Freedom & Food

As summer sets in, most of us are facing the struggle to avoid tempting foods such as ice cream, good ol’ BBQ, chips with salsa, and a large handful of salted nuts. Somewhere between making a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier and starting to plan your menu for the summer BBQ with the neighbors, perhaps you have lost that motivation to prepare fresh foods. Instead, you might be feeling guilty that you ate another cookie, went back for seconds when you weren’t even hungry, or ate a large serving of the ice cream because “it was a really stressful day at the office or with the kids.” is there any freedom from the cycle of good vs. bad eating?

Absolutely. I call it mindful eating, but the concept is also well-known as intuitive eating. Most of us know what is “healthy” to eat; however, mindful eating allows us to freely consume foods that are typically less helpful for our bodies in smaller quantities and enjoy them. Mindful eating means pausing to consider the type of hunger you might be experiencing when you grab that extra snack or reach for a sugary beverage. There are many types of hunger that I challenge my clients to take notice of when they are completing their food records for their nutrition consultations. I typically encourage someone to use the following types when recording what triggered their snacking or eating a meal:

  • Emotion – boredom, stress, sadness, happiness, frustration, tiredness, etc.
  • Availability – the food was easy to grab
  • Hunger – it was about 3 or 4 hours since the last time you ate something
  • Craving – you really wanted the taste of the snack
  • Activity – you were doing something, such as watching TV, that makes
    you want to snack

Then, we review this record and “unmask” what’s really causing those “cravings”. Finally, we determine which practical ideas would work to address that particular type of hunger instead of eating more food. For example, someone who routinely snacks because they are an “emotional eater” might set a goal to mindfully enjoy snacks seated at the table, instead of standing in the kitchen, and perhaps even honor themselves enough to eat the snack off of a beautiful china plate rather than out of the package.
This is just one exercise in mindful eating that clients (young and old, male and female) seem to benefit from. Most importantly, it unveils that hidden temptation about foods and provides us with the freedom to mindfully choose the best approach to honor our hunger! For more information on mindful eating or to schedule an individual consultation, please contact Danielle McGee RD, LD at 713-365-9015.

Food Freedom

“Is this food good or bad?” As a dietitian, I regularly hear this question! I face the challenge of how to teach an alternative way of thinking about nutrition. Recently, I tried to explain a new concept to one of my youngest clients (a nine year old female). I asked her, “What if there were no good and bad foods. What if, instead, foods were least helpful, helpful, and most helpful?” She then rephrased what I was trying to say: “Like when my mom fills the car up at the gas station?” Initially confused, I realized she saw food as fuel and was picturing the different octane levels on the pump (such as 87, 89 & 92). I applauded her creativity!

A “fuel for the body” concept groups foods into 1) maintenance 2) enhanced, or 3) improved performance. Perhaps we don’t need rules to never eat “bad” foods and can assess how they contribute to our overall goals for life performance. Do you desire to lose weight? Are you fatigued? Are certain foods coping mechanisms? If so, maybe those chips and cookies are foods that maintain weight, energy or emotions. What if you felt freedom to eat foods that enhance energy, emotions, or weight goals? For example, a small granola bar, ½ cup of 100% all natural fruit juice, or baked pita chips with hummus substitute for your afternoon or nighttime snack. Then, consider options that might improve performance towards a healthy body weight, improved energy, and mindful eating: a handful of unsalted nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, etc), a cup of Greek yogurt with 1 Tbsp of honey, or a green smoothie may improve your long-term nutrition goals.

A healthy mindset about our eating habits promotes food freedom! Meal planning and dining do not have to be burdensome. If this brings you some relief, look forward to more tips on mindful eating soon.