Eating Lately

I love talking about food.  It’s a good thing too because I spend a large portion of each week doing so.  I didn't always talk or feel so positive about food, but now that I do, I hope it's contagious - focusing on positivity, enjoyment and satisfaction.  In our current nutrition culture it’s easy to equate healthy eating with restrictive eating.  However, healthy eating is actually flexible and inclusive of a wide variety of foods.  I talk about fruit and veggies and ice cream and peanut butter and tacos and chocolate and lots more.  While we can all acknowledge not all foods are nutritionally equal, you would do well to aim for experiencing the same emotional reaction no matter what you choose to eat. You don’t hit yourself over the head for eating cake and pat yourself on the back for eating carrots (the latter of which is equally as damaging to a healthy relationship with food).  It’s just food.  It’s easy for food to be talked about in a way that feels negative and preoccupying, but I hope to change that in my little corner of influence.  No numbers or macros or calories or grams or good or bad…just what I like.  You don’t have to like what I like, but I hope you’ll join the discussion here and practice talking about food in a positive and supportive way.  

There’s a few foods I’ve been eating lately that I wanted to share.  BTW, Nina Mills of What’s For Eats - my Australian friend and fellow dietitian - really nailed it in a recent blog post.  She explains so well why I choose to post, blog and talk about food. So here goes the first installment of Eating Lately.  

First, I’m really loving this:

Now, you gotta hear me out.  I MUCH prefer peanut butter to peanut butter powder most of the time and I’m not using this because I’m afraid of fat or because it’s high in protein.  I also think my life would be very sad if I reconstituted this with water and pretended it was peanut butter.  But I picked this up the other day when I saw it at Costco because it reminded me of when I used to buy peanut flour from Trader Joe’s (before they discontinued it) and stirred it into Greek yogurt.  Seriously yum.  I’ve been having that mixture for breakfast or a snack or lunch with fruit and cereal.  

This cereal to be exact:

Which brings me to another favorite.  This is a new (to me) cereal and I feel like it’s the perfect amount of sweetness and crunchiness.  I bought it about the same time as the powdered PB.  My kids are scared off by all the health washing on the front of the package which is fine.  More for me.   

It’s officially in the 90’s here in Southern Utah which means we are in popsicle season.  I’ve made a lot of different combos over the years but this one was by far my favorite to date:

Pineapple + banana.  I had pineapple in the fridge that we weren’t eating fast enough along with really overripe bananas on the counter.  I feel like popsicles are the best way to decrease food waste when fruit is on it’s way out.  So I just blended them up together and poured them in molds and I must recreate soon.  You know, for the kids.  

Real talk:  I do not like hummus.  The traditional kind anyway.  But I do love flavored hummus, particularly HOPE brand and all their creative flavors.  I can get (and have gotten) them at other grocery stores but they are a little pricey.  FINALLY, Costco restocked this brand.  Previously they carried the Spicy Avocado which I was obsessed with (and so was my husband).  But then they quit carrying it until last week when I turned the corner and saw…

You guys.  If you like curry, you will love this.  I’m thinking I might use it as a marinade for chicken or tofu, or even just thin it out with some sort of liquid and use it as a sauce for a curry dish (like with rice and veggies and some sort of protein).  Well done HOPE!  

I have a new favorite bread, which makes me kind of uncomfortable to say because I’ve been eating Dave’s Killer Bread for so long and it feels a little wrong.  But I gotta be honest.  Many thanks to my sister in law for the heads up on this very delicious and soft (yes, softer and lighter than DKB but still hearty and filling) bread found at Costco.  Thanks again, Costco!  

I’m really loving that school is almost out which means I only have about 2 more weeks  of making lunches.  At this point I am just throwing stuff in lunch boxes.  Summer, I’m ready for you.  

Lastly, I go through A LOT of dark chocolate each week.  I had a friend recently restock my supply after a trip to Trader Joe’s.  This wasn’t on my wish list but I’m glad she knows me well enough to grab it.    


What are you eating and loving lately?  I wanna hear!  Leave me a note below.  Happy eating!  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Hope and Patience Go Together

So many individuals I work with express feelings of hopelessness. I think that's why this message from Carolyn Costin stuck out to me so much when I listened to her speak via the EDRDpro Symposium.  I immediately thought of Brene Brown and how she teaches us that hope is not an emotion, it's a thought process. We can work to cultivate hope as a way of thinking and coping. 

We live in a time where we are led to believe that everything should be convenient, fun and easy. That's actually the opposite of what cultivates hope, and actually causes hopelessness. When things take time (which they will if they are worthwhile) we blame ourselves for just not being good at it, since we are taught that we should get what we want when we are want it and results should happen fast. We feel powerless and lack belief that we can truly get where we want to go.  That's not to say that pursuing things that are worthwhile can't also feel fun and even easy, but more often than not it will require perseverance and determination.  

So it's just so well said to say that patience and hope to together. I can totally attest to that, and I bet you can too. I think about having a baby, infertility treatments, two adoptions, recovering from an eating disorder, owning and growing a business, continuing to learn and grow as a professional, aiming to be more and more effective as a mother...gosh I could go on and on.  All of these things are really important to me and have without a doubt required so much patience with myself, the situation and the process.  I could only have patience because I chose to hope that it could get better. So often it has been a conscious choice when I could have easily chosen to succumb to feelings of inferiority, doubt, discouragement and hopelessness.  And sometimes, actually a lot of times, I did. But then somewhere and somehow I mustered up the courage to dare to hope again. Hope seemed to feel stronger each time I picked myself back up.  

So I guess what I'm hoping you get from this is: recovering from disordered eating or negative body image is really worthwhile, but it won't happen fast or easy and it most likely will not be fun.  That doesn't mean you are bad at it or aren't doing it right. It means that if you hope for something better, patience is necessary.  I see hope manifested in clients by choosing to eat the next meal, unfollowing triggering feeds on social media, buying new clothes that feel comfortable, avoiding body checking, respecting their body cues over external rules, numbers or diets, practicing self-compassion, etc.  It’s meeting yourself where you’re at and letting it be OK.  It’s one foot in front of the other, one step forward, focus on just the next thing.  That IS hope.  

I am NOT naturally patient. If you ask me what I struggle with the most I would unequivocally tell you PATIENCE. Gah, it's the thorn in my flesh. It's my weakest of weaknesses. But the things I've hoped for - food freedom and having children particularly - have been the most meaningful and humbling experiences. I've had to be patient because I've had no other choice. I see the wisdom in it. The fact that recovery didn't just happen without a lot of work on my part or that I couldn't just have what I wanted when I wanted it, allowed me to cultivate patience and hope.  

Recovering from an eating disorder - or any of the other hard things I’ve done - didn’t change me.  It was the PROCESS of recovering from an eating disorder that changed me.  We want things to go away, but honestly what my eating disorder taught me was that life will always include struggle.  I’m sure I have struggles ahead and lots of lesson to still learn, but I really wonder if the hardest one is behind me.  Recovery taught me how to face struggles instead of running from them (using ED behaviors to numb and distract).  It’s really been a gift, although I wouldn’t have said that when I was in the middle of it.  But it made me more resilient and brave and I know it will for you too.  

Next time you feel hopeless, I hope you’ll be patient with yourself.  Let yourself feel hopeless - cry it out, write it down, tell someone about it - and trust that this is part of the process.  Bad days will pass, things will get better and YOU have the power to make it so.  Remember - hope and patience go together.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Making Peace With Food - Remember to be Systematic and Reasonable

A little while ago I wrote a blogpost about How Eating Sugar Made Me Healthier.  It’s totally true!  The interesting thing is that eating sugar was relatively easy for me compared to challenging myself to add dairy back to my meals and snacks.  That was HARD.  Really. Hard.  It took me a long time.  I would add it in and then freak myself out and then take a break for awhile and try again and again and again and again. 

The food rules around dairy were super deep for whatever reason.  I also think it took my digestive tract time to get used to it again.  But optimal digestive function, with a diverse and well populated gut flora, is dependent on inclusion of a wide variety of food.  I knew if my meals could be more balanced and flexible (including all foods and food groups) that I would feel better.  I knew I needed to challenge ALL foods rules and make peace with ALL foods.  But at the time dairy in particular created so so so much anxiety for me.  Life felt so out of control whenever I ate dairy and then everything felt manageable if I didn’t.  I’m not being dramatic - that’s Orthorexia.  

The subject of this blog isn’t dairy per se though, it’s actually the fact that recovery takes time. Anyone who is hoping to make peace with food needs to have realistic expectations.  While you might have a few breakthroughs or specific turning points, it really happens one meal and one day at a time.  To truly overcome food rules, build a more positive body image and inoculate yourself against diet culture, you’ve got to trust the process.  Part of that process is time and you can’t speed up recovery and cheat yourself of the time you’ll need to truly make peace with food and yourself.

