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If you follow along with my blog, are a recent student of mine, or have attended any of my seminars, you know I have developed a strong intuitive eating philosophy. It’s not only to treat eating disorders or disordered eating in the athletes and active individuals I work with, but also to prevent these problems, improve physical and mental health, and help people recognize there is so much more to life than comparing their body to others (or their former selves).

In January, I gave a talk at the Newtown Athletic Club titled “Breaking up With Dieting”. I was excited by the number of people who attended, but more so by the interaction during the talk and the feedback I received afterwards about how enlightening it was. A lot of what I presented, I started speaking with you about in early January, but having a discussion with others who have spent countless years dieting was exciting. You see, while people go on a variety of diets and often think they’re the only ones struggling with cravings, binges, low energy, stress and poor body image, most chronic dieters have had similar experiences.

  • You go on your first diet. It’s new to your body so the pounds “melt off”.
  • You feel more confident and are pleased with yourself because you achieved a goal (not necessarily because of the number itself that you hit). Who doesn’t love reaching goals?
  • If exercise was a part of your weight loss, you’re probably not realizing that this increases confidence regardless of body weight changes. Maybe that’s where your better mood and strength are coming from, but your brain confuses it with the number on the scale.
  • You hit a point where you couldn’t stay on the diet anymore. Vacation, holidays, a stressful time in your life, etc. are the things you “blame”, but in reality, it’s your body’s physiological need for energy and nutrients that you’re depriving it of. Your mood worsens and then maybe you binge. Possibly in one sitting, potentially excess intake and feeling out of control with food for a day, a week, or more.
  • You remember how you felt on that first diet, so you do it again. Only this time, your body remembers the deprivation and wants to protect you. Your metabolism slows quickly, and you release hormones that make you crave all the “bad” things that you’ve put off limits. You wonder what’s wrong with you, blame yourself for failing, and your confidence is lower than ever. So you try a different diet and the cycle continues.

Sound familiar? This is how 35% of dieters progress to pathological dieting and how 20-25% of pathological dieters wind up with an eating disorder. It’s crucial to also recognize that you don’t have to be rail thin to have an eating disorder. With bulimia nervosa versus anorexia nervosa, most individuals fall into a “normal” or “overweight” BMI range (please note that the classification of “overweight” by BMI is excessively flawed, too).

Binge Eating Disorder is also a clinically diagnosed disorder – it just isn’t diagnosed enough. 20-40% of those in a weight management program (aka on a diet) are reported to binge with 8% of people being diagnosed with it in their lifetime. And honestly, I bet the numbers are actually higher, ’cause how many people are comfortable admitting that they binge eat? Not to mention, those that report fasting and dieting actually weigh more than those who do not.

So, this brings us to increasing awareness of eating disorders… and talking about the statistics, and your personal experiences. Rather than let the media, college campuses and fitness clubs be filled with diet chatter, let’s be open about the harms of diet chatter and the expectations they bring, when dieting and weight loss are not the key to better health (physical or mental).

First, I think having this awareness week in February is perfect, after all the New Year diets have crashed and burned and people need support (though, I warned you). I also think it’s pretty fitting that this year’s theme is “Let’s Get Real” when my Fit Fueling business partner is literally “The Real Talk RD“. If you need to learn more about intuitive eating (read: you need to learn more about intuitive eating), she launched an amazing series on her podcast this January that begins with interviewing one of the RD intuitive eating “founders”, Evelyn Tribole on this set of principles that are based on the science of diet failures. She then goes on to interview a new dietitian for each principle! I think we’re up to the 7th principle now (honoring your feelings without using food).

While I encourage everyone to check out each podcast episode and learn more about the principles, note that everyone may start the process of intuitive eating with a different principle depending on where you are in your habits and health. While it’s rare in our society, you also may learn that you’re already a really intuitive eater and you didn’t even know it! Which is fabulous, but you should continue to learn more. It will help you if loved ones or people around you start to work towards this lifestyle, so you can understand their point of view, and be more conscious of how you speak about food, exercise, dieting and other’s bodies. Much of the questions I’ve received in recent months from those going through the IE process are related to how they can help their family and friends understand their new lifestyle.

Even if you’ve read it before, if you’re a female reader, I’d love for you to read my post from last year on Women’s Locker Room Talk  and if you’re an active individual, recognize that all the risks I list for athletes below are risks for you, too, even if you don’t identify as an “athlete”.

If you’re SO over dieting and reading to jump in to IE for fitness, the next group for our virtual course begins Monday, March 5. The group interaction and our live Q&As are just a bonus to the guided week by week content and resources.

Finally, it’s totally normal to still not realize you’re dieting. So, here’s a reminder of things that are still a diet, plus a link to the NEDA screening tool so you can evaluate your thoughts, feelings and habits.

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Eat Real Live Well by Eatreallivewell - 1M ago

Disclosure: I received free samples of Wonderful Pistachios mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Wonderful Pistachios and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Happy Heart Month, readers! While we should really be thinking about protecting our tickers all year long, February is a great time for dietitians like myself to bring attention to one of the most powerful risk factors for heart disease and cardiac events – nutrition.

