20 Ways You Can Gain Weight & What To Do About It

During a trip to San Francisco last summer, a female driver asked me why she had gained so much weight after she was in a horrible car accident. “I was depressed but I tried really hard to eat better,” she said. “It’s been hard getting the weight off.” Isn’t that fascinating? I thought to myself. I don’t think many of us realize that our most traumatic life events and our happiest moments can cause us to gain weight. We’ve been conditioned to believe that our weight is directly correlated to the foods we eat but we forget about other factors such as genetics, physical environment and even our emotions. They too influence our health as much as food.

How Do Our Bodies Gain Weight During Stressful Times?

Cortisol. You’ve probably seen/heard of this word before. It’s a hormone that is released from your adrenal glands when your body is under stress. This is a time when your body is in high-alert mode and it encourages you to stock up on extra calories so it can convert those calories into needed energy. You have cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods because your body knows that these types of foods are the most calorie-dense, even if they are not the most nutrient-dense. Also, your metabolism slows down because your body is holding onto its fat stores. It’s making sure that during this stressful time you will not wither away in case you do not have access to food. Again, these pathways happen because they are your body’s way of keeping you alive.

Believe it or not, a bit of stress is normal. But, constantly running on empty can be exhausting. You are probably unaware to the many situations that can create negative and positive stress and unfamiliar with how they impact your physical health.

Here are 20 ways you could gain weight over time:

  1. Falling in love.
  2. Falling out of love.
  3. Graduating from school.
  4. Dropping out of school.
  5. Your monthly menstrual cycle or growing a child in your womb.
  6. Raising a child/children.
  7. Losing a loved one to death.
  8. Breaking away from once-close friends.
  9. Less calorie restriction and more intuitive eating.
  10. Lifting heavy weights or using your own bodyweight.
  11. Growing into your adult body (and out of your childhood body).
  12. A shift in mental health (depression, anxiety, etc.).
  13. Moving to a new home.
  14. Being promoted to a higher position.
  15. Being demoted to a lower position.
  16. Being fired.
  17. Studying for final exams.
  18. Staying up late.
  19. Parties, parties and more parties.
  20. Netflix & chilling a lot.

Now, I don’t want you to read some points on this list and think that you are lazy, dumb, weak or broken. You are not any of those things. You’re a human and shit happens. We tend to beat ourselves up for not being in control but, we can’t control much of what happens in our lives. Weight gain is a sign that something is changing but change is natural. Sometimes, change is good for us and sometimes it hurts. Either way, we can grow.

You’re allowed to feel pain and you deserve to feel joy.

Now, What Can You Do About It?

  1. Remind yourself that fluctuations in your weight are NORMAL. Let go of any disparaging thoughts you have about your body. You were not made to look or be perfect, you are here to survive and thrive.
  2. Write down reasons why you may have gained weight. What changes are happening in your life right now? How has your mood been in the past couple of days, weeks, months or even the past year? Journal for a few minutes and read your words back to yourself out loud.
  3. Now ask yourself, how would you like to move forward? What do you value in life? Values like love, respect, courage, play, education, can mean different things to all of us but what do they mean to you?
  4. Deflect any comments from others who criticize your body’s changes. Tell them, “I’ve been going through a lot recently,” or just ignore them and talk about something boring like the weather. You don’t owe anyone an explanation unless you feel it’s absolutely necessary.
  5. Feel your emotions and keep moving forward. Think again about what you value in your life and if your current behaviors are not helping you in those departments, try something new. Heartbroken? Look for other forms of love. Binge-watching? Binge-read. Stiff muscles? Incorporate more stretching into your workouts and give your body rest days.

I never actually told you how I answered that woman’s question back in San Fran. I said, “It’s normal for our bodies to gain weight when they’re under stress.” Understandably, she didn’t seem very satisfied with my answer. I think she wanted me to say, “You need to try a little harder,” but I couldn’t blame her for anything. I kind of wish I had told her, “It’s pretty wonderful that you were able to walk away from that car accident alive.” Isn’t that more important than gaining extra pounds of body fat? It’s going to take a while for weight gain to be normalized in our society but the sooner it is, the less people will blame themselves for having beautifully, imperfect bodies.

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5 Reasons Why I Decided Not to Become a Dietitian

Studying nutrition in school did not come naturally to me. I thought something was wrong with my cognitive abilities because I couldn’t grasp the complexities of organic chemistry and human physiology. I was also feeling the pressure to be a perfect student and thought I was an academic fraud. The mounting stress led me to see a school counselor where I explained to them my fears and doubts. I loved the time I spent in therapy and I started to wonder if I could potentially become a therapist myself but, I pushed the thought away. As long as I stayed the course of nutrition and dietetics eventually, I would achieve my dream of becoming a dietitian.