It’s common for people to push themselves to tackle challenges they aren’t ready for.  This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t challenge yourself, but you’ll want to make sure you are meeting yourself where you are with patience and self-compassion.  There might be days or weeks that you feel capable of more and then others where you need to take a rest.  The only thing that matters is your trajectory and the way your facing.  Keep your face toward recovery but make sure you aren’t being overly critical of yourself.  There’s a point where this process becomes counterproductive if you are pushing yourself into things you aren’t ready for.  

For example, I disagree with the idea of surrounding yourself with all the foods that feel scary or overwhelming as a way to make peace with them.  Most people find they just spend 3-4 days bingeing and overeating and then feel the need to put themselves back on a diet.  You don't start there.  All it does is reinforce the beliefs about food and your lack of self-trust.  

Or maybe you are like I was and have a specific food or food group you’ve been restricting for awhile.  There were a lot of foods I tackled before I even felt ready to think about dairy.  Going straight to *that* food will cause a level of anxiety where you can’t feel, hear, see or think about anything else.  

Instead we want to be systematic and reasonable about how we approach recovery, ideally creating an environment where you are more likely to have positive experiences with food.  If you struggle with trust and self-moderation with food, it’s likely that your all-or-nothing mindset effects all food, not just the "avalanche foods" or those which are particularly triggering.  Start with the foods that feel less scary.  Increase the window of tolerance for what you consider rigid or chaotic behaviors.  Depending on your level of restriction or chaos, we may need to redefine that over and over again as you progress to including a wider variety of foods without guilt.  

That’s difficult to do on your own so I would also like to take this opportunity and speak to anyone who will be working with me.  I would want you fully prepared for the fact that learning how to eat intuitively, overcome food anxiety or disordered eating behaviors and accept and respect your body is a process that takes time.  You’ll do well to commit to that process, letting me help you process emotions and situations that are bound to come up.  There is no where you need to be in that process except where you are, especially when considering making an appointment or keeping follow up appointments.  Instead of feeling like you haven’t made progress, remember to be realistic about what progress to expect.  It’s hard to do this on your own, but no matter how you do it, be sure to patient with yourself.

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD 

Self-Talk: How To Make It Work For You Instead Of Against You

Last week my husband sent me the best article.  It’s about self-talk, particularly for athletes, (this is where our worlds meet) and there was SO much good stuff that could be applied to so many situations.  Because I work on self-talk so much with clients around food and body image, I just knew I had to share.

The article is here:  Positive Self Talk for Your Athletes

Is starts by defining what self-talk is by quoting The Mayo Clinic:

the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head… [that] can be positive or negative.

It’s important to note that self-talk is always happening.  Since it’s endless and always present, channeling energy into making it consistently positive is a really good idea.  I find that a critical mindset is a very common characteristic among those struggling with food or body image.  Reframing self-talk clears up mental space for more flexible thinking.  In short, to change behaviors, to feel less distressed about food and body image, and to learn how to best support yourself in recovery, I think you'll benefit from the following tips on self-talk.    

Negative vs Positive Self-Talk

Negative vs Positive Self-Talk

I’ve blogged previously about self-talk, specifically on positive affirmations.  That is actually one of my favorite blog posts and one I share most often.  An excerpt below:

The key here is to make sure you can confidently affirm a truth, meaning you have to actually believe it.  It needs to feel true to you.  To affirm that you “do not binge on cookies” will not feel true because you have, in fact, binged on cookies.  That affirmation is neither true or authentic and will only trigger more shame and feelings of failure.  Instead, something like “I am learning to trust myself with food” or “I am learning how to listen to my body and meet my needs” or “I am learning how to connect with my intuitive signals” may feel more true and effective.  Other examples may include “I am learning how to respect my body shape and size”, “I am learning how to include foods I find satisfying and enjoyable”, “I am learning how to overcome past food rules”, etc.

I share this because I learned something new about positive affirmations from this article on self-talk.  Research has shown that using “you” or your own name is more effective than using ‘I”.  For example, “I am learning how to listen to my body and meet my needs” may be more effective if you think or say “Emily, you are just learning how to listen to your body and meet your needs”.  The theory is that you are distancing yourself from the situation, almost acting like a coach or therapist for yourself.  This gives you practice at supporting yourself through difficult situations.  Maybe some other ideas include:

  • “Emily, you are more than a body.” 
  • “Emily, you can do this. Just focus on this one meal, taking one bite at a time.” 
  • “I know this is hard, Emily, but you can do this.”
  • “Take a deep breath, everything is going to be OK.” 
  • "Emily, you're doing the best you can and that's always good enough."

Note that all these statements are positive.  You want to keep them productive (what you should do) rather than critical or negative (what you shouldn’t do).  For example, instead of “Emily, don’t binge on those cookies” use “Emily, all foods can fit. Listen for signs that you are full and trust yourself to know when you’ve had enough”.   

Having said all that, self-talk is deeply personal.  What resonates with you may be different for someone else.  The key here is practice.  This article points out the importance of practicing self-talk ahead of time.  If you have an event coming up where you know food anxiety might be high (maybe a holiday or a meal at a restaurant or a family gathering where there is a lot of diet talk, etc), you should visualize how you want it to go. Talk yourself through possible scenarios and how you might respond, particularly how you would like to navigate the food.  Over time this might become more second-nature and less worrisome, but if there are a lot of fears around food, visualization and practicing self-talk will allow you to decrease anxiety, making the event more enjoyable and making the next time easier.  

Let’s say you are aiming for more variety and flexibility with food and want to challenge yourself by adding some fear foods.  Before you ever attempt it, you’ve gotta build up positive self-talk to get yourself through it.  Otherwise, the anxiety will likely be too much and will easily send you back to restriction (as a way to control the anxiety).  Meet yourself where you are with compassionate, positive self-talk.

Let's say you had a food experience that has left you really judgmental.  You might be feeling like a failure or frustrated that you made a mistake or maybe even feeling guilty.  When we judge ourselves (and engage in negative self-talk), we leave no room to learn from the experience.  Instead, if we can be curious about the experience instead of judgmental, we leave room for inspiration and creativity for how to best solve our problem.  Positive self-talk gives us the opportunity to learn and grow from experiences instead of feeling like we are defined by them.  

I could talk about this all day.  I love this idea of changing our internal dialogue as the way to change our relationship with food.  That's the exact process.  We can't get where we want to go without learning how to support ourselves.  Compassionate, positive self-talk and affirmations teach us how to show up for ourselves and cheer ourselves on.  It's necessary and non-negotiable for recovery.

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Inflammation or Under Eating?

I’m going to start with a story.

My oldest son, age 11, and I like to go play Pickleball on Saturday mornings whenever possible.  We are pretty competitive and I expend a lot of energy trash talking (haha). He practices all his tricky tennis skills on me, so it keeps me running and jumping.  Love it.  A few Saturdays ago we headed out a little later than usual.  I had some grapes before we left and then the whole family met us at the park to play after.  When we got home I went straight to an early lunch.  I taught a class in the early afternoon and I underestimated how hungry I would be after class and didn’t pack a snack.  I went straight home and grabbed lunch #2, but by that time my blood sugar had dropped lower than I would have liked.  

This doesn’t happen often nowadays since I make it a regular practice to eat consistently, regularly and adequately.  But sometimes it sneaks up on me and - just like clockwork - within a couple hours I will see an acne breakout, usually on my chin.  

I’ve had acne since I was a teenager.  It’s better now but every once in awhile I’ll get a breakout, particularly one or two cystic acne on my chin.  Historically I have blamed it on food - chocolate, dairy, sugar, blah, blah, blah.  

But in the past few years I’ve figured out the real trigger - eating too little or going too long without eating.  So what I used to attribute to a food group or a food ingredient, I now realize is a result of under eating.  I share to hopefully give you permission to make EATING your solution.  If you have physical symptoms that you attribute to food, it may be the behavior around food or inconsistent eating patterns rather than the food itself.  

This post on Metabolism will help explain the importance of eating to support metabolic function.

One of the reasons I blog is so you can learn from my mistakes.  The particular point I would like to make here is that chasing “inflammation” kept me stuck in very disordered eating.  While I’m sure there is room to talk about inflammation in some circles and some conversations, it's concerning that it's used so regularly.  It’s usually accompanied with a list of foods to avoid and if your experience is anything like mine, it’s easy to keep eliminating foods until you’ve got nothing left to eat.  

I truly attributed my worrisome physical symptoms to inflammation rather than seeing it for what it was: under eating and a huge lack of variety, flexibility and balance.  Not to mention that under eating itself causes inflammation.  So I’m telling you what I wish someone would have unequivocally told me:  you will feel better when you eat consistently, regularly and adequately while NOT EXCLUDING any foods or food groups.  Whenever I did hear anything close to that, there was always this disclaimer along the lines of “but of course there may be some foods that you can’t tolerate so listen to your body…”.  And then all the fear came rushing back.

