Thursday, December 8, 2011

Diary of a Naughty Dietitian (Part I)

If you have been reading my blog, you may have noticed that I'm not perfect when it comes to nutrition.  There's a very misleading notion that all dietitians follow a strictly healthy diet.

When I first meet someone and I tell them that I'm a dietitian, they usually get a little look of guilt in their eyes, like, "Crap, I bet she knows that I had a Snickers bar for lunch! I'm such a bad, naughty eater."
Then I get a feeling of judgement, like, "I bet they are worried about what I think about their diet."
Well the truth is.... I don't judge.  I don't judge because I am naughty too.  Just because I became a Registered Dietitian, studied nutrition for 7 years, and have a Masters degree in nutrition doesn't mean I am exempt from the everyday struggles of eating a healthy diet.

I binge on cookie dough & cake batter when I'm cooking sometimes.
I skip lunch.
I don't always eat enough fruits & veggies everyday.
I love red meat.
I drink too much coffee.
I eat a lot of carbohydrates.
I have sweet cravings that I'm pretty sure could move an 18-wheeler.
I don't drink enough water.
I am comforted by food.
I probably drink too much wine. ;)

And this list could go on and on.  Being a healthy individual has so many parts.  It's not just eating healthy.  It's emotional, psychological, physical and social.

Although I don't have a perfectly clean diet, I am 100% happy with my health.  Being too extreme will lead to unhealthiness and unhappiness.  Being on too strict of a diet plan will eventually lead to failure.

For example, a young man, "Joe," decides that he's going to be on a RAW diet.  So the only thing he eats is fruits, veggies, legumes, raw get the picture, his diet is extremely limited.  His girlfriend & friends begins to resent the new diet because they never get to go out to dinners together, have casual dinner parties or football takeout on Sundays.  Joe's family finds his diet odd and is offended when he doesn't come to family affairs that involve food.  They question him when he does show up and it usually leads to a heated conflict.  Joe's co-workers notice that his mood has changed and he's pre-occupied with food.  Joe is obsessed with the number on the scale.

An opposite example, portrays the same issues related to extreme food habits.  A middle aged mom, "Carrie," has entirely lost control of her diet.  She is stressed with work, school, kids, and family.  Carrie has given up on eating a well-balanced diet because she doesn't have the time or effort left.  So she skips meals, gulps soda/coffee/etc. all day and binges at night.  She overeats at dinner because she hasn't eaten all day, then snacks all evening on cookies, cake, chips, and drinks.  Carrie's family is concerned because she has no energy to play with them and she her attitude is always very short.  Her friends are concerned because she is losing her self confidence and is no longer excited about their monthly "girls night out."  Carrie has steadily gained 10 pounds per year in the last 5 years and is carrying around an extra 50 pounds.

It's simple, food is social and relationships are affected by how we chose to eat.  If your diet interferes with your relationships, it's just not right.

So how do you find that happy place that allows you to be confident and happy?  It's all about balance.  This is the only way I have found to be content with my diet.  My main goal is not to create the perfect diet, it's to find a perfect balance.  I strive to create synergy between my splurges, my life, my exercise patterns and my true nutrition needs.  In the big picture, we should be meeting our dietary needs most of the time.  I follow The 80/20 Rule.  I make an earnest effort to eat well 80% of the time and the other 20% I allow myself to eat the foods I crave, socially drink, & try new things.

Variety is the spice of life, right?

By following this simple rule, I make my body and mind happy.  When I first began studying nutrition, I tried to have a very clean diet.  Everything was low-fat and my meals were all planned out.  I found that the stricter I was on myself, the more I craved food for comfort.  It led to overeating and feeling terrible.
I slowly learned that the occasional splurge was just what I needed to stay on track.  So nowadays I exercise "most" days and I eat healthy "most" days.  And on those off days, I don't feel bad about it.

I love being a naughty dietitian because I feel like a real person.  I don't judge and I can relate.

This new area of my blog is going to discuss my outlook on nutrition.  Being healthy doesn't have to be difficult or extreme.  I want to take on a variety of topics here.  I look forward to hearing your comments & suggestions.

Cheers, D.

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