Cultivating Gratitude For Your Body

We live in a weight- and body-shape-obsessed society, and it’s easy (and normal) to develop body dissatisfaction.

I recently heard the term “normative discontent,” coined in the 1980s by researchers who found widespread negative body image, particularly among women, in the United States. I really love it, I think it describes the issue perfectly, and also makes it so obvious how easily we fall prey to cultural norms, even if they make us miserable.

Essentially, it’s become really normal and socially acceptable to hate your body to the point that if you don’t, you are the minority. Isn’t that sad? While this may be more common among women, men come under the same pressure to look a certain way.

It starts young, too. A staggering 42 percent of girls in first through third grades want to be thinner, while 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. Further, eating disorders affect 10 million females and 1 million males.

While there are many causes for developing eating disorders, we see exponential increases in body dissatisfaction, internalization of the thin ideal (or muscular ideal) and disordered eating with increases in exposure to media and popular fitness culture. Feeling inferior or flawed can make us desperate, as evidenced by the $60 billion diet industry.

Why cultivating gratitude can help

As a nutrition professional who regularly counsels individuals with disordered eating and body hatred, I have found real benefit in helping clients cultivate a sense of gratitude for their bodies.

With such extreme societal pressures, it may not feel realistic to love — or even like — your body, at least right now. It may be easier to practice body respect, weight neutrality and less emphasis on appearance in general. Shifting focus from appearance to how your body feels or functions can help cultivate gratitude for what it can do, or what it allows you to do.

This quote perfectly summarizes why I feel cultivating gratitude for your body is so effective:

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As you cultivate gratitude for your body, you embrace where you are, allowing you to connect with what your body needs. This leads you to take care of yourself in a way that can bring about improvements in overall health and well-being. It has nothing to do with changing or manipulating your body and everything to do with supporting, respecting and caring for it. If your body changes as a result, then there’s that.

If it doesn’t, it’s no less deserving of support, respect and self-care.

How do you do that?

So how can you cultivate gratitude? When I think of November I think of cooler weather, crisp and juicy apples and Thanksgiving. Most notably, I love the reminder November brings to practice gratitude.

This November I am about 6 months pregnant.  I've had really positive body image throughout my pregnancy and obviously that has nothing to do with getting smaller.  My belly is growing and some of the rest of me is too.  But because this pregnancy was such a huge surprise and I really didn't ever imagine I would be pregnant again, I've had such a profound sense of gratitude for my body and for all it's doing to grow a baby.  I have no idea how to do that, but it does, and I've trusted it to let me know what it needs.  That may be extra food or rest or physical activity or something else entirely.  I've had gratitude and trust for my body which I know is the reason for my positive body image.

That's important because we typically think of positive body image happening after we change or manipulate our body to be smaller or stronger or fit any other societal expectation.  In reality, you can cultivate body trust and gratitude right now.  

I asked some of my favorite body image gurus to comment ideas for how to cultivate gratitude.  I hope you find their insight helpful.

“Feeling thankful for one's body often doesn't come easily, but everyone can develop a practice of body gratitude. No matter what your size, fitness level or health status, your body is doing its best by you. Begin by choosing one part of your body and saying something positive about it. If this feels too scary, start with an easier, less triggering body part. It could be as simple as, 'My ears keep me connected to the people I love by letting me hear their voices. I love to listen to my children's stories.'" — Barbara Spanjers, therapist and wellness coach

"Learning to cultivate gratitude for your body can feel really difficult when you are struggling with negative body image. One way to combat that is to allow yourself to let in a mix of feelings — both positive and negative. Giving yourself permission to feel grateful for a healthy set of lungs won't eliminate the judgment you feel about your thighs. But it will open the door for you to have a more nuanced experience of your body rather than one that is dominated by negativity. This will help open the door to a more peaceful relationship to your body." — Marci Evans, registered dietitian and food and body image healer

“YOGA! Yoga was the beginning of my well-being journey, and it continues to prove itself valuable. No matter the pose, I feel as though it's the best way to express gratitude for my body. I accept my body exactly how it is, which creates a space to stretch a little further if it feels right. If not, I'm still breathing, and that alone is something to be grateful for.” — Maggie Danforth, registered dietitian 

"Body-hatred takes time to learn and thus, it makes sense that body neutrality (or even body love) is a process that takes time as well.” — Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW, psychotherapist and eating disorder specialist

I hope this has given you an idea of how to practice body gratitude. While it’s tempting to think you can hate yourself into feeling motivated to change your body, it’s never effective, it keeps you stuck and only causes emotional distress. I know food and body peace is possible and cultivating gratitude is the path to get there.

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Cookie Recipe x2!

A few months ago I taught my 12 year old how to make cookies and it has been the gift that keeps on giving.  He's always asking me to buy chocolate chips (my cue to just buy them in bulk, but I can only find them in semi-sweet and we prefer milk chocolate, c'mon Costco!) and will often spend Saturday or Sunday afternoon baking.  For some reason, teaching him how to vacuum has not had the same effect...

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We have two cookie recipes we love.  One is my mom's famous Cowboy Cookies (and I mean FAMOUS, at least around these parts) and the other is a variation of the recipe found on the back of the Hershey's chocolate chip bag, using instant vanilla pudding mix in place of sugar.  This substitution makes them super soft and doughy, and adds a great vanilla flavor.  I had a few requests to post recipes after I shared this picture on Instagram, so here goes!  

First up, my mom's Cowboy Cookies, which she graciously gave me permission to share.  This is basically an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, but definitely the best one you'll ever have.

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Cowboy Cookies

1 cup shortening (my mom encourages butter flavored shortening)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups oats
1 - 11.5 oz bag milk chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a standing mixer or with a hand mixer, cream sugars and shortening together.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix to combine.  Sift flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder together and add, mixing well. Stir in, or use light setting on mixer, oats and chocolate chips (yes, use the whole bag!).  

Drop cookie dough in 1-2 inch balls on cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes (unless you like them a little crispier, then do 12 minutes). 

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1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 - 5.1 oz box instant vanilla pudding mix
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 - 11.5 oz bag milk chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a standing mixer or with a hand mixer, cream butter, pudding mix and brown sugar together.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix to combine.  Sift flour, baking soda and salt together and add, mixing well. Stir in, or use light setting on mixer, chocolate chips. 

Drop cookie dough in 1-2 inch balls on cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes (unless you like them a little crispier, then do 12 minutes).  

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I hope you enjoy, with complete confidence, trust and satisfaction and free of guilt or worry.  You've got this, friends. 

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

How To Care About What You Eat Without Really Caring At All

There are 10 principles of Intuitive Eating and the 10th principle is “Gentle Nutrition”.  There’s a reasons it’s last; there's a lot of healing to be done before someone is truly able to receive any sort of nutrition information without it feeling tremendously triggering.

If you struggle with disordered eating, one of the worst things for you will be more nutrition advice.  It’s often what you want and even feel you need, but in reality it’s being filtered through too much judgment, shame and fear.  

That’s OK though.  You don’t need the nutrition advice to learn how to be a normal eater.  In fact, not having so much outside noise will enable you to connect to that innate part of you which knows how to eat.  

This may seem funny coming from a dietitian and trust me, I can understand that.  When I received my degree and certification over 12 years ago, I truly thought I would help people by telling them what to eat.  I soon realized that most people know what to eat, lack of information is certainly not an issue and may actually create one.  

Sure, nutrition is a science and that’s what drew me to the profession in the first place.  I love the science of nutrition and because I understand it, I know you don’t have to overthink, overanalyze or second guess.  Healthy eating has so much to do with flexibility, variety, satisfaction and what’s happening over weeks or months, not meal to meal or day to day.  

