If You Learn One Myth About Dieting, This Is It

Ever since I studied nutrition in college, family members, friends and strangers have asked me for the secret of permanent weight loss. At first, I found it flattering that people saw me as “the healthy person.” Now, my perspective has changed and I really hate these conversations. I would love to ask those same people, “Honestly, What exactly do you see changing in your life when you lose weight?” I can pretty much guarantee that not much would change. We’re made to believe that being in a smaller body is one of the keys to happiness. But, what if it’s not and what if everything we believed about being obese is wrong?

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If you haven’t already noticed, weight loss is big business and the current definition of obesity has been changed not for sentimental reasons but for profit. Insurance companies are making a fortune because they can, “charge higher premiums for people with a high BMI” (NPR, 2009). Through all of this, we’ve forgotten that human beings in large bodies have feelings too. In a recent article from The Huffington Post, the normalcy of size discrimination is shown as a form of emotional trauma on large-bodied individuals. It described how medical professionals view large-bodied people as “weak willed,” “noncompliant,” and “overindulgent,” which are all stereotypes about fat people. Scared that we ourselves might be seen as lazy, we become obsessed with attaining thinness by any means necessary. However, what blows my mind about dieting is that people believe every diet is different but they are all the same. They are given different names and packaged differently to lead people to believe that THIS TIME it will work. The reality is that they all support the idea of macronutrient restriction whether its a deficit in carbs or fats, and they all promote products like cookbooks, magazines, or even speciality items at grocery stores. This drives us to insanity but for some amazing reason, we keep repeating this dreadful cycle. It reminds me of how Einstein said that the definition of insanity is to repeat the same thing over and over again and expect a different result each time. So I guess, many of us are a bit insane.

“When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” – Ellyn Satter

We may lose weight initially at the beginning of the dieting cycle but after a while, our bodies naturally adapt and stop losing weight. Now, is it worth it to eat unfulfilling meals to lose weight when it won’t last? No, because we receive more nutrition from food when we actually enjoy it. For instance, there was a study that showed how women who ate an unappealing meal absorbed 70 percent less of the micronutrient iron than they had when they enjoyed a previous meal. Therefore, we should aim to enjoy food because it’s better for our health. Remember, our bodies’ goal in life is not to lose weight, it’s to keep us alive. If we could all accept the truth of our physiology, I believe the pursuit of weight loss would fade away.

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So, what do we do if we don’t focus on weight loss? Does that mean we’ve given up on our health completely? Absolutely not! What I’m saying is that we need to focus on enjoying life more in order to become satisfied with our bodies. Our bodies have all the tools they need to take care of themselves; we just need to trust them. Sadly, we’ve been conditioned to believe that bodies different from models and movie stars are not attractive and unhealthy but all of our bodies are normal. What’s not normal is to be afraid of food or afraid to eat. Food should always be a pleasurable experience so if you don’t find food pleasurable, nothing is exciting. So, I’m going to be very blunt here: stop the dieting because it’s a waste of human life. Most of us have no clue when time will be up for us on this Earth, so why spend a majority of time worrying about every meal? All the time you spend trying out a new diet, you could have been doing something more fulfilling with your life (like going back to school, going on dates, making new friends, just some ideas). No diet will ever be able to give your life more meaning or happiness.

References:

Bacon, L., & Aphramor, L. (2011). Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift. Nutrition Journal, 10(1). doi:10.1186/1475-2891-10-9

Hare, H. V. (2017, August 16). Science Says the Healthiest Food Is Food You Actually Want to Eat. Retrieved from https://www.thedailymeal.com/healthy-eating/science-says-healthiest-food-food-you-actually-want-eat

Hobbes, M. (2018, September 19). Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong. Retrieved from https://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/everything-you-know-about-obesity-is-wrong/

Top 10 Reasons Why The BMI Is Bogus [Radio broadcast]. (2009, July 4). In Weekend Edition Saturday. New York, NY: National Public Radio.

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5 Reasons People Believe Women Of Color Do Not Have Eating Disorders

One Saturday morning, the phone in my work office rang and I answered it. On the other side of the line, a young woman asked me about our eating disorder treatment center and I told her the basics of our programming. She then asked me, “Can I tell you my story?” Even though I didn’t have much time to chat, I couldn’t resist a story. “Yes, tell me what’s going on,” I said.

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I won’t give too many confidential details away but I will say that her words struck my heart strings. I’ll never forget when she said, “I’m Indian-American. My family doesn’t understand what I’m going through.” My eyes began to sting with tears because I could see her even though she was not in front of me. I could see someone who was scared and confused. She probably thought, how could this happen to someone like me and where can I go? It then made me wonder, where do us women of color go when we struggle to live with our bodies? 

When I was struggling with disordered eating, I didn’t know where to turn. Who was I supposed to confide in? Who would understand what I was going through? It saddens me that people around me saw my emaciated frame but commented on how beautiful I looked when I was secretly starving. No one suspected that I had problems with food or body image. I’m black and I studied nutrition in school so I seemed to be the least likely person to suffer. It showed me how many of us make assumptions of one another but we never truly know each other. It takes time for us to even process who we are as individuals.

“We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

Even though there is more conversation around eating disorders and body image issues, women of color seem to constantly be left out of these discussions. Psychologists believed for the longest time that we are immune to such disorders but from my personal research, this is a stupid myth. If the saying goes that, “God doesn’t discriminate,” then we weren’t put us in this immunity bubble naturally. Society has done this to us for centuries.

Here are the five reasons people believe that women of color do not have eating disorders:

“If Beyoncé/J Lo. loves her body, so can we.”

There is a huge myth that women of color have unconditional love for their bodies. There is even a study that states that black college women are “protected from disordered eating, negative body image, and societal media pressures.” (Quick & Byrd-Bredbenner, 2014). Protected how exactly? We live under the same beauty standards of white culture as Hispanic, Latino and Asian women and we have certainly felt the same pressure to attain those standards. People believe that black women are protected from problems with food and our bodies because they forget that we are still pressured to look white with lighter skin and straight hair (Capodilupo, 2015). Although, I love that Queen Bey and J. show society that women of color can be sexy, they’re selling an image that is desirable to both people of color and white people. Let us not forget that these women are still human beings and face their own bodily insecurities like the rest of us.

“We’re supposed to ask God to save us.”

During my disordered eating phase, I remember that I became very interested in spirituality. For the first time in my life I would say, “God,” out loud. I was not brought up to believe in a higher power so this new sensation was strange to me. For most women of color, God or another higher power is a being that we ask for forgiveness. We’re not used to reaching out to a stranger who is sitting in front of us. I know for myself, I was more comfortable holding onto my pain and repeating prayers than seeing a therapist. Finally, I decided to connect to my emotions through the power of talk therapy. The experience reminded me that sometimes talking to an understanding individual can be the best way to heal.

“Our families sacrifice too much for us to be unhappy.”

Without my parents’ hard work, I would have never attended a top university, lived in a nice neighborhood, or traveled around the world at a young age. As children, my parents grew up poor and they always remind me that gratitude is the attitude. When I struggled with my emotions, I was scared to tell my parents how I was truly feeling because I didn’t want them to think that I was ungrateful for my privileges. Until I spoke to my dad about my anxiety and he suggested that I see a therapist since he had been in therapy before himself. Although it was a tough conversation for me, it was well worth it.

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“Things could always be worse for us.”

This is a saying that I cannot stand to hear because it minimizes a person’s experiences and emotions. We as women of color are allowed to feel angry, frustrated, humiliated and confused about our bodies. Also for women of color, things have always been worse for us since we’ve experienced the nastiness of racism and sexism forever. Our incomes can be low, we may struggle with parenting or dating, we might have a hard time in school, but no situation is bad enough that our mental health should be dead last on our list of priorities.

“We have bigger health issues to worry about than eating disorders or other problems with food.”

As a student in college, I was rarely taught about the mental well-being of people of color. There was only talk about the abundance of physical diseases in communities of color. As I learned more about eating disorders, I discovered that our food choices can tell a deeper story than physical health. I believe that most of our issues with food are caused by some sort of emotional distress. Life transitions like going to a new school, starting a relationship or ending one, having children or losing a child, can cause us to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Women of color are not immune to this behavior and unfortunately, the stigma about mental health in communities of color makes it harder for us to seek help. Yes, we may have diabetes and heart disease but if about 75% to 90% of these illnesses are caused by stress, maybe more conversations around mental health can solve these problems.

I hope to create a world where we can say “women of color” and “eating disorders or mental health” in the same sentence without it sounding unusual. As a start, I am providing free coaching services to young women of color who need guidance with food and their emotions. I will listen because I care.

References:

Burnett-zeigler, I. E. (2018, April 25). The Strong and Stressed Black Woman. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/25/opinion/strong-stressed-black-woman.html

Capodilupo, C. M. (2015). One size does not fit all: Using variables other than the thin ideal to understand Black women’s body image. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 21(2), 268-278. doi:10.1037/a0037649

Quick, V. M., & Byrd-Bredbenner, C. (2014). Disordered eating, socio-cultural media influencers, body image, and psychological factors among a racially/ethnically diverse population of college women. Eating Behaviors, 15(1), 37-41. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2013.10.005

Robinson, J. (2013, July 22). Three-Quarters Of Your Doctor Bills Are Because Of This. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/joe-robinson/stress-and-health_b_3313606.html

 

 

 

How I Learned To Love My Stretch Marks-Without Cocoa Butter

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My stretch marks appeared on my body when I turned 10. It was the summer before fifth grade and my mother took me to the doctor for a check-up. I remember my pediatrician looking down at my growth chart and her eyes widening with interest, “You’ve gained quite a bit of weight! You’ll probably start menstruating soon.” I was oblivious to her jargon. I had no idea that my stretch marks were telling a story like the age rings of a tree. It’s taken me about 14 years to understand how precious these lines are to me. It definitely wasn’t an easy journey.

I had no idea that my stretch marks were telling a story like the age circles of a tree.

In high school, it was difficult to be body positive when there were other students who stripped that good feeling away. There was one white girl in my class with long brown hair and wrote her 9s like lowercase Gs. One afternoon, the females in my class were huddled in a small open space in the girls bathroom when she walked through the door. She made her way into our little changing circle as we stripped off our sweaty gym clothes and pulled on our skinny jeans.

As she leaned into the one full length mirror on the bathroom wall, she said, “Does anyone know how to get rid of stretch marks?” She was definitely not the only girl who felt some sort of self-loathing about her body’s appearance. One girl responded, “I use cocoa butter. That helps.” I had heard about that trick too but I had never tried it. Shortly after that day, I succumbed to my own curiosity and bought a jar of Palmer’s Cocoa Butter from a drugstore. I rubbed it over my stretched-out skin, scrubbing my hips, ass, and back but after a few weeks, nothing seemed to have changed.