There is unfortunately this perception that a “normal” BMI or body weight means you’re healthy and at lower risk for chronic illnesses, but the truth is, your lifestyle matters more. This is one reason why I preach a non-diet approach to achieving your healthiest self. I’ve seen plenty of individuals who exercise and have a “normal” weight, but still have high blood pressure or high cholesterol due to diet, alcohol intake, smoking, stress or any combination of those factors. On the other hand, I’ve seen many who’s docs have labeled them as “overweight” or even “obese” by BMI and because of their exercise, well-balanced diet, and low stress levels, have fantastic blood work and energy levels and health outcomes.

Oh, and don’t think your exempt from heart troubles just because you’re an athlete! Even if you’re eating many nourishing whole foods, a lack of adequate energy, protein, or variety will mean poor recovery from all of that extra stress on your heart. You need extra dietary protection!

What Should You Eat More of to Protect Your Heart?
  • Mono and Poly-unsaturated Fats
    • Mono-unsaturated fats are those that are most associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and are very prevalent in the Mediterranean diet.  You’ll find them in plant foods like nuts, seeds, olives, avocados and the oils that come from them.
    • The best poly-unsaturated fats are omega-3s. You’ll get them in their most usable form from fish or algae, but seeds, walnuts and avocado also provide some.
  • Fiber
    • While soluble fiber, the kind that dissolves in your gastric juices to form a gel, may keep you feeling full, it also helps regulate blood sugar, remove cholesterol from the body, and feeds your beneficial intestinal bacteria.
  • Protein
    • Well, you may not need more protein, but you likely do need to spread out your intake. Not only do you need adequate protein at lunch and dinner, but Americans need to sneak more into breakfast and snacks. Additionally, eating enough protein won’t protect your most important muscle if you aren’t eating enough calories, too. Your heart is a muscle, isn’t it?
  • Antioxidants
    • Eat a rainbow, we say! The more color in your diet, the more variety of antioxidants you’re obtaining to protect all of your body’s cells, including your heart and vascular system, from outside stressors. The brighter the better!
  • Potassium
    • Sodium catches a lot of heat for impacting blood pressure, but it may not be excess sodium, and rather lack of potassium that’s harming your heart. Eating more whole plant foods is the best solution to getting more of this nutrient. And sorry, one banana only provides 1/9 of your daily requirements!

How Can Pistachios Help Fuel Your Health?

I remember snacking on this yummy nut as a young kid with my Dad and it’s often in my pantry. Most Americans, though, lack variety in nut consumption and either consume just peanut products (technically a legume) and almonds. Not only is variety important, but pistachios pack plenty of nutrition to support your body and mind.

  • Wonderful Pistachios refers to these greenish-purplish gems as “The Fit Nut” TM because they are one of the highest protein and fiber nuts. More plant-based protein is always a bonus and as you learned above, fiber is excellent for heart health. Scientific evidence suggests, {but does not prove} that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • They’re also referred to as “The Mindful Nut TM” because the leftover shells may provide a visual cue for portions, potentially helping to curb excess intake. One preliminary behavioral study found that participants who consumed in-shell pistachios ate 41-percent fewer calories compared to those who consumed pistachios without the shell, suggesting that empty shells may provide a visual cue for portions, potentially helping curb intake. In my personal opinion, I think removing the shell on your own just slows down the eating process to increase mindfulness as well. You know I’m not advocating you start counting calories, but these types of studies show how mindful and intuitive eating practices help to manage your health.
  • A one ounce serving of pistachios provides just over 300 mg of potassium. Add this to the 450 mg from a banana and you’re on your way to meeting daily needs and supporting blood pressure.
  • Finally, pistachios are also “The Colorful Nut TM”. As I mentioned, eating a rainbow or variety of colors from plant foods is essential to consuming adequate phytochemicals. Pistachios’ green and red-purple hues come from antioxidants.

Eating for Heart Health is Tasty!

I think the annoying low fat craze back in the day should in part be blamed for this perception that eating healthful foods means eating tasteless food and not enjoying it. I find once people increase variety in their diet to include more plants, they actually enjoy food more than they used to since they don’t get sick of eating the same old thing!

This pistachio pesto potato recipe may be one of my top 5 ever. My pistachio stuffed dates are pretty damn good, but Tim made it a point to yell upstairs to me just to tell me how “ridiculous” they were once he tried them. Oh, and please don’t be afraid of potatoes, even if they’re white! Among the mannny nutrients provided is… drumroll… potassium! 8 ounces of golden potatoes provide close to 1000 mg of potassium – yes, that is twice what you get in a banana. Pair that with the flavor, unsaturated fats, fiber, protein, antioxidants and potassium in pistachios, plus anti-bacterial properties of basil and garlic, and more unsaturated fat in olive oil, and you’ve got yourself a delicious and nutritious dish to pair with a lean protein and a serving of veggies.

Get Crackin‘ and enjoy!

Pistachio Pesto Potatoes

Serves 4, Gluten-free, vegan
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Total: 40 minutes



  • 2 lbs baby golden potatoes, rinsed
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil


  • 1/2 Cup plus 1 tablespoon lightly salted and shelled Wonderful Pistachios
  • 2-3 ounces fresh basil
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Up to 2 tablespoons water
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees
  • Cut potatoes into bite sized pieces. For a typical baby potato you can quarter them, or cut into eights. For very small potatoes, either halve or leave whole.
  • Toss in 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and spread over a baking sheet covered in parchment or a silpat.
  • Cook for 20 minutes before stirring and then cook an additional 15 minutes.
  • While potatoes are in the oven, add all pesto ingredients to a food processor*. Blend for 30 seconds, scrape sides of processor, and blend an additional 10 seconds. This resulting pesto should be thick. If mixture is too thick for your liking, add 1-2 tablespoons of water for more of a thin consistency.
  • When potatoes are done, add them to a serving bowl before pouring over the pesto and stirring well.
  • Serve with a lean protein and vegetable.

*I found my Cuisinart food processor was better for this pesto than my Vitamix. Of note, I do not have small blending bowls, only the large container.

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Eat Real Live Well by Eatreallivewell - 1M ago

These turtles have wow’d those who had no clue the recipe is vegan. Still, I’m sure anyone who is dairy free, but has at one point enjoyed the taste of a good turtle or caramel, will be even more blown away!

This Valentine’s day, you can make these as turtles, or just as chocolate caramels if you’re concerned with nut allergies in your kids classes or anyone else you plan to share with. What’s really cool is that ingredient and nutrient wise, they are really similar to energy bites {or these truffles} so you can even enjoy them for pre-workout fuel!

I love a little hit of spice in foods and desserts, but the cayenne addition is totally optional. If you do leave it out, consider swapping in cinnamon or other spices you enjoy with chocolate. You can even add in dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds for a fruity-spin.

Grab your food processor or high speed blender!

Vegan Turtles

Vegan, Gluten Free

  • 1 lb soft medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12-16 walnut halves
  • 2/3 Cup dairy-free 85% dark (or similar) chocolate chips
  • Optional: 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Pulse dates in a food processor or high quality blender for 20-40 seconds, until it begins to develop a ball
  • Scrape sides with a rubber spatula and let cool in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes
  • Create a double boiler on your stove to melt the chocolate
  • Once melted, scoop 1/2-1 tbsp worth of dates to form somewhat of a ball and press one walnut into the top
  • Place wax paper over a small cookie sheet or plate
  • Dip into chocolate and with a small rubber spatula or spoon, ensure chocolate coats the entire date mixture
  • Place each on wax paper and once all are coated in chocolate, let sit in refrigerator for 5-10 minutes before serving
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Eat Real Live Well by Eatreallivewell - 1M ago

One dish that I absolutely love, but never make enough is stuffed peppers. There are so many ways to prepare them with a variety of filling options, however the task often seems to great. While I’ve found a hack to speed up the process, it really isn’t rocket science and I often wonder why recipes I used in the past didn’t suggest this trick!

Before we get to my speedy stuffed pepper hack and the yummy Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Pepper recipe, here’s some inspiration to make your stuffed peppers your own!

First, since they are so versatile, let’s discuss your filling so that no matter your cooking skills, you can MYO (make your own) stuffed pepper dish and ensure they’re a full balanced meal {though, I’ve got some great vegan jalapeno poppers as an app, too}. Really, these are the components I suggest you check off in any meal, unless it’s going to be within 2 hours before a workout (then chop out some of the volume of foods with fiber and protein).

Stuffed Pepper Checklist:
  1. The peppers, obviously!
    1. Most people opt for bell peppers, but why not try a poblano?
  2. A Whole Grain
    1. Take your pick! I usually opt for quinoa, brown rice, or bulgur, but there are many others to choose from. For extra flavor, I’m a huge fan of cooking it in broth instead of water, as you can see in the recipe below.
  3. A Protein Source
    1. If this isn’t coming from an animal product, fish or soy, I recommend that you ensure your whole grain is more rich in protein. For example, if I am using beans or lentils as my protein, it’s best not to use rice as my grain since it’s so low in protein itself. I’d opt for quinoa or bulgur in many cases. We want to get enough of this nutrient for health and satiety! Also, if you’re using enough of a legume and other veggies inside, you can eliminate the grain. Many ingredients can actually contribute to protein content, including cheese, nutritional yeast and even vegetables.
  4. Some Fat
    1. This can come from oil that you’re cooking the protein or grain with, by mixing in chopped olives, or from the addition of cheese, avocado, or guacamole on top. Your protein source may also include some fat so that you don’t need to add it in another way. Fat is an important nutrient for energy and satiety.
  5. Flavor!
    1. You can get by with the flavors of everything else, I suppose, but throw in your favorite spice blend, dressing, or even buffalo sauce, like in the recipe from Emily Cooper below.
  6. Optional: An Extra Veggie
    1. I love to toss in some frozen spinach or kale to brighten up the dish.