But, that thought about changing my direction kept creeping back into my mind. Confusion stirred inside of me and while I tried to show everyone around me that I was perfectly happy with myself, I was lying to them. The saddest part was that I was lying to myself. Finally, enough became enough.

Here are five reasons why I decided to change:

1. My time in therapy changed my relationship with food for the better.

When I went to see a therapist for the first time, I had no idea that talking about my self-doubt and anxiety would shift the way I thought about food and nutrition. As I slowly let go of my academic perfectionism, I also let go of being a perfect eater. I became more curious as to why we grow into nervous wrecks around food which led me to study child and adolescent mental health. Within my minor, I participated in a seminar class on eating disorder pathology and there I became more fascinated by the human psyche than the study of food. My new mission now is to integrate nutrition with mental health in order to help people become more content with their changing bodies.

2. I want to create a space for people of color who have mental health issues.

I recently had a conversation with a former colleague of mine about her journey into counseling and psychotherapy. She told me that she had gone to a training for therapists and out of fifty participants she was the only black woman. This is far from unusual since I have gone through this constantly. I said to her, “What field is this not an issue?” We couldn’t think of any. We both believe that the stigma on mental health in the black community comes partly from the fact that there is a shortage of black therapists. There’s an even smaller chance of finding a therapist of color who specializes in eating disorders. So with that in mind, I know this will be a lonely journey at times for me but I’m okay with that. I’d rather be alone sometimes than to not pursue this path at all.

3. Face it, I already have the personality of a therapist.

A therapist once told me that talkers are attracted to listeners which explains why people already treat me like a therapist. I hear from everyone: family members after a long day, friends who go through a break-up or strangers who complain about the MTA. I’m not upset about it since I appreciate that people feel comfortable enough to confide in me. I find my gift to be rewarding. On the other hand, it can be a burden. I tend to internalize my emotions (plus the emotions of others) which is not helpful so I’m learning how to step away from others in order to recharge. A constant reminder to myself is: an empty cup cannot nourish others.

4. My creative six-year-old self would be proud of me.

As a small child, I was extremely tapped into my creativity. I would sing, play dress-up with my mom’s old clothes, edit my own movies on my computer, and draw people’s faces for days. As I got older, the children who were extroverted got more attention for their creative talent than I did. Now that I think about it, that may have been one of the reasons I started to doubt that I could ever have a profession where I could channel my creativity. It took a lot of convincing but I realized that I can be my authentic childlike, curious self and still be able to help others.

5. The world needs more love and patience, don’t you think?

It’s difficult for me to walk around the city while seeing homeless people freezing on the sidewalks or hearing individuals screaming at each other on the train. Even before I get out of my apartment, I hear a tragic story: mass shootings, plane crashes, abducted children, devastating wildfires, political scandals, etc. I am able to cope with my intense feelings that evolve from these stories however I don’t believe I can completely turn my back on reality. Even though I’m not interested in becoming a political activist, a best-selling author or a motivational speaker, I feel becoming a therapist is a great way for me to show others that no matter how bad life seems, there’s always a way to see a little bit of the light.

So, why am I telling you all of this?

There is more than one way to achieve a goal or fulfill a dream. Although it’s scary to make the first move towards a different direction, don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from potential happiness. Do whatever feels right in your gut, it’s telling you the truth. As you walk down a new and unfamiliar road, remember that it’s okay to ask for help when you feel you need support during a transitional period. There will always be someone who is willing to guide you along the way. Some day, that might even be me 🙂

Most Nutritionists & Dietitians Are Not Listening to You. Here’s Why.

BUT FIRST, A LIFE UPDATE: I’ve been away for a hot minute, getting my life sorted out. I started a new part-time position at Mount Sinai Hospital and I also started graduate school in mental health counseling! It’s been an exciting transformation so I haven’t been able to stay updated with my blog-writing. However, I’ve had plenty of time to think about what I want to say moving forward on this blog, so here I go:

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You Are Still On a Diet! (Even When You Say You’re Not)

Many people tell me that they no longer believe in dieting but that doesn’t mean they don’t have traditional dieting habits. They tell me, “I just want to eat better,” yet they analyze which days are the “good days” because they didn’t eat “junk.” Other times, they say they participate in their version of The Last Supper, eating anything in sight . The problem is that these people are so far removed from their bodies’ physiological and emotional needs that they rely on outside instruction in order to tell them how to eat. So, they may not particularly be on a specific diet but they may be stuck in a sort of dieting prison or what is properly known as the diet mentality (3).