I had given up on the cocoa butter. Actually, I gave up on anything that could help to fade my stretch marks. Hopeless, I developed a weird habit of staring at other women’s thighs because I wanted theirs so badly. I was envious of the smooth airbrushed look of the thighs I saw in movies and magazines. I can now see why the words “stretch marks” terrify women. The official definition states:

1. streaks or stripes on the skin, especially on the abdomen, caused by distension of the skin from obesity or during pregnancy.

For the dictionary to state that stretch marks only happen to certain people is an understatement (and not to mention fat-phobic). I got stretch marks and I was not “obese” and far from pregnant. I was a young girl who gained a significant amount of weight in order to grow into an adult female body. Even though my pediatrician pointed out this weight change, she and others also reminded me to “be careful” as I filled out.  Since this was mostly out of my control, why was I still encouraged to dislike my appearance? I’ll tell you why. I was conditioned to believe that I had to maintain a prepubescent body for as long as possible. As women, we gain weight during a number of life transitions and as a society, we still struggle to normalize these transformations. With these impossible standards, I could either strive to look as slim as runway model or simply brush them off of my shoulder. At first, I forced my body into a smaller size but then I picked the latter choice.

Let me tell you how I let go of the body hate.

I was tired; tired of drowning in my self-pity. I decided to choose self-acceptance. I realized that hating my stretch marks was not helping them to shrink. They stayed on my body through humid summers, four graduation ceremonies, volunteering in the rainforests of Costa Rica, and strolling down the Champs-Elysses in Paris. They tell the story of how I became a woman because they remind me of a time in my life when I was uncertain of myself. Now, I can look down at them and remind myself of how much I’ve grown through body, mind and spirit.

Of course, my stretch marks remind me of my high school days and I recently thought about that white girl from gym class. I wondered if that girl ever stopped to think about all the physical labor her body performs each and every day. I wondered if she stops to say thank you to her stretch marks for allowing her to grow tall and strong. I also wondered if she kept asking other young women to “fix” her. I hope she knows that she doesn’t need fixing.

None of us do.

5 Food Porn Movies That Make You Want to Eat

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Feature Image by Open Walls

Over the years, I have developed a very long list of films that are my favorites and most of them are about food. Movies have a way of making eating look decadent with different camera angles, lighting and prop design. That is why I think watching a movie is a great way to be inspired to fall in love with food again and get yourself into the kitchen to create a meal.

1. If you love The Devil Wears Prada, watch Julie & Julia 

How can you not fall in love with food when you’re watching people eat baguettes, sole filet, and rich cheeses? You don’t have to travel to Paris to understand any of that; this movie can transport you there. With the beautiful setting of 1950s Paris, Meryl Streep does another great job of portraying an icon like Ms. Julia Child. Even though I liked Amy Adams’ storyline as Julie, there were times when I was exhausted by her depressed state like when she ruined beef bourguignon. I think the interesting part about this film is that you fall in love with Streep herself more than Child. This may not matter to you as a viewer; it didn’t matter to me. If this movie inspires you enough to purchase a copy of The Art of French Cooking, than bravo, Ms. Streep, bravo.

2. If you love About A Boy, watch Mostly Martha 

Mostly Martha is a German rom-com that is about a female chef who is in charge of a prestigious restaurant. Although she is tough as nails, she learns to soften up once she has to take care of her deceased sister’s daughter. It is difficult for her to balance her career and care-taking until an Italian male chef joins the kitchen. You watch as the male chef and Martha’s niece become close while he and Martha fall in love (obviously). The film has a number of great cooking scenes where it is so intense that you feel like you’re about to sweat. The film is also a good reminder that a workaholic mindset is not healthy for all aspects of our lives, especially when it comes to caring for our loved ones.

3. If you love Iron Man, watch Chef 

It’s pretty amazing that the same director of the Marvel movie, Iron Man, could have created such a heart-warming comedy. I truly enjoyed watching Jon Favreau in Chef and the rest of the cast are fantastic as well. It’s not the same story about young white men who create a success story out of flipping burgers. The story highlights Latin American food in the food truck business, even though Favreau himself is of Jewish and Italian descent. The movie showcases the importance of familial relationships, romantic second chances, and creative authenticity. In addition, the soundtrack is fantastic with classic mambo songs and marching band covers of R&B music.

4. If you love Tortilla Soup, watch Tampopo 

Let me warn you; this is a strange movie. It has a Western-like vibe that’s sprinkled with fairy tale storytelling. However do not be afraid of its weirdness because Tampopo is exceptional. It tells the stories of how different people find pleasure in food. Although it mainly focuses on a woman who wants to open her own ramen shop, I love that the movie goes off into different foodie adventures. For instance, there’s one story about a young man who learns how to eat ramen mindfully with an older man. Another is when a man places prawns all over a naked woman’s body as an interesting sexual act. Yes, these are strange scenes but they’re worth watching. If you love Japanese culture, Japanese food, and Japanese language, there’s no better movie to watch than Tampopo.