I get why, I’ve done it.  We want to be sensitive and inclusive and evidenced based and legitimate.  We also want to recognize that everyone’s food preferences are different, and each of us have foods or patterns of eating we favor and gravitate to for various reasons (that's Intuitive Eating).  But orthorexia made me hyperaware to all physical symptoms and I just wanted someone to validate what I felt…that I needed to quit overthinking and make peace with ALL foods.  

So if you need what I felt like I needed, let me be clear: there was nothing I couldn’t tolerate. I made it up.  All of it.  It was totally psychosomatic.  I get there may be people with different stories than mine (it’s likely less then we assume).  But for those who’s stories are like mine, trust the feeling you have that food freedom means freedom with ALL food.  

I’ve got to make this point while we are at it: we are human and susceptible to aches and pains.  I’m a mom of 3 busy kids, a business owner, I volunteer in a demanding church calling, I’m HOA president, I’m the chair for our local United For Adoption chapter and I have various hobbies and interests I like to keep up with. Not complaining, I’ve chosen all of it (well except for HOA President, my husband volunteered me for that).  I’m sure you have a lot on your plate too - we all do. That means that we’ll have some days where we’re more tired or we might get a headache every once in a while or your tummy might feel sensitive…it’s called being human and manipulating food isn’t your (or my) answer.  I am, however, an advocate for saying “no”, taking breaks and getting rest when you feel like you need it.  

I do feel WAY better practicing the principles of Intuitive Eating than I ever did micromanaging my food choices.  I had this sneaky suspicion all along that enjoying food without judging it was my solution.  Turns out I was right.  I do have clearer skin, I do sleep better, I do feel calmer and my digestion is WAY better to name a few.  I can’t emphasize enough how much better I feel by not eliminating, overthinking, overanalyzing or second-guessing food.  I’m not promising perfect health (nor should you expect it ever) but I am promising you the ability to self-moderate without rules so you can consistently feel your best.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Cheezy Walnut Sauce

This. Sauce.  I love it so much.  I make it every week; it's always in my fridge.  I realized that I have never shared it and it's just too good not to share.  

It's actually adapted from this recipe but over the past few years I've I swapped some stuff, changed amounts and omitted ingredients.  If you've never tried nutritional yeast, this recipe is the perfect way to introduce yourself.  The first time I tried it I was definitely looked and smelled like fish food.  But it has the most amazing - almost cheesy - flavor.  I learned last year from Food & Nutrition Magazine that Nutritional Yeast creates umami, which is probably the best description of it's flavor profile.  

While we're at it, I'll share my love for walnuts.  If you asked me my favorite food, walnuts might be it.  Or cheesecake, but that's not a part of this recipe.  I guess peanut butter and chocolate are up there too.  Whatever, I really love them.  I buy a 3 lb bag every month from Costco and I'm the only one who eats them in our house.  I store them in the freezer which makes them super crisp. You could use cashews in this recipe (after all, that's what the original recipe asked for) but I think walnuts make it much richer.  

So here goes:

Cheezy Walnut Sauce

1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/3 cup (rounded) nutritional yeast (I use a little less than 1/2 cup and a little more than 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 cup almond milk (or other liquid)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
juice of 1/2 lemon 

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Store in airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.  

I use this as a pasta sauce, a vegetable dip, salad dressing, in rice bowls or potatoes, etc.  You'll probably just want to put it on everything.

Leftover baked potato with crumbled extra firm tofu, carrots, bell pepper and celery, green onion and crunchy chow mein noodles with a side of coloring. #momlife 

Leftover baked potato with crumbled extra firm tofu, carrots, bell pepper and celery, green onion and crunchy chow mein noodles with a side of coloring. #momlife 

I hope you love it!

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD 

Kind, Necessary and True - An Application to Body Image

I have an 11 year old son. It's becoming increasingly clear that we have entered a whole new phase of hormones and emotions and girls and attitude. Ready or not, here we go.

Lately he's been saying something that has me thinking. I do that a lot - thinking that is (because he says a lot of things that I need to think about) - especially about how to best respond. 

He will call his little brother a name, or say something insensitive and disrespectful to my husband or I, or will fight and fight and fight against a rule or a decision if he disagrees or thinks it's unfair. (If i hear "it's not fair!" one more time...) 

Then when discipline happens or we get after him for saying something we feel is offensive, he responds with something like "but it's how I feel. You can't get mad at me for telling you how I feel. I can say anything because it's how I feel."


Well, kind of right. We support him expressing himself. I would never want him to be dishonest or unauthentic or to avoid emotional awareness. 

But he doesn't get to say anything he thinks without any concern for how it may effect another person. He does get to practice, in a safe and forgiving environment, how to effectively express himself without offending or belittling.  He can learn how to be bold and brave and passionate while also being sensitive and compassionate and understanding.

We've asked him to filter his comments through three questions - Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true? If it can't walk through all 3 doors, it doesn't need to be said. But the best part is that it's always possible to reframe his comment to meet those requirements, still allowing him to talk with us and express himself. 

(Of note: he is such a great kid. He has so many great qualities and talents and I am super proud of him. He's also 11, and his brain is still developing :) Also, I didn't make up those three questions. My parents taught me that and they may or may not have heard it elsewhere too.) 

What's my point? Well, if you want to apply this to politics, feel free :) (it's as political as you'll see me get, but Oh. My. Goodness.) 

But really, I just love the idea of only speaking things that are kind, necessary and true.  It's been on the forefront of my mind and ended up being a great solution for a client's body image issue in a recent session.  

We ran all her usual thoughts through those 3 requirements and none made the cut.  

Kind:  A good rule of thumb is to not say anything to yourself you wouldn’t say to a friend, your son or daughter, your mother, etc.  A lot of things will change for you if you set a strict boundary against saying mean things to yourself about yourself.  This includes how you look.  That doesn’t mean you need to push away or ignore negative body image thoughts.  In fact, I encourage you to make room for them.  But I would also recommend that you to match them with a positive thought and put them in perspective.  Here are two past articles that explain what I mean:

Cultivating Gratitude For Your Body
How To Put Body Image In Perspective 

Necessary:  You might think that a critical mindset about your body is effective and motivating.  However, you don’t want to take care of something you hate.  I would absolutely encourage you to try embracing, accepting and respecting YOUR body and just watch the entire way you behave around food and exercise change in a positive way.  It’s incredible!  I get that cultivating respect and acceptance is easier said than done.  However, avoiding unnecessary negative commentary will surely make it easier.  This will include speaking about yourself and your body in a more positive way to yourself and others.  It also most definitely includes how you speak about other people’s bodies.  And then, as always, the type of media you watch, read or listen to.  Are you surrounding yourself with body positive messages or is a social media detox necessary?  

True:  Did you know that Oxford Dictionaries has voted the word “post-truth” as their word of the year for 2017?  They do this yearly and past years have been words like “selfie” and “emoji”.  Post-truth is defined as “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”  Casper Grathwohl, the president of Oxford Dictionaries has said, “It’s not surprising that our choice reflects a year dominated by highly-charged political and social discourse.  Fueled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time.”

If you’re not careful, you can be influenced to embrace post-truth as absolute truth.  We are constantly bombarded with messages, including messages about beauty.  I encourage you to really evaluate what beautiful is to you.  Society has tried to set certain standards of beauty and it’s easy to believe they are true.  Is weight really a predictor of health?  No.  Is it necessary to be thin and/or muscular to be beautiful?  No.  Do you need to be on a diet or overthink food in order to be taking care of yourself?  No.  Be careful what you embrace as truth.  

We have really benefited by practicing only saying things that are kind, necessary and true.  It’s been really powerful to realize that we can absolutely still express ourselves but in a way that honors our values and respects others.  I hope you find this application to body image helpful and effective.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Unconditional Permission To Eat

I talk a lot about giving yourself unconditional permission to eat.  I believe strongly in that principle for food freedom and absolutely believe that TRUE unconditional permission to eat naturally brings unconditional permission to stop eating.  I add the disclaimer of “true” to clarify the importance of not beating yourself up about eating - enjoying or truly having it whenever you want it without conditions on why, how, where, when or what.  If you do that, you’ll surprise yourself with your natural ability to self-regulate and ability to “take or leave it” depending on how you feel.  

When talking about unconditional permission to eat, I find that most clients usually jump straight to ice cream or fried foods or chocolate or chips or other foods they regularly overeat or feel guilty about eating.  “Fear foods” if you will.  They can easily feel too overwhelmed to even consider it (which is likely due to that all-or-nothing mentality).  While I certainly encourage unconditional permission to eat those too, I don’t know if that’s the best place to start.  I say that realizing that everyone’s journey to, and experience with, Intuitive Eating is different and it definitely isn’t a linear process.  

What I would encourage you to think about is what judgements and diet rules you have that involve...more nutritious foods.  I don’t wish to encourage any “good vs bad” dialogue with that distinction, but I don’t think it’s helpful to ignore the fact that some foods are more nutrient dense than others.  All foods have nutrition and will be beneficial in their own way and the best way to assess nutritional adequacy is with flexibility, variety and overall food patterns.  In essence, we want to balance our need for nourishment with our need for satisfaction.  The real goal is not to see all foods as nutritionally equal (that's avoiding reality) but to have the same emotional reaction no matter what you eat, because you trust your body and your own ability to self-moderate between all foods.  I talk more about that here:  Is There a Downside to Clean Eating? 

But instead of feeling overwhelmed by jumping straight to desserts and snacks, maybe you assess your variety from each food group.  You may be eating carbohydrates but only sweet potatoes and brown rice, never white potatoes, white rice or white pasta.  Or maybe you eat dairy but only yogurt never cheese.  Maybe you eat fruit but only berries, not bananas.  Or maybe you eat all those things, but you feel guilty when doing so (and therefore aren’t giving yourself true unconditional permission to eat). 

So maybe were you start is including a greater variety of foods from each food group.  At times (depends on the client) I find it helpful to give the recommendation to build balanced meals (a carbohydrate, a protein, a fat and a fruit/vegetable).  ANYTHING can be included as a carbohydrate, protein, fat or fruit or vegetable.  This provides a framework and structure for them to build flexibility.  It allows them to get creative with food and possibly try new recipes (or old ones they have avoided because of fear). It allows more options to feel less anxious about eating out or making family meals that everyone will enjoy and be able to eat.  For some it’s helpful to think less about the food and more about variety and satisfaction, which is a great way to work on the very intimidating principle of unconditional permission to eat.  It's also great practice to include food groups that have been avoided (carbs and fats usually).  It’s a good first step to re-learn how to build meals without fear.  

No food is off limits.  The avocado or cheese or potatoes or rice or peanut butter or bread or brown sugar in your oatmeal or maple syrup on your pancakes…or anything else that diet culture has taught you to fear.  I’ve blogged about this in the past when discussing my food philosophy which I encourage you to read about here:

Real Food, Real Life

One of my favorite things to help clients do is to brainstorm really flavorful, creative meal and snack ideas.  I like to get them excited about food, which has felt scary or boring or frustrating or confusing.  It’s usually hard for them to give themselves permission to feel satisfied, and I appreciate them trusting my permission as a bridge to them being able to do it for themselves.

Just so we are clear - I truly believe in making peace with all foods as away to food freedom and to put you back in charge of your own food choices without being micromanaged by rules.  I also believe in taking this process a step at a time.  Believing you have to make peace with all foods right now could feel really overwhelming.  I would start with one food or food group that you want to challenge.  Add it to one meal or snack a day and once you feel more comfortable, move on to the next.  I think you’ll find that some of those scarier foods feel less intimidating as you start to see that food is available to nourish and satisfy you, not to hurt you.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

How To Put Body Image In Perspective

A few summers ago, I did not get in a swimsuit even once.  I was struggling with really bad body image (and really deep in orthorexia).  A year passed and by the following summer I had done a lot of work on recovery from food and body issues.  I wouldn’t say I was super excited about it, but I made a commitment to myself to not miss out on another summer of swimming with my kids.  I remember coming out of my room dressed for the pool and seeing my kids’ faces.  They were stunned and excited and totally overjoyed.  My heart almost burst with so many different emotions. That was the day I learned a super important lesson that I hope to share with you.  

It’s probably not a realistic goal to try to get to a place where you never think negative things about your body.  It’s likely that you will struggle to a certain extent at some point with poor body image.  It could be acute or chronic, subtle or severe and it will probably come and go, but you should expect it.  The key is - and this is what I learned that summer day - is to keep it in perspective.

When negative body image feels overwhelming and suffocating, it’s probably because you believe appearance to be most important.  The best way to decrease the intensity of negative body image is to find, cultivate and pursue more meaningful endeavors.  In my example above, spending time with my kids and making memories with them is really important to me. The more I connected with what I valued, what I looked like became less important.  In essence, I became more worried about living a meaningful life than what I looked like doing it.  

This isn’t unique to me.  This is how it works for everyone.  I have no problem making that generalization because it’s true.  The hardest part is taking that first step: moving past the fear of being seen as you are…authentic, human and perfectly imperfect.  

So what you need to do is find someway to decrease the importance of body image and increase the importance of other and more meaningful things.  There are lots of ways to do this and are always unique to the individual.  You may not resonate with my experience shared above.  But here’s what I want you to do:

  1. Write down the 3 most important things to you.  For example, mine: family, faith and being true to myself.  
  2. Build your day around these 3 things.  That doesn’t mean you quit your job and spend all day with your family.  But chances are that if negative body image is severe, you may not have time and energy to give to these things.  Using my examples, instead of spending that energy on social media comparisons, body checking, weighing, obsessing or feeling preoccupied, I might practice refocusing my energy on playing with my kids, morning devotionals, and respecting myself by not saying mean things to myself about myself.
  3. Pretty soon body image gets put in perspective and the intensity of difficult emotions decreases.  If you feel them increase, you know that you need to set some boundaries and reconnect with your values.  

One last vital piece of the body image puzzle: it has NOTHING to do with your size, shape or weight.  I had the worst body image of my life when I was at my thinnest and lowest weight.  I see a wide variety of clients and weight has never made a difference in who does or doesn’t struggle with negative body image.  It’s all about perception and where you choose to put your time, attention and energy.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

One Little Word - 2017

I love the idea of setting an intention for the new year with one little word.  I’m sure you’ve heard of it, and last year was the first time I had done it.  I found it super helpful and one word was a really simple reminder that kept me connected to my goals and values.  

For 2016 my word was FOCUS - I knew we had a big year coming up and I wanted to develop razor sharp focus free of distractions and unnecessary stuff.  I set boundaries, got better at saying “no”, delegated responsibilities, asked for help and worked to stay anxiously engaged in things that mattered most.  That was good for me!

I’ve thought a lot about my word for 2017.  I’ve been through a bunch and none of them have felt like they really embody what I hope to cultivate this coming year.  Patience, stillness, attuned, connected…none of them felt right.  Then a dear friend sent me a talk and it was exactly what I needed to read.  So for 2017 my word is LOVE.  

I want to live with heart wide open.  I want to love deeper and more sincerely.  This relates mostly to my family, especially with our recent addition.  I most definitely want my kids to look back at their childhood and remember how much they were loved.  I want them to feel important, more important than something on my to-do list.  I want to let my house get messy because I’m too busy making memories.  I want to take deep breaths and just soak up all the blessings I’ve received instead of thinking of everything that’s supposed to get done.  

I think LOVE perfectly describes what I hope for this year.  I know we will still have responsibilities and jobs and chores, but I’m sure I can do all those things with grace and cheerfulness and positivity.  I’m sure I can find ways to include my kids and other loved ones, making those relationships top priority.  

Lastly, but probably most importantly, I want to feel empowered to resist the temptation to feel like I’m not enough.  I’m admitting a big struggle of mine here.  It’s a real daily commitment to not let those sneaky voices get to me.  You know what I’m talking about - the ones that say you aren’t good enough, that you can’t do it and that you’ll only fail.  I’ve come a long way in making peace with myself and food, but my perfectionistic tendencies still show up quite a bit as a mother.  It’s a hard job - all you moms know that - and I don’t make it any easier by beating myself up.  So no more!  LOVE feels like a good goal.  

This quotes by Sophocles - a Greek playwright - feels just perfect:

While your goals and intentions may be different than mine, I hope that reading this has given you permission to set resolutions that are personal and meaningful.  Too often we set resolutions that aren’t really in line with what we truly want and value, just what we think we should.  I would love to hear what you think about using a word to set an intention for the year, and if you’ve done it, what’s your word?

Happy New Year!

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Orthorexia and Adoption

We recently returned from Seoul, South Korea with a new 2 1/2 year old daughter.  There’s so much to this adoption story, but today I’m sharing what it has to do with my battle with Orthorexia.

We have a biological 11 year old and an adopted 6 year old and while we felt really blessed and happy with two wonderful kids (I would never want it to sound like we were ungrateful!), we’ve always wanted more.  I had decided we would be done and choose to be happy and content with the two little miracles we had.  Infertility issues have prevented us from deciding if and when we have more children but about 2 1/2 years ago, we started feeling like maybe we needed to think about it.  Stars started to align, options started to present themselves and we felt like we might have the resources to pursue a second adoption.  

Christmas Eve 2016 

Christmas Eve 2016 

Except that I was still really struggling with food.  It was so, so difficult for me to admit that I did not feel like I had the physical or emotional energy to take on a baby at that time.  It was a wake up call and it helped me put things in perspective.  It felt like a choice - I could choose to continue fighting food and my body, OR I could choose to have another child.  

We looked at all our options - domestic, international, foster to adopt, etc.  We kept coming back to a Korean adoption for several reasons: my husband had lived in Seoul for 2 years as a church missionary and knew Korean, we had heard excellent things about Korean adoptions, we loved the idea of being able to visit Seoul with our kids and see where Brady had served his mission, and it felt more reliable than a private domestic adoption or foster care.  But ultimately what sealed the deal was that Korean adoptions take 2-3 years on average, which gave me time to heal.  

We decided to wait for a girl, which put estimated wait time closer to 3 years.  We finished our paperwork in fall of 2014 and were matched in summer of 2015, about a year sooner than we had been told.  We got a court date in November of 2016 and were able to go back 5 weeks later in December of 2016 to bring her home.  

On the left is the first picture we saw of her when we were matched over 1 1/2 years ago.  The picture on the right was taken at the hotel right after we had taken custody.  

On the left is the first picture we saw of her when we were matched over 1 1/2 years ago.  The picture on the right was taken at the hotel right after we had taken custody.  

Essentially, our wait time gave me two solid years to work on myself.  I definitely did that.  I started therapy and I started eating.  In fact, I wrote THIS a couple of Novembers ago to celebrate 1 year since committing (shortly after submitting paperwork) to a FULL recovery.   

Also Related

Getting Personal - Physical and Emotional Growth
Supporting Orthorexia Recovery 

Orthorexia was ugly.  While I wanted to recover for ALL my kids (in fact, I talk about that on Food Psych with Christy Harrison), this adoption gave me a timeline.  I worked really hard and it was super overwhelming at times but it was all worth it.

How far I had come really hit me when we finally landed in Las Vegas after a 24 hour travel day from Seoul.  We left the airport about 11:30 pm MST to drive home to Southern Utah and I was so hungry (airline food is nasty, who’s with me!?).  I asked my husband to stop at In-N-Out for a hamburger, which sounded amazing.  We decided to get it to go since we were anxious to make it home.  I was sitting in the back with Y and she and I shared a hamburger and french fries.  THIS is what I had been working towards.  A two year wait, a really debilitating eating disorder, a gruesome recovery, growing to know and love myself, cultivating the emotional and physical resilience to take on a new and demanding challenge, a full week of very little sleep, the anticipation of bringing home our new daughter, a 24 hour travel day with a 2 year old…and here I was sharing a hamburger and fries with her at 11:30 pm on a Friday evening in December.  God took something really painful and turned it into more than I could have ever imagined.  

I had always felt like He would.  As hard as this journey has been, I often felt the undeniable impression that I would do it all over again if I knew what was on the other side.  There was something beautiful waiting for me, I just knew it.  I couldn’t have ever dreamed it would be THIS beautiful.  

I know I’m loved and supported by God.  He’s always had faith in me, even when I have questioned my faith in Him.  I also know that He loves you too.  I owe recovery to Him, and while I respect that everyone’s stories and beliefs are different, I couldn’t have ever done this without Him, nor would I have wanted to.  Just like He did mine, God will make more out of your life than ever could be possible without Him.   

Good things are ahead; way better things than your eating disorder promises you.  I encourage you to fight for peace.  BELIEVE that it will get easier and better and that beautiful things are waiting for you!  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Intuitive Eating Clarifications (spoiler - IE isn't about weight loss and is about respect)

Diet culture is sneaky and seductive.  It lurks everywhere, including in the anti-diet philosophies.  Nowhere is this more true than Intuitive Eating and/or Mindful Eating being used as a weight loss tactic.  

I get it, you want your body to change.  There’s NOTHING wrong with feeling that way, in fact I would validate any desire you have to lose weight or in some way change how your body feels, functions or looks.  

But if you are struggling with disordered eating or body image issues, you gotta know that a diet, food manipulation or weight loss plan will not make this better, and will make it worse.  You cannot use an acceptance strategy as a control strategy.  You cannot use Intuitive Eating as a way manipulate your body.  

What you can do is use the Intuitive Eating principles as a way to let go of food rules and start connecting with your body. You can practice listening to, honoring and respecting what it’s communicating to you as a way to build more confidence and trust.   You can start to feel better - both physically and mentally -  as you support your body processes rather than starving them.

The goal is just that - connection and respect.  It’s NOT manipulation or weight loss.  

It’s not like your desire to lose weight or otherwise change your body is going to go away and you don’t necessarily need it to in order to find peace.  You just want to get really clear on what your priorities and values are - continue to fight your body while staying stuck in disordered eating OR embracing and working with your body to improve your health and wellbeing?  In my experience, for most people, there really are just two choices.  

Lastly, don’t see Intuitive Eating as some sort of destination.  Everyday you get to decide what you’ll commit to - yourself or food rules.  Perhaps that decision will get easier and you’ll gain more confidence, but it’s the process that changes you, not some date in the future where you finally arrive.  

When everyone else is overthinking food and weight, Intuitive Eating can feel a little too good to be true.  It can feel scary and overwhelming too.  Just remember that you’re in charge and you’re choices are yours.  It’s totally time to take back your own freedom, flexibility, trust and confidence.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Intuitive Eating Holiday Survival Guide

I originally planned to do an Intuitive Eating holiday season support course, but as it turns out, we are traveling quite a bit this holiday season and I didn't think it was smart to take on another project. But, I still want to help those who need it in some way, especially since the holidays can feel really anxious for those who struggle with food.  I’m going to paint some broad strokes in this blog post, and hopefully it gets you thinking about how to best support yourself the next few months.  I'm placing extra emphasis on the key points by putting them in all caps.  I'm not yelling at you, just making strong recommendations.  Well except for the first one, I am yelling that.  

Ultimately, the overall objective would be to learn and practice how to avoid the all-or-nothing mindset with food during the holidays and beyond.  In my mind, there are two main principles for doing so:

  1. Enjoy a wide variety of nourishing, satisfying and traditional foods without guilt.  
  2. Make the holidays meaningful and memorable in many ways, not just as they relate to food.  

Let’s elaborate with a few key points about those:

Unconditional permission to eat.  If you have rules and judgments around food (good vs bad), it will likely hinder your innate ability to self-moderate food choices.  

If you know that a diet, restriction or deprivation is around the corner, it will influence how you behave around food.  If January 1st is named the day you’ll start a diet, you’re going to throw all caution to the wind over the holidays.  Might as well enjoy yourself before the suffering begins, right?  SO DON'T MAKE PLANS TO DIET ON JANUARY 1st.  

The good news is that you can enjoy satisfying foods any day of the year, so there is no need to get it all right now.  Eating for the intent to feel satisfied is your key, especially since overeating or under eating are not satisfying (more like uncomfortable or painful).  

That is probably the hardest concept of Intuitive Eating to grasp.  For so long you’ve likely had a system of checks and balances.  In other words, eating has been conditional.  “I can eat that if I run an extra few miles tomorrow”.  “I can have that but only on my cheat day.”  “If I eat that, I can’t eat later.” And so on.

It can feel really rebellious and wrong to allow yourself ice cream for no other reason than it’s a Wednesday afternoon and it sounds good.  The worry is that once you do you’ll lose control.  However, controlling food is actually a false sense of control.  The food is controlling you, not the other way around.  

Which brings us to another point - structure can help you feel a bit more in charge. Perhaps honing in on hunger and fullness levels will give you something to help guide eating patterns. That is not meant to become another rigid diet rule, but it can make the transition from all the rules to no rules much easier.  Try to tune into your body and trust the structure and rhythm it already has.  Our bodies are great at self-moderating if we allow them to.  

I find it helpful to liken this to work and play.  If you were to work all the time, not matter how much you love your work, how would you feel?  Likely burnt out, resentful, exhausted and ready for a break.  If you were to play all the time, how would you feel?  Likely ready for some productivity, organization and a schedule.  We all have experience with knowing what we need in that regard.  It’s a natural ebb and flow and if we are listening to and meeting our needs, we allow ourselves a balance of productivity and rest. 

The same could be said for food.  Depending on the day, different foods can and will be nourishing and satisfying.  That grey area can be uncomfortable, but it allows us to live a much more flexible and nourishing life.  I encourage you to think about what you need and trust that it all balances out.  TRUST THAT YOUR BODY CAN BE TRUSTED.

I do want to make a note that unconditional permission to say yes to food also means unconditional permission to say no.  Instead of being in control, aim to be in charge.  No food is off limits, and because it’s not, it will be waiting for you when you really want it.  