What is the Diet Mentality?

The diet mentality is a learned behavior that is restrictive, based on pseudoscience (meaning a set of beliefs that are mistakenly supported by the scientific method), requires counting and numbers, and lastly unsustainable (2). It can cause you to feel guilt, disappointment and embarrassment as you are trying to figure out the best way to eat. It’s so ingrained in our society that even if you are not on a branded diet such as Atkins or South Beach, other “lifestyles” can keep us under the diet mentality:

  • Intermittent Fasting
  • Elimination Diet
  • Food-Combining
  • Ketogenic Diet
  • Gluten-free (if you do not have Celiac’s Disease)
  • Whole30
  • Alkaline Diet
  • Juicing
  • Meal Supplements

What’s So Wrong About Taking Charge Of Your Weight?

You may reject the idea of being stuck in the diet mentality but think of it like this: Every diet you try never seems to keep the weight off. After awhile, you start to believe that you are a failure based on the fat-phobia you are fed by the media. You can never seem to keep up with society’s ideal of health and beauty. You spiral into self-destructive eating patterns such as continuous restricting and overeating. You may even develop a full-blown eating disorder (1). Stuck under the illusion that being thin is better, you’ll spend the rest of your life searching for a new way of eating that promises you happiness.

We are not inherently born with these ideas but we are born with an internal wisdom around our hunger and satiety. However, it can be difficult to get back to that natural state of mind when we’ve been brainwashed for so long.

How To Let Go of The Diet Mentality

First, you have to throw out or let go of any books and magazines that keep you in a dieting state. It’s nice to be informed on what’s going on in the field of nutrition but if you’re not at a point where you can differentiate between a diet book and pure research, THROW IT OUT!

Second, stop weighing yourself and if you have a scale at home, throw that out too. Seriously. Your weight fluctuates every day (especially if you are biologically female) so you’ll continue to be disappointed when you gain weight. Also, a weight scale can not measure happiness. Your brain and heart can figure that out rather than a pointless piece of equipment.

Third, start reintroducing all foods back into your diet. Take a trip to your local grocery store and do a little food scavenger hunt. Buy a box of children’s cereal, a pack of Swedish Fish, and a pint of regular vanilla ice cream. You probably think I’m nuts for suggesting such “unhealthy” foods but I want you to challenge your diet mentality. Record what emotions are coming up for you when you are in front of these foods. Are you disappointed in yourself, scared that you’ll ruin your figure, nervous that you’ll binge? The more you confront your fears, the better you’ll be able to recognize and change your behaviors.

Takeaway

Diets and their rules cause us to forget that health is much more than the foods we eat. The more we focus on eating clean, the less time we spend building a positive relationship with ourselves and others. As we stay trapped under the diet mentality, we continue to forever think that we’re not healthy enough. To a number of people, you’ll never be healthy enough but does that really matter? Eating food and life in general should be fun and if you’re not having fun, something needs to change.

References

  1. Byrne, Christine. “12 Reasons To Ditch The Diet Mentality.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 19 Dec. 2018, http://www.huffpost.com/entry/reasons-to-ditch-diet-mentalit_n_5c19594ee4b0432554c518f3.
  2. Fonnesbeck, Emily. “Reject The Diet Mentality: The Futility Of Dieting.” Emily Fonnesbeck, RD Nutrition Therapist, 24 Jan. 2018, http://www.emilyfonnesbeck.com/reject-the-diet-mentality-the-futility-of-dieting/. 
  3. Tribole, Evelyn, and Elyse Resch. Intuitive Eating: a Revolutionary Program That Works. St. Martins Griffin, 2012.

Do You Feel in Control Around Food?

In my previous job, I worked with individuals who felt that their lives were out of control. Afraid of losing themselves further, they felt that they needed to find ways to avoid pleasure. They would eat food and then purge it so it wouldn’t linger in their stomaches. They would label foods as “good” or “bad” in order to know which foods were safe and which were dangerous. They would freeze around new foods because they were afraid they would enjoy them. As I talked more and more to these individuals, I started to understand that they felt that self-discipline was the best way to avoid bad things from ever happening again.

The more people try to control how they eat and look, the more power they lose because they stop trusting themselves. Dieting or diet culture tricks us into thinking that we are in complete control when we are obedient to rules created by others. As I think about my former job, I’ve come to the following conclusion: People use food to create the illusion of control because they fear that someone or something can take control away from them.

Who Said You Were Out Of Control?

I can think of one woman in my early days of Kindergarten. During lunch time, there was an older black woman who told me that I had to eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches first before I ate my dessert. I was resistant to her until I decided to give in so she’d stop bitching. From then on, I was conditioned to believe that dessert foods where earned after I ate the good food. You know how long her words stayed with me? Too long.

For yourself, think back: who told you that you needed to be in control of your body? Maybe your mother told you that she didn’t want you to be as fat as her. Maybe your father told you that muscles made you more of a man. Maybe your doctor told you that you needed to drop some weight.

Why Do We Use Food To Control Ourselves?

Since birth, we’ve associated food with love. In our mothers’ wombs, we are fed through their placentas. After birth, our mothers’ feed us through their breasts or with a bottle. As we grow, our parents spoon food into our mouths and teach us how to nourish ourselves. However, the perfect image of our loved ones starts to fade as we enter into our later childhood years. The individuals responsible for showing us love are also the same people who may hurt us.

As we learn that a source of pleasure may also be a source of pain, we start to look at food as a glorified trap. We start to say to ourselves, “I don’t deserve …” “I can’t have …” “When I eat better, I can eat …” By telling ourselves that we are not allowed to have certain foods, we become skeptical to the idea that anything can give us unconditional pleasure and love without hurting us.

Takeaway

What if we allowed ourselves to loosen up in order to be happy? What would happen if we found a fat body to be beautiful? What would happen if we ate a cookie when we felt like it? What would happen if we made ourselves a cup of coffee with a bit of sugar? The best way to take back our power are to break the rules that bind us.

If we can move away from seeing food as black or white, all or nothing, and good or bad, we’ll be able to see that food is just food. It does not come with set rules of morality; we place those judgements on food ourselves. Food is not out to harm us; we fear food in order to protect ourselves. Let’s stop categorizing food (and people). Let’s be curious eaters and more accepting of the bodies we are born with instead. If we choose to act from a place of love rather than fear, we’ll find that love will always come back.

References:

  1. Laidlaw, Toni Ann., and Cheryl Malmo. Healing Voices: Feminist Approaches to Therapy with Women. Jossey-Bass, 1992.
  2. “How Our Childhoods Affect Our Adult Lives.” 15 May 2018. 


Three Ways to Love Your Body in the New Year

You only get one body, might as well accept it.

It’s not easy to love your body, especially when the media gives you a million reasons why it’s not good enough. On Instagram, there are endless pictures of thigh gaps, plumped up lips and ombre-dyed haircuts that flood your scroll. Popular Youtubers constantly post “What I Eat in a Day,” videos because they have such “flawless” bodies and diets. Pinterest is great for creating vision boards to fuel your low self-esteem. How can you not feel like a mess after looking at such perfection? Ironically, you may believe that the best way you can feel better about yourself is to try to be someone else. However, comparison is the thief of everything good! The real key to finding happiness with yourself is to stop comparing.

Why Do We Compare Ourselves to Others?

As human beings, we are more comfortable with suffering than accepting ourselves. We’d rather think that we are not as beautiful as so-and-so in order for people to agree with us. What if we did accept our beauty? People might feel more inclined to laugh at us. “Why would you think you’re beautiful?” We believe people would say. Interestingly, if we told the world that we loved ourselves, people would believe us. Comparing ourselves to others is a way to keep ourselves in the dark. I believe that because this is a learned behavior, we all have the ability to unlearn it.

Here are three ways to bring body love into 2019:

1. Wear Red Lipstick EVERYWHERE.

I started wearing red lipstick in college. I wore it to class, to the grocery store, to the movies and to the bookstore. I would wear it with a cat-eye or with a bare face. It’s now one of my favorite colors. It is the color that makes our blood boil and gives us the energy to achieve the impossible.

My favorite brand of reds are from Bite Beauty.

2. Treat Your Hands and Feet to More Manicures & Pedicures. And Moisture Like Crazy.

In the winter, my hands and feet are dried out and cracked. My favorite moisturizing cream is, Working Hands because it actually works (They have a cream for feet too). Then, I try to head over to a salon to get my nails done. When I can’t afford a full nail service, I pay for a $8-$10 polish change at my favorite salon, Tenoverten.

3. Schedule More Trips to the Hair Salon to Get a Proper Cut.

I learned a hard lesson this winter: healthy shorter hair is more important than unhealthy long hair. I had been miserably pulling out knots in my hair for months, being full aware that I needed professional styling help. I finally made an appointment at a hair salon in Brooklyn and lost about an inch and a half of hair. It was worth it! Now, my hair is super soft and easier to style.

My new favorite black-owned hair salon is h2 salon brooklyn.

Truth: You’ll Never Love Everything About Your Body.

