Obesity, empathy, and body image thoughts

Occasionally, in all the media clutter we see and hear each day, a clear, concise message appears to you. That happened to me today. I listened to the most recent post on This American Life entitled “Tell Me I’m Fat”. It was riveting, thought provoking, and entertaining. Everything a great podcast episode should be. You should really listen to it here.

Also today, an article popped up on my Facebook feed about how dietitians need to have empathy and how that can be better “taught” in dietetics training programs. I totally agree with this being a problem. While I had very good education and training as a dietitian, the most “empathy” that ever came into my lessons was teaching you how to keep a straight face while taking down a diet history. As in, when a client/patient tells you that he/she ate an entire cake or 14 tortillas in a day, you smile and say, “ok”. That was a good skill, believe you me. And I’m not criticizing my professors because empathy isn’t something you can really “teach”. It has to be developed with time and experience.

Together, those have prompted me to write a few very open, honest thoughts here.

1) I have never in my life been obese. I have never had to struggle with so many of the daily trials that face obese people. The stories in the podcast highlight many of these: finding clothes, being comfortable eating out, criticism from complete strangers, worrying about breaking a chair, etc. So I can try to be empathetic and imagine how that feels, but I haven’t had that experience.

2) However, I have struggled with my weight. Multiple times in my rather short adult life, so I do have some measure of empathy about weight and body image and those struggles.

When I graduated from college, I didn’t like how I felt or looked or what the scale said. I spent an entire summer exercising and trying to cut back on junk food. The result was maybe 5 pounds of weight loss, which was incredibly disheartening. Luckily for me, I then started grad school. The stress and busy schedule helped me almost unconsciously shed the last 10 pounds I needed/wanted. And then cancer and endocrine instability helped me drop 10 more. I was back to what I weighed in middle school. I’ll admit, I liked how looked and wanted to keep it that way, even if was a bit on the light side of healthy.

Then school ended. Life changed. Thankfully, for a couple years, I was able to mostly maintain my weight.

Then babies happened. My first pregnancy, I gained a bit too much weight, but it seemed to just melt off after I had my baby. One month post-partum, thanks to breastfeeding and some postpartum depression inhibiting my eating, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight and feeling really good. Fast forward about 4 months, and things weren’t so easy. But with some frequent exercise, I was able to stay in a good place for me.

Fast forward now to pregnancy number two. I gained more weight. I couldn’t stop gaining weight. When I would see how much the scale went up at a doctor’s visit, I’d feel sad and go home and eat a cookie. Smart, right? I was only about 5 pounds over the maximum recommended weight gain, but I had started pregnancy about 5 pounds up from my usual desired weight, too. This time, the weight did not melt off after I had the baby. 6 weeks out, my 2 year old was pointing to my tummy and asking about baby sister. My baby is almost 11 months old now, and I’m still not where I’d like to be.

Recently, I’ve challenged myself to nine weeks of exercise and limiting treats to try and feel better about myself for a family cruise. So far, I’ve kept to my plan (gloriously pictured below). But I’ll admit, I don’t think I’ve lost a single pound. And I still crave chocolate EVERY SINGLE DAY.

My current exercise and diet challenge

That is more about my life and weight history than maybe you wanted to know. But I hope it shows that I can have some empathy about weight, diet, eating struggles, etc.

3) While I understand it is a very complicated, multi-faceted issue, I am a big proponent (on face value) of the movement of accepting one’s weight, even if you are fat (as discussed in the podcast). I have posted multiple times on this site about research showing that healthy choices at any weight are beneficial, how the number on a scale is just a number, and so much more. AND IT IS STILL TRUE! Might you be better off if you hadn’t gained 30 (or 50 or 100) extra pounds in the first place? Yes. But can you go back and change that? No. What you can change is the future – not gaining more weight, maybe losing some weight, maybe just making healthier lifestyle choices.

In my own life, I have COMPLETELY found this to be true. When I was down to my middle school weight, I didn’t always feel great. Now that I’m up 15 pounds, but exercising six days a week and controlling my eating more, I do feel better. I stared down a plate of brownies all afternoon/evening one day last week and didn’t eat a single one. The mental boost it gave me to feel like I was in control of myself was immensely more beneficial than any endorphin rush from some sugar and chocolate.

No one sets out to become overweight or obese. I don’t think anyone would intentionally choose that life path for themselves, fully knowing the pain, discrimination, health issues and other struggles associated with it. But they can choose to change their future course. And we can choose to not contribute to the discrimination and to help people make better choices in their future.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the podcast, obesity, obesity discrimination, and empathy in the comments!

2 Comments

Filed under Nutrition

Nutrition Label Changes

Remember how over 2 years ago I told you how you could tell the FDA what you thought about changes to the food label? Well, I hope you did. If you did, maybe your voice counted.

Recently, the FDA announced what changes they will be making to the nutrition facts labels on your foods. The new labels will have to be in place by July 2018, which is quite awhile. But it is great to see some changes. Here’s the label:

New Nutrition Labels

What’s New (my highlights):

-Updates to the serving size. Not only is the font bigger, but the amounts should be changing. No longer will there be serving sizes on a cookie that are ¼ of a cookie. Serving sizes and nutrition facts must reflect amounts people actually eat. Hooray!

-Other items bolded or in larger font for ease of finding key information, like calories.

-Added sugars will now be on the label. I am very excited about this. Now you can know how much sugar is being added to foods that naturally have sugar in them, such as yogurt and fruit products.

-Vitamin D and Potassium will now be on the label rather than vitamin A and C. I am also a big fan of this change. Vitamin D and potassium are key nutrients for heart health, and those with kidney disease need to be acutely aware of their potassium intake. This will help.

This is a great change for food labeling. Hopefully, it helps us make better choices in the grocery stores. For more details on all the changes, visit fda.gov. Let me know your thoughts on the changes in the comments!

Leave a comment

Filed under Nutrition

Calorie Counts on Menu Boards

Most of us know it is difficult to watch your calorie intakes when you eat out. What seems healthy can often blow your calorie budget: salads that are 1000 calories or more, a chicken sandwich has the highest calorie count of any sandwich on the McDonald’s menu, etc.

In an effort to make health-conscious eating out more feasible, regulations have been in the works for years now to require restaurants with more than 20 locations to label their menus with calorie information. Seems great, right?

That took a slight setback recently. Recently, a bill was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives delaying the deadline for restaurants to have this information until May 2017. Bad news, right?

I actually have mixed feelings on this. Having spoken with some players involved in getting this information ready, it is more complicated than you might think. Easy examples are frozen yogurt shops or pizza places. Toppings will change the info for each pizza. That is a lot of information to try and fit onto menu boards.

I recently saw this solution at Chipotle:

Chipotle menu board

I’ll be honest. While I’m generally a fan of the menu labeling, this solution seems fairly unhelpful. A 500 calorie range with no specifics on what makes you at the bottom or top of that range is basically useless.

All in all, I think this is an important reminder that all regulations require a lot of nuance and to not be overly critical of either side. Each side has valid points.

What do you think of this regulation and it’s postponement? Let me know in the comments section!

Leave a comment

Filed under Nutrition

Grilling Nutrition

It’s beginning to feel like summer at my house.  Summer means outdoors, both for eating and cooking.  Up until recently, we had a small little camping grill we used.  It worked well, although did have severe capacity limitations.  My husband recently purchased a Traeger pellet grill to upgrade our outdoor cooking, and boy is it an upgrade.  It can smoke, grill, bake, and the list seems to go on.  We are loving it.

image

However, the risk of cancer from eating “grilled” meats has been in the news in recent years. I wondered if the same risks were true for smoked meats, as well as if it depended on the heat source of your grill (charcoal vs. gas vs. wood). So I did some research for all of us.

The carcinogenic compounds formed when grilling meats are heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs are formed when you cook meat at very high temperatures, like you can get on a gas or charcoal grill or even a very hot grill pan or broiler. PAHs are formed in the flames that flare up when fat from you meat drips into your flame and then chars the food. Some studies suggest PAHs are also formed when you smoke meats.

I couldn’t find any definitive evidence that any particular heat source causes more or less of these substances to be formed. I think it would come down to temperature and control of the flame. I do know that in our Traeger, there is a drip pan that prevents fat from getting to the flame and stops flare ups. It also cannot go above a temperature of about 500. That would make me guess that a grill like that MIGHT form less PAHs and HCAs, but I can’t be sure. And food can still become “charred” on the grill, just like in your oven when things burn. (As is seen in my kebabs below, recipe to follow next week).

Grilled Kebabs

After all my research, I actually came to the same conclusions I had before. Grilling or smoking is a great way to cook meat without adding fat while still retaining/adding flavor. However, you want to prevent lots of “char” or burn marks on your meat. And, as always, eat these foods in moderation, like everything else.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the risk of cancer from eating grilled or smoked meats in the comments. Happy summer!

Leave a comment

Filed under Nutrition

Sugary death match: Jelly vs Nutella

_74914115_nutella_624

 

I have a confession to make. I only started eating peanut butter about 4 years ago. That may seem really strange, but it’s true. Hope glimmered in my life back in 2011/2012, and I have since come around. I still am not as big a fan as many people, particularly of peanut butter and chocolate. Which brings us to today’s topic.

We all know the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Most kids love them. Recently, I’ve had more and more mom friends talk about giving their children peanut butter and nutella sandwiches. At first, my nutrition mind screamed, “A chocolate sandwich?” But then I thought for a minute and realized jelly is basically pure sugar. Outside of taste, I wondered if there really is a difference.

Today, I’m breaking down the nutrition for you. Here’s the sandwich: 2 slices of whole wheat bread, 1 tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter (because creamy is not delicious), and 1 tablespoon of grape jelly OR nutella. All nutrients are in grams, except calories. Ready:

Nutrients       Peanut Butter and Jelly             Peanut Butter and Nutella    
Calories 311 355
Carbohydrates           45 42
Sugars 15 14
Fat 10 16
Protein 12 13

To me, these numbers aren’t incredibly different. I have heard parents argue that there is less sugar and more protein in nutella. While that technically is true in the numbers, one gram either way doesn’t get me excited. The biggest difference is really in calories, which also isn’t huge. In the end, it really comes down to what your child will eat. Either is a decent, if not perfect choice. But don’t try to justify that one is better than the other. Just own it for what it is, the sandwich your child prefers. Happy eating and parenting!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

Leave a comment

Filed under Nutrition

Brown Rice Syrup

I’m back! At least partly. My computer issues are 75% resolved. Unfortunately, the 25% not resolved is any photos for recipes, so that may be a little bit in coming. But, we are making progress.

Also, on the news front, I know have an Instagram account for the site. My user is foodforthoughtrd. I’ll post there whenever I post here on the site, as well as other things from time to time. Check it out if that is how you monitor social media.

Brown Rice Syrup

Now for today’s topic: brown rice syrup. I’ve seen this popping up on some of my snack food labels more frequently lately. Especially on snacks that like to list that their ingredients are “non-GMO”, etc. I’m assuming this is to alleviate the souls of those who hate the dreaded high fructose corn syrup in their foods. But my question: is this really a better alternative, or just the food industry pandering to people’s fears?

First step, find out facts about brown rice syrup. Brown rice syrup is a “nutritive sweetener” made from using enzymes on the starches in cooked brown rice and then cooking it until it becomes a syrup. Don’t let the term nutritive fool you to think it is nutritious. That just means it has calories, versus a nonnutritive sweetener such as aspartame. It is basically a sweetener made entirely out of glucose. It has some other compounds which are just two or three glucose molecules put together.

It may have some trace minerals in it, including arsenic. This can be a concern for it being toxic. I could not find good data on the arsenic levels of brown rice syrup, to be honest. So, you may want to be cautious.

How does it compare to other sweeteners? It is less sweet than regular sugar, which makes it also less sweet than high fructose corn syrup. Most online sources suggested using 1 ¼ cups brown rice syrup in place of 1 cup of sugar. Without using more, brown rice syrup already packs a higher calorie punch at 75 calories per tablespoon versus 42 calories per tablespoon regular sugar. Both seem negative attributes to me.

Brown rice syrup also has a higher glycemic index than regular sugar or high fructose corn syrup. This shouldn’t be surprising, since it is made up mostly of glucose, which is what the glycemic index compares foods to. But for those with diabetes, this is a bit concerning.

What’s the take home? You aren’t getting something better by subbing brown rice sugar for high fructose corn syrup or regular sugar. That doesn’t mean I think you should consume large quantities of either of those sweeteners. Really, the final breakdown is that same as always: eat more whole, unprocessed foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, beans, low fat dairy, etc. Eating any added sugar isn’t great. There isn’t a magic sugar that will make it ok.

Let me know if you’ve seen this ingredient lately or if you have any thoughts! And don’t forget to check me out on Instagram!

Leave a comment

Filed under Nutrition

Absence

Sorry gang. I’ve only been posting sporadically lately and now I’m really off track. I had great plans of getting things going again this week, but I’ve run into some rather large computer issues. I’m sure once those get resolved, everything will be back to normal. I’ll be back in a week or so. Promise.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized