Five Reasons Why I am Not Interested in Helping You Lose Weight

It’s true – I am not interested in helping you lose weight. As my client, I am passionate about helping you to feel your best, get your glow back, heal your relationship with food, and solve health problems. I am not, however, interested in making you skinny. Here are the five reasons why:

  1. Weight is not an indicator of overall health. This is a huge misconception. Instead, studies indicate that weight cycling (losing weight, gaining weight, losing weight, gaining weight) is a much stronger indicator of poor health and can actually lead to cardiovascular and blood sugar issues.
  2. Focussing on weight loss will trap you in the dieting mentality, keeping you in a restrict/binge cycle that only perpetuates dieting for a lifetime.
  3. Your focus on weight stops you from learning to sense your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Instead, you focus on external cues that tell you how, when, and what to eat. How will you ever stop dieting if you can’t tune into your own body’s cues?
  4. Focusing on losing weight stops you from enjoying your life right now. Your life isn’t waiting for you to lose weight.  Waiting to buy clothes until you lose 10 pounds means you live uncomfortably now, feeling bad about yourself. Waiting to fall in love, or have babies, or live your best life, or do anything until you lose weight robs you of the life you have right now.
  5. Trying to lose weight is consuming. It takes willpower, energy, determination, drive, perseverance, and laser focus. All of that energy, focused on making your body physically smaller, takes everything from you, leaving you with nothing for your big dreams.

I want to put all of this out there because most of my clients come to me looking for ways to be “healthy.” However, when we start chatting, most of them begin to reveal that what they really want is to lose weight. That’s because for most women, thin is synonymous with “healthy.” That is a misconception that I will spend my career fighting. So what actually makes you healthy? Let’s have a look:

  1. Implementing stress reduction techniques
  2. Moving your body for fun (and not for punishment)
  3. Having healthy relationships
  4. Staying socially connected
  5. Following your heart and your intuition
  6. Getting enough sleep
  7. And, of course, eating your veggies 🙂

Yep, those are the biggest indicators of longevity, healthy living, and happiness! Those are the things that will help you find happiness in your life, wake up energized, be comfortable in your skin, and feel satisfied with your amazing life.

Not coincidentally, these are the precise habits that I am passionate about helping my clients implement in their lives. Oh! I almost forgot: these habits are not necessarily correlated with size. You can live the life you dream of; the one where you have the courage to follow your heart, where you don’t allow anything to get in the way of your success, and where you wake up every morning excited by the possibilities that lie ahead, without reaching a certain number on the scale.

Wanna get started? Email me (jess@jesshartnutrition.com) today!

Cheerful young funny woman dancing and singing with ladle while having leisure time in the kitchen at home

 


References:
Bacon, Linda, and Lucy Aphramor. “Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift.” Nutrition Journal 10 (2011): 9. PMC. Web. 14 Mar. 2018.

Buettner, Dan. The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. Washington, D.C: National Geographic, 2008. Print.

Robbins, John. Healthy at 100 The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the Worlds Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples. Paw Prints, 2010.

STROHACKER, KELLEY, KATIE C. CARPENTER, and BRIAN K. MCFARLIN. “Consequences of Weight Cycling: An Increase in Disease Risk?” International Journal of Exercise Science 2.3 (2009): 191–201. Print.

Tribole, Evelyn, and Elyse Resch. Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works. St. Martins Griffin, 2012.

 

 


Eat The Damn Cookie, Part 2

After going on and on last week about the profound nature of Intuitive Eating, I want to introduce the concept more clearly and explain why it can be so powerful. It so strongly counters what society has taught us about the nature of healthy eating and self control that it can be a little tricky to wrap one’s head around. Here it goes…

The main principle of Intuitive Eating is that the diet mentality perpetuates a “binge and restrict” cycle of eating. Under this system, you are disciplined most of the time but you get “cheat days” on Saturdays, change the rules when you’re travelling, or eventually fall-off the wagon. This kind of thinking about food actually encourages overeating and foments an unhealthy relationship with the pleasure of food.

Let’s watch this play out in an example:

Today is Saturday, and you decide you are going to lose 10 pounds by eliminating sugar from your diet. You are going to start this ‘no sugar diet’ on Monday.

UNTIL Monday, though, you gobble up all the sugary treats your heart desires, knowing that on Monday you’ll be “good” and stop eating them. When Monday rolls around, your diet starts. You work really hard to avoid sugar. You feel great when you say a firm ‘no’ to the slice of the chocolate cake you made for your son’s 4th birthday, you quietly throw away the apple fritter your mom brought you from your favourite bakery, and you say “I’ll pass” when your friends invite you out for dessert.