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All that said, caring less about what you eat is actually a good first step to creating something nourishing, flexible and satisfying.  Essentially there is a way to care about what you’re eating without really caring at all.  I’m going to give you 4 steps for how to get there.  

  1. No judgment.  This is a hard one but it’s really gotta happen.  If you are still judging food as good or bad, then you’ll still care in ways that aren’t truly effective and helpful.  Does that mean you see all food as nutritionally equal?  Definitely not because that’s not the case.  It means you’ll have the same emotional reaction no matter what you eat - you aren’t patting yourself on the back for eating carrots and hitting yourself over the head for eating cake.  It’s just food, there isn’t any morality tied to it.  The practice here is to reframe your beliefs about food to include the idea that all foods can fit.  
  2. Check in and connect.  I recently saw this quote:  “When you have a deep level of self-awareness, you can tell if you’re getting the nutrition you need.” - Daxle Collier.   I often have clients record their hunger, fullness and satisfaction levels before and after meals.  The point is not to judge how often you get too full or too hungry and therefore turn this exercise into another rule.  It's also not necessary to expect yourself to do it every meal of every day, because life gets busy and sometimes food gets us from point A to point B.  Instead, the objective is to CONNECT.  Knowing what you’re body is communicating to you will be a key factor in learning how to care without caring.  You’ll be internally motivated by innate signals rather than externally motivated by the clock or calories or rules or what everyone else is doing.  The confidence you’ll build through checking in and connecting will be pivotal.   
  3. Recognize that food confidence comes one meal at a time.  Every meal is an opportunity to learn more about yourself.  What nourishes and satisfies you, what keeps you energized and full, what isn’t enough food, what’s too much food, etc.  So instead of the judgment we discussed above, curiosity will be your biggest asset.   There’s a learning curve here and many people give up because they think they aren't “getting it” when there’s not anything to get except whatever lessons food may be teaching you that day.  I understand it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged, I’ve been there.  But trust the process, you’re learning every day and every day gets you closer to food freedom.  Nutrition therapy with a dietitian can certainly help in that process.  Speaking of which, I’ve learned something new being pregnant - I really love a little bit of orange juice with my meals.  It helps me feel more settled and satisfied after a meal and it’s super refreshing, especially in the first trimester when I had low grade nausea all day long.  I also have a theory that it’s helping me absorb the iron in my meals (vitamin C enhances iron absorption) so the craving I have may actually be body wisdom (my iron levels are within normal ranges without taking an iron supplement).  If I had a bunch of judgment or rules about drinking orange juice, I would miss out on the satisfaction and nourishment it’s providing me.  
  4. Don’t focus on what others are doing, focus on what you are doing.  The thing that messes us up the most is the disconnection that happens when we lose ourselves in pursuit of keeping up with everyone else.  This process is deeply personal, even among those making peace with food.  It’s not about being good or bad or doing it right or wrong but learning how to be true to yourself.  Get rid of triggering social media feeds, leave food obsessive conversations, set boundaries and do whatever else is necessary to help you stay connected to this process and to yourself. 

And then, after you’ve gained more self-trust and lost the judgment, shame and fear, perhaps it’s possible to address nutrition without feeling triggered or overwhelmed.  However, it may not be necessary at that point because you’ve likely learned you can naturally self-moderate without a bunch of rules. Basically, you’ll care but not care.  It’s a hard frame of mind to describe but it’s only possible when you’ve fully separated what you eat from your worth and value.  In this process you’ll find your value outside of food and realize what your body looks like or what you decide to eat doesn’t determine your worth.  That’s important because, at the end of the day, that’s what keeps us stuck in caring too much.  You aren’t what you eat, food doesn’t define you and it’s quite possible to care about your health and wellbeing without caring too much.   

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

The Association Between Social Media, Body Dissatisfaction and Disordered Eating 

I saw this quote recently via Eat Happy Nutrition on Instagram and as soon as I saw it I was like YES.  

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A great reminder, which couldn’t be more appropriate for food or body image.  What societal pressures, social media feeds or conversations you’re overhearing make you think you should care about stuff you really don’t?  Do you feel you need to overthink food, second guess what you eat, spend more time at the gym or look a certain way?  Do you need perfect hair and skin?  Or the perfect house with perfect kids?  

As a recovering perfectionist, I’m admittedly more sensitive to these kinds of messages.  I’m grateful for that - the healing work I’ve done has grounded me in reality and keeps me connected to my values.  But it also makes me SUPER sensitive to the subtle way perfectionism can steal our authenticity and make us hustle for worthiness instead of standing firmly in our own story.  

So, I have some thoughts to share about social media in particular.  

I have a love/hate relationship with social media.  One one hand, it’s been an excellent business tool and I can use it to help spread a message I’m passionate about.  I’m very intentional about the messages, articles, research and stories I choose to share and am sincere in my desire to help those readers who may be struggling (like I once was).  My personal account is useful to; I really enjoy making Chatbooks, connecting with family and friends and importing social media posts into the weekly (well that’s my intention, it’s typically bi-monthly) journaling I do for my kids on my personal account. 

But we are all well aware that social media can create the allusion of perfection.  We can compare ourselves too easily, and/or actually start believing that perfection actually exists.  From the outside looking in, a lot of feeds can make it look like they never have a blurry photo, a bad day, a missed workout, kids who fight, a pimple, a messy relationship or an “imperfect” meal.  

But the tie between social media and the comparison trap, body dissatisfaction and disordered eating isn’t just anecdotal.  

It’s a well researched topic with very clear and significant associations between them.  Here are some statistics for you: (most via HERE and some from articles sited below)

  • In an online survey conducted by Girl Scouts, 9 out of 10 girls felt pressure by fashion and media industries to be skinny.
  • Survey of the contents of Seventeen magazine found that the largest percentage of pages are devoted to articles about appearance.
  • Of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% said that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape, 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight.
  • Women’s magazines have about 10 times the content related to dieting and weight loss than     men’s magazines.
  • Research done in Fiji after TV was introduced found that scores on eating pathology doubled in three years and influenced their opinion on ideal body shape.
  • 2006 Stanford University Study found that 96% of girls who already had eating disorders had visited pro-anorexia websites and learned new weight loss techniques there.
  • A 2011 study from the University of Haifa found that the more time girls spent on Facebook, the more they suffered conditions of AN, BN, poor body image, negative approach to eating and more urges to be on a weight loss diet.
  • The study also found that girls whose parents were involved in their media usage were more resilient to the negative impacts compared to girls who parents were not involved in their media exposure.
  • One residential eating disorder treatment center found that 30- 50% of their patients are actively using social networking sites to support their eating disorders.
  • Dina Borzekowski, professor at Johns Hopkins school of public health notes: “Social media may have a stronger impact on children’s body image than traditional media. Messages and images are more targeted: if the message comes from a friend it is perceived as more meaningful and credible.”
  • 37 percent feel they need to change specific parts of their body when comparing their bodies to friend’s bodies in photos.
  • 75 percent of Facebook users are unhappy with their body.
  • 51 percent of respondents on a survey reported Facebook makes them more conscious about their body and weight.
  • 30 minutes on Instagram can make women fixate negatively on their weight and appearance. 

But because there are positives to it, it’s not something I want to give up.  

Clearly, I need boundaries to keep me safe and that would be my same recommendation to you.  What does that look like?

  1. Being more intentional about when and why you are using it.  Are you scrolling as a distraction, procrastination or boredom?  My husband shared this TED talk with me last week and it’s definitely our new favorite.  I’m sure you’ll love it too and it’s bound to put social media (and phone usage in general) in perspective.  
  2. Unfollow, hide or unlike pages or feeds that are triggering, food and body preoccupied or cause you to “compare and despair”.  This is empowering.  I followed my own advice and cleaned up my business account awhile back.  Now I can scroll through while still feeling super connected to myself, my story and my values.  I follow those accounts that create a safe bubble of food and body positivity and those that are just positive in general.  This could be harder to do with personal accounts because it’s more difficult to unfollow a friend or a family member who could be triggering.  But remember: you are looking out for YOU.  If it’s a problem, have the confidence and courage to say no.   
  3. I have a basic rule I follow when posting on social media:  “Promote what you love rather than bash what you hate.”  I actually do hate diet culture and fitspiration so sometimes that’s difficult to do (haha), but in general I aim to keep any message I share positive and empowering vs spiteful or mean spirited.  There are many accounts that do the same.  Following body and food positive feeds can be a great tool to empower you to positive body image and healthier relationship with food.  

Because actual research studies may not be interesting to read for you, below are some summaries of the literature we have on the interplay between social media, body image and disordered eating.  Before I leave you to that though, I want to make my point really clear: YOU are your own best filter.  Social media can be a huge source of anxiety for you, or it can allow you to connect with positive food and body message.  Be very selective of the type of media you allow in your feed, in your mind and in your life.  

Instagram Photos May Contribute To Body Dissatisfaction

"Macquarie University and the University of New South Wales both researched the relationship between time spent on Instagram and body image. The study examined 350 Australian and American women. The finding of the study revealed that even 30 minutes on the social media app can “make women fixate negatively on their weight and appearance,” according to The New York Post. Additionally, the participants displayed dissatisfaction about their own bodies after looking at “fitspo” images and idolized celebrities."

Social Media and it's Effect on Eating Disorders

"Although social media itself is not the sole cause of an eating disorder, it has fueled individuals to engage in disordered patterns of eating. According to research, “media is a causal risk factor for the development of eating disorders” and has a strong influence on a person’s body dissatisfaction, eating patterns, and poor self-concept.” Individuals begin to constantly compare themselves to thin models, their peers, as well as famous social media users and begin to feel inadequate about their own self-image.
With the increased use of social media among peers, it has been increasingly difficult to avoid the constant peer pressure surrounding the ‘ideal body type’. Social media’s presence in everyday life is so large that individuals now care about the opinions of people that they have never met before. Body shamers use social media as a platform to talk negatively about someone’s image and it strongly affects the emotional well-being of individuals who already struggle with their relationship with food."

Media, Body Image and Eating Disorders

"Numerous correlational and experimental studies have linked exposure to the thin ideal in mass media to body dissatisfaction, internalization of the thin ideal, and disordered eating among women."

Social Media and Body Image

"The meteoric rise of the “wellness” industry online has launched an entire industry of fitness celebrities on social media. Millions of followers embrace their regimens for diet and exercise, but increasingly, the drive for “wellness” and “clean eating” has become stealthy cover for more dieting and deprivation. This year, an analysis of 50 so-called “fitspiration” websites revealed messaging that was indistinguishable, at times, from pro-anorexia (pro-ana) or “thinspiration” websites. Both contained strong language inducing guilt about weight or the body, and promoted dieting, restraint and fat and weight stigmatization. Writing in Vice, 24-year-old Ruby Tandoh recounted how a focus on “healthy” and “clean” eating and “lifestyle” enabled her to hide her increasingly disordered eating and deflect concerned peers. “I had found wellness,” she wrote. “I was not well.”"

Facebook Use Impacts the Way Many People Feel About Their Bodies

“Recognize the effect that perusing Facebook photos may have on your self-esteem or body image. How often do you publicly or privately criticize your own body? How much time do you spend comparing your body to other people’s bodies online? Do your comments on other people’s photos regularly focus on weight or appearance? [emphasis intentionally added!] Do you ever get overwhelmed by this? If so, how do you cope?”

How Social Media Damages Your Body Image and What To Do About It

“This is not to say all the weekend warriors and healthy eaters need to censor their posts. Ultimately, the onus falls on the social media “consumer” to figure out what content (and people) are triggering for her so that she can remove these posts or block certain feeds. But, it’s important to know that this type of sharing can be triggering to those who already struggle with these issues.”

I hope this has empowered you to use social media as a tool, not as a weapon against yourself.

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Reject The Diet Mentality: The Futility Of Dieting

Generally speaking, we’ve rejected the idea of dieting.  Most have heard the research enough or have been on enough diets to believe the fact that dieting is futile.  We know the only substantiated claim on dieting is that it actually causes weight gain, not weight loss.  There is literally no such thing as a good, successful or effective diet - it’s all a big oxymoron. 

The diet industry has heard all this too.  In order to stay in business, it’s dropped the word “diet” and substituted for words and statements like “life-style change”, “sustainable program”, “healthy eating plan” or “clean eating”.  Essentially dieting has gotten a face lift; a really sneaky, seductive and alluring face lift.  What makes it so darn appealing is that the promises are less about weight loss now and more about helping you become fixed, less broken, more whole, more clean, more YOU.  They’ve coopted the non-diet message and cheapened it by selling you a counterfeit version, still promising this peace with food and your body that you probably really, really, really want. 

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So when this diet faking to not be a diet fails you, now you really feel like you’ve hit rock bottom.    This is the point where a person might trying ANYTHING, like EVEN Intuitive Eating (IE).  What’s there to lose right?  And then you find out the first principle of IE is “Reject the Diet Mentality” and you start to better understand what a diet actually is and what it isn’t.  

Here’s what it is:

  1. It’s restrictive - cutting out foods, food groups and ingredients.  The restriction could also come in the form of dictating food combinations, how often you can have a food or what time of day you can or can’t eat.  
  2. It tells you exactly what to or what not to eat and how much of it you can have.
  3. It promises really dramatic or miraculous results like “cure all inflammation!”, “heal your gut!” or “dramatic weight loss!”. 
  4. It’s a bunch of pseudoscience explained in really complex terms so you feel like they are smart and know how to help you (but really just want your money and loyalty).  
  5. It requires counting and numbers - macros, grams, calories, hours until you can eat again, etc.
  6. It causes you to avoid social situations because of food rules.  You can’t go out to eat, travel or have someone else cook for you.  Basically your life has to fit into your food rather than food fitting into your life.  Your focus and attention everyday is on how to manage your food rather than building a meaningful life.  
  7. It’s emotionally distressing.  It’s totally true - dieters report higher anxiety scores and more depressive symptoms than non-dieters.  You are much less resilient, adaptable and flexible to life when you are rigid and militant with food.  
  8. It encourages allegiance to outside rules instead of encouraging trust with your own ability to self-moderate.  It tells you that you are powerless over food and that you can’t be trusted.   In essence it makes you dependent rather than independent and self-directed.  In my opinion, that's the saddest casualty of dieting.
  9. It encourages a lot of supplements, meal replacements, pills or powders to add to meals and snacks or to replace them.  Usually they are the ones selling them to you too (HUGE red flag).
  10. It’s not sustainable.  Do you really not want to eat carbs for the rest of your life?  Or go without a treat or a burger?  If you say no, it’s not because you don’t have enough willpower or self-control.  It’s because you’re human and want to live a normal life.  That’s totally OK.  

Here what it’s not:  Basically the opposite of everything above.  It’s not a way to make peace with food or your body.  Healing from disordered eating and poor body image is an inside job.  No one can give you a plan for how to do that, but you can have a compassionate professional help you connect with yourself and your natural ability to respect and care for yourself.  It’s about the food, but yet it’s TOTALLY NOT ABOUT THE FOOD.  Disordered eating is an adaptive response to a wide variety of triggers.  Nutrition therapy helps you uncover why you do what you do and allows you to adopt behaviors that are more effective and supportive.  

Now that we’re clear on diets, I want to give you links to some fantastic reviews about popular diets from some of my fellow dietitians.  If you’re still struggling with rejecting the diet mentality, hopefully this can give you objective data to appeal to logic and help you reason your way out of any allure to try them.  

Intermittent Fasting
Does Intermittent Fasting Work? Could Going Without Do More For Your Health?  Via Lisa Rutledge, RDN

Juicing and Meal Replacements
The Dirty Truth Behind Juice Cleansing via Lisa Rutledge, RDN
Popular Diet Review: Isagenix via Dr. Jenn Bowers, RDN

Low Carb
Low Carb or Healthy Carb?  via Kelly Jones, RDN
Is the Ketogenic Diet Good For Runners and Triathletes? via Chrissy Carroll, RDN
My Thoughts On The Ketogenic Diet via Alex Caspero, RDN
The Ketogenic Diet and Why I Don’t Recommend It via Kim Melton, RDN

Gluten Free/Paleo 
To Be Or Not To Be Gluten Free via Jessi Haggerty, RDN
Gluten - Let’s Keep It Real via Me!  
I Tried It So You Don’t Have To: The Paleo Diet via Abby Langer, RDN

Whole 30
Why Whole 30 Won’t Help You Heal Your Relationship With Food via Alex Caspero, RDN
Whole 30: A Lesson In Extremes via Abby Langer, RDN

Alkaline Diet
The Alkaline Diet – A Mockery Of Basic Physiology via Abby Langer, RDN 

You may by hearing a lot of positive things about these diets and hopefully these reviews provide perspective and a reasonable second opinion.  There is always something behind a diet and don't be afraid of a little healthy cynicism.   

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Musings on Intuitive Eating During Pregnancy

As I mentioned in my last blog post, Intuitive Eating has been a lifesaver during this pregnancy.  I have done so much work in this area over the past few years and all that I’ve learned has been consistently applicable while pregnant.  Being proactive with food in this way has helped me have a lot more good days than bad days in terms of sickness, nausea and fatigue. I actually felt the sickest when I didn’t know I was pregnant.  Once I found out I was pregnant, I understand my symptoms better and therefore could be much more proactive with food, sleep, etc.  

One of my first meals after finding out I was pregnant and it totally hit the spot.  That felt good after not loving food for a few weeks and not understanding why.  Lasagna FTW.

One of my first meals after finding out I was pregnant and it totally hit the spot.  That felt good after not loving food for a few weeks and not understanding why.  Lasagna FTW.

While the nausea and fatigue and general lousy feeling is more pronounced in pregnancy, I feel a lot of the same symptoms - pregnant or not - if I’m not proactive with self-care strategies.  As such, I had already worked to know what type of eating patterns and type of meals helped me feel my best.  That hasn’t changed at all with pregnancy.  In fact, when I stay on top of hunger, eating regularly and adequately, I actually have a fairly normal appetite.  The only casualty has been a complete dislike for dark chocolate, when my non-pregnant self would eat at least a square after most meals every day.  I also really don’t like Mexican food with this pregnancy.  Who am I!!? I do love milk chocolate and Italian food, particularly anything covered in marinara sauce.  

I used to sincerely prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate, which is opposite now.  With caramel preferred. 

I used to sincerely prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate, which is opposite now.  With caramel preferred. 

I think most people would rather be told what to eat instead of doing the hard work of discovery with Intuitive Eating.  IE requires trial and error, awareness, and intentional connection with hunger, fulness, satisfaction and appetite.  It is anything but impulsive or passive, as many assume.  Intuitive Eating is all about coming to know how to best support yourself with food.  That’s definitely a process but as I’ve discovered with this pregnancy, it allows you to adapt to whatever life throws at you.  For many people, when life gets chaotic, food gets chaotic.  Intuitive Eating creates a flexible dynamic that can be applied to whatever situation you find yourself in - traveling, long hours at work, eating out, vacation, stressful life events, social gatherings, holidays, illness and/or pregnancy.  

In fact, pregnancy has probably made me an even more aware Intuitive Eater.  There’s much less time between gentle hunger signals and extreme nausea (with a slight headache) than there was pre-pregnancy.  Also, all interoceptive signals are more sporadic and less predictable with pregnancy.  While I can rely on a certain amount of rhythm, it often changes from day to day and week to week.   There are definitely some weeks that I need more food and more rest than others, which I attribute to a growth spurt for the baby (especially since I can see my belly growing).  I think the same could be said for all of us - that’s just real life.  But all this together has me much more alert to what my body is communicating to me.  

I've eaten SO many potatoes.  Butter + S&P.  

I've eaten SO many potatoes.  Butter + S&P.  

As a result, pregnancy has also taught me even more flexibility.  I’ve actually had an appetite for a fairly wide variety of foods, but there are certainly days where high fiber foods, for example, just don’t appeal to me.  It’s cool though since I get that nutrition is much bigger than one meal or one day (or even one week or month…err 9 months!).  Working with clients who struggle with disordered eating (and having struggled myself), it’s common to become way too preoccupied with one food, one meal, one day or even one week.  There’s an ebb and flow to life that is bigger than what’s just right in front of us.  At the same time, embracing what’s right in front of you and making decisions based on what’s actually happening NOW (rather than what you ate yesterday or anticipate happening tomorrow) is how you achieve the natural flow of overall nourishing and satisfying food patterns.  

There's just something about a tuna sammie on thick wheat bread...

There's just something about a tuna sammie on thick wheat bread...

So here’s my tidbit of advice after all my musings:  Practice taking life as it comes, one day at a time.  Make decisions based on RIGHT NOW, not yesterday or tomorrow.  Connect with what you need now (which in my experience actually makes tomorrow better and easier).  Setting this intention can make a world of difference in cultivating trust, confidence and peace with food.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

We're Having a Baby! + a few thoughts on infertility

I have a fun little announcement…

Baby Fonnesbeck due February 2018.  We are over the moon excited, also very surprised.  We thought this shipped sailed years ago.  A little background:

Our oldest son is biological.  When I was 17, I found out it may be difficult for me to have kids.  We were blessed JC came so easily, with no infertility treatments (which we were actually in the process of preparing for).  We hoped for the same a couple years later but it proved not to be.  We ended up doing a variety of infertility treatments, 5 total, which were all unsuccessful.  We brought home our next two children through adoption and kind of felt like we were done.  The past several weeks have been incredibly humbling as I’ve once again been reminded that God has a plan for our family.  

I want to take just a minute and say a few words to anyone reading who may be struggling with infertility.  First, I see you.  I know how it feels to hear news like this and be so happy for the lucky couple but also want to go cry in the corner.  Second, do not write the ending to your story, it’s not over.  There were so many times in the past 12 years where I really thought there was nothing else for us. I would have never thought, a few years ago, that I would be sitting here, writing this, while expecting our fourth child. Who is in my uterus.  Never.  It’s not lost on me how incredibly blessed we are and I promise you I won’t ever take that for granted.  One of the first things I thought about when I found out I was pregnant was all of you who are just aching for one child and one pregnancy and here I am with my second pregnancy and fourth child.  It’s incredibly humbling. 

The best advice we ever got was at an adoption orientation about 9 years ago.  We had felt inspired to pursue adoption, but I was still really struggling with the idea that I may never be pregnant again.  The caseworker leading the group said “For a lot of people, getting pregnant and having children is their normal.  For you, that may not be your normal.  If it isn’t your normal, you can make a new normal.  Adoption can be that new normal.”  It hit me like a ton of bricks and I chose to embrace our new normal.  I am so glad I did; adoption was the gift that infertility gave me.  I couldn’t, and wouldn’t want to, imagine life without my two adopted children who were totally meant to come to our family.  

That isn’t to say adoption was easy, we worked really hard to bring those 2 kids home.  I’m also not saying that adoption is or should be your normal, but I know the peace that comes with accepting who I am and what’s meant for me, as well as who I’m not and what’s not meant for me.  It’s a process and you can feel whatever you need to feel about it.  

In talking about fertility, I want to highlight a few things that I know really improved my chances of getting pregnant.  To be clear, my issues predated my rocky relationship with food and exercise.  However, under eating, over exercising and maintaining a body weight that was too low for me didn’t help anything.  I attribute my improved fertility chances to:

  1. Eating a wide variety of foods in a flexible way while honoring and respecting my body’s signals of hunger, fullness and satisfaction.  
  2. No exclusion of any food or food group.  This helped me physically but also decreased the psychological stress of navigating food from day to day (especially while traveling, eating out, at social events, etc).
  3. About 3-4 years ago I started Operation Calm Down which I desperately needed.  Historically I would have described myself as a Type A Perfectionist and even been proud to call myself that…until I understood how miserable it made me.  Since then I have been actively working on stress reduction, setting boundaries, saying no, resisting the urge to please others at my own expense, letting go of the need to control while taking lots and lots and lots of deep breaths (and therapy sessions).  I have learned to be kinder to myself, to cut myself some slack and not set expectations so high that all I feel is ashamed of never being good enough.  Basically, I’ve calmed down which has absolutely made a world of difference.
  4. I gained some weight.

Let’s take a minute on that last one - has that been easy?  In general, no.  But I have worked SUPER hard to prioritize function over appearance, focusing on how I feel not on how I look.  Without a doubt, my physical and mental function is much better when I am eating adequately and maintaining a weight that is higher than I what used to view as "healthy".  As such, I’ve separated my worth and value from my appearance and redirected it into who I am.  When I stay true to myself, which includes respecting MY body and it’s natural healthy weight, I feel my best.  

This pregnancy really sealed the deal for me.  Any part of me still wondering if I was actually at my ideal body weight was put at ease with this news.  It just totally reaffirmed that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to do.  

I realize that no story is the same, but I do think there are at least a few answers for everyone in subjects such as adequate nutrition, a healthy and moderate approach to exercise, maintaining a weight within your genetically predetermined set-point, stress reduction and acceptance.  

This is getting lengthy but I wanted to wrap up with some initial thoughts on Intuitive Eating during pregnancy.  It’s been a life saver, really.  I’ve had so much practice over the past few years in listening to what my body needs and taking care of it in a way that will allow it to function at it’s best.  All the tools I’ve gathered have been consistently applicable during pregnancy.  I think the lesson here is that no matter what life throws at you, Intuitive Eating gives you the tools to adapt.  This ability to be flexible certainly beats the more commonly used all-or-nothing mentality.  More thoughts to come!  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Life Hack:  How to Feed Your Kids Without Wanting To Pull Your Hair Out

Alternative title:  How to make meal times less frustrating and more enjoyable.

There’s been a lot of trial and error over the past 12 years of feeding my kids.  I’ve definitely had my fair share of fails but I’ve learned a lot along the way.  In particular, I’ve figured out a few ways to challenge picky eaters, how to avoid making multiple meals, how to encourage nutritious food options without it feeling like I’m nagging or micromanaging, how to foster competent eaters who can trust their own intuitive signals, and - most importantly - how to make meal times enjoyable rather than contentious or frustrating (for everyone).  

First, I would recommend checking out THIS past blogpost about The Division of Responsibility (DOR) in Feeding if you aren’t already familiar.  That’s definitely where to start and is a theme throughout all these tips.  HERE is the book that the DOR comes from.  

Of course I’m still learning (parenting in a nutshell!), but I’m going to pass on a few helpful hints to you:

  1. First, I would strongly encourage you to cultivate a positive environment at mealtimes. Set the expectation that no one will be disrespectful or derogatory about the food or what others choose to eat (or not eat).  When someone complains about the meal or says how much they hate this or that, gently remind them of the expectation.  Encourage them to be gracious to whoever has prepared the meal, expressing appreciation before and after eating.  If they try and don’t like some part of the meal, they can respectfully decline eating it.  Honestly, this has changed so much for us, particularly me feeling resentful of how much time I’ve put into planning and preparing a meal to only have them complain or whine.  
  2. Preparing build-your-own style dinners is probably my biggest secret in feeding kids.  If they have complete ownership of how much and what goes on their plate (of what I’ve decided is served), they rarely complain.  I do a build-your-own salad bar a lot and they actually look forward to it.  It’s a non-threatening way to serve a salad.  If I was to prepare a salad and dish it up for them, they would probably lose their minds.  Some other ideas:  potato bar, taco/burrito bar, build your own pasta and Hawaiian Haystacks.
  3. Include your kids in planning meals.  This is a great way to educate about balanced meals and meal planning in general (someday they will have to do it on their own!).  If my kids have picked a certain entree or side dish or vegetables, they are about 1,000 times more likely to eat and enjoy it.  It also helps them know I value their food preferences and input, which makes them more willing to value mine, my husband’s and their siblings’.
  4. Have them help you cook.  I don’t have time for this every night, but I find if they’ve helped with chopping or assembly - learning about ingredients as we use them - they are much more curious and open to trying what’s been prepared.  I actually think this is a secret for adults as well.  When you feel connected to your food, the whole experience is more enjoyable for you.  Knowing where the food came from and seeing it come together creates an intimacy with food that is deeply nourishing.  It's easy to become disconnected from food which is at least in part why food behaviors are more likely to be disconnected and disordered.   
  5. Don’t expect them to like everything you prepare.  Not all dinners will be winners and they don’t need to be.  Your job as a parent is to expose them to a wide variety of foods in a neutral, non-contentious, environment.  None of us like ALL foods, and neither will your kids.  Give them space to explore and develop their own palate without taking it personally.  In order to ensure they don’t go hungry, always serve something familiar at meals that you know they will eat.
  6. Don’t let them eat the same foods over and over.  My 3 year old could eat PB and J for every meal if I let her.  Every once in a while she might have it twice in one day, but it’s totally OK for you to say “that’s not on the menu”.  YOU are in charge of what is served, not them.  For lunch I’ll often give her a couple of options, which may or may not include PB and J.  For dinner, we all eat the same meal.  They can decide how much they have, but in order to avoid picky eaters or becoming a short-order cook, I would be sure to not go down that very slippery slope of eating the same things multiple meals in a row.
  7. Remember they are kids and are still developing tastes for different foods and textures.  There are meals I would totally love to be able to prepare for dinner but I know my kids would never feel comfortable eating them.  I respect that.  It’s just too much to ask, and that’s OK.  I may make those meals for me to eat for lunches throughout the week, but when we all eat together, I prepare something all of us can feel comfortable with.  My objective is to create positive experiences with food for my kids.  The last thing I want to do is make them feel uncomfortable or forced into something they really dislike or aren’t ready for.  
  8. Eat the same dinner they eat.  I spent a few years preparing a different meal for my family and a different meal for me (I’m looking at you Orthorexia).  Now that we all eat the same meal, there are less complaints about having to eat what’s served since everyone is eating it.  It was super hypocritical of me to expect them to eat something that I wasn’t willing to eat myself.  Luckily a very wise part of me knew they wouldn’t be well nourished if everyone ate what I was eating, and now ALL of us are well nourished with a wide variety of different foods at dinner.  The best thing that recovery gave was being able to eat with my family again.  (Along those same lines:  Don’t talk about how you are skipping carbs or on a diet or counting calories in front of your kids.  Their experiences with food should NOT be about that (your's either!) and if you’re doing it, it will absolutely influence the way they feel about food and their bodies.)
  9. Ask them questions instead of telling them what to do.  Things like “does your tummy feel full?” or “what could you add to that meal to make it more balanced?” or “what sounds satisfying for lunch?” will be far more effective than “stop eating, you’ve had enough” or “eat this instead” or “that’s not healthy”.  The goal is to build competent eaters that can naturally self-moderate their food selections rather than to build super healthy eaters.  
  10. Less overthinking.  If you’re like the moms I know and love, it’s easy to do that.  In order to make meal times enjoyable for you too, remember that your kids are in charge of IF they eat and HOW MUCH they choose to eat.  Let them have some space to learn about food and how to best meet their own needs.  Feel free to guide and teach, but don’t feel like you need to control every food situation…that can make a mom crazy.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Loving Lately {2}

Apparently it's been almost a year since I shared some things I'm loving lately.  Well, let's change that!  I have some fun and inspiring things to share for this second installment.

Ok, first up are these new popsicles I found from Chloe's Fruit (via Costco).  I have had the Dark Chocolate flavor and the Mango flavor and both are delicious.  Obviously I'm partial to the chocolate (duh).  They aren't creamy, more icy like a popsicle, and a really nice, light sweet ending to a meal.  

If you follow my IG stories, you know I have a thing for cottage cheese/yogurt bowls.  

It's basically some mixture of yogurt and/or cottage cheese, cereal (usually this one because it's THE BEST), maybe some powdered PB, fruit (I think grapes and cottage cheese are MFEO) and PB or nuts.  Sometimes I use crumbled up Fig Bars or Belvita or Super Charge Me Cookies or some other leftover baked good.  Sometimes it's PB or walnuts or trail mix.  Basically I just throw a bunch of different flavors and textures in a bowl.  I am looking forward to trying this in it (and on a bunch of other stuff too):

Via Target!

I saw this meme via The Moderation Movement the other day and I was like YES.  

Huge thanks to my pals Zoe and Jody for sharing this and totally summing up how I feel about food.  Disordered eating (orthorexia for me) is so isolating.  The best thing that happened to me was being able to eat dinner with my family again.  

Last but not least, I adore this quote and saw it again recently:

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.
— Thich Nhat Hahn

Beautiful and so true <3

What are you loving lately?  I would love for you to share it with me below!

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD


Your Cravings Have Wisdom

If you are a human, you’ve likely experienced cravings before.  Maybe you even feel like you are someone who experiences them to a greater degree than what may be considered normal.  Our current nutrition culture is such that you likely have felt a lot of judgment about having them, particularly if they are for “unhealthy” foods.  Alternately, you would likely feel pride or relief about craving something “healthy” like a salad or oatmeal. 

Judging our cravings, however, gets us nowhere.  The process of making peace with food, embracing Intuitive Eating and giving up the diet mentality absolutely requires curiosity.  A critical, judgmental mind holds you back whereas curiosity is probably your biggest asset. If you can lean into WHY, you can uncover so much about yourself, about food and about what you need.  

As you lead with curiosity, you’re likely to find your cravings have wisdom.  It’s so true.  They can teach you a lot actually, if you’ll let them.  I’m gonna help you out here with a list of possibilities when it comes to cravings.  I would love to hear what you’ve found to be true for you as well.  Leave me a comment below!

  1. It just sounds good to eat.  Really don’t need to overthink that too much.  
  2. Inadequate nutrition.  A very common cause of cravings is inadequate fuel and nutrition, particularly if those cravings (or resulting behaviors) feel compulsive.  Often we blame this on willpower, self-control or lack of discipline when really it’s because you’ve felt unsatisfied and undernourished.  If you’ve skipped meals, gone too long without eating or been restricting foods or food groups (which has left meals or snacks unbalanced or too small), it could easily lead to cravings later.  It’s common practice to skimp on carbohydrates or fats, and isn’t it often high fat carbohydrates that we are craving?  It’s definitely worth checking to see if you have an even distribution of carbohydrates and fats all throughout the day.  Of course, protein is worth looking at too.  
  3. Food insecurity.  We typically associate food insecurity with kids who don’t have access to food.  While that’s true, it could also be self-inflicted through dieting or restrictive mindsets.  When you feel like food isn’t going to be there tomorrow, it will absolutely effect your thoughts and behaviors today.  Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat will decrease the power food has over you.  Being in control by having food rules is an illusion; they are actually controlling you.  
  4. Emotional hunger.  We certainly are complex human beings with many different kinds of hunger.  Eating outside of physical hunger is totally normal and happens to us all.  However, consistently using food as the only way to meet your needs is likely leaving you confused and lacking confidence in your ability to take care of yourself.  We need food.  We also need rest, connection, movement, love and variety.  We need to feel relevant and like we are making contributions in positive ways.  We want to feel like we belong and are a part of something meaningful and valuable.  I’m sure we could list more.  If you feel like something is lacking, it could be easier to distract or numb with food instead of leaning into what it is or how you’re feeling.  In this case, working to become more emotionally aware would be worthwhile to you.  This could be done through journaling, therapy (nutrition therapy with an RD included) or some other form of self-reflection.  Click HERE for more info on emotional eating.
  5. You’re craving variety.  Have you been eating the same thing over and over and over?  Our bodies want and need a wide variety of foods to function optimally.  It’s physically and psychologically unsatisfying to eat the same foods day in and day out.  Building more flexibility into your meals and snacks will likely help you feel less preoccupied with food.
  6. You’re not at your natural weight.  If you are trying to maintain a weight that is below your natural healthy weight, you will experience strong cravings for food.  It’s a really smart biological adaptation that supports survival.  The idea that we can look however we want if we just work hard enough is a really irresponsible cultural narrative which can easily lead to extreme, dangerous and unhealthy behaviors.  The truth is that we all have a genetically determined set-point, or a weight at which we function optimally.  If you are restricting food and/or overexercising to maintain a weight lower than ideal for you, food will feel really compelling and preoccupying and you will likely have frequent, intense cravings.  
  7. You aren’t respecting your body’s intuitive signals of hunger and fullness.  When you get hungry, do you honor it?  When you get full, do you respect that?  Obviously we aren’t aiming to ALWAYS eating when hungry and ALWAYS stop when full (because that’s not what Intuitive Eating is about; that’s turning it into a rule and colluding with diet culture).  We are going to have days where we end up overly hungry and/or overly full.  No. Big. Deal.  What is a big deal is consistently ignoring what your body is communicating to you, which leads to lack of self-trust.  What you might be interpreting as cravings may just be your body communicating it’s needs.  Interoceptive awareness, or the signaling and perception of internal bodily sensations, is a skill often lacking in those with disordered eating.  Perhaps assigning a number to your hunger and a number to your fullness for a few days will help you connect, fostering more trust for your body and it’s ability to communicate with you.  HERE is a hunger scale you could use.  
  8. Lots of judgment about “good” food and “bad” food.  This is related to #2.  In our current nutrition culture, it’s easy to equate healthy eating with restrictive eating.  However, healthy eating is actually very flexible and inclusive of a wide variety of foods.  By labeling foods good and bad, you are encouraging an all-or-nothing mentality where you are either being good or bad.  This can lead to inconsistent, irregular and inadequate food patterns (think restriction/chaos diet cycle) when in reality our bodies function best with consistent, regular and adequate nutrition.  When we are swinging between extremes in eating, our blood sugar can swing, our mood can swing and our hunger/fullness signals can swing, leading to more intense cravings than you may be comfortable with.  
  9. Some cravings - like salty foods for example - may indicate a medical issue.  If you find these cravings to be very intense and very frequent, it may be necessary to seek medical advice. 
  10. Lastly, be sure you aren’t thinking of hunger like it’s a character flaw.  We are human.  We get hungry and when we get hungry we want to eat and feel satisfied.  It’s an innate need which diet culture would have us feel ashamed of.  I’ve definitely learned that if I’m craving chocolate, fruit will not cut it.  If I’m craving pizza, a salad will not do.  How often do we eat around the craving and then have it anyway?  Don’t waste too much of your time overthinking cravings.  Honestly, most of the time it’s best just to honor it.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

On Coconut Oil, Soy, All-Or-Nothing Thinking, Moderation, Shock Factor and Why You Shouldn’t Take Nutrition Advice From News Outlets.  

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the newly released recommendations from the American Heart Association regarding coconut oil.  They’ve advised against it’s use due to it’s high saturated fat content.  I have a lot of respect for the AHA and for research based nutrition recommendations in general.  I do not necessarily disagree with their findings or their recommendations and what follows is neither an endorsement of coconut oil or an endorsement of it’s avoidance.  

Almost empty coconut oil container.  I'll probably restock once it's gone.

Almost empty coconut oil container.  I'll probably restock once it's gone.

But I do think this is just the absolute perfect opportunity to once again reflect on the ideas of balance, moderation and variety. When assessing for nutritional adequacy of someone’s food intake, these would be the things I consider.  Over the past few years, social media, media outlets, popular culture and google have all recommended therapeutic doses of coconut oil and have made unsubstantiated claims about it’s ability to cure, prevent or treat health conditions.  Drinking coconut oil or using large amounts of it when preparing meals would certainly be a huge red flag for me.  That wouldn’t feel balanced, moderate or supportive of overall variety in nutrient intake.  

But what if someone was using coconut oil here and there as a way to add flavor to balanced meals, cook their vegetables, or make THESE cookies (which are pretty much my favorite ever)?  I probably wouldn’t bat an eye, even knowing of these current events in the nutrition world.  I’ve always known coconut oil is high in saturated fat and have never been an alarmist about it.  

Because that’s the thing.  Focusing on one food, one food group or one food ingredient doesn’t get us anywhere.  We must consider the bigger picture and how it all adds together.  This is why I very strongly encourage you not to get your nutrition information from news outlets, social media, google, your friend’s friend or any individual who may have a nutrition hobby but has no actual nutrition training.  Those resources usually are alarmist, like the shock factor and usually take a very one-sided stance on issues.  Dietitians are the food and nutrition experts but unfortunately we tend to be included in the “they” of “they can’t make up their minds about nutrition.”  I assure you that’s not the case.  We don’t live or die by ONE research study or ONE news story.  We take ALL of it and carefully consider it when assessing YOU and answering YOUR questions because you deserve individualized care.  

Yogurt bowl with plums, peanut butter and my favorite cookies crumbled on top (which are made with coconut oil).  

Yogurt bowl with plums, peanut butter and my favorite cookies crumbled on top (which are made with coconut oil).  

Nutrition information should feel reasonable and should appeal to common sense.  Let’s take soy as another example.  Over the past 1-2 decades, it’s gotten a lot of publicity.  Initially, news outlets highlighted research showing it could reduce the risk of certain types of cancers.  When consumers heard this, they saw it as miracle and ate soy everything.  As always, eventually news outlets found a study or two that found soy could actually increase the risk of certain types of cancers.  Then everyone blamed soy for all their health problems and it became the newest food villain.  

Reality?  Soy may reduce the risk of certain types of cancers.  When soy is eaten in excess of 25 grams per day (or 3-4 servings, which is way more than most people would even being to eat in a day) it may increase the risk in some vulnerable populations.  The take away here is that soy can be included in the diet with no adverse effects when done in moderation, balance and variety.  

Is soy or coconut oil going to heal you?  No.  It’s isn’t a miracle but it’s also not poison.  Our current nutrition culture encourages an all-or-nothing, black or white mentality with food.  Health is absolutely found somewhere in the middle, it will never be extreme.  

In conclusion, you do not need to eat coconut oil.  There are plenty of other oils to cook or bake or sauté or roast with.  If your health conditions are such that warrant caution with saturated fat, please know you have other options.  Of course I will always encourage you to seek the educated guidance of a trained nutrition professional (Registered Dietitian) who can take into consideration all of your health history, health concerns and goals for working together and work with you to determine the best course of action for YOU.  

However, in general, I would also have you know that I do not think any individual food, including coconut oil, is a villain.  I will continue to use it because I like the variety, flavor and satisfaction it adds to my overall dietary intake.  I’m confident that including it in moderation, variety and balance will not make you vulnerable to any health issues.  Looking big picture - outside just food - will be most important when assessing your health risks.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Measuring Quality of Life, Not Weight

The other day I was teaching a class about the Restriction/Chaos Diet Cycle and I mentioned this cycle is fueled by obsession over weight.  It’s true and if you wish to change food behaviors, weight cannot be the (or even a) focus.  If it is, it can easily motivate you to manipulate food choices in a way that goes against self-trust, intuitive signals and body respect even without you being conscious of it.  It inevitably feeds extreme, all-or-nothing, thoughts and behaviors.  

This class was being taught to a group that really wasn’t familiar with the principles of Health At Every Size.  As such, these ideas were new to some in the group.  I totally get it, especially because I was new to HAES at one time.  It’s such a process to truly see weight for what it is - a really inadequate measurement of health and well-being.  

I think that was the hardest concept for them, what measurement do you use if you don’t monitor your weight?  It became apparent to me that these class participants used increases in weight to determine when they needed to go back to restriction (a diet or counting calories or cutting out foods or food group, etc).  As such, what I was describing as problematic they saw as a tool to keep themselves in check of food behaviors.  Some questions they asked were: "How do I know when to moderate food choices if I’m not weighing myself?",  "How do I “quit being lazy” if I’m not weighing myself?",  "How do I make sure I’m doing all I can for my health if I’m not weighing myself?"

To be true to the lecture topic, I shifted focus back to strategic ways to decrease extremes and build more flexible and normal eating habits (I’m working on an on-line version of that, stay tuned!).  It was clear that this wasn’t the time or the place to really do anything else justice and I wanted these class members to get what they came for.

But gosh, this is such an important topic.  What I would have said to them if they were ready to hear it (and I really don’t think they were at all ready to hear it) is THIS:  I would invite you to quit measuring your weight and start measuring the quality of your life.  

Here’s what I hear in response way too often when I say that:  “that’s too subjective”.  You guys!!! If measuring the quality of your life feels too subjective and scary and you feel like it’s just easier to weigh yourself, let me be the first to say that the issue is not a weight issue.  

It’s absolutely OK to say that your overall well-being matters more than preoccupation with the scale.  When we aim to control our weight, our weight is actually controlling us.  It dictates everything we eat, what social events we do or don’t attend, how we feel about ourselves, what risks we take, what jobs we apply for, what bathing suit we do or don’t wear, what memories we make (or don’t make if we don’t like how we look), what pictures we are in, how we respond to other people, our mood for the day, the choices we make, how effective and capable we feel…we could go on and on.  

It’s just so clear to me that focus on weight is distracting, preoccupying, emotionally distressing, disempowering and oppressive.  It has the very real potential to negatively impact the quality of your life in exponential degrees.  It is ESSENTIAL that you factor that in, even if it feels too subjective.

Would changes in eating behaviors improve your quality of life?  Possibly, but that can absolutely be done without building preoccupation or feeling overwhelming, and even with no emphasis on weight.  It’s really about supporting yourself in ways that are truly effective, with food and otherwise.  

I did try during the lecture to introduce the idea of self-compassion.  We think that a critical mindset is keeping us safe or motivating us to change but it’s actually only building shame and eroding self-trust and self-efficacy.  Punishing yourself with restriction when your weight creeps up does nothing for your health and well-being.  What will be helpful is practicing interoceptive awareness, or building awareness for the signals your body sends you to communicate it’s needs.  This will include hunger and fullness levels, thirst, heart rate, respiration, need for elimination, urination, energy levels and stress.  It’s a skill that is often missing in those with disordered eating, but something that you can practice and cultivate.  Learning to listen to and respect these signals builds trust that you can meet your own needs without rules.  Interoceptive awareness is suppressed when we are focused on outside measurements like calories, grams, points, weight or the like.  

If measuring quality of life or overall wellbeing feels subjective, that’s likely due to lack of experience with listening to and respecting natural, biological signals of self-moderation.  If eating habits have been haphazard or chaotic (as occurs in the restriction/chaos diet cycle), those signals could feel unreliable.  As you aim to establish more consistent, regular and adequate food patterns (which is only possible when we aren’t focused on weight), they will feel much more normal, rhythmic and reliable.  

Not weighing yourself and instead focusing on habits and behaviors that feel supportive will absolutely be a healthier and more effective approach.  I hear clients repeatedly say that not knowing their weight but instead focusing on how they feel (that interoceptive awareness, connection and body respect!) has been the best thing they've done for their health.  I totally maintain that focus on weight is keeping us from health.

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

Food Morality - Is God Really Judging What We Eat?

The other day I overheard a conversation among women about food.  Some of them were praising one of them for how “perfectly” she ate.  She responded that she wasn’t “a perfect eater” which she was totally OK with because she loves cinnamon rolls.  Then they praised her even more for how much they appreciated her honesty and realness.  You know, she was so down to earth and everything.

I’m sure these are lovely women who I would probably really like if I got to know … but I knew a blogpost was coming.  

Because here’s the thing - is “realness” and “embracing imperfection” really about admitting that we don’t always follow food rules perfectly?  In fact, that conversation highlights perfectly the exact issue we have with food:  food morality.  We are good or bad, eating clean or dirty, being obedient or cheating, feeling virtuous or guilty.  Food has become a religion, maybe even better described as a cult.  As humans we are inherently imperfect and will make mistakes which makes us vulnerable to these messages that following food rules can make us feel more worthy and pure.  But maybe to still feel honest and human and relatable, we admit our food sins?

I guess this always hits close to home because I am religious, a Christian to be more descriptive.  I firmly believe that one of the biggest distractions in life is fixation on body image, declaring our faith to a certain diet or way of eating and calling it perfection.  We worship food rules and fit bodies instead of worshipping a loving Heavenly Father and the Savior of the world.  This holds us back from really growing and progressing in ways that matter.  

I should be clear - I don’t think that wanting to feel well nourished and be physically fit are inherently wrong (I would probably fit into that category), but I hope we can all agree that making it priority, going to extremes and measuring our worth and value based on what we do or don’t eat or how we do or don’t look is mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually unhealthy.  But we do that.  It may be subtle and because of the culture we live in, we may not even realize we are doing it since it’s become so normalized.  We measure the quality of our day by how well we ate, not how well we loved.  We avoid making memories because of how we look instead of using our talents and abilities to bless the lives of others.  We sit around and praise other women (and men) for how they look and what they eat instead of who they are and what they do.  

Maybe it’s worth noting that my faith and beliefs are that we will be perfected one day.  Not on our own though, it’s through grace and good works.  It won’t happen in this lifetime and likely not that soon in the next.  But perfection is something I think is actually attainable one day, but not something I think we as humans are ever capable of on our own.  I also think that God’s idea of perfection is much different than ours, particularly when it comes our bodies and our food.  

What we eat is never indicative of our worth or value.  We are inherently worthy.  Also, I’m of the opinion that God is not going to judge you for eating chocolate cake.  He’s also not going to exalt you for eating lots of green smoothies.  I genuinely think he’ll care more about who you’ve become rather than what food you’ve eaten.  

Food is not a moral issue.  Is that really the perfection we are trying to attain?  Because if so, I’m good with not being perfect.  Perfectly following food rules is not my idea of perfection.  I’ve actually been there.  The pursuit of perfect eating damaged my relationship with myself, with food, with exercise, with God and with others.  It was all I could see. I lost who I was and my whole identity was wrapped up in being fit and eating clean.  I know that’s not what God wants for me.  I've never felt further away from God or more unlike myself than when I was pursuing perfect eating.  Letting go of the food labels, food rules and food morality cleared mental space for things that really mattered to me.  I had more energy for my family, my faith and - yes - taking care of myself in ways that were more effective and truly supportive.  God taught me who I was, but only after I made Him priority.  While your situation may not be as severe as mine, my professional experience is that our current nutrition culture is so distracting.  It reminds me of this quote:

And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this!  And this!  And this!”  And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important.
— Ian Thomas

When I was struggling with Orthorexia, I avoided all social gatherings (or at least said I wasn’t hungry or had already eaten).  This included family dinners at my parent’s house.  My mom is a great cook and I love all her recipes.  Some of them include condensed soups (you know, like cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, etc) and I avoided them at all costs when I was in my eating disorder.  I remember one day having the distinct impression that those meals were made for me with love.  My mom loved me and her food would never hurt me.  As a Christian I really do try (VERY imperfectly) to think about what Christ would do and make an attempt to try to kind of do the same.  I know without a doubt that He would gladly accept whatever she offered Him, including her recipes with condensed soups.  I’m pretty certain it wouldn't even cross His mind because He would be more concerned with what was in her heart, not her enchiladas.  

That was really pivotal for me because it exposed a HUGE incongruence between my behaviors and what I truly valued.  Really, overcoming Orthorexia was a huge lesson in humility for me.  A very common characteristic is feelings of superiority when following food rules, which I definitely experienced.  It's still difficult to admit that but I think it's a good example that highlights why I felt so anxious all the time - I wasn't living according to what I truly valued.   It's because I made peace with food that I was able to make peace with myself and peace with God.  I totally believe the first step away from God is to see yourself different than someone else.  "Aren't we all beggars?"  The idea of food morality and clean eating just feels so elitist, likely because of how I felt when I subscribed to that way of thinking.  

In conclusion, I respect that everyone’s beliefs are different and I’m not writing to convince you of anything other than you deserve better than to feel judged for how you eat.  I'm also definitely not saying that following food rules or a diet makes anyone evil, but that you are inherently worthy and do not need a diet to save you.  I think setting the intention to live a life full of things that bring meaning and feel valuable will probably make you happiest.  I hope you'll make a difference in this world because of your talents and wisdom and gifts, not because of what you eat or how you look.  

For more on perfectionism, here’s probably the most healing and rewarding article I’ve ever written:  Perfectionism

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

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