Why you don’t need to stop eating sugar to improve your health

Why you don’t need to stop eating sugar to improve your health

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

Why you don’t need to stop eating sugar to improve your health 

KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian

March 3rd 2019

First it was salt. Then fat. Then carbohydrates.  

Now we’re told to stop eating sugar.

All these foods have been demonised at one point or another over the years and we’ve been taught to fear them due to the implications they can have on our health. But sadly, this is more fear mongering, than fact. 

Let’s talk about the facts, specifically regarding sugar.  

Even though some “wellness experts” would have you believe that we need to “stop eating sugar” completely for the sake of our health, it is actually nothing to be feared, unless it is consumed in huge quantities (like anything, really!). 

The problem with the idea that we should “stop eating sugar” is that not all sugars are equal. If we stop eating sugar, we’d be quitting entire food groups and all the important vitamins and minerals found in them! 

Hang on, I thought sugar was bad, because it’s the stuff in cakes, biscuits and sweets, I hear you ask?  

Yes and no.  

Yes, there is sugar in our favourite sweet treats, but this is usually refined sugar (table sugar). Consuming this type of sugar in small amounts is not harmful to our health (1)It is recommended that we consume sweet foods with meals as much as possible to protect our teeth, however, cutting out sugar from our diet all together could backfire and we could end up eating more than desired. Especially in those who want to stop food obsession, or who struggle with binge eating and want to stop emotional eating (2, 3, 4).  

The other type of sugar that shouldn’t be feared, is the naturally occurring sugar found in fruits, vegetables, dairy products and wholegrains. But more about these two things later.   

Let’s first look at what a sugar actually is. I apologise, but there is a little bit of chemistry ahead. 

The chemistry…

A sugar is something that is made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms (a sugar molecule). The number of these atoms and how they are arranged, will determine the kind of sugar it ishow it behaves in food and then how it interacts once it is in your body. 

There are many different types of sugars found in foods. 

For example, the sugar found in dairy products (lactose) is different to the sugar in fruit (fructose) – they are completely different sugars and digested in different ways, but they are sugars nonetheless. 

If we were told to quit eating sugar, we’d essentially be eliminating dairy and fruit out of our diets!  

And we’d also be eliminating cereals, pasta and rice … because the complex carbohydrates found in those foods are also made up sugar molecules – lots of them (hence the name “complex”).  

Sugar, at its most basic level, is what our body needs for fuel.

But what about blood sugar levels?

One reason why there is fear surrounding sugar is because of its impact on our Blood Glucose Levels (BGLs). You might have heard someone say “oh don’t eat that, it makes your blood sugar spike”?? This is semi-true. Yes, dramatic spikes in our BGLs can affect our energy levels. Also, eating foods that are high in sugar and low in fibre could cause hunger to reappear more quickly after eatingBut this all depends on the type of the sugar that is in the food and what we eat the sugar with (e.g. protein and fats).   

We can measure how quickly a carbohydrate food makes your BGLs rise by using an international standard called the Glycaemic Index (GI) (5). Carbohydrates are rated on a scale between 0 – 100 depending on how quickly the body breaks it down to be used for energy.  

Foods with a higher GI are broken down more quickly and can cause a sharp rise in BGLs – things like a glass of sugary drink on an empty stomachwhite bread, white rice and white potatoes. However, who just eats a plate of white rice, or a whole lot of bread without a topping? No judgement if you do, but most of us prefer these with other foods most of the time. We usually eat these foods with some proteins and fats which naturally lower the GI.  

Foods with a low GI number break down more slowly and help to keep your BGLs stable – things like wholegrain bread and pasta, fresh fruit, lentils and legumes, yoghurt and milk. In fact, chocolate is low GI because it contains a high amount of fat and protein… I bet you never realised that!  

So, what’s important is the type of sugar and what we pair it with, to determine its nutritional quality and impact on your body, rather than tarnishing all sugars with the same brush!  

Naturally occurring sugars vs “free sugars”  

Now that we know what a sugar is, we can talk about naturally occurring sugar vs “free sugars”.  

Natural sugars, as the name would suggest, are those already found in the food. These often come with a host of other beneficial nutrients. For example, milk and yoghurt contains the sugar lactose as well as calcium and protein. Fresh fruit contains fructose, as well as vitamin C and fibre.  

So, what exactly are “free sugars”?  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines it as those that are added in by either the consumer or the food manufacturer and the sugars naturally found in fruit juice, honey, syrup and fruit juice concentrates. Things like bakery items, cakes, cookies and soft drinks. It also includes the table sugar you add to your coffee in the morning.  

The WHO recommends limiting free sugars to no more than 10% of total daily energy intake (about 10 teaspoons) to reduce the risk of dental carries, chronic disease and poor diet quality (6). 

What about alternative sweeteners then?  

If we’re told that we need to reduce our sugar intake, should we turn to sugar substitutes instead? Well there are loads of sugar alternatives being used, many so that recipes can claim they’re “sugar free”, but it’s difficult to know whether they’re any better than just your regular old table sugar. 

Let’s have a look at some. 

Maple Syrup 

What it is: More commonly used as a weekend breakfast item, but it is also used in recipes as a table sugar replacementThe syrup is formed after the sap is extracted from the wild maple tree and concentrated. 

Nutrients: Contains traces of vitamins and some minerals such as potassium, iron and calcium. 

GI: 54 (7).  

Brown rice malt syrup 

What it is: An expensive replacement often used by people who follow a “sugar free” lifestyleIt is produced by cooking brown rice flour or starch and breaking it down into simpler sugars to produce a liquid.  

Nutrients: It is low in fructose and could be suitable replacement for people with fructose malabsorption.  

GI: 98 (7)  

Agave syrup 

What it is: A very sweet sugar alternative with minimal impact on BGLs. Processed from the agave plant grown in the south west of the USA and northern parts of South America. 

Nutrients: Is high in fructose, which could cause digestive distress for people with fructose intolerance. Has slightly higher calories than table sugar, 60 calories per tablespoon compared to 40 calories for the same amount of table sugar (8). 

GI: 10 (7) 

Dates 

What it is: A whole fruit  

Nutrients: Contains fibre, potassium (essential for maintaining fluid balance in the body and controlling electrical activity in the heart) and magnesium (essential for proper nerve function, muscle contraction and regulation of blood glucose level and blood pressure) 

GI: 50 (7) 

Stevia 

What it is: Made from the leaves of a native plan in Paraguay in South America, is often used in coffee as a replacement for table sugar in coffee.  

Nutrients: It is much sweeter than table sugar, with negligible calories and does not raise blood sugar.  

GI of 0 

Coconut sugar 

What it is: Made from the sap in the flower buds of a coconut palm. The sap is boiled to allow the water to evaporate and then dried to form a concentrate. It is  

Nutrients: Contains potassium, iron, zinc, and calcium according to research conducted by the Philippines Government research body, but you need to eat a lot to make a difference (9). It also contains the same number of calories as white sugar. 

GI: low GI of 54 (7) 

So, while there are many pros and cons on just this short list of the many alternatives that are available, the reality is that they are all still sugars and most of them contain energy, with little vitamin or minerals (10). And whilst sweeteners are low in calories, there is some evidence that sweeteners may actually increase our appetite (11). 

Summary

So, with all the scaremongering around sugar being harmful, the reality is that a diet that has a limited intake of sugar (whatever sugar that may be) is not harmful for a healthy individual.  

There are many foods with naturally occurring sugars that contain nutrients that are highly beneficial, so let’s not go cutting those just yet.

And then as for those free sugars which have little nutritive value? Well, a little bit of honey on toast or glazed on roast carrots can fit into a healthy diet. These foods are there for the enjoyment and satisfaction of eating and cutting them out completely could backfire and result in food obsession and binge eating. After all, who was it that once said a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down?   

Note: this article is not designed to replace individual advice from your healthcare provider.  

References 

  1. The British Dietetics Association. (2017). Sugar. Retrieved from https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/sugarAccessed on 1/03/2019.  

2. Keeler, Chelsey L., Richard D. Mattes, and Sze‐Yen Tan. “Anticipatory and reactive responses to chocolate restriction in frequent chocolate consumers.” Obesity 23.6 (2015): 1130-1135. 

3. Konttinen H, Haukkala A, Sarlio-Lahteenkorva S, Silventoinen K, Jousilahti P. Eating styles, self-control and obesity indicators. The moderating role of obesity status and dieting history on restrained eating. Appetite (2009): 53:131–4.  

4. Jansen, Esther, et al. “From the Garden of Eden to the land of plenty: Restriction of fruit and sweets intake leads to increased fruit and sweets consumption in children.” Appetite 51.3 (2008): 570-575.

5. International Organisation for Standardisation (2010). Food products — Determination of the glycaemic index (GI) and recommendation for food classification. Retrieved from https://www.iso.org/obp/ui/#iso:std:iso:26642:ed-1:v1:en. Accessed on 1/03/2019.  

6. WHO. (2015). Sugar intakes of Adults and Children. Retrieved from. https://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/guidelines/sugars_intake/en/. Accessed on 3/03/2019. 

7. The University of Sydney. (2017). Search for the Glycemic Index. Retrieved from http://www.glycemicindex.com/foodSearch.phpAccessed on 1/03/2019.  

8. Web MD. (2014). Agave: Calories, Nutrition Facts, and More. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-truth-about-agave#1Accessed on 1/03/2019.  

9. Medical News Today. (2018). Coconut sugar. Is it good for you? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323047.php. Accessed on 1/03/2019. 

10. NHS Choices. (2016). Are sweeteners safe? Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/are-sweeteners-safe/. Accessed on 1/03/2019.  

11. Web MD. (2018). Is there such a thing as healthy sugar? Retrieved from  https://blogs.webmd.com/food-fitness/20181004/is-there-such-thing-as-healthy-sugar. Accessed on 1/03/2019.  

Navigating Diet Talk at Christmas

Navigating Diet Talk at Christmas

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD Responding to Diet Talk at Festive GatheringsKATHERINE KIMBER & CAITLYN CAMPBELL, Registered Dietitian & Student DietitianDecember 17th 2019Seeing family can be stressful, especially whilst recovering from body image or eating issues and...

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Hitting Diet Rock Bottom

Hitting Diet Rock Bottom

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Hitting Diet Rock Bottom

KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian

January 23rd 2019

There will be a time in your life where you will eventually feel that “enough is enough” with trying to lose weight and keep it off long term (dieting).

It could be days, months or years before you get there.

It will most likely be after repeated attempts of dieting or restriction, only to become more and more frustrated with the results.

It will most likely make you feel like you’ve failed the diets (when in actual fact, the diets have failed you).

You will most likely never want to look at a diet again.

This is what we call hitting ‘diet rock bottom’.

It is an important step, because more often than not this is the time when you are truly ready to break up with dieting forever. 

 

Do you think you’ve hit diet bottom? Let me paint you a picture of what it might look like for some people.  

Meet Emma.  

She’s a hard-working woman in her mid-50s with three children, an adoring husband and dog named Barry.  

The thing about Emma is that she’s always dieted. It started as a young teen when she had to suddenly stop dancing competitively due to injury.   

Without dancing in the picture, she became increasingly worried about her figure so took it upon herself to jump on the scales every day to monitor her weight.

She noticed the numbers increase and started to copy what her always-dieting mother would do at meal times. Emma stopped having toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and potatoes at dinner because “carbs are full of calories” her mother told her.  

And this was the beginning of her relentless pursuit to make those numbers on the scale go down by dieting. 

Throughout her teens and then in her 20s and 30s, Emma followed every diet out there. Each one with the same result – initial weight loss, then weight regain.   

She couldn’t understand why. She would follow the diet’s rules precisely… for days and sometimes weeks. That was, until she would crave the foods that the diet said she couldn’t have. And those cravings would get more severe the longer she kept restricting. Which eventually led to binge eating on the foods that she’d deprived herself from eating.

Then after overeating, she’d feel guilty. She’d hate herself for failing her diet. She’d tell herself she had no willpower. But then she’d pull herself together and promise that the next day would be a clean slate to start the diet again…

And this would be repeated each and every time she was on a diet. 

Now in her mid-50s, the effects of dieting have taken their toll. As a result of yo-yo dieting, Emma is now so preoccupied with food that she’s anxious at meal times and constantly thinking about what she can and can’t have.  

She doesn’t like exercising. 

She eats less food but weighs more than ever before. 

She’s uncomfortable in her body. 

She doesn’t trust her body. 

She feels completely at a loss about what to do around food and can’t stand the thought of going on another diet.  

She has hit diet bottom.  

And this is not Emma’s fault. It is the world of dieting that has failed Emma.  

This scenario is experienced by many of my clients.  

The problem is that we live in a world where it is ideal to be thin. This culture (also called diet culture which you can read more about here) drives us to believe that dieting is the norm and being thin is the key to happiness and success.  

But unfortunately, dieting is the very cause of health issues such as disordered eating, weight gain and decreased psychological health.  

And it’s not until we hit diet bottom that we truly see this.  

When we see this, we can open ourselves up to the alternative to dieting, which is Intuitive Eating – a mindful, evidence-based approach that teaches us how to respond to internal body cues and eat according to our individual needs. Intuitive Eating is the proven method to help people break up with dieting and heal their relationship with food and their bodies. You can read more about it here.

If you feel like you’re at diet bottom, I’d love to hear from you. Or if you’d like to learn more about how we can work together, sign up to receive my free download below!  

Navigating Diet Talk at Christmas

Navigating Diet Talk at Christmas

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD Responding to Diet Talk at Festive GatheringsKATHERINE KIMBER & CAITLYN CAMPBELL, Registered Dietitian & Student DietitianDecember 17th 2019Seeing family can be stressful, especially whilst recovering from body image or eating issues and...