Here’s the truth: You do not need to love all of your body in order to love it unconditionally. Do you love everything about your siblings, parents, best friends or romantic partners? I highly doubt you do because they are flawed human beings but aren’t their flaws what make them fascinating? You are flawed too and your flaws make you unforgettable. So, in reality you’re never going to love everything about your body but you can run with your imperfections. Make your curly hair curlier, play up your brown eyes, use a shimmering lotion on your dark skin. Make your unique self gorgeous!

We have become hooked on using external sources for self-validation. That’s no way to feel beautiful. Beauty trends come and go like the tides of the ocean. What was out of style yesterday will come back into style ten years from now. You are not a trend, you are not a tide in the ocean, you’re unforgettable. Don’t forget that.

Instead of Fighting Your Weight, Find Your Natural Weight

I’ve been fighting my weight for years/most of my life …”

Since I was a child, I’ve heard this sentence. I had a difficult time comprehending why adult women were constantly fighting their own bodies. I began therefore to think that fighting your body as a woman was a natural and normal part of life. I fought against my own body in college by restricting calories, running weekly, and becoming a vegan to lose weight. To the outside world, I seemed to be a very disciplined young woman. Underneath it all, I was miserable at a smaller weight.

I was rarely social. I couldn’t focus in class. I even found myself crying at random times of the day. It was as if all of the energy I once had had left my body. It wasn’t until I read an interesting study for an eating disorders class was when I realized that my lack of energy was not unusual. It was a World War II weight loss experiment conducted to figure out the physical and psychological effects of starvation. Although it was unethical, they found that the male participants experienced “fatigue, apathy, extreme weakness, [and] irritability …” (2) The study showed me that our weight is closely connected to our cognitive abilities. It’s because of this that I learned our bodies would rather be at a higher weight in order to function properly. Afterwards, I began to feed myself larger portions and exercise only to reduce stress. I regained the weight I had lost which was difficult to accept but after awhile, I noticed my mood swings were less intense and I was able to do better in school.

There is a theory that your body has a predetermined weight set by your genetics and natural human biology. When you go below it, your body will adjust your appetite and metabolism in order to get you back in a comfortable range (1) (3). This is the main reason why it’s so hard for many people to maintain weight loss.

Keep reading to see if you’re at your natural weight:

Unnatural Weight, Physical Indicators

  • Weight is maintained by engaging in disordered eating behaviors (for example, restricting, bingeing, purging, or compulsive exercise).
  • Missing menstrual cycles every month and experiencing irregular hormone levels (as age appropriate).
  • Abnormal blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.
  • Abnormal bone density for age.
  • Abnormal, or no, sex drive.

Unnatural Weight, Psychological and Social Indicators

  • Inability to concentrate and focus during daily activities.
  • Social isolation (avoiding social events to engage with others).
  • Increase in obsessive thoughts or food cravings or urges to binge.
  • Inability to choose freely what to eat both when alone and with others.
  • Erratic mood swings.

What do you do when you’re under your natural weight?

  1. Let go of your life-long battle with your weight. Weight loss is not as important as we are made to believe so instead focus on creating healthy dietary behaviors that increase body acceptance and body positivity.
  2. Keep a food journal to visually see how your emotions and food choices match up together. Maybe you see that you ate a doughnut for breakfast with a cup of coffee but you felt empty and tired. Next time, you can add a half of a cup of full-fat yogurt to feel satiated.
  3. Unfollow social media profiles that advocate for restrictive eating or intensive exercise, especially if they cause you to feel bad about yourself.
  4. Find a registered dietitian who specializes in intuitive eating and gentle nutrition. They can create a basic meal plan for you that you can follow for guidance and then slowly wean you off of it to figure out your personal food preferences.
  5. Read the following books for inspiration: Intuitive Eating, Health At Every Size, and Self Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.

If you find that you have experienced these indicators, you may be shocked that you’ve been underfeeding your body. As long as you are honest with yourself, you’ll be able to treat your body with more love. You’ll also find that being at your natural weight allows you to enjoy life more.

References:

  1. Costin, Carolyn. 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder. W W Norton, 2017.
  2. Kalm, Leah M., and Richard D. Semba. “They Starved So That Others Be Better Fed: Remembering Ancel Keys and the Minnesota Experiment.” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 135, no. 6, Jan. 2005, pp. 1347–1352., doi:10.1093/jn/135.6.1347. 
  3. Tribole, Evelyn, and Elyse Resch. Intuitive Eating: a Revolutionary Program That Works. St. Martins Griffin, 2012.

How Saying Yes More Improved My Health

You may already know about the TV show, How To Get Away With Murder and Shonda Rhimes but have you seen her TED talk that has over three million views? If you haven’t, you really need to watch it because it may be one of the most inspiring twenty minutes of your life.

Inspired by Ms. Rhimes book, My Year of Yes

After watching Ms. Rhimes TED talk, I started to wonder what would happen if I decided to say yes to the foods that I loved to eat, rather than dismissing my cravings. When I first started this experiment, I was nervous that I would overeat on everything “forbidden,” from cookies to soda. Actually, the opposite happened since I learned that the more I allowed myself to eat the foods I loved, the less I overate. I know this sounds strange but I’ll share three ways how saying yes more can help you to make healthier choices for your physical and emotional health.

1. You will be able to silence the negative food critic in your head, and be less disappointed with your food choices. 

In the book, Intuitive Eating, your negative mindset about food is called “The Food Police.” (2) We all have one in our heads because we live in a society that makes us feel perpetual guilt for nothing. If we don’t fit into our culture’s perception of health and beauty, we beat ourselves up for being different. Think about ice cream. When I used to buy ice cream, I’d get the “slow churned” vanilla ice cream. It was supposed to be lower in calories but that was only because the company added extra air to the ice cream to reduce the amount of fat. It did not taste good at all but I kept buying it. Then finally I said, “Yes, I want to eat a pint of regular vanilla ice cream.” I haven’t looked back. Now instead of running through a long list of rules created by my inner food police, I’m able to naturally recognize how much I need to eat to be satisfied. Therefore, I eat one cup of regular ice cream rather than a whole pint of fat-free mush. 

2. You are able to attend more social events, which can help you to meet new people.

People now connect over wellness trends as they do in a church or synagogue (3). However as you restrict more foods from your diet, your social circle becomes increasingly smaller. It’s difficult to connect with people who don’t eat like you, especially if you’re not open to their food preferences. In my freshman year, I started cutting out a lot of typical college foods like pasta, pizza and even eggs. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized that I had also cut out a lot of opportunities to meet new people and form new relationships all because I wanted to maintain my restrictive behavior. So now when someone invites me to a gathering at their apartment, I said, “Yes, and I’ll bring chocolate babka too!” I now have more close relationships because I’m less worried about being a perfect eater. In short, the way you treat food is most likely the way you treat other people.

3. You’ll feel happier, which will improve digestion. 

The gut-brain connection is real, ya’ll. That’s because we have a network of nerves in our gastrointestinal tract known as our second brain. When you’re stressed, you may feel “butterflies in your stomach,” and you may even grind your teeth together, cry, or experience headaches (1). All of these symptoms present themselves when the body feels that it’s under attack which is called, fight or flight. During this process, our bodies release an inflammatory hormone called cortisol until a hormone called serotonin is released to calm us down. Amazingly, serotonin is produced in our gut because it needs an essential amino acid called tryptophan (found in proteins and fats). Okay, stay with me. The best way for our brains to get the serotonin from our gut is if we eat carbs! Carbs react with any stored tryptophan in our bodies, which gives us a bigger rush of serotonin. Therefore, our moods stabilize, we are able to fall asleep faster and our digestion moves smoothly. Ever since I learned about this, I feel that saying yes allows me to relax my body which makes me feel physically better. 

Takeaway

For decades, we have been brainwashed to believe that we should avoid pleasurable foods that contain fat, sugar and salt. We may be able to survive this way but most likely we will not thrive if we’re unsatisfied. Isn’t it worth it to do the things you actually want to do without worrying about screwing up your diet?

Saying yes more helped me to become less stressed about making the perfect choices for my health and now I am more focused on making choices that make me happy. Whenever you’re stuck making a food decision, say yes more to the foods you like and no to the foods that don’t satisfy you. It’s better for your overall health.

References:

  1. Aratoon, K. (2015, November 25). What is Tryptophan? Retrieved December 15, 2018, from https://www.sleep.org/articles/what-is-tryptophan/
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). The gut-brain connection. Retrieved December 15, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection
  3. Hill, M. (2018, November 16). What Is Tryptophan? And Is It Making You Sleepy? Retrieved December 15, 2018, from https://nutritionstripped.com/what-is-tryptophan/
  4. Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works (2nd ed.). New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.
  5. Wilson, S. (2018, October 06). How did wellness become our new religion? Retrieved December 15, 2018, from https://qz.com/quartzy/1346190/goop-gwyneth-paltrow-and-the-wellness-industry-created-a-new-religion/

What The French Have Taught Me About Wellness

Since I was a kid, Paris has been one of my favorite cities in the world. Its majestic vibes were enhanced when I watched Audrey Hepburn in the 1954 film, Sabrina. As she sits in her Parisian apartment while writing a letter, the classic song of La Vie En Rose, plays outside her window. “I have learned how to live,” she writes and those six words echoed in my little ears. It seemed so magical and I truly believed that Paris could change an average insecure girl like me into a confident and sophisticated woman like Audrey.

The First Trip To Paris: Bread & Brie

When I turned sixteen, I found myself sitting on a train from London to Paris. I was pretty certain that I was going to experience the same cinematic transformation as Audrey had in Sabrina. However when I first arrived, I experienced a major culture shock. I was not prepared to be in a city surrounded by non-English speakers, garbage piled up high outside of buildings, and the invading smell of cigarette smoke which suffocated me. On top of all of this, I ate at a horrible Italian restaurant. Did Audrey lie to me? Her version of Paris seemed so clean and glamorous while the Paris I arrived to was dirty, loud and a bit obnoxious.

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Fortunately, the rest of my time in Paris went amazingly well. My family and I received the greatest food recommendations from a man named Stefan. Soon, we were indulging in amazing Japanese food, delicious gelato, and lots of freshly baked baguettes with gooey brie cheese. I also ate macarons the size of my face because to me, bigger is better when it comes to dessert.

The Second Trip: Red, Red Wine

I returned to Paris at nineteen and I was finally able to taste the richness of French wine. My parents were fine with my curiosity and so one night for dinner, I asked for a glass of pinot noir. It went straight to my head and I felt the lightheadedness of adulthood. I laughed at my younger sister who watched from the sidelines as my parents and I celebrated with wine. Unfortunately, I had to let go of the French fantasy when I stepped back onto American soil again. 

The Third Trip: Cocktails & Chocolat Chaud

I recently went to Paris again to see a dear friend of mine and my now college-age sister. My friend Z and I stayed in an Airbnb on Boulevard Richard Lenoir that is very close to the neighborhood of Le Marais. Little did we know when we booked the place, Le Marais is very gay-friendly. Still as we walked along the small cobble streets, we looked around for handsome (hopefully, single and straight) French men. There were plenty of them on the streets, chatting or inside, drinking espresso. Most of them looked like they fly out to Williamsburg weekly to get their thick, philosopher-like beards groomed. It wasn’t until they opened their mouths was when I was reminded that we were not in Brooklyn anymore. 

As for the food and drink, Yelp came to the rescue as always. We had our share of fluffy pancakes, silky eggs, crusty breads, and the richest hot chocolate. The decor of these places were cozy with great R&B music and lots of succulent plants. We even ventured into a local supermarket that was bustling with Frenchies. I gasped at the strong musty smell of cheese in one of aisles while one Frenchman casually said, “Pardon,” and reached for a piece of 1 Euro brie. We eventually did the same. What a great city to be surrounded by cool people and smelly cheese!  J’adore, j’adore! 

The Real French Paradox

I’ve now realized that The French Paradox is actually something very simple: it’s intuitive eating. The French eat for pleasure and do not hold back from their indulgences. They drink wine with dinner, sip quickly on an espresso in the morning, and walk down the street chewing on a gluten-filled sandwich. Meanwhile in The States, we’ve been pushing against these foods to feel better but the rates of mental health are worsening (1)(2). If you think that the key to health is to restrict yourself from your favorite foods, you might want to unlearn what you have learned. There is a study that shows that our bodies absorb more nutrients when we like what we are eating and drinking (3). For instance, if you’re forcing yourself to eat a piece of cheese with a celery stick rather than with a piece of fresh bread, you won’t absorb all of the nutrition from your snack. In conclusion, the most nourishing food is the most tasty.

How To Enjoy Your Food Like A French Person

Here are eating habits I learned while watching the French:

  • Watch people while you eat or drink and figure out what they’re thinking/feeling/saying.
  • Enjoy a meal outside at a cafe or restaurant. Yes, even in winter.
  • Walk after a meal, hopefully without a cigarette.
  • Have a glass of red wine because it’s delicious, not to slow down aging.
  • Buy bread and enjoy it with butter, cheese or ham.

Although I still know hardly anything about good wine, I carry a bit of French food philosophy with me every day. Now, if I could only find that passionate, French lover I’ve always dreamed of … 

References:

  1. Denizet-lewis, Benoit. “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Oct. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/magazine/why-are-more-american-teenagers-than-ever-suffering-from-severe-anxiety.html.
  2. Twenge, Jean M. “Are Mental Health Issues On the Rise?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 12 Oct. 2015, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-changing-culture/201510/are-mental-health-issues-the-rise.
  3. Hare, Holly Van. “Science Says the Healthiest Food Is Food You Actually Want to Eat.” The Daily Meal, The Daily Meal, 16 Aug. 2017, http://www.thedailymeal.com/healthy-eating/science-says-healthiest-food-food-you-actually-want-eat.