5. If you love Mouse Hunt, watch Ratatouille 

Hands down, this is a Pixar classic. It’s the only movie that is from the perspective of a English-speaking rat. Remy is unlike other rats since he actually hates to eat garbage. Linguini is an awkward and lost young man who has no experience with cooking. Colette is a female chef who puts up a front so she can be respected in the kitchen but she learns how to become more vulnerable. Of course, I can’t forget about the amazing Peter O’Toole as the nasty food critic, Anton Ego. With such an array of personalities, the story is driven by characters struggle with self-acceptance. There many good messages about self-identity but what brings me back is the food. From scrambled eggs to a bowl of soup, I want to dive into Ratatouille and experience Paris through the eyes of an animated character.

I hope these movies bring you as much food joy as they have brought me. Whether you watch them in your living room or outside at a park, you’ll always need snacks. Here are my top favorites: popcorn, Swedish Fish and Junior Mints. Share what you eat (or crave) when you watch a movie and maybe I’ll enjoy one of them during my next indoor screenings.

6 Toxic Thoughts You’ve Had About Fats – And How to Stop

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Whenever any person from Harvard makes a bold statement, people seem to perk up to listen. One of them, Harvard professor Karen Michels, apparently stated during her TED talk that coconut oil is “pure poison.”I could honestly care less where the professor hails from. I don’t understand why the issue of saturated fat keeps coming up. One minute, it’s coconut oil, the next minute it’s egg yolks and then it’ll be pasta Alfredo sauce. Lord, help us 😒

Fats: An Enemy of the People

All fats have been thrown under the bus at one point in history but this witch hunt seemed to have started in the 1970s. In 1977, The Dietary Goals of America were a set of nutritional guidelines that were created by a group of federal officials led by Senator George McGovern. After a number of hearings, he and the rest of his colleagues concluded that foods high in saturated fat were responsible for chronic illnesses. In the report, they stated that foods such as red meat, egg yolks, and butter were as, “great a threat to public health as smoking” (Dietary Goals of America, 1977). The food industry reacted by introducing margarine, skim milk and low-fat ice cream. The problem was that these new foods weren’t tasting so good. In order to bring back taste, food manufacturers added sugar to their products and of course, that became a whole other problem.

The reality is that fat, whether it is unsaturated or saturated, is necessary for our health. According to registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, we need to eat an adequate amount of fat for the following reasons:

  • to promote satiety
  • to help build cell walls, including brain cells,
  • for absorption of fat soluble vitamins, and
  • for production of hormones

I know we’ve all been conditioned to avoid fats. However, it seems to me that healthy eating becomes complicated when we overthink our health. Here are 6 thoughts you’re having about fats that are not helping you:

1. Thinking that you should follow a low-fat diet

We’ve been told for years that too much fat can cause chronic diseases like heart disease but there’s even a study that shows how full-fat dairy products lowers the risk of CVD (Feinman, 2010).

The main issue with avoiding fats is that we run into the risk of malnutrition. As soon as we start falling for the fat-free lifestyle trap, we become deficient in essential vitamins that need fat in order to be absorbed into our cells. For example, if you decide to make a fat-free dressing for a kale salad, you’re depriving your body of vitamin K which is found in dark leafy greens. A deficiency in vitamin K impairs blood clotting so you won’t heal properly. For more information on this, I highly recommend that you read the book, Vitamania (which I discuss here).

2. Thinking that eating fat will make you fat

Even though you can gain weight from eating large amounts of fat, it should not keep you from consuming any fat. The body does not need a lot of fat to be satiated but it does need it every day. For example, instead of smearing a large pat of butter over toast, how about using an amount that’s similar to the top of your thumb? If you ever feel like you need a little more than that, go for it. Trust your body.

3. Thinking that plant fats are less caloric than animal fats

Please don’t think that you are saving calories by eating plant-based fats. Plant foods  tend to be more nutrient dense therefore they are higher in calories. An example is an avocado because it not only contains fat, it also contains fiber too. One medium avocado is about 240 kcal which is why I recommend that you start with a half of the avocado as a portion. Also, foods like vanilla soy milk, vegan butter, and Beyond Meat, are as processed as skim milk, margarine and fried chicken tenders. The ingredients lists of vegan substitutes is usually much longer than the real deal because it takes more chemicals to make vegan food taste like its not vegan. Honestly, what’s the point in eating vegan bacon if you want it to taste like regular bacon? Just saying 🤷🏾‍♀️

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4. Thinking that a diet that’s heavy in fat is better than a diet heavy in carbs

People think that burning fat is more efficient for the body however you will not end up losing much weight this way. In the Netherlands, a group of scientists tested the ketogenic diet on mice and concluded that it caused high levels of cholesterol and fat in the blood, increased blood sugar levels and no weight loss.

We shouldn’t have to choose between a diet high in fat or one high in carbs. In the field of psychology, this way of thinking is called, “Black or White,” or, “All or Nothing,” thinking. We need both fats and carbs so, why deprive ourselves? Have a slice of pizza with the cheese, eat a burger with the bun, and have ice cream on a cone.

5. Thinking that your body can survive on less body fat

Your body cannot tell the difference between dieting or a famine. It’s designed to keep you alive and it will fight back against food deprivation with all of its resources. This is the main reason why dieting does not work. We blah blah blah about having willpower and discipline but that’s bullshit. Neuroscience keeps you from maintaining weight loss because your body likes to stay in a comfortable weight range called your set point weight. The moment you eat less calories than usual, you, “not only burn fewer calories but also produce more hunger-inducing hormones and find eating more rewarding” (Aamodt 2016). Instead of desperately wanting to be thin, let’s be thankful that our bodies know how to save us in dire situations and not abuse its abilities.

6. Thinking that it’s healthier to cook with olive oil than coconut oil or butter

Remember when Anthony Bourdain said that most people eat about a stick and half of butter at a restaurant? If they didn’t use that amount of fat, no one would eat out. In restaurants, butter makes everything taste good and it’s also the preferred fat to use for high heat cooking. For most recipes that use high heat, olive oil is not appropriate because it begins to burn over a certain temperature. It’ll give your food a strange taste and its nutritional properties will be nonexistent. Use oils like canola, sesame or coconut and butter instead.

Even though the media continues to publish articles that demonize fats, you don’t have to follow their lead. Fats are a part of the building blocks of human life. Instead of running away from them, eat a variety of them and enjoy their flavors.

Is Your Negative Body Image Ruining Your Female Friendships? Here’s How to Tell.

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It’s not easy growing into an adult body, especially when breasts are involved. It used to be a struggle for me to watch my friends grow into large bra sizes when I was stuck with the same size A boobs. I remember in middle school that I was constantly reminded by one boy about how “under-developed” I was. I have a best friend whose chest grew larger than mine and the boy would tell her, “Damn girl, you grew up good.” Then, the boy would look at me and picture me as a Rastafarian girl who baked beef patties. I’m very serious about the imagery. I couldn’t help but feel that I was lagging behind in maturity even though I was growing up perfectly fine. In that boy’s mind (and for many others), big breasts equated to sexiness and small breasts meant that you were the help.

Since men judge our appearances based on what they want from us, we tend to look around at other women’s bodies to rank who looks hot or not. It’s sad that female beauty is such a competition since we feel that beautiful women are a threat to our self-esteem. This type of female behavior expands far beyond middle school drama; it’s runs rampant in our thin-obsessed society. So, what do we do when we feel bad about our bodies? We reserve our anger and talk badly about other women. Body-shaming seems quite normal but studies have shown that body image dissatisfaction is greatly influenced by our relationships with other women, particularly our best friends (Lev-Ari, et al, 2014). Luckily, my friend and I are still very close. I think that’s partly because I have accepted my body’s uniqueness. I’ve learned that good friends are too precious to lose over the superficialities of appearance.

Gaining Weight As a Woman is Completely Normal

Girls tend to start feeling self-conscious about their bodies when puberty hits. The only way that we can become women is by gaining weight. It may happen at different times for us but it will happen. When a girl is about to start her menarche or her first period, the number and size of her fat cells as well as the size of her organs increase (Malina, Bouchard, & Bar-Or, 2004). This is important for female sexual maturation since this increase in body fat triggers the production of female sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Afterwards, girls gain weight in their breasts, upper arms, waists, and hip areas and how the weight is distributed is based on the genetic code of the girl. All of this is normal! Since women experience a number of body changes throughout their lives, it is very easy to compare physical attractiveness amongst friends. This then leads to guilt, jealousy and a distorted view of one’s beauty. As a result, most women eat far too few calories, especially when they eliminate foods that contain gluten, dairy, or meat and certain fruits and vegetables. I have seen how this behavior spirals out of control and turns into disordered eating behavior or a life-threatening eating disorder.

Now that we’ve talked about the biology of the female body, I want to make it very clear that all of our bodies are meant to be different. No matter how many diets or fitness programs you follow, your body will find a way to morph into the shape it wants you to be. As these changes happen, it’s good to remember that beauty does not come in one shape, size, or color.

Not Every Thought About Our Bodies Needs to Start a War

It’s become second nature for most of my female friends to sneak in a bit of body-shaming during our conversations over coffee, dinner or even just hanging out at the beach. We’ve all learned that it’s “healthy” to share our body woes with each other but is it really making any of us feel better? It’s also strange that even though I feel perfectly content with my body, I still say something negative about it in order to cheer up my friends. What the hell, right?

It’s time to reframe this behavior: Imagine you’re sitting in a cafe with your best friend and she makes a comment about her large thighs. “My thighs are so fat! I should workout more.” Instead of agreeing with her, be sympathetic and then redirect the conversation. Here’s an example of what you could say in this moment:

I don’t have the same feelings about my thighs but I can understand why you feel that way. So, how’s your new job going?

It’s easy to empathize with others (meaning to take on their emotions) and to start “mothering” them which means to act like their moms and shower them in positivity. You don’t have to say, “But you’re so beautiful!” or “I wish I had your thighs.” Simply show your friend that you acknowledge her feelings but you’re not interested in lingering in the sadness. There are more interesting things to talk about over coffee.

Learn to Like Looking Like You

I think we should use our female friendships for emotional, professional/academic and spiritual inspiration. You can’t be inspired when you’re constantly wishing you look like someone else. You can’t control the body transformations of your friends but you can slowly let go of perfectionism and start to accept the different parts of yourself. You shouldn’t feel that you need to constantly compare your body to your friends since you will never look like them. That’s a good thing! Why would you want to look like someone one else? Your appearance is a part of your identity; make it unique so that people can recognize you from a mile away.

More Articles on Positive Body Image:

 

5 Books To Read That Make Healthy Eating Less Confusing, According to a Registered Nutritionist

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These days, every person I meet seems to be an expert on nutritional science. One person swears by a ketogenic diet while another is a firm believer in intermittent fasting. Although I feel everyone is entitled to their beliefs, I find most of these food rules to be overwhelming. Instead of solving all health problems, I’ve seen how these rules only instill more fear, shame and hopelessness in people.

Thankfully, five books have showed me a unique (dare I say, healthier) perspective on foods and nutrition. I recommend that you pick at least one of them to dive into in order to see how far you’ve been pulled into our fat-phobic and diet-obsessed society. You may realize that a few of your eating patterns are not as “healthy” as you’ve been led to believe but may be more restrictive and stress inducing.

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole & Ilene Resch

At my current job, we use this book as a guide to help clients who suffer with disordered eating behaviors. It has helped many of them to relearn their hunger and fullness signals and therefore, heal their relationships with their bodies. Even though this concept was introduced in the nineties, the two dietitians still find it necessary to bust the common myths about nutrition. Of note is the authors take on the neurobiology behind what happens when we don’t eat carbohydrates. There’s a neuropeptide called NPY that is responsible for our bagel and cupcake cravings. When we deprive ourselves of carbs, our levels of NPY increase and that is what causes our carb cravings to feel out of control. Tribole and Resch encourage us to embrace these cravings because they are cues that we are running low on energy and need to restore our cells. Tribole and Resch remind us that there is no point in fighting human physiology since it is was what keeps us alive.

👉🏽 Amazon: Buy it here

Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized The Way We Think About Food by Catherine Price

Okay, you’re thinking why would I want to read about vitamins? That’s what I thought too but as soon as I read the first page, I was hooked. Price tells great stories about human evolution through our discovery of vitamins and minerals. In one instance, she describes how sailors used to die at sea from a strange disease called scurvy and what caused it? A lack of vitamin C. I also love that Price provides an in-depth glossary in the back of the book that lists every vitamin and mineral that our bodies need. A serious deficiency in any of them can cause us to experience undesirable symptoms from headaches to night-blindness. I appreciate that this book shines a light on the ridiculous standards that people hold for their bodies. The health and wellness industry has boiled down good health to nutrients and we’re forgetting about the importance of eating whole foods. Price reminds us that the best way to eat a sufficient amount of nutrients is to eat a variety of different foods, instead of relying on a plethora of pills.

👉🏽 Amazon: Buy it here

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Body Kindness® by Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN 

It’s so refreshing when a nutrition book that takes the focus away from weight loss and  discusses other topics such as fun exercise, positive body image and the importance of sleep. Dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield describes Body Kindness® as, “how to think for yourself more effortlessly so you can get on with enjoying your life instead of constantly working on your health.” In order to achieve this type of self-compassion, Scritchfield encourages readers to experiment with their food preferences in order to create their own definition of good health. Scritchfield recommends that a snack like a scoop of good ice cream before bedtime can help us to sleep soundly through the night. She argues that the combination of calcium and carbohydrates in the ice cream trigger the release of our sleep hormone, melatonin. Does that sound awesome or what?

👉🏽 Amazon: Buy it here

Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming by Ellyn Satter

If I could eat dinner with one person, it would be with dietitian and family therapist, Ellyn Satter. Her background in psychotherapy and developmental nutrition inspired me to obtain a minor in child and adolescent mental health studies while in college. Satter believes that children are responsible for how much they will eat and whether or not they will eat. Parents should be responsible for the rest (where they will eat, what they will eat and when they will eat). When parents cross what she calls, “the division of responsibility,” they are at risk of negatively altering their children’s eating behavior. For instance, Satter encourages parents to place “fun foods,” like chocolate and ice cream on their dining tables. She believes that the less we treat fun foods as rewards, the more we normalize them. When we normalize our indulgences, we are less likely to binge on them to the point of nausea.

CAUTION: I want to let you know upfront that Satter’s early work was not pro-Health At Every Size. Even though she encouraged parents to feed their children tacos and pizza, she tended to praise children who were naturally-slim. Her beliefs were that all children would naturally lose weight over time but I’d like to remind you that not every child will slim down when they grow up. It’s perfectly normal for children to continue to gain weight as they age; don’t keep your fingers crossed for your children to become thin or slim.

👉🏽 Amazon: Buy it here

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8 Steps to Eating Disorder Recovery by Carolyn Costin & Gwen Schubert Grabb

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, about 20 million women suffer with an eating disorder in their lifetimes. This means that either you may experience an eating disorder yourself or will encounter others who suffer with one. This book is a great guide for either party. The perspective is through two marriage and family therapists who have both recovered from eating disorders. It’s what makes the writing more powerful. What also makes this book different than other books on eating disorders is that it shows how so many people suffer with similar symptoms even though they have not been diagnosed with an eating disorder. Many of us struggle with some degree of psychological trauma, and these traits plus a genetic predisposition are a recipe for eating disorders. It may make you more aware of who may be at risk in your close circle of family and peers.

👉🏽 Amazon: Buy it here


Find a book that sparked interest? I hope so. They all show that maintaining good nutrition is not complicated. Sadly, our societal beliefs and the media make this a nightmare to understand. Let these books remind you that you are allowed to eat what you like and you do not need to feel guilty about what’s on your plate or in your body. If you’d like more book recommendations, please reach out and ask for more.

My traumatizing experience as a nutrition college major

In the spring semester of my freshman year, I had to listen to a professor who was full of herself. She was one of those professors who wrote a book, was in a documentary (Super Size Me, to be exact) and required every student to learn about her brilliant career. If you went to NYU for nutrition, you probably know exactly whom I speak of.

The only required reading in the class was her book on portion control and weight management. As a naive 18-years-old, I would sit in my dorm and absorb all the information from the text. I thought that it had to be scientifically accurate since my professor was a renowned dietitian and she also had a Barbie-sized waist. How could she be wrong?

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What I didn’t expect after reading her book was how quickly I would fall into disordered eating behavior. I followed the book’s advice and within a month, I had lost a significant amount of weight. I ate a palms-worth of food at each meal and went to a local yoga studio every evening after classes. Every person around me praised my svelte appearance and their words of encouragement reassured that I was fine which wasn’t true. I wasn’t in a happy place at the time and I wish that either someone had asked me, “How are you really feeling?” or I reached out for help earlier. At the end of my freshman year, I was excited to be moving back into my family’s apartment. I decided to shed my freshman skin and I went to a barber to have all of my permed hair cut off. Then, I went to the Strand bookstore and sold my diet books. I didn’t want that shit anymore and it felt so good to be free of them.

As I progressed throughout college, I learned that I was not the only person who had struggled with disordered eating. I had learned in my positive psychology class that nutrition majors were the top students who struggled with eating disorders. It shocked me however I heard from my peers that the statistics were true. Their stories were concerning and I remember a professor of mine saying honestly, “Don’t expect to go through this program to help others when you need to help yourself first.

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Although my professor spoke the truth, other professors had contradictory philosophies. They taught us to enjoy our foods but we had to watch our weight. We could eat bagels but they had to be whole wheat. We could drink soda but only four ounces. We should enjoy movement but we had to perform at least two and a half hours of moderate exercise a week. I would sit in class, my head spinning. There were so many damn food rules and I thought to myself, how are we supposed to become nutritionists and dietitians if we don’t have a positive relationship with food?

How are we supposed to become nutritionists and dietitians if we don’t have a positive relationship with food?

After I graduated, I realized that dissatisfaction with myself AKA perfectionism had fueled my disordered eating and the eating disorders in my classmates. This internal pressure only perpetuated our obsessions with food and body weight. Unfortunately we’re not alone in this since there is significant evidence that undergraduate students in nutrition use dietetic programs to hide an unhealthy relationship with food. I can agree with this research since being fully immersed in literature, projects and lectures dissecting nutrition science worsened my disordered eating.

The sad reality is that perfectionism is widely accepted in our society because a sense of control shows drive, focus, and willpower. As much as these qualities help us to succeed, this behavior caused students like me to become or continue to stay fat-phobic. A recent study was conducted showing the fat-phobic beliefs of nutrition students in Mexico which could negatively affect the dietetic profession. There is prevalence of weight stigma within the healthcare community, causing people with large bodies to receive different care than people with small bodies. Most health professionals are quick to tell a large-bodied person to lose weight before they try any other method to reduce the signs and symptoms of a disease.

Black and White Text Law Day Social Media GraphicOne of the reasons I have decided not to become a registered dietitian is because I want to help people to focus on the bigger picture: LIFE. I believe that we place too much morality on what we eat and are not paying attention to how we feel. Instead, we under-eat or overeat to compensate for joy, sadness, anxiety, or anger. Food becomes a way, for many of us, to disconnect from our emotions. Plus with all of the craziness taking place in the world, I think we all need to learn more appropriate ways to deal with those overwhelming feels than to take them out on our bodies. I’m not saying that you have to love your body unconditionally if you don’t, but you have to learn to accept it. Tell yourself, “This is my body. I accept it.” Over time, trust that you will.

I wish my professor years ago would have recommended a different book or I wish I had sold that book to the Strand a lot earlier. Although, I think that going through my struggle helped me to be more comfortable with myself today. I acknowledge that I am a perfectionist and that I will still have disordered thoughts but that is completely normal. It is better that I see the truth than to believe the fallacy.

My Time in Paris: What The French Taught Me About Nutrition

When I was six-years-old, I dreamed about going to Paris, France. I drew a picture of the Eiffel Tower and women walking poodles with my crayons and colored pencils. Then when I was eleven, I saw the radiant Audrey Hepburn in the 1954 film, Sabrina. She sat in her Parisian apartment, writing a letter as the classic song, La Vie En Rose, played outside her window. “I have learned how to live,” she writes and those words echoed in my little ears. It seemed so magical and I truly believed that Paris could change an average insecure girl into a confident and sophisticated woman.

“Paris is always a good idea.”

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 like Ms. Hepburn. However, it didn’t happen that way at all. When I first arrived, I experienced a major culture shock.

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Since my family and I had spent a couple days in an English-speaking country, I was not prepared to be in a place where they didn’t speak English first. I had taken a class in French back home but it didn’t seem very useful. Besides the language barrier, the city was far from godliness. There were homeless citizens lying on the streets, garbage bags piled up high outside of buildings, and the smell of cigarette smoke suffocated me. On top of this, we ate at a horrible Italian restaurant and my sister dropped her ice cream on a busy sidewalk. I was so confused. Audrey Hepburn’s Paris seemed so clean and glamorous while the Paris I arrived in was dirty, loud and a bit obnoxious.

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Fortunately, the rest of our time in Paris went amazingly well. We were staying at a Holiday Inn on the Left Bank of the city. We received the greatest food recommendations from one of the concierge named Stefan. He told us about fantastic Japanese food, delicious gelato, and lots of freshly baked baguettes with gooey brie cheese. There were the occasional comments like, “I can’t eat like this when I get home,” or “I’m eating so much bread!” I personally loved digesting every morsel of food and didn’t think about drowning in food guilt. My dream city was in front of my eyes; how could I focus on calories and saturated fat?