Still a bit lost and need inspiration? Well, you can see how I built my stuffed peppers below and then mix and match your own favorite combos

  1. Red bell peppers
  2. Tricolor quinoa + a bit of corn
  3. Black beans
  4. Avocado oil + fat in the hummus
  5. Hummus and spices
  6. Spinach

Are you viewing my blog because you hate making your own recipes? Well, here are a bunch from fellow dietitians!

The following are best as side dishes. To make as an entree, mix in a protein or have a protein source with the peppers for a balanced meal.

Now for my hack.

It’s as simple as this: bake your peppers while you’re prepping all of the other ingredients! You’ll get the most time savings if your oven has a convection setting, but it’s a benefit no matter what. You may find that the peppers have some liquid in them when you remove them from the oven to fill. I always pour the pepper liquid into the mixture I’ll be adding to save up the teeny bit of nutrients and the flavor instead of pouring it down the drain.

Tell me in the comments: What is your favorite stuffed vegetable? Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Vegan, Gluten-free
Serves 4

  • 4 large bell peppers
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • 1/2 Cup garlic hummus
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: cumin, dried oregano, dried paprika
  • Optional: 1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne powder
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees (convection setting if possible)
  • Slice off the top of each pepper and remove seeds and white flesh
  • Place each pepper, including the top, in an individual ramekin or together in a baking dish before placing in the oven
  • Add quinoa, broth and oil to a sauce pan or pot and bring to a boil before reducing to low-medium.
  • Once all liquid has absorbed into the quinoa, add all other ingredients, stir, and turn off the burner.
  • Remove peppers from the oven and fill each with your quinoa mixture. You may have some leftover mixture depending on the size of your peppers.
  • Place back in the oven for an additional 5 minutes before serving.
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Disclosure: I received free samples of POM Wonderful mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by POM Wonderful and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Alright readers, it’s pomegranate week! This afternoon while I was in the kitchen perfecting a delicious recipe that will be up later in the week, this one just came to me.

I also realized I had to post it right away because

  1. it’s SO unbelievably easy
  2. as a sports dietitian I somehow don’t have a sports drink recipe on this blog
  3. pomegranate juice has been getting me through “long workouts” the past few weeks

Many people are afraid of sports drinks due to the sugar content though. Well, guess what? “Sugar” or “glucose” is the only usable form of carbohydrate energy in the body. Any other carbohydrate you eat has to be converted to this for use. If you’re exercising for longer than an hour you need to replenish these things! Carbs are the most effective energy source for your muscles to complete high intensity exercise, but they also fuel your brain as you use it during exercise, too. Even if your muscle carb storage is full when you begin a workout, by 75 minutes into endurance exercise you’re almost completely out of this energy. When you run out, your intensity drops, blood sugar drops and protein use for energy increases. Not a good result! This is one reason it’s important to consume carbohydrate during a workout, no matter what time of year it is or what climate you’re in.

The energy in POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice is also entering your body with plenty of antioxidants. The pomegranate is whole-pressed, meaning a unique blend of polyphenol antioxidants from two whole pomegranates – including its fruit, pith and rind – is found in each 8 oz serving.

Click for more on carb needs and why you shouldn’t restrict them.

Some other people fear the sodium in sports drinks. Guess what else? You need this nutrient, too! An inactive American requires 1500 mg per day. One serving of a typical sports drink provides 110 – 150 mg at a time when you need to replace it to regulate fluid balance. If you don’t have enough, you can’t maintain proper hydration. Without the carbs and the sodium, your low blood sugar and dehydration are not only bad for your health and fitness, but may lead you to overeat later.

In this pomegranate sports drink, you’re also getting the nutrient most people don’t get enough of while consuming excess sodium – potassium. Having a good ratio of sodium to potassium is what allows us to best maintain fluid balance. While you won’t sweat out much potassium in exercise, you need a whole lot more of it than sodium – 4,700 mg to be exact – and 8 ounces of POM Wonderful provides almost 500 mg (the same as a banana).

Typically, I only fuel with carbohydrate during exercise over 60-75 minutes, which tends to be when I am training for races in the summer. I realized early on in my pregnancy that other than my 24 hour nausea {yes, it’s still here at almost 32 weeks}, I couldn’t exercise for longer than 10 minutes without getting dizzy and even more nauseous. Having a bit of carbs during workouts has helped,  so I sort of self-diagnosed that I’m dealing with a bit of hypoglycemia, too. On Christmas Eve I was headed to a cardio class with my sister and realized I was out of maple water, which has been my go-to workout drink during pregnancy. I did have some POM pomegranate juice in the fridge though, so I poured about 4 ounces of it into my water bottle to mix with water and off I went. I felt great {comparatively} during that workout! Since then, I’ve been mixing POM with my water each time I exercise.

Even better, there’s some early research that the polyphenol antioxidants in 100% Pomegranate Juice may benefit post-workout muscle strength recovery. The polyphenols in pomegranate juice may increase nitric oxidide bioavailability by protecting it from breaking down in the body.* I just updated a dietitian continuing education course on nitric oxide and exercise benefits… this is definitely a good thing! Nitric oxide helps your body get oxygen and nutrients to cells more effectively during exercise.

*Although the research reported is promising, additional clinical research is needed to establish causation and the potential impact of pomegranate polyphenols and exercise.

Being that pomegranate juice tastes great and has been my sports drink, an 8 ounce serving has as much potassium as a banana, and that ginger is excellent for nausea and limiting GI distress during endurance exercise, this recipe came together rather quickly and deliciously.

Hope you enjoy it any time of year!

Pomegranate Ginger Sports Drink

Makes 4 Servings

  • 2 Cups POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate juice
  • 2 Cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of one medium lemon
  • Sprinkle ginger and salt on the bottom of a pitcher or large glass bowl
  • Pour water and POM Wonderful over top, and immediately stir with a whisk to incorporate the ginger and salt
  • Squeeze in lemon juice, stir and serve!

Provides 75 energizing calories per serving and 150 mg of sodium

Filed under: Nutrition Tips, Sports Nutrition, Uncategorized
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While I felt I adopted a non-diet philosophy during my dietetic internship and graduate school, due to seeing so much disordered eating as I worked with University at Buffalo athletes, my journey to this concept of “intuitive eating” came several years later. As discussed with Heather on her podcast, intuitive eating isn’t something covered in a dietetics undergrad program or our mandated internship {or wasn’t 10+ years ago}. And it definitely isn’t covered on our certification exam! Until I was working with a client who had previously been in a treatment facility for an eating disorder, the term “intuitive eating” wasn’t in my vocabulary. After she mentioned it, I got the book and read it in a couple of days, wishing I’d known how to pull these philosophies together in my practice so much sooner.As I then re-evaluated my own habits, this is really when I started my journey to intuitive eating, and it came somewhat easily. Restriction for me was long in the past and I was well aware of how to build an eating pattern that made me feel good (types, timing of intake etc). The hardest part for me was honoring my fullness. I had accepted an all-foods-fit mentality and loved dining out whenever possible without a worry of calorie counting etc. But, I grew up spending a lot of time with my grandmother who firmly believed we should be members of the clean the plate club. Due to this and the Italian culture making you feel bad for not trying/eating whatever someone spent so much time making, as an adult, eating slowly enough and honoring fullness when it hit was still a bit of a challenge. Does that resonate with any of you? Feeling a bit overfull after birthday cake or a holiday is fine, but when it leads to digestive discomfort (I have a sensitive stomach to begin with), that is another story.

Often it is these lifestyle habits we aren’t even aware of that are built in early childhood and stay with us forever. Diet culture messaging makes us feel like we have this issue of lacking willpower to restrict or eat less food, when it’s really that lack of recognition of these habits is our barrier to being in tune with what our body really wants and needs. We are so far removed from our hunger and fullness signals as a society that we just eat whenever some article, diet, or friend that was on some diet tells us to. Without identifying where our habits come from and taking action to change them, we won’t make progress in health, or respect our body’s true needs.

As I felt I mastered intuitive eating myself, it’s transformed my counseling philosophies and other areas of my lifestyle, too. Intuitive eating isn’t just about respecting your body with it’s food wants and needs, but also respecting it from a fitness and relationship perspective. I’ve touched on intuitive eating and fitness plenty, as so many people are using fitness and food as a way to manipulate their body. Even some athletes don’t truly love their sport, they’re just participating because they’re anxious to not be burning so many calories and attempting to control their weight.

Something I mentioned deep in my last post (a plea to everyone not to diet), was the real reasons people try to manipulate their diets, exercise routines, and I’m going to also add relationships. I got so many emails and messages in response to this post and for many people, this is the part that hit home the most. Therefore, I want to share it again, because being aware of these desires can only help you find more respect for yourself.

What does weight loss promise to most people?
  • Happiness
  • Acceptance
  • Confidence
  • Being loved/well-liked
  • Achieving perfection
  • Feeling superior to others (why do people crave this?)

These are not things that reaching a lower number on the scale or a lower body fat percentage will ever provide to you. And if you think you’re happier/more confident/more accepted at a lower body weight than you used to have, why is that? Is it really your size or is it that exercise empowers you? Is it that versus feeling truly comfortable with yourself and loving yourself (without the opinions of others) you feel the ability to control things? I love this image posted on Instagram from Gretchen Zimmerman of Happy go Healthy RD today – and it goes with her latest blog post, too:

What Dietary Restriction Promises Active Individuals
  • Faster race time
  • Better physical health to support recovery
  • Better asthetics for judgement based sports
  • Improved digestion so GI troubles don’t impact your performance

So, how does this relate to intuitive eating being a respectful lifestyle? Well, I realize I’ve never really defined intuitive eating here and haven’t outlined the 10 principles, either.

Intuitive Eating is…

Not easily defined. If you google it, Wikipedia says “Intuitive eating is a nutrition philosophy based on the premise that becoming more attuned to the body’s natural hunger signals is a more effective way to attain a healthy weight, rather than keeping track of the amounts of energy and fats in foods.“

Unfortunately, this totally misses the mark. I think we have to really look at the 10 principles to see what it means. Of note: you don’t need to cover these principles in order, as everyone is at a different place in their health journey and has different needs. We do become more in tune with hunger, fullness, and how food makes us feel, but the definition most people see above emphasizes weight too much. You can’t be fully immersed in intuitive eating if you’re still focusing on weight. It’s a huge barrier to your success. Just trust that your body will find the weight it needs to be at, and that it will change at different stages of your life, too.

The 10 Principles are…

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

2. Honor Your Hunger

3. Make Peace with Food

4. Challenge the Food Police

5. Respect Your Fullness

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor – yes, different than fullness!

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food

8. Respect Your Body

9. Exercise–Feel the Difference

10 Honor Your Health with gentle nutrition

While I recommend any of my readers get the book to dive more into these principles, sometimes reading the whole book at once can be overwhelming. At one point I considered including the book in my nutrition packages, but one of my mastermind groups helped me realize that might not be the best idea since everyone does start at different places.

SO, while I encourage anyone who is in severe diet mode to meet with a dietitian one-on-one, many of you know that myself and Heather Caplan have invested a lot of time and energy into our level one intuitive eating for fitness course. For me, as a board certified sports dietitian and former D-I athlete, I see more disordered eating than the majority of RD’s. Heather, who is a dietitian, marathoner and running coach, as well as the co-founder of a non-profit to raise awareness of the female athlete triad, is in the same boat. We had lots of success, are so excited about the feedback from, and made lots of adjustments to our four week virtual group course in 2017, and we’re so excited to continue it in 2018 and build a level II once we’ve both adjusted to new mom-hood. If enough males tell us they’re interested, we’ll house a section for you, too!

While we plan to run them at least every other month, January really seems like the right time for us to encourage you active females (sorry dudes see above) to put up blinders to the diet commercials and adds, and invest in yourself to find self-respect, self-confidence and improved fitness. We’d love to have you for four weeks beginning this Monday, the 9th, but you can get more info and sign up at any time for the next session here.

You need to be mentally ready for change and to step our of your comfort zone, so if you need us to help you determine if you’re there yet before signing up, send us an email FitFueling@gmail.com!

Stay tuned for part II of this post, where I dive into how intuitive eating is respectful of all dietary needs (don’t worry if you’re vegan or have food allergies!).

Filed under: fitness, Nutrition Tips, Sports Nutrition
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Why You Don’t Want to Go on a Diet

Very simply, diets don’t work.

To be more specific, over 90% of people who go on a diet wind up gaining all of the weight they lose back. Roughly 2/3 of them wind up weighing more than they did in the first place. Why? Well, diets aren’t lifestyle changes. They are restrictive and put your body in a state of mental and physical stress. They hurt your metabolism. They compromise your mood. They reduce your nutrient intake. They suck the fun out of your social life.

Here’s a list of more reasons not to diet:

  • Diets are mentally stressful, causing irritability & tension.
    • This in turn harms relationships and reduces productivity
  • Diets and food rules keep you from enjoying your social life.
  • They slow your metabolism, making it harder to stay at a healthy weight after.
  • They make you think you always need to be depriving yourself to be healthy.
  • They decrease nutrient intake and therefore increase risk of illness and chronic disease.
  • In athletes and active individuals, they raise the chances of injury.
  • 35% of “occasional dieters” progress into pathological dieting, (disordered
    eating) and as many as 25%, advance to full-blown clinical eating disorders.
    • At least 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with eating disorders and millions more struggle with binge eating disorder.

See more stats here.

Now, you may be thinking that you aren’t dieting, or don’t plan to in January, but there are many diets in disguise. People in the industry know that diets don’t work, but still want to make money on their products or by drawing attention to their magazines and articles, so they discuss and promote “flexible” diets.

If you plan on any of the following… 

  • Intermittent fasting, or skipping meals or entire days of eating
  • Paleo, or eating like cavemen may have sort of eaten
  • Veganism not related to a chronic disease, animal welfare or environmental concerns
    • (*more on this in 2018!)
  • Whole 30, aka stopping eating food groups or enough fiber for a month so you binge after and hurt your digestive tract.
  • Counting “macros” (aka the macronutrients which are carbs, fat and protein), aka weighing every gram of food you eat all day long like a slave without considering nutrient quality.
  • Weight Watchers, or counting points because it sounds better than counting calories.
  • Shakeology/Beach Body, or using supplements meant to be snacks as meal replacements while pretending you’d rather drink protein powder than eat a nourishing meal.
  • Completely sugar-free (or insert other food/nutrient) January, to stop honoring your body’s needs for nutrients and just binge on February 1.
My #1 question for anyone before they begin a new diet or exercise pattern:
Is this something you could do for the rest of your life?