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My journey to becoming an Intuitive Eating Dietitian

My journey to becoming an Intuitive Eating Dietitian

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

My journey to becoming an Intuitive Eating Dietitian (i.e. not selling weight loss). 

KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian

January 10th 2019

I’ve been a Dietitian for nearly 6 years (and studied Nutrition for 5 years)… That’s almost 11 years in the Nutrition Industry. You may be wondering why only recently have I started going (what looks like) against the grain and stopped selling “weight loss” – however you jazz it up. 

How can someone just switch like that?

Well it’s been a journey, and quite a rocky one! I totally understand why it’s hard to get your head around not focusing on weight loss as a main goal, when we live in a culture that’s telling us left, right and centre that we need to be thinner to be healthier, happier and more successful. It’s taken me a year and a half to get my head around, and I’ve done degrees in this stuff! 

As a Dietitian, part and parcel of the job is to continuously reflect on my learning, keep up with, and critically review the latest research and maintain flexibility in my practice. That’s exactly what I’ve had to do.

This is what I’ve learnt…

For the last 5 years, I have supported clients through weight loss (amongst many other conditions) both in the NHS, and privately. They were never sold or promised a diet, rather it was about making small ‘lifestyle changes’ to improve health. However, weight was nearly always at the centre of the conversation about health. 

Of approximately 200 clients, I would say 90% of them succeeded at achieving their goal… pretty incredible. They were sold beautiful tailored plans to stick to. The weight would fall off, and they would feel amazing.

However, as time went on (weeks, months and even years), the weight would come piling back on. They would feel out of control, and didn’t know what to do about it. They blamed themselves for lack of willpower and not being able to ‘stay on plan’ again. They of course would come back to me. The person they could trust. The person that helped them do it the first time.

As this happened more and more, I knew there must be something else going on. So I delved into the research, and linked up with various other professionals. That’s where I discovered a whole new area of non-diet nutrition. New research papers, new ways of practicing, and other professionals who had been through the same experience as me. Unfortunately, the non-diet Dietitians voice is not as loud as the weight loss message.

At first I felt confused and decided to shut out this whole area of dietetics. It went against a lot of what I knew and preached, and would discredit a lot of work I had done with individuals. But I couldn’t ignore it. It was on my shoulders, haunting me. The more I read into it, the more I freaked out and went back to what I knew and was comfortable with… that was weight loss and telling people what to eat or not eat.

I feel a little angry that I hadn’t learnt about this sooner. How could I obtain a first class degree from the top UK University in Nutrition Dietetics (King’s College London) and a distinction in my Masters in Clinical Research, but had never been opened up to this? 

I now understand that it’s because most of this work is being done in the USA, Australia and Canada. It’s soon to seep into UK university courses. 

As we look at the research to date, there is not one single study that supports sustained weight loss. Take that in for a moment… not one single study! 80-95% of those who lose weight, regain it within 5yrs, and 30-60% of those people, end up at a higher weight that first started.

So putting weight loss at the centre of changing health, is really like fighting a losing battle, and it can actually make peoples health worse. It’s ineffective, and unjust. I no longer feel comfortable supporting people through (what I now know) is such a painful and unnecessary journey.

You can read more about why diets don’t work here.

So what do I do instead? 

Non-diet nutrition is not about neglecting health or suggesting a ‘free for all’. It’s about improving physical and psychological wellbeing, without putting body weight at the centre. It does this by:

  • Putting your weight on the back burner, tackling your food problems, and letting your weight do its thing. Your weight will settle where it’s most happy. Usually the place where your weight falls back to in between diets. 
  • Getting back in touch with your natural body signals (which are there – albeit buried somewhere), to help you determine what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat.
  • Encouraging body acceptance (rather than spending a lifetime trying to fight biology).
  • Encouraging exercising for pleasure (rather than hitting to gym to burn off the cookies you at yesterday).

This is taught by an evidence based approach called Intuitive Eating. This approach is associated with a number of health benefits which include; lower Body Mass Index (BMI), weight stability, improved dietary variety, improved blood fats and blood pressure, and improvements in self esteem and depression.

I help you:

– Find peace and enjoyment from all foods, free from rules and restrictions.

– Get rid of the battle in your head around what you think you should/shouldn’t be eating so that you can have a normal relationship with food.

– Get back in touch with the best tool to tell you what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat… that’s your own body! Yes – it can give you ALL the information you need. A bit like how your bladder tells you need to pee or not to pee. You have all of these tools, I just help you find them again.

– Improve your physical and mental health, without trying to manipulate your weight, no matter your shape or size.

– By providing the most simple, up-to-date nutrition information to empower you to make changes to your health. We factor in all the other things that impact us, like stress, sleep, planning, socialising etc.  

I am not anti-weight loss. I am anti-pursuit of weight loss. I believe it’s important for professionals to be transparent in order for you to make an informed decision. I am disagree with:

  • Professionals promoting that ‘non-diet’ but sell weight loss.
  • Professionals that sell weight loss, without informing you from the side effects that will likely occur (binge eating, rebound weight gain, loss of muscle mass, disordered eating, shame, guilt and anxiety when the weight comes back on). 

Despite this being a more difficult journey, I do not for one minute regret the shift in my practice. When you turn the lights on in the room, and see a new perspective, it’s impossible to go back. So I am in this to truly help you heal your relationship with food and your body, so you can get on with things that matter in life.

Navigating Diet Talk at Christmas

Navigating Diet Talk at Christmas

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD Responding to Diet Talk at Festive GatheringsKATHERINE KIMBER & CAITLYN CAMPBELL, Registered Dietitian & Student DietitianDecember 17th 2019Seeing family can be stressful, especially whilst recovering from body image or eating issues and...

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Losing weight without dieting – is it really possible?

Losing weight without dieting – is it really possible?

Losing weight without dieting – is it really possible?

KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian

30th December 2018

Put your hand up if you have made a New Year resolution to lose some weight?

Now have a think to how many weight loss attempts you have made in 2018?

If it’s more than 1, you’re certainly not alone with this! One in 4 adults are trying to lose weight most of the time (1).  

And I get it. As a New Year emerges, we suddenly feel: 

  • a resurgence of excitement to improve our health 
  • that we have a clean slate to get rid of those “bad” habits  
  • motivated to start that new diet or “lifestyle” 

The start of a New Year certainly is a good time to start from fresh, and re-set ourselves for the year ahead. I am not trying to ruin the fun here. However, do think through your resolutions very carefully. Because unfortunately, when it comes to weight loss, studies show that the majority of people will regain weight after trying to diet, 80% of people in fact (2).

So, you may be wondering whether this is there another more sustainable way? 

Firstly, let’s be clear what a diet is. I know you are more sensible than following juice cleanses or celery juice diets, but there are some hidden demons. 

A diet is any kind of eating plan undertaken for the purposes of losing weight. 

Diets can be disguised as: 

  • Offering ‘balance’ or ‘lifestyle’, but still tell you to restrict/control. 
  • Tracking calories or counting points. 
  • Choosing low calorie, fat or carb foods to be safe. 
  • Cutting back in preparation for a special event. 
  • Making up for what you ate yesterday by doing more exercise or eating less. 
  • Passing by hunger with coffee/diet coke/water. 

 

A diet is any kind of eating plan undertaken for the purposes of losing weight.

So, what’s wrong with just being a little sensible and trying to cut back?  

Changing your behaviours for the sole purpose of trying to lose weight, backfires for the majority. Whichever way you try it, even if it’s a ‘sensible’ way. I guarantee you’ve experienced this for yourself too. If diets or restriction worked then we would all be thin!  

Why? Well, we are fighting biology. You can read more about this in my article why diets don’t work. In essence, diets are making us work against ourselves and paradoxically, we end up achieving the exact opposite of what we wanted in the first place. Argh! 

Also, it’s estimated that 75% of women suffer with some form of disordered eating. That includes some common behaviours such as banishing carbs and skipping meals, feeling anxious around food, having a constant hang up with food and body weight, being strict around food and attaching self-worth to body shape and size (3). Dieting or restriction exacerbates this. 

Even the Australian Government Guidelines have accepted that the majority of people will regain weight after trying to diet (4). And further research shows that at least one third of people who start a diet will actually regain more weight than they lost (5).  

It’s not all bad news though.  

What if I told you that you don’t have to make another “weight loss” type resolution again?  

What if you could stop dieting, improve your relationship with food and your overall health another way?  

I bet you’d be pretty excited to know how, right?  

Well, let me tell you there is a way.  

It’s called Intuitive Eating. This is about working with your appetite rather than in fear of it. It is an evidence-based, mindful practice that is associated with: 

  • A lower BMI (678) and you can read more about the specifics of what and how “to do Intuitive Eating” (link to IE article here). 
  • Lower blood pressure 
  • Lower cholesterol 
  • Less disordered eating 
  • Improved body satisfaction  
  • Improved self esteem 
  • A higher likelihood of taking part in physical activity  
  • Improved general wellbeing (9) 

If you feel ready to start practicing Intuitive Eating, your experiences and relationship with food will change for the better. 

As we approach the new year and you see more adverts trying to sell you the next big weight loss tool, just remember that it is complete BS. We know that any form of food deprivation and chronic restriction can lead to cravings and binge eating. We know that Intuitive Eating can help stop this and improve your relationship with food to increase your overall health and wellbeing.  

So, if you decide that you still need to make a resolution for 2019, then make it that you’re going to break up with dieting for good.  

For more on how to start intuitive eating, how to stop binge eating sugar, how to stop food obsession, emotional eating, stress eating, yo-yo dieting, and how to start intuitive eating check out my FREE download. This will guide you through some of the first steps to support you through your food problems. You will learn how to stop food obsession, and how to start intuitive eating

  1. BBC News (2004) Many people diet most of the time [Online]. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3454099.stm [accessed 18th December 2018].
  2. Anderson, James W., et al. “Long-term weight-loss maintenance: a meta-analysis of US studies–.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 74.5 (2001): 579-584.
  3. UNC School of Medicine (2008) Survey finds disordered eating behaviors among three out of four American women. Available from: http://www.med.unc.edu/www/newsarchive/2008/april/survey-finds-disordered-eating-behaviors-among-three-out-of-four-american-women [accessed 18th December 2018].  
  4. Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). (2013). Clinical Practice Guidelines of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, Adolescents and Children in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/n57_obesity_guidelines_140630.pdf 
  5. Mann T, Tomiyama AJ, Westling E et al. (2007) Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. Am Psychol 62, 220–233. 
  6. Tylka TL. Development and psychometric evaluation of a measure of intuitive eating. J Couns Psychol. 2006;53(2):226-240.  
  7. Hawks S, Madanat H, Hawks J, Harris A. The relationship between intuitive eating and health indicators among college women. Am J Health Educ. 2005;36(6):331-336.  
  8. Denny KN, Loth K, Eisenberg ME, Neumark-Sztainer D. Intuitive eating in young adults. who is doing it, and how is it related to disordered eating behaviors? Appetite. 2012 
  9. Schaefer JT & Magnuson AB. (2014). A review of interventions that promote eating by internal cues. J Acad Nutr Diet; 114: 734-760.  

 

Navigating Diet Talk at Christmas

Navigating Diet Talk at Christmas

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD Responding to Diet Talk at Festive GatheringsKATHERINE KIMBER & CAITLYN CAMPBELL, Registered Dietitian & Student DietitianDecember 17th 2019Seeing family can be stressful, especially whilst recovering from body image or eating issues and...

read more

What is Intuitive Eating?

What is Intuitive Eating?

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

What is Intuitive Eating?

KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian

10th December 2018

Whether it’s a detox, counting calories, fasting or “healthy eating” where you only consume “clean” fruit and vegetables, it is well established that restrictive eating (aka dieting) does more harm than good.

Dieting and restriction for the purposes of weight loss, doesn’t work for the majority. 

Robust studies show that restrictive eating can increase disordered eating, make us gain weight, binge eat, become totally preoccupied with food, lower our selfesteem and decrease our overall mental health (1). You will likely have experienced some of these yourself.

So why do we do it?  

Because we live in a world where it is considered normal to diet and pursue weight loss to be healthier and better. Stopping dieting can be hard, but I promise that there is a way you can stop … and that is through Intuitive Eating.  

So you’ve heard about this Intuitive Eating … but what is it really?  

Intuitive Eating is not a diet. It does not pursue weight loss and it does not control or restrict food intake. It’s an approach to help you get out of your head, and more into your body, removing the should / shouldn’t voices that constantly sit on your shoulders.  

Intuitive Eating includes mindful eating practicewhere we eat in a ‘present’ state, free from distraction. That means putting away our phones and laptops, which can be hard I know! By fully tuning in to what we’re eating means we can listen to our hunger and fullness cues which is another important part of this practice.  

This practice is also about honouring our body’s physical and psychological needsAsk yourself, what do I really want to eat NOW? If you feel like a slice of cake, eat the cake. If you feel like a Caeser salad, order the salad. By honouring your body’s needs and not depriving yourself of the thing you really want to eat means you’re more likely to feel satisfied! Hurrah.    

Finally, this practice is about taking weight out of the equation and allowing our body to settle at its natural weight once eating patterns normalise. This practice is all about learning how to enjoy food and feel satisfied, and therefore decrease binge eating and increase our overall health and wellbeing.  

Some 70 published studies have confirmed that many psychological and physiological benefits can arise through this practice (2). As such, Intuitive Eating has become a buzz term in the social media world as many people discover it can help stop dieting and reduce binge eating episodes. But sadly, it has been misinterpreted by some as being yet another potential tool for weight loss, which it is NOT. 

“Intuitive Eating is not a diet. It does not pursue weight loss and it does not control or restrict food intake.”

So how do you actually do this?  

Developed by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995, Intuitive Eating is evidence-based with 10 principles underpinning it (3). The principles and how you can get started include: 

1. Reject the Diet Mentality  

Unfollow any social media accounts that promote weight loss and push unrealistic body standards. Toss out diet plans, magazines and books that once graced your bookshelf. It’s time to break up with diet culture for good so you can allow Intuitive Eating to become part of your life.  

2. Honour Your Hunger 

Nourish your body with the right amount of energy to avoid going into starvation mode. Allowing yourself to become excessively hungry triggers a natural intense desire to eat, often leading to unintended binge eating. Try not to skip meals or have long gaps in between eating which can leave you feeling ravenous! 

3. Make Peace with Food 

Give yourself permission to eat ALL food! No single food is going to make you healthy or unhealthy, and restrictive eating can often lead to extreme feelings of deprivation. This often leads to binge eating which can fill you with guilt. No food should be “forbidden”.  

4. Challenge the Food Police  

Stand up to the Food Police in your head who create unrealistic food rules (e.g. no sugar, dairy, gluten, eating after 6pm, counting carbs). The Food Police often let you think that only healthy eating is good and eating cake is bad. It’s time to give these guys the flick!  

5. Respect Your Fullness  

When was the last time you stopped eating when you were comfortably full? Feeling BETTER for eating? When stuck in the diet mentality, we can often swing from being overly hungry (through restriction) all the way to being stuffed.

With intuitive eating, no foods are off limits and there are no rules. You can therefore feel safe in the knowledge that you can eat as much as you need to feel comfortable right now, and eat again when your body is ready for it. 

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor  

Eating rice cakes, kale crisps and low-calorie cereal bars probably aren’t going to leave you feeling satisfied. If you’re out at dinner and feel like ordering the chips, order themIf you deprive yourself of the thing you really feel like most, you are fuelling the restrictive diet mentality, which at some point will likely lead to feeling out of control around food.  

7. Honour Your Feelings Without Using Food 

Emotional eating is perfectly natural and is usually an act of self-care. It should not fill you with guilt. As you move through the intuitive eating journey, honour your hunger and remove the forbidden of foods, emotional eating can dissipateHowever, if food is still your only or main coping mechanism, we can work together to identify other ways to soothe your emotions that aren’t just with food. 

8. Respect Your Body  

It’s time to accept that your body shape and size is special and unique. Your genes are set in stone, so being critical about something that you can’t change is not a helpful exercise. Focus on all the wonderful things your body can do or has done to help rediscover self-love.  

9. Exercise – Feel the Difference 

Find movement that you love and do it as much or as little as you wish. Ditch rigid exercise plans and certainly don’t pursue activities that you don’t enjoy. If you find movement that you makes you feel good, you’ll automatically want to do it more often without even realising!  

10. Honour Your Health  

There is no such thing as eating perfectly. It is about making progress to consuming a variety of foods that make your body feel well and also satisfy your tastebuds. It turns out that most people find eating a nutritious balanced diet feels good! And it is about doing this consistently over time.

So you are ready to give Intuitive Eating a go, but feeling scared? 

 Embracing Intuitive Eating can be more of a challenging process than just being given a diet plan or set of rules. But it’s a way to find true freedom so you never have to go back to diets again. Of course, diets and the scales will always be there to go back to… 

Here are some answers to common fears: 

Fear that you may never stop eating 

 As result of years of chronic dieting and under-eating it can be hard to trust that you will ever stop eating. As you move through intuitive eating there may be a short period of time where you eat more than you desire. This is totally normal, and a natural response to restriction. When you start learning to trust that food is ALWAYS available, and there are no weird conditions on this, you will start to trust that you will only eat as much as you need.

You don’t know what or how to eat 

When you actually stop and pay attention to what you are eating, you may realise that you don’t even enjoy those foods! But rather than being concerned about what to eat, use intuitive eating to explore different kinds of foods and flavours. This is a great opportunity to figure out what you like to eat rather than what you think you should eat.  

Fear of loss of control 

Imagine if said you can eat whatever you want all day, every day. You may think you would never stop yourself eating chocolate chip cookies, wine, cheese, crisps and all the foods you consider ‘bad’. Let’s see what happens if I give you an endless supply of cookies.   

  • Day 1, you would eat a lot.  
  • By Day 2, you may still eat a lot, but less than Day 1.  
  • Day 3, you’d most likely eat less than Day 1 and 2.  
  • After a few days, you will start to crave other foods.  

This process is called habituation and is another key part of the Intuitive Eating practice.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember about Intuitive Eating is that it is not about eating a perfect diet – there is no such thing! The goal is to eat a variety of nutritious food with some ‘play foods’ that truly satisfy you. To remove the noise in your head and make peace with food and your body, so you can move on with other things that matter more in life. 

For more on how to start intuitive eating check out my FREE download. This will guide you through some of the first steps to support you through your food problems. You will learn how to stop food obsession, battling with emotional eating, stress eating, and how to start intuitive eating

References  

  1. Bacon L, Aphramor L. Weight science: evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. Nutr J. 2011;10:9 
  1. Tribole E, Resch E. The Intuitive Eating Workbook: Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications; 2017 
  1. Tribole E, Resch E. Intuitive Eating, 3rd ed. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press; 2012 
Navigating Diet Talk at Christmas

Navigating Diet Talk at Christmas

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD Responding to Diet Talk at Festive GatheringsKATHERINE KIMBER & CAITLYN CAMPBELL, Registered Dietitian & Student DietitianDecember 17th 2019Seeing family can be stressful, especially whilst recovering from body image or eating issues and...

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“Beach Body Ready” – How I get my clients there

“Beach Body Ready” – How I get my clients there

It’s the time of year when people start considering how they will get ‘beach body ready’. Perhaps even wishing they had continued with their January detox diet that they did so well on for a week or two.

What is beach body ready?

When we think about the perfect ‘beach body’ we often imagine a beyond natural perfect quasi-human, prancing around the beach. The pictures we see splayed across social media, and magazines make you feel like you have a problem, encouraging self-hatred and body fascism. They do not allow us to imagine the real non photo shopped body shapes we see on beaches, that have lumps, bumps and physical imperfections. Real bodies are what you actually see on most beaches in the world. Unless of course, you are in some sort of fantasy luxury exclusive resort, with a cosmetic surgeon, makeup, hair and body artist on hand.

Body Shapes and Sizes

Are you striving for something that doesn’t exist?

Now hopefully, you have realised it’s time to stop comparing yourself to something that doesn’t exist in the real world. Rather than striving for body aesthetic perfection, I work with my clients to get them to their happiest and healthiest self as an individual.

I teach them to respect their body, nourish it, care for it, and use it to do fun things! If you strive for perfection, over-restrict what you eat, or cut out large food groups, it’s likely this will come crashing down and lead to weight gain, and further dissatisfaction.

So how can you start?

  1. Learn to stop overeating – the first step I teach my clients is learning to listen and respect your hunger and fullness cues. Subsequently, you will build a better relationship with food, and nourish your body with what it needs. This will in turn help with managing your weight. I cover a lot of this in my free course (link below).

Challenge 1:  Before you decide to eat, try to rate your hunger on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is starving, and 10 is Christmas dinner full. Ideally, before eating, you sit at a 3-4, and after eating a 7. After a meal, you should feel comfortable, no longer hungry, and better for eating.

Delicious Looking Meal

  1. Eat what truly satisfies you – the unhealthful food will always look more appealing than that dry chicken salad with ice-burg lettuce. If you’re honouring your hunger, and doing so with a balance of nutritious colourful foods you enjoy, with the odd bit of alcohol or chocolate thrown in on occasion, you won’t be going too far wrong.

Challenge 2: Ask yourself this question. Did you eat 5 fruits and vegetables yesterday? If you didn’t, aiming for at least 5 every day would be a good place to start.

Fruit and Veg at every meal

 

  1. Move for fun, fitness and enjoyment – if you are going to the gym to burn off the pudding you ate last night, it’s likely you are working out for the wrong reasons. Why not stick to what you truly enjoy? This way, you are likely to continue it. We should aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week, and around 10,000 steps a day. Tennis, football, sailing, swimming, bike riding, dancing, climbing, yoga, brisk walks are just some examples! A good idea is to team up with others and turn it into a social.

Challenge 3: How many steps have you managed this week? If you are no where near 10,000 steps, start small and build up. Equally, if you are already smashing it, keep increasing!

I teach my clients to change what they think beach body ready means for them. To stop comparing themselves to something that doesn’t exist in the real world. I encourage you to do this too. That may or may not mean getting them to a supermodel body they need for their holiday in Hawaii. However, it does mean, they can get to a place where they feel their happiest and healthiest self.

Learning to nourish, care and fuel your body, can begin with some of the steps above. Understanding how to incorporate these into your own personal lifestyle, along with consistency, is key to achieving the results you desire. What works for you, will not work for the next person and there are no one size fits all. I work with my clients, offering personalised nutrition coaching, that fits with their individual daily needs and challenges.

Want to improve your willpower and self control? Check out my FREE course! 

About Me

I am Katherine Kimber, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and I am on a mission to set you free from dieting and confusing nutrition information. I have completed an extensive amount of formal education and training, achieving a first class degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at King’s College London, and a distinction in my Masters in Clinical Research. I am also highly experienced in providing motivational support, I’m trained in Intuitive Eating, and hold a Diploma in Neurolinguistic Programming. Let me know how I can help!
If you enjoyed reading this, check out some of my previous posts! 

Your comments and feedback are always welcome!

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