The Real French Paradox

I, like many other American women, am fascinated by French beauty. Before I entered college, I borrowed one of my mom’s books, Why French Women Don’t Get Fat. I believed that if I followed the book’s rules exactly, I would be as thin as a preppy French girl. When I got to college, my professors mentioned The French Paradox and said that it was an antioxidant called reservatol in French wine that slowed down their aging. When I was in Paris, I didn’t understand how wine could help with aging since the French are notorious smokers. Since the age to smoke legally is sixteen in France, I witnessed teenage boys in packs, constantly smoking. How could the French have better nutrition if they highly valued tobacco and nicotine?

At the same time, I was taught that the French ate smaller portions than Americans which was also untrue through my observations. I remember the second time I visited Paris at nineteen. I ordered sausage and mashed potatoes at an underground restaurant in the dead of Parisian winter. The food arrived and it was as if a UFO had landed right in front of me. The portions were huge! I think a bit of American food culture was seeping its way into French food. Do not be fooled; the French love to eat.

“When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” – Ellyn Satter, dietitian & family therapist

I’ve now realized that The French Paradox is actually something very different: it’s intuitive eating. The French eat with their mouths, not with their brains. It’s nice that they are raised to eat food for pleasure and do not scrutinize everything they consume as Americans do. There is a fabulous podcast called Hidden Brain (listen here) that describes the way the French eat, saying that they turn food into an experience which makes it more satisfying and enjoyable. This is the healthiest way for us to eat! There is a study (read here) that shows that our bodies absorb more nutrients when we like what we are eating and drinking. For instance, if you’re forcing yourself to eat a plain kale salad, you won’t absorb all of the beautiful vitamin K and calcium. However, if you are eating the plain kale salad with a piece of fried chicken, your body will absorb those nutrients better. In conclusion, the most nourishing food is the most tasty 😋

It is not beauty that endears, it_s love that makes us see beauty.

How To Eat Like The French

Americans spend a majority of their lives fearing delicious foods while the French make food sexy, decadent and fun. They believe that food is to be savored, not feared.

Here are eating habits I learned while watching the French:

  • Watch people while you eat or drink.
  • Enjoy a meal alone at a cafe or restaurant.
  • Walk after a meal, hopefully without a cigarette.
  • Have a glass of wine because it’s delicious, not to slow down aging.
  • Buy bread and enjoy it with butter, cheese or ham.

A good life looks different to all of us but I think we all can agree that a good life has great food memories. Although I’m 5,834 km away from the City of Light, I carry a bit of French food philosophy with me every day while I’m here in New York. Still, I always dream of going to Paris for the third time. I think it will be a lot more fun especially since I’m older and a little wiser. I still know hardly shit about good wine but I will always love amazing food. With the exception of French onion soup; I’ve never understood it.

Guides to Parisian Culture:

The Ultimate Paris Bucket List

Damon & Jo: The Paris Routine

Breathless (1960) directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Amelie (2001) directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

How to Have a Parisian Staycation in NYC

20 things to do this summer instead of obsessing over your body

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We spend way too much of our time preparing our bodies for the summer season. Shave this, wax that, dye your hair, buy new dresses, fix your sandals, go to the gym every day. In case you missed the memo, summer lasts for about three months (depending on where you live) so stop wasting time hoping you can build yourself a six-pack or create a tight ass. Enjoy these hot and humid days before the cold weather pushes itself onto us again.

  1. Visit a local beach and play in the sand.
  2. Browse your favorite bookstore to discover a new book or magazine.
  3. Write a letter to your younger or older self. Tell them that you love them.
  4. Try happy hour at a new bar.
  5. Eat regular fries from out of a bag.
  6. Learn how to bake these raspberry crumble bars.
  7. Watch a free movie in a public park or on a rooftop.
  8. Learn how to make ceramics in a pottery class.
  9. Start a blog. You definitely have something to write about!
  10. Stop in your favorite cafe, order a delicious drink and walk around a different neighborhood.
  11. Host a photo day. Invite friends to meet up in a location and take pictures for a couple of hours.
  12. Plan a day trip or weekend getaway some place outside of home. Beacon, NY is a good place to start.
  13. Save money for an upcoming winter vacation.
  14. Try a different ice cream shop every week. First stop, gelato and next stop, vegan ice cream.
  15. Learn to speak another language or improve your native one.
  16. Give dating apps a try or put dating apps to rest.
  17. Grow your own herbs or flowers.
  18. Learn to write calligraphy and hand out homemade cards to people.
  19. Invite friends over for a wine & cheese party. Ask everyone to bring their favorite cheap whites and reds.
  20. Buy a day pass to an amusement park and overcome your fear of rollercoasters.

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Notice how I did not list any activities that have to do with your appearance 👍🏾 I think life is too short for us to constantly think about how we look. Although there’s nothing wrong with looking lovely, let’s focus on creating lasting memories. I think I may have even inspired myself to fulfill a few of these ideas.

Even More Ways To Have Summer Fun

50 Free (Or Very Cheap) Things To Do This Summer

The Everygirl’s 2018 Summer Bucket List

How To Be a Better Kind of Traveler

5 Affordable Destinations Worth Visiting This Summer

45 Incredible Things To Do in NYC in July