Donut-licking is an Aberrant Eating Behavior

ariana keep outBefore this “news” story hits the briney deep, I have something to say about Ariana Grande. She is the 22-year old celebrity of Nickelodeon TV, theater, and music fame who was seen in July, on a surveillance video, licking glazed donuts on an uncovered tray in a donut shop. On the audio, she was overheard saying, “What the f*ck is that? I hate Americans. I hate America. That’s disgusting!” There were entertainment-news stories and hash tags galore: #ilickdonuts – #donutgate – #donutproblems – #arianadonuts –  #arianagrandelickingdonuts –  #ariwearewithyou – #arianahatesamerica. This week I read that Ariana Grande Is Now the 2nd Most Disliked Celebrity, Following Close Behind Bill Cosby. Can you believe that? 

But for me as a clinician, donut-licking raises a red flag. It is an aberrant eating behavior on par with eating in a ritualistic way, chewing food and spitting it out, mixing strange food combinations, eating the same foods over and over, skipping meals, taking tiny portions, cutting food in little pieces, and refusing to eat with others. They are all aberrant eating behaviors that may be seen in eating disordered patients.

Ariana also happens to be extraordinarily thin, which wasn’t the case last year when (according to the Internet), at 5’1” tall, she weighed 106 pounds (BMI 20), a perfect weight within the healthy weight range. But within the past year (according to the Internet), she lost twelve pounds by following a vegan diet. I figure that now Arianna is in the underweight range, weighing 90-94 pounds (BMI 17).

Ariana Before Vegan

Ariana Before Vegan

Ariana After Vegan

Ariana After Vegan

I’ve explained why vegan diets are a problem in Beyonce Promotes Vegan Diet. Tricked by Her Trainer. But that doesn’t stop the knuckleheads on YouTube from praising Ariana’s weight loss. (See Ariana Grande Vegan Weight Loss Transformation.) The photos are telling.

I understand why Ariana Grande might let it slip that, subconsciously, she hates America. After all, we made her into an object that must stay dangerously thin (and hungry) in order to survive. As a role model, she spreads the poison to young fans. How can she feel good about that? When all she wanted to do was sing and dance. I hope she gets help.

Hunger Signals Are Linked to Brown Fat

“Is it hot in here?”

That would be me asking, the day after I overate. I could literally feel the extra calories leaving my body as heat. My brown fat must be up to snuff, probably because I exercise and I don’t “weight cycle” (loose weight and regain.)

Brown fat (also called BAT, brown or beige adipose tissue) is a new critical determinant of energy expenditure. BAT seems to be an endocrine organ that influences metabolism. Aaron Cypess, M.D., a metabolic researcher from the Joslin Diabetes Center, explains that 54% of the variation in metabolic rate correlates with an individual’s activated brown fat. Wow! Maybe it’s time to retire the Harris–Benedict Equation and other formulas that predict basal metabolic rate.*

Last week, I wrote an article about new brown fat research for DietsInReview.com. In my opinion, the research links a healthy supply of brown fat to “intuitive eating” – in mice.
See my article, and the TIME magazine report, that got me thinking.

Your thoughts: Do you love brown fat as much as I do?

* Basal Metabolic Rate:  The rate at which energy is used by an organism at complete rest, measured in humans by the heat given off per unit time. It is expressed as the calories released per square meter of body surface per hour. 

Number One Thing Needed to Ensure Diet Success

Oops! It’s a rogue blog. Hello.

I released this ditty to the public by mistake because I forgot how to use WordPress – and I switched to a Mac – during my absence. I stopped blogging last December when I sold my Brooklyn apartment (number one) – packed and moved my stuff into storage – subleased a cute little Brooklyn apartment (number two) from a professor on sabbatical – moved into a Brooklyn AirBNB (number three) that I’m leaving this week. It’s all too hard to explain. I like freedom and variety.

But through it all, I still have to write for DietsInReview.com, the best contracting agent ever! Here is the assignment for the week; “We have a new partnership with Shape magazine in which we write one article for them each week. For next week the topic is: What about the #1 thing you should do when you first start a diet to make you more likely to succeed?”

I turned to my best bud’s stuff. Diane Petrella writes about the power of the mind to change weight and get healthy. It’s free, it works, and it’s way underused. It’s the secret sauce.  It’s too bd that I scooped Shape by pushing the wrong button!
But now that I’m in the water, my promise to you, should you care, is that I will blog once a week to stay in practice. God knows, I am not a writer. But I am a bit of a different nutritionist with something to say.

 

The Number One Thing Needed to Ensure Diet Success

 

News flash: There is no one best way to lose weight. It is up to you to find a healthy eating approach and activity pattern that is unique to you. Don’t change anything until you document the “real you” by keeping a food journal. It will give you a clear picture of what to change. Most people need to dump the junk, reduce food portions, and rarely eat when not actually hungry.  Setting clear positive goals such as “I will eat oatmeal with fruit and nuts at least three times a week,” or “I will go to Zumba on Saturday morning and Tuesday evening,” enhances your chances of success.

But the greatest predictor of weight loss success is how you see yourself. Old images of the “heavy you” making unhealthy choices are replaced with new images of the “healthy you” choosing to act in healthier ways. When you “act as if” you are already there, you shift energy towards the positive, which makes way for intuition to move you easily towards your goal. Think of a time when you accomplished something by first creating a vision. Success is always created with a picture in the mind.

“Visualization” is a actual process of deliberately using your imagination to create a mental model. Since the mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined, when you visualize, your subconscious encodes a new picture as if it happened for real.  Sports psychologists and peak performers always use the power of visualization to build confidence and imagine success.

A small study* recently showed the power of visualization to improve eating habits. Subjects were asked to eat more fruit for one week, One group was simply asked to set a goal to eat more fruit, while the other group was told to visualize buying fruit and eating it at particular times. While both groups ate more fruit, the groups that used visualization ate twice as much.

The power of visualization is truly an under-used free tool for weight loss success. As you lie in bed in the morning or before falling asleep at night, calm your mind, relax your body, and picture yourself at your goal weight. See yourself making choices as the new healthy you. Hold a picture of yourself calmly eating delicious healthy food and watch as your body moves with ease. Notice the feelings and sensations associated with the images because connecting with your feelings as your visualize strengthens the effects. Deep relaxation internalizes the new images. In only three to five minutes a day, you can visualize your way to weight loss success.

* McGill University. “Planning and visualization lead to better food habits.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110225122818.htm>.

A “Healthy Weight Week” Reality Check

Baby on ScaleTake out your compass. I am celebrating Healthy Weight Week – the 20th Annual – and that means it’s time to focus on eating problems that originate from our media-fed perceptions of “healthy” weight. The images of women in the media are much too thin. They feed into our confusion about reference points and what is weight normal.

We have a Skinny Girl Fetish

Our society is primitive when it comes to  objectifying our idols. We expect them to attain and maintain unattainable slimness, and we settle for nothing less. Consider the unfortunate  Jennifer Lawrence, a 22-year old actress, nominated for Jennifer-Lawrence-Bikini-1Best Actress in a Leading Role, Silver Linings Playbook (trailer) Jennifer recently told ELLE Magazine, “I’m considered a fat actress.” “I’m Val Kilmer in that one picture on the beach.”  A Google search runs five pages deep into the topic of of Ms Lawrence’s weight. The real problem is our notion of a healthy body. Jennifer is perfect, but our view of women’s bodies is f—ked up.

Why Are the Natives Fat?

Do you ever wonder why the well-fed, native people we see in National Geographic Magazine are kind of chubby by modern Western standards? The natives don’t have mirrors or scales, or junk food, or cars; yet, they are not thin. In fact, the natives are like Jennifer Lawrence. Note: nature prefers a little meat on the bones for a rainy day. That meat is muscle and fat, not too little, not too much, just right. Reality check: Photographs of healthy native women.

The Next Step?

In South Korea, notions about perfection have led to the highest rate of plastic surgery in the world. Eyelid surgery, nose reshaping, facial contouring – Asians want a westernized face. See this article from Jezebel, I Can’t Stop Looking at These South Korean Women Who’ve Had Plastic Surgery. Reality check: celebrities have plastic surgery all the time. The shock is in the trickle down to the masses.

Korean_1

Your thoughts: How will you celebrate healthy weight week? Everything counts.

My Thoughts on Sarah Palin’s Diet Book

Mary Hartley as Sarah Palin

Yesterday, ABC News asked me for a quote about Sarah Palin’s new diet book. (The quote was not used.) I guess Palin’s book will be out soon, even though last October, People magazine couldn’t say if Palin had a contract or when the book would be published.

According to several news outlets, Palin said her book advocates “a balanced approach to weight loss” focusing on “self-discipline as we still eat our beloved homemade comfort foods.”  Of me, the ABC writer asked, “Is it OK to indulge once in a while?” and “Is this a good approach to weight loss?” To the first question, I answered, “Yes; only a control freak would not indulge once in awhile.” To the second question, I said, “Dunno.”

I do say this: Never take nutrition or medical advice from a celebrity.

Sarah Palin is no authority on diet and fitness, but she does have a loyal following and enough gawkers to sell a book. And then there’s the diet-crazed crowd. Get that book on the shelves by January 1st.

Sarah has lost some weight since she was a household name in 2008. She espouses a low-carb-, lean-protein-style diet, and so I presume that will be her focus. She drinks a “skinny white-chocolate mocha” for breakfast, and so I guess that is her indulgence. For decades, Sarah has been a distance runner, which accounts, in part, for her trim physique.

Without reviewing what Sarah actually eats, I cannot say whether her diet is wholesome and balanced. There are countless routes to a balanced diet. For instance, an Inuit does not eat like a Bantu, yet both native diets are correct.

I’m glad Sarah is happy with her own eating style, and as long as she meets her daily requirements for protein, carbohydrate, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds with nutrient-like activity that are known and still unknown, it doesn’t really matter whether she focuses on low-carb or low-fat. That’s because total calories matter most when it comes to weight control.

The Palin family’s food choices don’t have to be yours. Every individual needs to find his own style in terms of personal preferences, resources and “life-style.” (Not my favorite term)  For me, moose stew doesn’t work, and I doubt if Sarah has tried my Portuguese Kale Soup.

Your thoughts: Would you read Sarah Palin’s diet book?

Thanksgiving Stuffing and You

I hope you haven’t begun to feast because I have a few words for you. Kara Quillard of GalTime asked Yours Truly for sage Thanksgiving advice.  Kara really knows how to turn a phrase: throw a turkey touchdown, stretch your muscles…not your pants. That gal’s time is steeped in pop culture! And so, to use Kara’s words, “when you find yourself inches away from a glorious Thanksgiving feast and your eyes grow bigger than your stomach, remember these tips to” Avoid Stuffing Yourself at Thanksgiving. Happy Day!

Your thoughts: What are your Thanksgiving anti-stuffing tips?

The Instagram Diet

The Instagram Diet is my name for taking food photos with a smartphone to help you lose weight. The photos are shared on blogs and social networks and through Instagram, a free app that makes pictures look 50-year old. Last weekend at Fitbloggin’12, a conference and networking event for health-bloggers, I was amazed by the number of people who took pictures of their food.

As I was gathering my thoughts about this a new diet phenomena, Dana at Diets In Review emailed me questions about Joy the Baker’s ‘Friend Diet.’ Joy the Baker, a food blogger, and her friend take photographs of everything they eat and text it to each other for accountability. This is  what I am talking about. The questions helped to clear it for me.

Q:  What bugs you about people taking pictures of their food?
I’m not so much bugged as curious. The concept of taking pictures of food is spontaneous and organic and I respect that, and it helps people to lose weight, all for free. It just seems to be generational for people who grew up in the digital age and with the Food Network as entertainment. Part of if seems juvenile (“Look at me!”) but it is fun to make easy art. Personally, find unprofessional food photos unappealing,

Is it a trend you’ll ever try out yourself?
It’s not for me and I wrote about it in one of my first blogs, This is Not a Food Blog, Mostly.  I’m interested in it from a nutrition/public health intervention perspective. Since it is useful and free and people enjoy it, let’s encourage it. I love to look at my clients’ food pictures.

When you hear “food porn,” what do you think?
I don’t like the word “porn,” but food porn (tempting others with mouth-watering pictures of delicious food) is not exactly the same as taking food photos to help with weight loss. But, food porn does exists in this society because we salivate for food we can’t eat. Temptation bombards us, but we cannot partake, and so we cope and partake with our eyes.

How can taking pictures of our food be helpful, harmful?
For weight loss, food photo fans say it leads to mindfulness, accountability, and inspiration. That’s helpful, and for all food photographers, it’s about pride, connection and entertainment. (As for me, the food is getting cold.) Harmful? If food photos take the place of eating for anorexics or cause friction at the dinner table, then that’s not good.

This is how I summed it up for Diets In Review: 
…the most important thing is to find a solution that works best for you. “People are most committed to the diet plans they invent for themselves, and so I say, ‘Go for it.’ Everything in life is temporary but that doesn’t make it less important.”

Your thoughts: How would you answer Dana’s questions?

Cleansing Up on Wall Street

As if I didn’t mistrust investment bankers enough, now I trust them even less. I refer to this story in the New York Times, Companies Try to Build Team Spirit Through Group Juice Cleansing. “Group cleanses, generally one-to-five-day, all-liquid diets with anywhere from a half-dozen to as many as 150 employees taking part, are emerging as one of the latest ways to solidify corporate bonds, on both Seventh Avenue and Wall Street,” they write. “Six-juice-a-day-dieters include employees at Merrill Lynch and the Carlyle Group and, in May, Citigroup began offering (a cleanse) in some of its Manhattan cafeterias.” How is that for good judgment? (Seventh Avenue, the fashion industry, gets a pass because they’re not expected to make sense.)

Why “Cleanse”?

Why do a corporate cleanse? “It was something we could do where we thought, ‘We’re all in this together,’ ” explained a young city business man. My explanation is that movie stars do it; it’s delivered by FedEx in a box with a bow; it’s in the same vein as vile-tasting energy drinks they use; and it gives everybody an excuse to “eat” as a group. (Why not hire a chef and eat food at the table, Italian-style?) But wait! Their insides need cleaning. Gwyneth Paltrow said so.

Make Sense

The voice of reason in the story comes from Joan Salge Blake, PhD, RD, a Boston University associate professor of nutrition. “Your liver and kidneys can handle toxins just fine,” she says. “There’s no science to back up cleansing.” (Can this stuff clean up the soul?) As a diversion, a short-term cleanse might be fun. It certainly is an event. It’s not harmful and it may serve as a tangible symbol of change. But “cleanses” lasting longer than a day or two can lead to muscle breakdown, headaches, irritability and fatigue. (Should anyone handle money in that state?) And cleanse fans note: never “cleanse” with colonic irrigation because it can perforate the bowel and cause a deadly infection.

Your thoughts: Would you take part in  a corporate cleanse?

How I Use Calories on the Menu

Yesterday, at a rest stop in New Jersey, standing in the combined line for Cinnabon, Popeyes and others, waiting to pay for the blueberry-granola-and (un)real yogurt that I always get, I spied a “MiniBon” roll and mentioned that, calorie-wise, it was better than the classic. (The Cinnabon Classic has 880 calories, while the Minibon has 350 calories per roll.)  My daughter and the woman standing ahead of me, both in their 20s and of slim/normal weight, admitted they had no idea of the number of calories they need. Neither one seemed the worse for the lack of information, but I gave them a tiny lesson on calories (and told them never to “diet.”)

Later that night, I read this on the Intuitive Eaters Professionals Group on Linked-In:
“The other day I went to a restaurant for lunch with friends and was surprised to see calorie counts next to each menu item. My friends, both fairly health conscious “normal” eaters, didn’t seem to mind, but did remark on the counts. I was bothered because I found that the counts drew me away from eating intuitively and back to my days, half a lifetime ago, of dieting. I had to force myself not to look at them and then was okay. My question is: Are menu item calorie counts helpful or not? Might they be useful for different populations, i.e., okay for “normal” eaters who want to eat more nutritiously but not so much for anyone who leans toward dis-regulated eating?”

Calories on the Menu

Expect to see calories on the menu in restaurants with 20 or more outlets as part of the Affordable Care Act upheld by the Supreme Court last week. Restaurants and movie theaters must post calorie information on menus, menu boards, and drive through displays, and provide written information about total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber, and protein upon request.

For people like my daughter and the woman in line, the information will be meaningless, but for others, it may be extremely informative or downright disconcerting. As a longtime registered dietitian, intuitive eating practitioner, and former dieter over thirty years ago, I think a “calorie information free menu” should be available to anyone upon request, no questions asked. (Heaven forbid the Affordable Care Act returns to the Supreme Court for alleged “actual harm” coming from calories on the menu!) Anyway, I live in New York City where calories have been on the menu since 2008. Real-world studies show that, as a public health intervention, it has only a modest reduction or no effect in the calories purchased by customers. In time, the issue could be a moot point.

For what it’s worth, this is what I told my daughter and the woman in line about how I approach calories on the menu:

  • Women need about 2,000 calories a day and men need around 2,400.*
  • When the calorie count is high – say greater than 20% of the daily total or 400 calories – look askance
  • Decide if the extra calories are from too much wholesome food or from “empty calories” full of added sugar and/or animal fats but with negligible nutrients.
  • For wholesome food, I split the serving with my companion or carry away half, and for empty calories, I decide if I love it enough and have to have it right then. (Luckily, I’m not impulsive.) If yes, then I have it; if no, then I skip it. But if I were to feel guilty or otherwise, awful, I’d ask why and think of it as a growth opportunity.

Righteous indignation seems to fuels me. You can’t get me to eat most of the crap sold in American chain restaurants. I don’t value filling my body with junkie food. I am attracted to fresh food well prepared, mostly by me. Usually, I’m sated at don’t care about dessert. If I really want dessert, then I eat it only a little at the meal.

Your thoughts: What do you think about calories on the menu?

*To find your calorie requirements, use this chart from the government or use a calculator fromany one of the online diet websites.

Are You An Intuitive Eater? Take the Test

I am finishing up my presentation for the Women’s Health and Fitness Expo on Saturday in Kingston, NY. Lucky me! I get to go to Rhinebeck, a place where fairies flower-bounce in the glade. (Ahem, back to work.) I’ll be speaking on behalf of Diets In Review, discussing intuitive eating, the only weight loss method that makes any sense to me. I’ll be using a scale (questions – not a device for measuring weight) to portray the mindset of an intuitive eater vs. a traditional dieter. Take a look and see.

This Intuitive Eating Scale has pretty good questions, but it is by no means the only test in town. I’m not even using it correctly, insofar as it is meant to be a Likert-type scale (rate your answers from strongly disagree to strongly agree), not a True or False test. But, the way I see it, all incorrect answers call for some soul-searching. Like many research tools, this scale has been validated for Caucasian, middle-class, healthy, normal weight college students. Still, the level of agreement is highest for non-dieters (individuals at peace with food).

Take the Test
The correct answer is always “yes” except when (R) is present, when the correct answer is “no.”

  1. Without really trying, I naturally select the right types and amounts of food to be healthy.
  2. I generally count calories before deciding if something is OK to eat. (R)
  3. One of my main reasons for exercising is to manage my weight. (R)
  4. I seldom eat unless I notice that I am physically hungry.
  5. I am hopeful that I will someday find a new diet that will actually work for me. (R)
  6. The health and strength of my body is more important to me than how much I weigh.
  7. I often turn to food when I feel sad, anxious, lonely, or stressed out. (R)
  8. There are certain foods that I really like, but I try to avoid them so that I won’t gain weight. (R)
  9. I am often frustrated with my body size and wish that I could control it better. (R)
  10. I consciously try to eat whatever kind of food I think will satisfy my hunger the best.
  11. I am afraid to be around some foods because I don’t want to be tempted to indulge myself. (R)
  12. I am happy with my body even if it isn’t very good looking.
  13. I normally eat slowly and pay attention to how physically satisfying my food is.
  14. I am often either on a diet or seriously considering going on a diet. (R)
  15. I usually feel like a failure when I eat more than I should. (R)
  16. After eating, I often realize that I am fuller than I would like to be. (R)
  17. I often feel physically weak and hungry because I am dieting to control my weight. (R)
  18. I often put off buying clothes, participating in fun activities, or going on vacations (hoping I can get thinner first). (R)
  19. When I feel especially good or happy, I like to celebrate by eating. (R)
  20. I often find myself looking for something to eat or making plans to eat—even when I am not really hungry. (R)
  21. I feel pressure from those around me to control my weight or watch what I eat. (R)
  22. I worry more about how fattening a food might be, rather than how nutritious it might be. (R)
  23. It’s hard to resist eating something good if it is around me, even if I’m not very hungry. (R)
  24. On social occasions, I feel pressure to eat the way those around me are eating—even if I am not hungry. (R)
  25. I honestly don’t care how much I weigh, as long as I’m physically fit, healthy, and can do the things I want.
  26. I feel safest if I have a diet plan, or diet menu, to guide my eating. (R)
  27. I mostly exercise because of how good it makes me feel physically.

Your thoughts: How did you do? What do you think of the questions?