Eating in the absence of physical hunger happens occasionally.  No big deal.  But in general, hunger makes food taste better.  You get a lot more enjoyment out of food if you really need it.  My favorite quote from Intuitive Eating is: "If you don't love it, don't eat it, and if you do love it, savor it."  YOU GET TO OWN YOUR CHOICES.  

Finally, I encourage you to find alternative coping strategies for dealing with holiday stress other than food.  There’s nothing wrong with emotional eating per se, only when it’s our only coping strategy for dealing with difficult emotions.  How can you be proactive in taking care of yourself to avoid crisis mode?  Do you need to set some boundaries with work or relationships?  What about making sleep a priority?  Would it help to make a master list of all you would like to accomplish the next few months and allocate time accordingly, so you aren’t trying to do it all at once?  What will help you wind down at the end of the day or the end of the week?  Do you need to set boundaries for thinking about or talking about food and weight with family and friends? (YES YOU DO)  Putting some thought into this will pay dividends.  AIM TO BE PROACTIVE RATHER THAN REACTIVE.

I wish you the happiest holidays! 

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Protein: Recommended Amounts, Balanced Meals and Challenging Diet Culture and Disordered Eating

We all know how much I love carbohydrates, and I often encourage people to eat more of them.  That’s because diet culture has taught us that carbs are bad and associates them with overeating, weight gain and increased risk for developing chronic diseases like diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and even cancer.  It’s sensationalized propaganda to sell diets and very misleading information. This is especially true when discussing wholesome, unprocessed carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, fruit and starchy vegetables.  But of course, ALL foods can fit when looking at overall food patterns that are nourishing, flexible and satisfying.  

But I’m not here to talk about carbohydrates.  As much as I love them, I always encourage balanced meals and snacks complete with protein and fats too.  Let’s chat protein today, but check out THIS link for more about fat.  

It’s really difficult to be deficient in protein.  Most of us get plenty, but it turns out that protein timing is more important than total amount.  The most amount of protein you are able to effectively use at one time is any where between 20-35 grams (range depending on your own individuals needs and will vary depending on body size, activity level, age, gender, etc).  The body wants to have an amino acid pool in the blood stream at all times from which it can pull what it needs when it needs to (just like it also wants a pool of glucose, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, etc - a good reason to make sure you are eating regularly and consistently).  If protein intake is inadequate at certain times of the day, the body may need to dip into stored protein, meaning lean body mass.  Doing so can also impact bone health, immune system function and hormone production to name a few.  

I typically recommend about .3 grams of protein per kg body weight at least 4 times a day.  This will translate to 15-30 ish grams of protein for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack (or second breakfast or 1st lunch or 2nd dinner, etc…as I like to call it).  In total that means anywhere from 60-120 grams of protein (again range depends on your own individuals needs) per day.  That doesn’t mean you will only need or want to eat 4 times a day, but aim to include an adequate amount of protein at least 4 times.  

There really isn't any reason to get overly worried about numbers (only share to provide perspective).  The take home message is to intentionally include a protein source in your meals/snacks 4 times a day.  So what are some examples of adequate protein sources?  

  • Peanut butter (Since peanuts are actually a legume, they have a bit higher protein content than other nuts and seeds, but any will have some!)
  • Beans/legumes
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Soy Milk
  • Milk (there are some higher protein milks on the market too)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Beef

For help in determining your own protein needs and nutritional balance, I really encourage seeking the help of a (non-diet) Registered Dietitian!

You can be vegan and vegetarian and meet your protein needs just fine.  No worries there.  Unless you are vegan or vegetarian because you feel like you should be for nutritional or weight related reasons.  While no one will dispute the benefits of a plant based diet, those benefits can function independent of your choice to include or not include animal products.  Emphasizing plant based foods is a great idea, unless it gets taken to the extreme and enters disordered behaviors of anxiety, preoccupation, obsession and lack of flexibility.  

I spent about a year as a vegan back in my Orthorexic days.  I feel much better being able to eat anything, probably more because I have full permission to eat anything rather than because I am or am not vegan.  But my point is that my decision was not based on any ethical consideration and only because I was obsessed with perfect eating.  Unfortunately, that mentality runs rampant in the vegan community with everything from no oil to all fruit.  And a lot of it feels really elitist (but that could have just been my own personal insecurities talking given I was all about perfection).  I really, really encourage you to be careful about starting down the rabbit hole of more and more restriction.  It is SUCH a slippery slope.  Any form of food manipulation IS a diet (so all those warning against the dangers of dieting apply here too and any other form of “healthy” eating).  I feel really good about eating all animal products and share for no other reason than to give you full permission to fuel your body in a way that helps you feel holistically (physically, mentally and emotionally) well.  There are lots of ways to do so!

Mainstream dieting tends to be high protein/low carb.  Hopefully the recommendations and discussion here help you see that adequate protein is anything but extreme, and functions best when combined with carbohydrates and fats in balanced meals.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

What Is Body Positivity?

It’s really easy to think that a positive body image means looking in the mirror and liking what you see.  This belief will only limit you, keeping you stuck in the idea that body positivity is related to appearance.  

Instead, body positivity has much more to do with how you care for, respect and connect with your body’s needs while cultivating gratitude for what it can do, or what it can allow you to do.  It’s very likely that your body shape and size will change multiple times throughout your life and if you attach or cling to one certain image, you’ll lack acceptance while feeling powerless and frustrated.

Life is messy.  This is a hard concept to accept for all of us, especially those inclined toward rigidity or all-or-nothing thinking.  We want straight lines and consistent patterns and predictable outcomes.  The thing is that it's not real.  We are holding on to something that doesn't exist.  All we are doing is driving ourselves crazy while missing life.  

I've come to know that life gets so much sweeter and more vibrant and a whole lot more relaxed and fun when I embrace each day, each moment, as it comes.  It's a daily practice for me to slow myself (and my mind) down but I'm always glad I made the effort.  I feel so good when I can look in the mirror at the end of the day and feel like I connected with people and experiences rather than rushing through them to get to the next thing (my default mode).  

A more relaxed approach might feel like you are losing control, but that's just the illusion.  It’s easy to feel like letting go of your quest for a different body shape and size means giving up.  I think you’ll find the opposite is true.  You'll gain a whole lot, including the real you that’s been waiting to start living a full and meaningful life outside of weight or body size preoccupation.

This is especially true if you have disordered eating patterns.  You are fighting food because you are fighting your body.  If you hope to make peace with food, you’ve gotta make peace with your body.

In the culture we live in, we aren’t naturally inclined toward body positivity.  Although we come in all different shapes and sizes (naturally and biologically!), it’s easy to compare yourself to the thin ideal (or muscular ideal these days).  It’s quite possible to live your whole life feeling broken and inferior.  

You could choose to continue chasing diets and food rules until you finally meet your dream weight or body shape.  OR, you could choose to find and embrace your true purpose for living which has nothing to do with the way you look.  This will likely result in you taking care of your body in a way that allows you to live to your full potential, instead of living to get smaller.  Don’t ever feel like you don’t have a choice.  YOU get to decide.  

While cultural influences may shape your expectations for what your body should look like, you hold the final judgment.  We tend to be our own worst critic, being harder on ourselves than we would ever be to others.  While it would be great to completely transform the unrealistic beauty standards that exist in society, a better and more effective goal will be to transform your own expectations of yourself.  

I encourage you to take time to reevaluate the expectations you have for your body.  I subscribe fully to the data we have on set-point theory.  This means your body has a predetermined body shape, size and weight that it feels most comfortable at.  Fighting against it will get you nowhere. The great paradox is that dieting, the method we use to lower our set-point, only works to increase it therefore causing weight gain long-term.

Which brings us to the #1 question regarding body positivity - can you be actively pursuing weight loss and claim body positivity?  Those in the body positive community, including me, would answer with a resounding no.  That doesn't mean I'm anti weight loss, instead it means I'm weight-neutral.  If your body changes as result of you listening, respecting and taking care of it...then there's that (without any judgment of that being good or bad, it just IS).  If it doesn't, it is no less deserving of being listened to, respected and taken care of.  

This is a stance I've taken after very careful consideration of the scientific data we have on dieting and what I've observed in those I've worked with.  It's much too risky to deliberately seek to manipulate your body and casualties often include: disordered eating, food anxiety, depressive symptoms, greater preoccupation with food and body image, lower metabolism, fatigue, digestive issues, disconnection from the body and it's intuitive signals, increased cravings, and an erosion of self-trust and self-efficacy.  

On the other hand, aiming to connect, listen to and respect your body (while putting weight and body shape concerns on the back burner) tend to do the opposite: improvement in eating patterns with a noted decrease in disordered eating symptoms, less cravings, more energy (both physical and mental energy!), less preoccupation with food, a rebound in metabolism, more regular metabolic function (including sleep, digestion, hormonal balance, etc), greater self-trust, resiliency and confidence (with food and otherwise!) and the opportunity for your body to find it's natural weight.  That sounds WAY more body positive to me.  

The good news is that health can be found at your natural weight, no matter what it is, and has much more to do with how you care for your body than what size it is.  The only thing between you and this reality is the idea in your head of how things should be.  

You can live from day to day with less body preoccupation.  It may not be a realistic goal to love, or even like, your body - at least at first.  By deciding to put your time and energy into things you find meaningful, enjoyable and important, you give less time and attention to the size or shape of your body.  

I get it, it’s hard to let go. It feels super overwhelming, but I hope something in this blog post has given you a place to start.  Maybe it’s aiming for body respect and/or weight-neutrality rather than loving or even liking your body?  Perhaps it’s to focus less on appearance and more on how your body is functioning and feeling?  Maybe expressing gratitude for what it can do?  What about practicing more self-compassion and positive self-talk?  

Maybe more practical tips would include decreasing (ideally quitting) body checking, spending less time in front of the mirror, detoxing your media messages, and/or replacing negative thoughts with neutral ones (if positive thoughts feel too hard). Continual small steps forward is how you shift your mindset.  

Body positivity is not appearance based and functions independently from any changes in body shape or size.  It's something essential to cultivate for your own wellbeing and is much more important for improving your health than losing weight or changing your body shape will ever be.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

How To Find Peace With Food and Your Body: A Day At a Time

Making peace with food or finding a more positive (or at least less negative) body image can feel so overwhelming.  SO overwhelming.  It’s completely normal to have no idea where to even start.  If you try to tackle everything at once, it will only increase anxiety to an unmanageable level, leading to paralyzing fear of doing anything. 

I cannot emphasize enough how much of a process this is.  A step by step, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, process.  I strongly encourage you to let yourself only take this a day at a time.  By doing so, you leave tomorrow for tomorrow and you focus only on the next step in front of you.  

When you wake up and begin to think about facing the day ahead, you’ll likely feel a lot of uncertainty, apprehension, fear, anxiety, discouragement, lack of confidence, frustration or any number of emotions. I encourage you to recognize them as activity of the mind rather than anything firmly based in reality.  Your beliefs about yourself, food, your body and other issues will influence how you feel, and may or many not be factual and true.  Take some time to connect to what you can actually see and feel and what you know you to be true.  Ground yourself in being where you are.

I encourage you to think about body positivity and making peace with food as a choice.  It’s not something you will automatically feel, without making the conscious decision TO feel it.  For example, you may be getting dressed for the day with a lot of negative thoughts about your body. Those feelings can keep you from engaging in or connecting with things you find meaningful, fun and rewarding.  Or, you can feel those feelings while still moving toward what you value.  That’s the choice, and the essence of making peace with food and your body.  I think it’s super important to realize that you WILL feel difficult emotions, but it doesn’t mean you have to react to them.  Take it as an opportunity to connect with what you truly value.  

That means you need to know what you value.  What’s most important to you?  I strongly encourage you to take some time to write down all the reasons you want to recover, feel more confident with food or have less anxiety about your body.  What would a peaceful relationship with food and your body look like?  Let yourself take the time to connect with what you hope for.  I think you’ll find that experience to be healing, inspiring and grounding. 

After being motivated by an eating disorder, food rules or fear of weight gain, it will feel awkward at first to quiet your mind and connect with your values. The way to make it easier and more natural is to practice.  By doing so, you’ll start to know what it feels like to make decisions YOU feel good about, the kind that are in line with what YOU value.  You’ll become more self-directed and confident in knowing what brings you peace.  

You’ve got to know where you want to go before you can get there.  When you do know what matters most to you, you can take it a day at at time, allowing yourself space to practice being true to that.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD 

Disordered Eating and Digestive Symptoms

It’s super common for me to work with individuals with digestive issues.  Some may just have a bit of reflux, gas, pain or bloating they find uncomfortable and annoying, while others come with diagnosed Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or some sort of inflammatory bowel disorder like Celiac Disease, Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis.  Because of the clientele I typically work with, the majority come knowing they have some (or a lot) of disordered eating behaviors as well.

In order to give my clients the best care possible, I need to help them understand the association between what they eat and how they feel (digestive issues or otherwise).  However, I also want you to be aware of the line between where effective nutrition interventions end and where food anxiety, preoccupation and unnecessary restrictions begin.  "Healing the gut" is a very popular trend right now, and while I'm not saying it isn't an appropriate goal for some, it can also be a slippery slope into disordered eating for others.  There are SO many diets that are geared toward improving digestive function, and it's easy to jump from one to another when one doesn't work, or isn't as effective as you hope. 

Nutrition is HIGHLY individualized and it’s not realistic to expect that a certain list of dietary rules will apply to everyone.  I find that too many people feel they have to be PERFECT following the diet rules (GAPS, SCD, Paleo, etc) in order to heal, since that's the premise behind the diets’ theories.  If you buy into that, when you don’t follow the diet perfectly you not only experience guilt and frustration, but also paralyzing fear that you will never heal.  You become dependent on the diet and all it’s faulty promises like an abusive boyfriend (or girlfriend) which you are too afraid to leave. 

In addition, disordered eating behaviors themselves can cause digestive issues.  It’s super easy to blame the food rather than your beliefs and behaviors around the food.  I can totally attest to how easy it is to be blinded by the idea that your physical symptoms are caused by a lack of discipline with food, or inability to perfectly avoid dairy, sugar, gluten, grains or any number of new dietary villains. Instead, it’s very likely that the restriction/chaos cycle, under eating/overeating, lack of variety, balance and moderation are really the culprits.  At what point does nutrition information/rules cause psychosomatic symptoms?  I think it’s earlier than many realize. 

Given that your digestive rhythm and regularity is largely influenced by your eating rhythm and regularity, if you’re eating habits are haphazard, digestion can become haphazard too.  In fact, when eating patterns are unreliable, digestion tends to slow down so as to suck every last bit of nutrition it can out of whatever food it will get.  Malnourishment can cause digestive adaptations which means you will probably have to push through some discomfort before your digestion normalizes in response to regular, consistent, adequate and balanced meals/snacks.

I would like to encourage you to base your food choices on YOUR experience with food rather than a list of rules that may or may not apply to you.  Overall food patterns can support wellness, without being overly concerned with one food or food ingredient.  In addition, feeling better is likely a result of the presence of something rather than the absence of something else.  For example, let's say you feel better eating less sugar.  Could it be that you are replacing some packaged, processed foods with more fresh foods?  It’s likely that eating more fresh foods is leading to improvements in how you feel, rather than not eating sugar (the point being that sugar can ABSOLUTELY still be included as part of an overall nutrient dense food pattern without effecting you adversely).  

Obviously there are some who will benefit from dietary modifications, especially those with diagnosed digestive illnesses.  However, I think that those are in the minority while those with symptoms related to disordered eating are in the majority.  If you are in the latter, I strongly encourage you to work with a dietitian who can help you identify malnourishment (which can happen at ANY weight), challenge food rules, decrease anxiety (a huge trigger for digestive symptoms) and build more adequate and peaceful food patterns.  

I was one of those with major digestive symptoms which I blamed on “inflammation”, “inflammatory foods” and “food sensitivities”.  What I found was that making peace with food was the best thing I would do for my digestive function.  The more regularly and consistently I ate, the better things got.  As I added greater and greater variety and balance, things got even better.  INCLUDING sugar, dairy, gluten, meat, grains, etc (among other things) was my solution, not my problem.  You may find it’s your’s too.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Health Happens on a Continuum - A few observations about Diabetes (and other metabolic issues)

Two mornings a week I see patients at an Internal Medicine office.  The majority of patients I see have been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.  While each patient is unique in their concerns, frustrations and goals, over the past 2-3 years I have found a lot of commonalities.  I want to share some observations with you.

  1. First and most importantly, I want to be sure to emphasize the fact that health issues do not happen overnight.  You don’t not have diabetes (or anything else) one day and then have it the next.  Clinical diagnosis comes when numbers hit a certain tipping point, but that doesn’t mean it was less of an issue before.  I don’t say this to worry you; I say it to put health and wellness in perspective.  Most people can sense their body is overstressed and/or isn’t functioning optimally far before diagnosis happens.  Health happens on a continuum so don’t wait for a diagnosis: “If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream.”
  2. It may take some time for your blood sugar levels to come down.  That’s OK.  Also, medications are there for a reason but using them doesn’t make diabetes go away and the underlying issues will still be there.  What I would want you to know is this: health is determined by healthy behaviors (self-care) so health is something you can have right now.  At this moment you can tune into what your body needs, honor it by responding and therefore move towards health.  Health is not a destination.  It is a commitment to take care of ourselves each day.  
  3. It’s super common for me to hear “I can’t be an intuitive eater because I have diabetes”.  Wrong!  Intuitive Eating is absolutely inclusive given it’s all about taking care of YOUR body and it’s health concerns.  A little personal disclosure: I have a really sensitive digestive tract, and intuitive eating has been the BEST way for me to keep symptoms at bay and feel my best.  Just one example.  
  4. Those with diabetes believe they require a different approach to food than others.  While obviously their blood sugar will be effected in part by what they eat, so will everyone’s.  Again - health happens on a continuum.  We all feel and function better when we have stable blood sugar levels.  Eating balanced meals (protein, complex carbohydrate, fat, fruit or vegetable) with snacks in between while listening to hunger/fullness/satisfaction levels to guide how much to eat will be the best way to regulate blood sugar levels.  Fullness is your body’s way of letting you know it’s had enough.  If you continue eating, you may be over-stressing body functions (digestion, hormone/digestive enzyme production and insulin matching in regards to diabetes).  While we all overeat occasionally, consistently doing so can cause issues.  I’ve said it before - my experience has been that these issues are caused by not listening to our bodies, not by any one food or food group.    
  5. I find that most people with diabetes fail to realize that food is not the only thing that effects their blood sugar.  Sleep, stress (!!!), exercise, mental health concerns, medications, meal timing and patterns, digestion, rate of stomach emptying, etc.  The good news is that taking a holistic, big picture approach will allow you to avoid extremes and find balance - where your body functions at it’s best. 
  6. What you are really wanting is to find your rhythm.  Diabetes or not.  We are cyclical, rhythmic creatures.  We have sleep rhythms and digestive rhythms and seasonal cycles and hormone cycles, etc.  While we don’t need anything militant or rigid, we would all do well to establish some sort of regular rhythm, which I call a flexible structure.  It’s wise to have regular meal, snack and sleep times.  I think you’ll be surprised at how much more balanced you feel.  This is something I see lacking in most of those I work with.  
  7. Last but not least, you didn’t get diabetes because you gained weight and it won’t necessarily go away if you lose weight.  That's a super simplistic, unhelpful and ineffective view of health.  Health is determined by healthy behaviors, not by weight.  You would do well to put energy into taking care of yourself rather than aiming for weight loss.  If weight loss happens as a result, you can trust that is what your body needed.  

Diabetes, or any health concern, can be scary, confusing and frustrating. I hope these observations have been helpful in better understanding diabetes and accompanying beliefs and issues.

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Bradyisms OR How To Not Take Food (and yourself) Too Seriously

Meet Brady.

He's my husband of 14.5 years and the father of our two children.  He's the most patient and kindest person you'll meet and also the most sarcastic.  We definitely have a lot in common, but our personalities couldn't be more different.  I think that's what makes us work; we compliment each other well.  

We have very different approaches when it comes to food, less so now than before (in fact, I sung his praises about that HERE).  He makes me laugh a lot, about a lot of things, especially about food.  I call them Bradyisms and you're all missing out if I don't take some time to share them.  So below you'll find the world of food through Brady's eyes.  

First, Ben (my 6 year old) picked out these bars at Costco a little while ago.  Brady tried one the other day and as he finished said "I should have just eaten air because that was just about as satisfying."  

Brady owns and runs a youth NFL flag football league and games started a couple of weeks ago.  The Saturday before he needed help painting lines for the fields so I went with him.  I was getting hungry and knew we would be there over an hour, maybe 2, so I grabbed some carrots and hummus to eat on the way.  Brady actually really loves THIS hummus but I haven't been able to find it lately (Costco - bring it back!!!) so I grabbed this to try:

We were chatting in the car while I was eating.  I stopped to ask him if he had tried this hummus yet and he said no.  I asked why and he said "because it smells like butt".  (You should know that I really loved it)

I bought this cereal a few weeks back.  I've really enjoyed other Weetabix products; they crumble into milk, are slightly sweet and have a nice crispy texture.  This one however gets 2 thumbs down.  It just dissolves in the milk and turns to mush.  I actually really like soggy cereal but this is even too much for me.  

I was telling Brady how bad they are, as he stares at the box, then at me, then back at the box and with a straight face says "I could have told you that."  

Brady teaches high school science.  I pack his lunch for him every night, as I have done for the past 11 + years of his teaching career.  He always wants the same thing - PB sandwich, chips or crackers, carrots, apple and/or orange.  The other day he came home and said "This lunch just isn't cutting it anymore.  I think I need more to eat because after I finish it I'm still hungry and then eat like a pound of gummy bears."  So the next day I packed him a ham and cheese sandwich and added a bag of nuts.  He gave it two thumbs up but said "I feel kind of funny about it though, like I'm cheating on peanut butter.  Don't tell."

Oh, also, he calls eating those carrots "the worst part of my day".  

I was super pumped to find these Annie's graham crackers at Costco.  The other day Brady proudly announced that he had invented a new dessert: graham crackers + chocolate chips.  

Me:  "So you invented a S'more without the marshmallow."

Him:  "Yes.  I call it a S'ore."  

One of the reasons I share this is because I love how practical Brady is about food.  He doesn't overthink it, he doesn't eat it if he doesn't love it and food in no way is ever a matter of morality or superiority for him.  In my line of work, it's like a breathe of fresh air and exactly what I needed to overcome my own battle with Orthorexia.  

Happy eating :)

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD 

10 Things I want My Kids To Know

Last week I took my 6 year old to the doctor.  He had been climbing a fence 3 days earlier and fell back on his wrist/arm.  It was hurting him that night, but he could still move it really well and didn’t complain a whole lot about it the next few days, aside from it being kind of sore.  It started to swell a bit so I decided to take him in.  It ended up being broken and needing casting…2 days before flag football started!  Boo.

But the fact that I made my child wait 3 days with a broken arm before I took him to the doctor is not what I’m blogging about today :)  Instead, when the nurse brought us back, she had us stop so she could weigh him, see how tall he was and take his blood pressure.  When he sat down to have his blood pressure taken, the nurse said she was going to put a cuff on his arm and it would feel like “his arm was getting a little hug”.  

When was the last time you went to the doctor and heard that?  Or anything remotely like it?  Probably a few decades ago.  But isn’t it interesting how much emphasis we put on positivity with kids, but rarely talk to ourself (and maybe even other adults) that way?  I’m not suggesting that we sugar-coat or skirt around issues or avoid hard discussions.  But I am suggesting that if you wouldn’t want your kids to do it, you shouldn’t do it yourself.  

I actually think about that a lot.  Particularly professionally.  It’s in large part why I can’t support anything but weight-neutral, food and body positive, nutrition discussions.  I can’t get behind counting calories or points, having rigid meal plans, cheat days, clean eating, good vs bad foods, 21 Day fixes, juice cleanses, supplements, meal replacement shakes, frequent weighing, etc…because I would NEVER recommend that to any of my own children.  If it’s not good for kids, why do we think it’s OK for adults?  At what age do we feel it appropriate to make our food and bodies something we manipulate, obsess over or abuse as opposed to something we express gratitude and appreciation for and take care of?  Unfortunately, disordered eating and body image issues are getting younger and younger due to our kids watching us fight food and our bodies.  So I cannot in good conscious recommend any sort of diet or food manipulation.

I’m not the one to give parenting advice, but I do know that when I speak positively to my kids, they are much more open, curious and receptive.  I find the same with the clients I work with.  Being critical is never motivating, even when - no, ESPECIALLY when - it’s you being critical of you.  

Ben was also nervous to go to school the next day because he didn’t want to be made fun of for having a purple cast.  It's been a long time coming, and all these recent experiences finally inspired this list of 10 things I want my kids to know:

  1. You are more than a body.  So is everyone else.  Look for the REAL good in yourself and others.  Give compliments that have nothing to do with how people look.  
  2. Never feel like your body needs explanation.  It’s not broken and it doesn’t need to be fixed.  It only needs your attention, care and gratitude.  
  3. Treat all people the same.  Don't favor those you think can do something for you or snub those who others would look over.  Make being nice the cool thing to do.  
  4. What other people think of you is none of your business and the way they treat you says more about them than you.
  5. Be YOU.  Never apologize for being too much of anything.  You’re unique and special and the only one of you the world has.  Don’t make us miss out on your talents and gifts because  you’re afraid of what others might say.  
  6. Things always work out.  Hang on to hope above all else. Worrying never accomplishes anything.  If there’s something you can do to make things better, do it.  If there’s nothing you can do, let it go.  
  7. Let yourself feel anything you need to feel, but know that not all thoughts are truth.  
  8. Be cheerleaders.  Build people up WAY more often than you criticize or find fault.  
  9. Never listen to the voice in your head that says you aren’t enough.  EVER. 
  10. Always be willing to learn.  Ask questions, don’t expect yourself to have it all figured out and don’t be afraid to fail.  
  11. Oh, and, always hug your mother.  <3

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD