The short vs. long-term dilemma

When the eating disorder throws a tantrum, you basically have 2 options: 

a) You could give in to the eating disorder's demands and quiet the voice now.  

b) You could say no to the eating disorder and suffer the wrath of those loud thoughts, and probably feel crummy about yourself for a while.  

The problem with choice “a” is that by giving in you have reinforced the behavior. It’s like buying the tantruming kid the toy he’s pleading for. The message conveyed is that throwing a tantrum gets him what he wants. Same thing with the eating disorder. By giving in you have reinforced that neural pathway, which becomes more and more automatic over time.  

The challenge with choice “b” is that it’s going to be difficult right now. And that’s really hard.  Just like when my son tantrums, it’s painful as a mother to watch your child cry and feel upset.  But I know that in the long-run he’s better off with the boundaries. It teaches him to work through the discomfort, rather than expecting to always get his way.  

An important point

What you are doing when you choose to tell the eating disorder no – in the face of a tantrum – is very important.  

You are showing yourself that you CAN work through the discomfort.  

You are also showing yourself that you CAN stay the course in recovery, even (especially) when the eating disorder doesn’t want you to.  

Ultimately this is what it takes to recover. Those boundaries are there to keep you safe. The eating disorder behaviors are self-destructive and at times dangerous. So even though the boundary doesn’t feel good in the moment, it is ultimately protective.  

How to take care of yourself while the eating disorder tantrums

It is important to give yourself lovingkindness while the eating disorder is throwing its tantrum.  

Start by noticing that the tantrum is happening and that you are actively making the choice to disobey the eating disorder.  

Give yourself compassion for how hard it is. You might tell yourself, This is really hard right now.  It sucks that I am going through this. I trust that it will eventually pass. In the meantime, I am going to be kind to myself, and firm against the eating disorder.

Be intentional about your next move. Make an empowered decision about what you are going to do in the face of the tantrum. For example, if the eating disorder is telling you to skip lunch, you could make a plan to eat lunch with a friend for accountability.  

Ride the wave. The tantrum will be like a wave that comes and goes. It might crest multiple times before it completely passes. You can’t prevent the waves from happening, but you can learn how to ride them. It may help to distract yourself with something kind or productive.  However, don’t forget to check back in with yourself later to make sure that the eating disorder isn’t being sneaky and working in other ways.  

You will find that with practice, your tantrum-resisting muscle will grow stronger. You will become more and more aware of when the tantrum is happening, and you’ll feel confident in your ability to respond in a way that is both firm and compassionate.  

Katy Harvey, RD is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) from Kansas City.  She has an outpatient private practice where she helps individuals heal their relationship with food, exercise and their body. She also blogs at Katy’s Blog.

Is There a Perfect Way to Eat?

Photo Credit:  Rachael Gorjestani

Photo Credit: Rachael Gorjestani

In my practice as a Registered Dietitian, I talk a lot about food. Clients ask about which foods to eat, how much to eat, when to eat… Many are extremely confused with the information they have gotten from friends, family, colleagues, healthcare providers and the media. It can certainly be challenging to make food choices when we are always bombarded with conflicting information.

It can be both reassuring and unsettling to know this truth:

There is no single way of eating that will work for everyone.

Often, this is not what people want to hear. Instead, they want the magic formula that will give them health and happiness. Unfortunately, I can’t provide this (and nobody can, no matter how good their marketing is!).

Instead, I can offer support, compassion, and guidance. Although everyone’s needs are different, here are some general themes I address with many clients.

1. Eating on a regular basis

For most people, having regular meals and not going too long without food is beneficial. While needs vary greatly, more than 4-5 hours without eating is detrimental in many cases. Not everyone will require snacks, but they can certainly be helpful. Explore what works best for you based on your schedule, your preferences, and your body’s needs.

2. Being curious about your body’s signals

Our body gives us many clues regarding our needs. If you are in the early stages of healing from an eating disorder or chronic dieting, you may find that your hunger and fullness cues are unreliable or simply non-existent. This is quite normal. At first, you may need more structure around meals. However, you can still try tuning in to see what your body is telling you. Maybe you are tired and need more rest, or maybe you are thirsty and need hydration. Be curious about what your body is telling you. It’s smarter than you think!

3. Eating a variety of foods

One of our best ways to ensure we are getting enough nutrients is to diversify the foods we eat. It sounds overly simple, but getting foods from a variety of sources can be helpful and ultimately, much more satisfying. For many healing from eating disorders, food choices can become very limited. When you feel ready, and if you are able, connect with a therapist or dietitian who can guide you in experimenting with fear foods in a safe way.

The bottom line

There is no such thing as the perfect way to eat. What works for one person may be completely inappropriate for someone else. Explore your needs and wants, and try noticing what works for you. What brings you the most energy, the most happiness? This is most likely what is best for YOU.

Remember: You are doing the best you can. You’ve got this!

Josée Sovinsky is a passionate Registered Dietitian working in a community setting in Toronto, Ontario. After facing her own struggles with disordered eating during her degree, she developed a strong interest in helping those affected by eating disorders and mental illness. She decided to learn more about intuitive and mindful eating, body acceptance and Health at Every Size®, which now strongly guide her work. She dreams of a world free from mental health stigma, body shaming, and disordered eating. When she is not helping others make peace with food, she enjoys baking, photography and doing yoga in her living room. Visit Josée's website and connect with her on social media.

Learning to Trust Your Body Again

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Think about the eating-related thoughts that go through your mind on any given day:
“You shouldn’t eat that, it’s too high in sugar.”  
“You can’t be hungry already, it’s not time to eat for another 2 hours.”  
“That has waaaaay too many calories in it.  You don’t deserve to eat it.”  

Notice a common theme among them?  

It’s the overall distrust of your body and your appetite. The eating disorder makes you believe that your own body is working against you and that if you listened to its signals you’d be fat, unhealthy, and completely unworthy of love. Ouch, pretty harsh, huh?

As Geneen Roth, author of multiple books on compulsive overeating, dieting and body image, has said: 

"Your body is the vehicle for your spirit and your soul. It is the piece of the universe you've been given to tend, to care, to cherish. Without it, you couldn't sense or taste or touch or feel."

Why do so many of us distrust our appetites? We’ve been taught to believe that if we ate what we wanted we’d eat ourselves into oblivion. We’ve been taught to fear food and to fear our appetite. The “war on obesity” has become a war on our bodies. Fear of becoming fat has made us afraid of food and afraid of our desire for food.

Sarah’s story (name and details changed for privacy)

Sarah is a client who I first encountered well into her recovery. She was no longer starving herself or abusing her body with purging or excessive exercise. Yet she was still plagued by food and her body. “I never feel full when I try to eat normally. It’s as if I could just keep eating and eating,” she told me. “The only time I feel full is when I’ve binged and am stuffed, and then I feel so ashamed and guilty and disgusting that I want to purge. Those urges still come up sometimes.”  

Sarah was still disconnected from her body. Sure, she was eating at regular intervals throughout the day, but it still had very little to do with her actual appetite cues. It was more of a prescribed regimen for eating. Thus, she ate pretty much the same thing every day because she knew how it would make her feel, and she trusted that it was the “right” amount for her body to maintain its current weight. Any deviation from this made her anxious and uncomfortable, which made holidays and social gatherings hard. It was also hard when she had a food craving for something out of the norm.  

The rupture of trust

How does this distrust of the body happen? Usually, it starts in childhood or adolescence. We are born with a natural trust of our appetite - babies cry when they are hungry, and stop when they’ve had enough milk. Toddlers and small children tend to do the same with food.  

We can learn a lot from children when it comes to eating. They will eat when they are hungry, and will stop when they aren’t. The amount they eat will vary from day to day - some days they eat a ton, and other days hardly at all. That’s because they are tuned into their bodies and trust their body’s signals.  

At some point, however, well-meaning adults interfere. They start trying to control and dictate the child’s eating by saying things like, “Eat your vegetables and then you can have dessert,” or, “You don’t need all that sugar, it’s bad for you.”  

Yes, the adult is trying to help the child eat a balanced diet and to be healthy, but it’s backfiring. Because the underlying, unspoken message is that the child shouldn’t trust what their body has said. The appetite cues should be ignored and suppressed. Wanting something sweet is seen as bad, and the dessert must be “earned” through the holy grail of vegetables.  

Then look at the broader culture we live in, with terms like portion control, detox, gluten-free, dairy-free, fat-free, sugar-free…we’re afraid of food and afraid of our appetites for it.  

Fear-based eating is taking the joy out of food. We need to stop being so afraid of things like sugar, fat and salt. Reality is, they make food taste good. AND foods with sugar, fat and salt do still make a nutritional contribution to our diet. By definition, nutrients are something that the body must have, and sugar is just a carbohydrate, which is a macronutrient along with fat, and salt is an essential micronutrient. That’s how your body sees it when the food is digested and absorbed into your blood stream.  

Rebuilding trust with our body

It’s time to love food again, and to enjoy foods that taste good. Eating is a sensory experience, from the sight to the smell to the texture to the taste of the food. We experience eating with our whole body. And the food is literally the fuel that keeps us alive. Not something to be afraid of - something to be cherished!

The wise Ellyn Satter, a fellow dietitian and eating expert, has said: 

"Go to the table hungry, pay attention while eating, and stop when you are satisfied, knowing that you can come back and eat again when you are hungry later. Eating is meant to be enjoyable."

It takes time to repair and rebuild trust with ourselves. The eating disorder is invested in you distrusting your body and will continue to try and convince you of the ways in which you can’t trust yourself.  

As your True Self gets stronger and you gather more and more attuned eating experiences, you’ll start to see “proof” that your appetite can be trusted. As for Sarah, the client I mentioned earlier, she was able to do this. It took time, patience and persistence. Every eating experience was an opportunity to take a leap of faith that her body knew what it was doing and would guide her appropriately. Sure, sometimes she made mistakes, and sometimes she questioned if she really could trust her body, but over time she was able to see that her appetite was truly calibrated to her body’s needs.  

Some tips for rebuilding trust:

  • Have regular, consistent eating times throughout the day. Your body needs to know and trust that it will get fed again in a few hours. 
  • Keep snacks on hand in case you get hungry sooner than anticipated. Your body also needs to trust that you will feed it during those unexpected times that it gets hungry.
  • Include a wide variety of foods. Keeping food interesting and varied will help your body get all of its nutritional needs met, and it will help you feel satisfied by the variety of flavors and textures of the food.
  • Eat without distractions. Pay attention to your food, like a toddler intently eating and savoring the food off her plate. Paying attention to your food will also foster paying attention to your appetite, and you’ll more readily notice when you are feeling satisfied. 
  • Treat your body with compassion. You will make mistakes with eating. It’s a fact of life. Even normal eaters do it. You’ll sometimes under eat, and sometimes overeat. Notice this sensation without judgment, and give yourself compassion for the discomfort you are experiencing. Let your body guide you on what and when to eat again. 

Process, not perfection

There’s no such thing as perfect eating, so don’t even bother trying. Disappointing for you perfectionists out there, I know! But also potentially freeing? It allows you to experiment with your eating without judgment or fear of failure. Most importantly, it allows you to experience the joy of eating again while trusting that your body will guide you.

Katy Harvey, RD is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) from Kansas City.  She has an outpatient private practice where she helps individuals heal their relationship with food, exercise and their body. She also blogs at Katy’s Blog.

Why It's Okay to Dislike Your Dietitian in Recovery

I distinctly remember the day as a hospital dietitian that totally changed my perspective on my profession. I had received a consult for a gentleman who had suffered a heart attack and underwent open heart surgery. With my educational materials in hand, I went to his room and knocked on the door. “Come in,” he said.  

I explained, “My name is Katy and I’m one of the dietitians. I’m here to talk to you about your eating. Your doctor wanted me to go over some information with you before you go home.”  The next thing he said shocked me. “You can tell it to my wife. She does all the cooking.”  

With my poker face I said, “Ok, sure,” and went on to provide the cardiac nutrition education to his wife, hoping that the patient would overhear it and learn something himself. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t care.

In hindsight, I can now empathize with what he was going through. It must have been shocking and terrifying to suffer a heart attack, and very painful to have open heart surgery. The food on the cardiac diet at the hospital probably didn’t taste that great. He needed some time to wrap his mind around what happened, and to take a personal inventory of the changes he needed to make in his life. Then, when he was ready, he would be more appropriate for nutrition education. Hearing me preach to him in the hospital wasn’t going to be helpful.

The thing that was so shocking to me about this encounter was that I had been operating under the assumption that my patients always wanted my help. Especially after something as life-altering as a heart attack. I couldn’t understand why he had no apparent interest in hearing the information, or why he was dumping all of the responsibility for his eating on his wife.  

It was my first real insight into the psychology of working with people as a dietitian. How could it be that they didn’t want to hear what I had to say and do what I told them to do? [gasp]  

Then I started working with clients who have eating disorders and it was like a slap in the face. Talk about people who don’t want to do the things you suggest. If you’ve never stood toe-to-toe with an eating disorder, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like. The best analogy I have is to compare it to a parent telling their child no they cannot stay up late, or no you cannot touch the hot stove, or yes you need to brush your teeth - and the kid spins into a wild rage, lashing out, saying “NO!” or “I hate you!” The parent is doing these things for their child’s own good, but the child doesn’t like it. Eating disorders are much the same way. The person’s true self secretly feels safe and secure (hopefully) that their dietitian is telling them what’s best for their body, but the eating disorder doesn’t like it and will lash out.  

Things I’ve been told by clients with EDs:

  • I don’t like you.
  • F&*$ you!
  • I don’t see the point in coming to these sessions.
  • I’ve always hated dietitians.
  • I honestly don’t want to be here.
  • My parents/therapist/doctor made me come but I don’t really think I need it.
  • I already know everything about nutrition. 
  • There’s nothing you can do that will help me.
  • I don’t trust you.

On the surface, these statements may sound really offensive, and I have to admit that the conflict-avoidant and sensitive part of me always cringes a little bit, but these statements aren’t about me as a person. They are about the threat that I represent to the eating disorder. (And if it is about me not being a good personality fit for the client, that’s fine, I’m happy to get them hooked up with another RD, but this isn’t usually the case with this type of defensiveness and rage.)

The dietitian is the person on the treatment team who is asking you to disobey your eating disorder. The person who is challenging the eating disorder's lies. The person who is helping you see the ways in which the eating disorder is destroying your body. The dietitian is asking you to do the thing you are most afraid of - to eat according to what your body needs, and to cope with your emotions in alternate ways. This may mean gaining weight. It may mean letting go of the fantasy that if you just ate xyz foods and weighed X pounds then your life will somehow be better.  

I get it. It’s uncomfortable, challenging, scary, and often outright infuriating to see a dietitian.  So, it’s ok to kinda hate your dietitian. We understand and we try not to take it personally. At the end of the day, I’m not here to be your BFF. I am here to help you recover. And if I’m never making the eating disorder mad, then I’m probably not doing my job.  

What I can promise you is that I am not fragile, and I will not crumble under the wrath of your eating disorder. My office is a safe place to let out your emotions. And no matter how angry and intimidating your eating disorder gets, I will still be here to fight the fight along side you. You can hate me AND I will still be your cheerleader and advocate for recovery. Maybe someday that hate will turn into gratitude and mutual respect. Many people who recover will say in hindsight that their dietitian was the most challenging member of their treatment team to work with, but was absolutely essential to their recovery.  

So, even if you hate seeing your dietitian, keep an open mind.  She (or he) is there to guide and support you through the difficult process of recovery.  

Katy Harvey, RD is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) from Kansas City.  She has an outpatient private practice where she helps individuals heal their relationship with food, exercise and their body. She also blogs at Katy’s Blog.

How Emotional Eating is Serving You

Emotional eating is usually seen in a bad light. We often hear how eating when stressed, bored or lonely is damaging and should be eliminated. Many articles have been written about how to stop eating emotionally. In fact, when I was doing research to write this piece, I really struggled to find any references that wrote about emotional eating in a positive tone.

However, despite emotional eating’s bad reputation, it’s important to acknowledge the ways it actually serves us. Emotional eating has a purpose, and it’s not a bad one.

1. Food is Comfort

There is a reason many turn to food when uncomfortable or distressed: food is comforting. This is one of the reasons parents often offer food to children who are sad or distraught. It temporarily numbs our discomfort and makes us feel good. While it won’t eliminate the cause of this discomfort, it distracts us from the challenging situation we are encountering. It provides relief and a sense of calm. This characteristic of food is not a bad one. In fact, it allows us to cope with life’s difficulties.

2. An Act of Self-Care

Emotional eating can become a problem when we think of it as being something bad or sinful. After engaging in emotional eating, many are ridden with feelings of guilt, shame, and regret. I often hear clients speaking about how horrible they feel after these experiences. In a culture that paints emotional eating as a bad thing, I can certainly understand these feelings. It can be helpful to work on changing our mentality and realizing that eating emotionally is a form of self-care. In fact, it’s just one of the many ways you can use to feel safe and protect yourself.

3. An Opportunity to Learn

I often talk to clients about how it can be helpful to have a toolkit of comforting activities to turn to in moments of distress. Emotional eating can most definitely be one of those tools. Next time you engage in emotional eating, take time to notice what is happening inside of you instead of being self-critical. Note what needs are not being met and what feelings are causing you discomfort. This is a wonderful opportunity to be curious about your experience.

The Bottom Line

It can be very healing to work on accepting our emotional eating behaviors. It allows room for curiosity, compassion, and self-love, while fighting off feelings of guilt and humiliation. You are doing your best to take care of yourself and that is always something to celebrate. 

Josée Sovinsky is a passionate Registered Dietitian working in a community setting in Toronto, Ontario. After facing her own struggles with disordered eating during her degree, she developed a strong interest in helping those affected by eating disorders and mental illness. She decided to learn more about intuitive and mindful eating, body acceptance and Health at Every Size®, which now strongly guide her work. She dreams of a world free from mental health stigma, body shaming, and disordered eating. When she is not helping others make peace with food, she enjoys baking, photography and doing yoga in her living room. Visit Josée's website and connect with her on social media.

3 Steps to Quieting the Food Police

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

If you are struggling with an eating disorder or are a chronic dieter, you know very well how loud the food police can become. It lives in your mind and imposes food rules and regulations, it judges every choice and it inflicts feelings of guilt and shame. The food police (which some refer to as the ED voice) can truly fuel our disordered thoughts and keep us from recovering. However, as with any issue that involves your brain, silencing this voice is not as easy as it seems. It takes a lot of practice, patience, and commitment. Here are 3 steps to help you quiet the Food Police.

1. Be Curious About Your Thoughts

Whenever you are confronted with thoughts around food, try to distinguish who is speaking: you or the food police. When we understand the food police is talking, we are then in a position to challenge it. Gaining awareness of our situation is often the first step to making any meaningful change. In the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, this is called being a « Food Anthropologist ». It comes down to being a neutral observer. To help with this, you may want to keep a journal and write down the different thoughts that come up.

2.  Ask Yourself If The Thought Is Helpful, Kind and True

Once you’ve noticed the messages you are replaying in your mind about food, ask yourself:

·      Is this thought helpful? Is it helping me move towards happiness and wellbeing?

·      Is this thought kind? Does it consider my unique situation?

·      Is this thought true? What proof do I have to support this idea?

3. Decide To Reject What Does Not Serve You

Once you’ve identified the thoughts that are not helpful, kind or true, mindfully decide to reject them. Better yet, replace them with an idea that counters this thought. After years of struggling with food, it takes a lot of time to undo the automatic thoughts we’ve come to learn. It can be helpful to experience self-compassion through this process. After all, we never invited the food police, it was forced upon us by a variety of different factors, including diet culture and a society obsessed with food and impossible beauty standards.

The food police can truly be a jerk, but there is hope. While you work towards shutting it down, it will slowly become quieter and quieter. Take things one step at a time and don’t forget to love yourself throughout the process.

Josée Sovinsky, RD - Angie Viets

Josée Sovinsky is a passionate Registered Dietitian working in a community setting in Toronto, Ontario. After facing her own struggles with disordered eating during her degree, she developed a strong interest in helping those affected by eating disorders and mental illness. She decided to learn more about intuitive and mindful eating, body acceptance and Health at Every Size®, which now strongly guide her work. She dreams of a world free from mental health stigma, body shaming, and disordered eating. When she is not helping others make peace with food, she enjoys baking, photography and doing yoga in her living room. Visit Josée's website and connect with her on social media.