If the answer is no, why would you waste your time, energy and often money on that diet, forced fitness routine, or goal? And if you think you could (without “cheating” as diet culture likes to call it when we’re actually flexible and just enjoy a treat or something that isn’t 100% nutrient dense) really take time to think of your next birthday, holiday, Friday, and yourself when you’re 75. Do you really want to still be weighing your food on a scale to count every gram of what you’re eating all day long when you’re 75?! Or counting weight watchers points when you’re on a relaxing vacation?

These habits teach you nothing about fueling your body the way it needs to be fueled and everything about suppressing your personal feelings of hunger, appetite, fullness and satisfaction (yes, all of those things are different). They result in lack of nutrient quality and lack of food enjoyment, providing all of the same drawbacks as listed in the beginning of this post.

I have a current client who is stuck counting macros due to an obsession with losing a tiny amount of fat (that isn’t visible to anyone but him) around his lower abdomen. He, for close to 2 years, has stuck to a 1600 calorie diet with a restrictive amount of carbs and fat and excessive amount of protein while exercising every single day of the week. He has seen absolutely 0% progress toward his goal of leaning out and gaining more muscle, but now has a poor attention span, fear of carbohydrate foods other than vegetables, oats and brown rice, and only dines out 3-4 times per year, basically when his family forces it for special occasions, in which case he winds up binging. He doesn’t have a clinically diagnosed eating disorder because he’s still in a “normal” weight range and doesn’t look emaciated, but should he be diagnosed with one? Most definitely. Currently we’re working on him understanding that not only does he not honor hunger, but has no clue how to honor fullness anymore. No matter what he puts on a plate, he finishes, because that’s what his plan tells him he “should” be eating at that meal. Maybe he’d stop 3/4 through breakfast if he paid attention to fullness cues and then would eat a snack 3 hours later when he started to feel hungry again. But, because of the counting obsession, he is just learning how to pay attention to those feelings again.

Three Steps to Set 2018 Health Goals

First things first, what is it about your health that you really need to improve? If you’re still thinking “I need to lose weight” versus “I need to fuel better for exercise”, “I need to manage my blood sugar or cholesterol”, “I need to reduce anxiety”, “I want more energy”, or “I want to increase my self-confidence”, you’re still not getting it.

What does weight loss promise to people? It promises happiness, acceptance, confidence, that you’ll be more loved/well-liked, perfection etc. But, are those things found by reaching a lower number on the scale or smaller clothing size? Nope. For some weight loss also may promise a faster marathon or triathlon, or better physical health. But do those things occur by taking things out of your diet versus ensuring your diet is adequate in essential nutrients that fuel your muscles and cardio-respiratory system? Definitely not. Set goals this year that aren’t related to your weight, but that are related to making you feel your best. It’s what is on the inside that counts, especially inside your head! How can you take better care of yourself in 2018?

ONE: Set a realistic goal not related to weight.

It can be for any of the things I mentioned above or more. Again, things real markers of health such as freedom from digestive discomfort, decreasing stress or anxiety, having your most enjoyable athletic event (or fastest-that’s still OK as long as you’re enjoying it), reducing your LDL cholesterol, loving yourself more, being more confident, etc.

To be realistic, recognize you won’t achieve it in one week or month, so let’s look further out. Pick 3 or 6 month goals. It takes about 90 days for a conscious effort to turn into a habit (remember habits are things that are just part of your life, not something you try to do).

TWO: Set an action plan.

How are you going to achieve your goal? Those conscious efforts I just mentioned. I recommend having 2-3 small things you work on at a time. Examples include:

  • Make it to yoga once per week for stress reduction and injury prevention. Yoga is found to reduce blood pressure and improve breathing, too. Oh, and don’t give up after one class. Try a few instructors and styles before you throw in the towel.
  • Cancel your gym membership. If you hate the gym, find something you like doing for fitness! Join a tennis league with a friend, get a membership to a cycle studio for the winter months and invest in a good bike for warmer ones. Sign up for adult dance classes or do group circuit training.
  • Eliminate distractions when you eat and start journaling your hunger and fullness (a dietitian can help you here). This will help your body be more in tune with what it needs as well as how much and when.
  • Determine how you can drink more water in a day.
  • Eat more produce.
  • Eat more legumes.
  • Ditch one food rule at a time.
  • Stop spending time with people who bring you down.
  • Keep non-perishable “emergency” snacks in your desk drawer, car, gym bag, etc. It will help you honor your hunger and keep you from over-eating or impulse eating later.
  • Keep your phone out of your bedroom so you fall asleep more easily.
  • etc.
THREE: Find Your Accountability

Some people are able to just write down their goal and action plan, put it up in a place they’ll see it everyday, and stick to it. We all grew up differently though and different things work for different people. If that doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you’re lazy or a procrastinator or that you don’t have enough willpower, it just means you need to find what does work.

  • Pick a family member or friend that you know can support you without judgement to check in with each week. If you know having a family member as your accountability person will easily turn into you yelling at them and getting defensive when you’re stressed, this option is not for you. It’s also not for you if your family still doesn’t understand your health goals and journey. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you, these things just take time!
  • If your goals are business, work or athletic related, set up a Mastermind group! I currently have 2 business mastermind groups. One is a group of 4 dietitians who keep me accountable for my monthly business goals while also helping me find the best direction to go. The other is also a group of 4 dietitians, but the specific focus of this group is continuing our education in and supporting each other in our intuitive eating counseling. You can set up a group for anything, but be sure you have goals laid out in advance, understand each others expectations, and that they’re people you feel you can trust. Of note: if it’s a local business, you’ll want your group to be made of people from other areas.
  • Sign up for sessions with a registered dietitian, specifically one who specializes in wellness or intuitive eating, not just the first person to pop up when you search on google or your insurance website.
  • Sign up for team personal training or team circuit training.
  • If you’re a female and active, join the 4 week Fit Fueling virtual course that I created with Heather Caplan from anywhere in the world. Our next group kicks off January 8th.

My Goals:

My early 2018 goals are mostly focused on balancing work-life with new mom-hood, since baby Jones is due March 8! I also have a non-diet health challenge planned for blog readers as well as a sports nutrition series on the blog planned for February.

For the second half of the year, I’m signing up for a triathlon and half marathon to complete over the summer with friends (accountability!) so that I can be sure to focus on self-care as I learn to put another human’s needs way ahead of my own!

Want to share a non-weight related goal for accountability here or to inspire others? Please comment below! I’d love to offer this place for support.

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It’s cookbook week here on Eat Real Live Well!
{Click if you missed my review of the Fertility Foods Cookbook
and the insanely easy Whole Wheat Biscuits}

On December 22, 2016, the “grab a book and cook” theme for The Recipe Redux wound up producing one of my favorite recipes to date. The Lentil Pot Pie with Sweet Potato Crust was a remake of Bobby Flay’s chicken pot pie from page 216 of the Throwdown cookbook, and I really wish I could put mine up against his (someone send this post to Bobby or Food Network so they’ll invite me to Beat Bobby Flay!).

This year, I wasn’t fond of the recipes on page 217 of any of my cookbooks and page 17 was often the part of the book that didn’t yet have recipes. So, I turned to my last option, which was page 201. While there was a stir fry option I considered, I thought you’d all be much more interested in a decadent, but simple dessert that you could have this weekend if you’re celebrating Christmas! Your welcome, chocolate lovers.

The cookbook where I found my recipe inspiration is “The Cancer Fighting Kitchen“. No, I thankfully do not have cancer or any history of it, but I was given this book after attending a Unite for Her wellness day. I was there seeing all of the resources the non-profit provides to women with breast cancer, so that they can feel support and confidence while going through treatment and having access to free alternative therapies such as acupuncture, CSA shares and, of course, nutrition support. If the organization continues to spread at it’s rapid rate, I may be working with them in the spring once they are more local to my area of Bucks County.

Anyway, this book has a variety of nutritious recipes for anyone, not just breast cancer patients. Everyone should enjoy some dessert, it’s just a bonus when it’s also nutritious! The original recipe is “Wendy’s Date Nut Truffles”. I made my tweaks based on a couple of factors. First,  I’m not a fan of dried apricots most of the time, especially with a chocolate truffle. Second, my family is joining us this weekend for Christmas, and I’ll clearly have leftovers so I wanted to avoid the almonds my brother is allergic to and swapped in peanuts instead. Finally, to appeal to more of my family, I axed the orange zest and went the spicy route. We all love a little heat and what better way to bring that than some cayenne, right? If you don’t love the heat, just omit this spice and you’ll still be in awe of this dessert. If you want the original recipe, it’s in this picture!

The truffles get all of their sweetness from dates and 85% dark chocolate, and the perfect truffle texture is made possible just with those ingredients and peanuts. I have to say, while I was originally going for a PB chocolate flavor, they wound up just being pure chocolate decadence and the peanut flavor is hardly noticeable even when you look for it. This recipe is giving you plenty of antioxidants from the dark chocolate, but also potassium, iron, vitamin E, and mono-unsaturated fats. The unsweetened coconut adds a bit of texture, and a tiny bit of coconut flavor, but more than anything I think it just makes the treat look more seasonal!

Simple Vegan Chocolate Truffles

Makes 15-18 truffles
Vegan, Gluten-Free

  • 2 ounces 85% (or similar) dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1/2 Cup salted peanuts
  • 1 cup pitted medjool dates
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper
  • 1/3-1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Pour boiling water over chocolate chips in a small bowl and let sit about 30 seconds. Stir with a whisk or small rubber spatula until smooth. If needed, put in microwave for 10 seconds to help with mixing.
  • Pulse the peanuts in a food processor until they are well ground, 20-30 second. Next, add the dates and pulse about 10 seconds.
  • Pour the chocolate mixture over the dates and add the vanilla and cayenne
  • Pulse until the mixture forms a large ball (roughly 20 seconds in my standard cuisinart food processor).
  • Pour coconut over a large plate.
  • Take just under 1 tablespoon at a time of the truffle mixture and roll it into a ball in your hands. Then, roll in the shredded coconut before placing in a storage container.
  • Let sit in the refrigerator 2 hours or more before serving.

Filed under: dessert, Holidays, Recipes
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