After a couple weeks, you lose 5 pounds and your pants are looser. You feel pretty good, but you haven’t reached your goal and you start feeling like you’ve sacrificed a lot for just 5 pounds. Your carrot sticks start to get boring, you get tired of avoiding your friends, and you generally feel bad about your lot in life. You decide to work that much harder and start weighing your food and ditching out on other fun activities to avoid the tempting foods that will be there. At some point, after all of this hard work and exercising of willpower, you decide that life is worth living! This diet is junk! And you start eating all the foods that you’ve been depriving yourself of.

All. Of. Them. With vigor.

That 5 pounds comes back, with “friends” and suddenly you weigh more than you did when you started. And you decide that on Monday, you’ll start the Keto Diet your friends have been raving about….

Sound familiar? For most of us, there are (quite literally) a handful of “pesky pounds” that we think we would feel better without. However, as illustrated above, dieting isn’t the way to do that because it doesn’t actually work. Stats indicate that 95% of diets fail in the long term. That means that, over the course of five years, there is only a 1 in 20 chance that you will still have that weight off.

The reason for these terrible odds is that self-control is a finite resource. You can only exercise so much willpower before your mind’s ability to avoid temptation runs dry. There is a growing body of evidence that shows that self-control operates in much the same way as a muscle in that it is strong at first and then becomes fatigued. For the same reason that you can’t do an indefinite number of pushups, you cannot be self-controlled around chips in the long term. Your brain will lose strength and all the excuses discussed above will start to sound more and more appealing. So much for your Keto Diet.

Instead of playing the binge and restrict game over and over and continually berating ourselves, let’s start listening to our bodies. Let’s stop restricting what we eat. Let’s stop talking to ourselves negatively about the foods we choose to eat. Let’s step outside our need to constantly be exercising self control.

Enter Intuitive Eating. This is a pretty simplified explanation, but here are the basic tenets.

  • Step 1: Realize that diets don’t work. Stop thinking that they do. Stop trying them. Forever.
  • Step 2: Recognize what hunger feels like for you. Honour your hunger.
  • Step 3: Learn that there are no ‘good foods’ and ‘bad foods’. Restricting foods makes us crave those foods. Craving foods makes us feel guilty. Eating those foods we crave makes us feel shame. Then we want a pint of Haagen Dazs (or Cheezies or Doritos, you get the idea) to help us feel better. Then we feel guilt and shame again and decide we need a new diet. When we change our mentality and eat the food we want, without labels and judgment, we eliminate that nasty cycle.
  • Step 4: Stop listening to other people’s well meaning (but obnoxious) food advice and start tuning in. You hear food advice all the time and internalize it, and pretty soon those voices take over. You start to say things to yourself like, “I can’t eat now, I just ate an hour ago”, or “carbs are fattening, I can’t eat that bagel”, or “butter will give me heart disease, I don’t eat it”. Instead, start listening to what works for your body, what gives you energy, glowing skin, and what makes you feel great.
  • Step 5: When you eat, be fully mindful of the food. This involves chewing your food thoroughly, tasting what your food tastes like, paying attention to your body as you eat, and slowing down so your meals take at least 15 minutes. When you feel full, or don’t, act accordingly. Respect your fullness. The more you practice doing these things, the more mindful you will be while you eat, and the more you will notice your fullness. Then, respect what level of fullness feels right for you by putting down your fork.
  • Step 6: Similarly, acknowledge and honour your feelings, including when you are happy, sad, lonely, bored, or bummed out (those are just some of the usual suspects for me personally). Acknowledge that sometimes it feels good to eat when you have a lot of emotions. Sometimes it doesn’t. Listen to your body and learn your patterns of eating. Then you can choose what you do with them.
  • Step 7: Respect your body. My body’s needs are different than yours, which will be different from those of your neighbour. Stop comparing them. We naturally have a set point weight, within about a 5-10 pound range, that our bodies easily gravitate to when we respond to our hunger and fullness cues and don’t fixate on dieting. This may or may not be the number that you have in mind, but respect your body by allowing it to find its natural weight.

Over time, you will also find that you are naturally gravitating towards “better” eating choices. This happens because, through mindful attention to your body, thoughts, and plate, you will notice what negative sensations come along with eating certain foods (e.g. fatigue, bloating, indigestion, nausea). When you do decide to eat something traditionally held as “junk food” or “cheat day” material, you will not feel the need to throw away the whole “plan” because the “plan” is simply to respond to your body’s needs, and you have done so. You can eat freely without guilt.

Revolutionary, right? These ideas are simple individually, but incredibly powerful together. Maybe you are ready to give this a go! Or maybe now that you’ve read all of that, it seems easier to start a new diet than learn how to listen to your body. But what if you weren’t afraid of keeping ice cream in your house? What if you could eat any food you wanted? What if you were able to stop eating easily, without using willpower, when you felt satisfied?

If these ideas resonate with you and you are interested in quitting the diet roller coaster for good and learning to listen and respond to your body, then go and learn more about Intuitive Eating! And if you would like to give it a try, join me for the month of March, as we practice together and learn HOW TO EAT over the course of 21 days.

 

 

 

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Eat The Damn Cookie, Part 1

Back in 2003, I was working at Starbucks in Seattle. I loved, loved being a barista. The upbeat conversations with customers and the camaraderie we felt between our teammates as we rushed to meet the demands of a busy weekday morning was the perfect combination of fun and challenge.  The only issue was that the baked treats and delicious pastries were always right under my nose, quite literally. Having barely left my teens, I was still in a constant struggle with body image and these treats plagued my self control non-stop.

Around this time, however, I also started a 1,000 calorie diet, which was one of many semi-successful, highly dangerous diets on which I would embark in my 20s. One day, I was sitting in the back office on my lunch break and I wanted a shortbread cookie. You know, those little ones that come in packs of two? They are buttery, sweet, and really delicious. However, I wouldn’t let myself eat them. After all, I had already reached my self-imposed calorie limit for the day and wouldn’t let myself budge one calorie over. As hard as I tried, I could not stop thinking about the cookie. I just couldn’t. I sat there yelling at myself to be strong, to have some willpower, and to think ‘skinny.’ I told myself that if I lost some weight I would like myself more or that the cute guy I met at my friend’s wedding would finally ask me out.

I never ate the cookie. I felt really proud of my ‘willpower.’ I lost some weight.

But, guess what? My life stayed the same. I didn’t like myself any better and that guy never asked me out.  15 years later, I still think about that moment and I feel really sad for that girl. Not because her life didn’t improve (it did, but that improvement didn’t come because she lost weight) or because that handsome guy never asked her out. Rather, I feel sad for all the time she wasted thinking about that stupid, damn cookie. 

3 years ago, I bought a book called Passionate Nutrition: A Guide to Using Food as Medicine from a Nutritionist Who Healed Herself from the Inside Out by Seattle based nutritionist, Jennifer Adler. It is a wonderful book that introduced me to the concept of true nutrition and the power of Intuitive Eating. In the book, Jennifer mentions coming home from a holiday and craving butter. Trusting her body, based on her knowledge of Intuitive Eating, she sat down with a whole stick of butter and ate it. I couldn’t believe a nutritionist was writing about eating a stick of butter because her ‘body told her to.’ I was totally intrigued. I wondered when I last listened to my body. Had I ever listened to my body?

That book made me think back to the 20-year-old girl who really wanted that shortbread cookie and wouldn’t let herself eat it. Then I took a step back and realized that, at 31, I was still berating myself for things like eating too much sugar or gaining too much weight after the birth of my first baby. I was still doing drastic (though mildly less dangerous) diets like the Whole30, Paleo, and dabbling with Weight Watchers. I was really, really good at all of them. I always lost weight. I loved the control over my food, I loved the stability of knowing the ‘rules’ and genuinely thought I was having fun and getting healthy. But was I really ‘healthy’? Was I ever really solving the root cause of my weight gain? Nope.

Jennifer Adler’s book resonated so strongly with me that I continued down the rabbit hole. I read Intuitive Eating and then Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, and began to take a good, hard look at my eating habits. Based on the ideas presented in these books, I stopped examining what I was eating, and shifted my focus to examine my experience of eating. They argue that starting any ‘diet’ restricts your food choices,  puts you in a mindset of feast or famine where you will be more inclined to binge on tasty treats, and that once engaged in dieting behaviour, we start thinking of food choices as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, demonizing whatever food we deem as ‘unhealthy’, and berating ourselves when our willpower runs out. The way out of this nasty cycle: stop dieting for good, throw out your scale, and start listening to your body. 

In beginning to practice shifting out of the diet mindset, I suddenly realized that focusing on making myself thin was a total waste of time, energy, and willpower. Not to mention an absolute drain on the already meagre amount of self-indulgent fun and pleasure that having two young children affords a person. This process helped me realized that I have so much more to offer the world than my thinness. I don’t want to be doing the binge/restrict diet cycle for the rest of my life. I don’t want to struggle with how much I eat (and what I eat) for my whole life. I want to get off the ride now, please. It is exhausting and it’s making me feel sick.

Stay tuned for the second part of this post next Saturday, where I will talk more about what Intuitive Eating looks like and how you can break the diet cycle forever. 

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