Dumb Wellness Trend: What The Heck Is Celery Juice?

Welcome to my new series on the blog called DWT or Dumb Wellness Trends, where I will discuss the illogical, the expensive and the pointless wellness trends that are spreading around the social media world. 

In today’s segment, I will discuss the new frenzy of celery juice. I first discovered the popularity of celery juice on Gwenyth Paltrow’s famous blog, GOOP, where she introduced a guest to write about the “virtues” of this green pulpy drink. The medical medium known as Mr. Anthony William is a wellness author who is promoting his new book about liver health. He’s very serious about being able to cure all ailments from eczema, diabetes, acne, all the way to weight issues. All from the power of celery juice. Sounds like a miracle, right? Here’s a passage from his blog post:

Celery juice is a miracle juice. It’s one of the greatest healing tonics of all time. I’ve seen thousands of people who suffer from chronic and mystery illnesses restore their health by drinking sixteen ounces of celery juice daily on an empty stomach. That’s why, long ago, I started the movement of drinking pure, straight celery juice. Since my books came out sharing the benefits of celery juice even more widely, it’s become a global movement.”

There’s really nothing miraculous about celery juice and I’ll prove it to you.

1. Celery is just a vegetable, not a miracle food. 

Honestly, I’m not a fan of celery at all. It’s stringy, flavorless and not even peanut butter can save it. I can’t deny that it does have valuable nutrition such as phosphorus, manganese, iron and vitamins A, K, and C. Since it is made of mostly water, celery has the ability to reduce water retention in the body, reduce oxidative stress as well as lower blood pressure. There have been studies done in East Asia about the benefits of celery however, most of these studies have been done on rats and if there are conducted with humans, it’s a very small sample of individuals who already have health complications. Do the studies show that celery is a preventive miraculous food? No, there’s not enough evidence show that celery on its own can prevent us from developing any health problems. (1)(2)

2. Your liver can take care of you for free. 

There have been countless ways that human beings have detoxed their bodies from bloodletting in the medieval ages to sweat lodges in Native American culture. Funny enough, we all have an inner organ that detoxes your blood naturally in order to absorb nutrients and discreet waste: THE LIVER! Why spend money on a hobby that can become a financial burden? If you need two bunches of celery per day for Mr. William’s celery juice recipe, that could cost between approximately $49 to $56 of your grocery budget in a week (considering if you purchase organic or not). (4)

3. A “medical medium” is a not a recognized health professional.

There are recognized doctors, dietitians, and endocrinologists but medical mediums are not part of the medical world. It’s a fancy way for someone to market themselves as a wellness enthusiast who has no clinical training and professional medical license. He says it himself in an interestingly-crafted Youtube video where he describes how at four-years-old he was contacted by a spirit as a woman was choking at his dinner table. Mr. William prides himself as a spiritual healer which is fine but I can’t trust him when he states that cancer came from the Industrial Revolution. That’s absolutely false when even the Egyptians have written that cancer was a disease of their time. The only thing I can appreciate about Mr. William is that he is a native New Yorker like me. Otherwise, I have no interest in his opinion on health and medicine. (5)(6)

It’s not surprising that a website like Goop would feature such ludicrous advice. It’s the same site that has encouraged egg freezing, vaginal jade eggs and dangerous vaginal steaming. How could it ever be trustworthy? Before you try any wellness trend that sounds too good to be true, ask yourself first, is this reasonable? Hopefully, you can agree that drinking water is just fine and you can skip the celery juice. 

References: 

  1. Al-Asmari, Abdulrahman Khazim et al. “An Updated Phytopharmacological Review on Medicinal Plant of Arab Region: Apium graveolens Linn” Pharmacognosy reviews vol. 11,21 (2017): 13-18.
  2. Hill, McKel. “What Is Celery Juice?” Nutrition Stripped, 24 Oct. 2018, nutritionstripped.com/celery-juice/.
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. “The Dubious Practice of Detox.” Harvard Health Blog, May 2008, http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-dubious-practice-of-detox.
  4. https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/JustOneThing/organic-nonorganic-buy/story?id=13310727
  5. Paoletta, Rae. “Goop’s ‘Medical Medium’ Dispenses Junk Science for Cash.” Inverse, Inverse, 28 Sept. 2018, http://www.inverse.com/article/40096-medical-medium-anthony-william.
  6. “Early History of Cancer.” American Cancer Society, 4 Jan. 2018, http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-basics/history-of-cancer/what-is-cancer.html.