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.  

Am I addicted to sugar?

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD Am I addicted to sugar? KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian 1st May 2019 I am often asked by clients whether sugar addiction is a real thing and if so, whether they should go cold turkey to quit.  Quitting seems logical solution, given that...

read more

How to stop food obsession

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD How to Stop Food Obsession   KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian April 17th 2019 Obsessing about food is all too common. It’s often seen as part and parcel of being a human being. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. In this article I...

read more

This may be the reason why you can’t stop binge eating

This may be the reason why you can’t stop binge eating

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

This may be the reason why you can’t stop binge eating 

KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian

January 30th 2019

As a result of the diet culture world we live in, it has become all too common to live by “food rules”.  

These rules are usually self-imposed and dictate the types of foods that should be consumed, how much and when. Whether that’s only eating “clean” foods or eating a certain number of calories at each meal or only eating at specific times of the day, the rules can be subconscious, and very rigid.  

So, what if I said to you that it was time to ditch all these rules and give yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever you like?  

Would your response be … 

a) “I already do allow all foods in my life, but I also give myself permission NOT to eat if I don’t feel like it.

or 

b) “ummm, you mean everything like full fat dairy, chips and pastries? But, but, but … what about my health?”

If you answered a) well, good on you! You are someone who knows that all foods can be part of a varied diet, but at the same time, will know when NOT to eat and consciously choose not to do so. You are someone who does not let food control you, because you know that all food is available at any time when you need it.   

If you answered b), then you’re not alone. This article will talk about how we can incorporate all food in your life in a mindful, conscious way, without fear of eating chaotically and feeling out of control around food.   

In order to create a healthy relationship with food one of the first things we must do is give ourselves permission to eat all foods. That’s right. All foods. Without restriction.  

Internationally run self-care retreat, Green Mountain at Fox Run, states really nicely that: “many women aren’t totally sold on the idea that we’re allowed to eat what we want at first, thinking, “That’s exactly what brought me here to begin with.” But they do usually all agree that the alternative approach of restriction and deprivation hasn’t worked so well either.”

 Yes, allowing all foods to be consumed may sound scary and downright crazy, especially because diet culture has led us to believe that some foods are “good and some are “bad”. But it’s important to remember that by doing this and becoming an intuitive eater is not about letting go of your health.  

It’s about making all foods normal, so you can enjoy eating all foods in moderation without episodes of binge eating or feeling out of control. 

Having rigid rules around forbidden foods, paradoxically leads to greater restrictions, which then increases the chances of binge eating. However, if we remove the food rules and allow all foods (especially previously forbidden ones) in our life the urgency and intensity to eat decreases (1). This phenomenon is called habituation, where repeated exposure to something eventually loses its appeal. Habituation can actually be experienced in other facets of our life. For example, when you buy a new car and first drive it out of the dealership, it’s exciting. But eventually, the novelty of the new car wears off.  

This can also be applied in the context of food. So, for dieters, this means that the more a certain food is restricted, the higher the desire it is to eat because of the lack of exposure to it. If we can give ourselves full permission to eat all foods, then the “eat-this-now-before-you-never-let-yourself-eat-this-again” mentality is likely to dissipate.  

Interestingly, studies show that people who follow food rules generally display perfectionist traits (2). And that makes sense, considering that perfectionism is where a person will place large emphasis on organisation and preciseness, set high personal expectations and be self-critical if personal accomplishments are not met (2).  

So now that we understand why we need to give ourselves unconditional permission to eat, let’s break it down into simple steps of how to actually do it.  

Step 1: Change of mindset: No food is morally better than another 

Food is food! Let’s not label it as “good” or “bad” or demonise calories. Seeing all foods as equal, means your choice to eat a certain thing is not emotionally driven. So that means deciding to eat a cookie is equal to deciding to eat a salad. Neither one of those food choices has a higher moral value. If you want to eat the cookie, eat the cookie. If you want to eat the salad, eat the salad!  

Step 2: Identify your “forbidden” food and practice giving yourself permission to eat it 

Is there a particular food that you’ve previously not allowed yourself to have? Let’s name an example. Say your once “forbidden food” was ice cream. It’s now time to give yourself full permission to allow ice cream back into your life.  

For some clients, this is scary. They feel that if they give themselves permission to eat their forbidden food, they may never stop eating it.  

So how do we manage this?  

Firstly, when giving ourselves permission to eat, don’t do it when hungry! Maybe try this 30mins – 1hour after a meal. Also, perhaps try this in an environment where you feel safe, such as at work, in a restaurant, at someone else’s house, before bringing it into the home.  

So, let’s use the ice-cream example. When you desire ice-cream, pause and check in with yourself about what is driving this desire. Are you sad, tired, angry, bored? Is it just convenient to have it?  

Then have a think about the quality of the ice-cream. How will it make you feel afterwards?  

Once you’ve checked in on these things, if you still decide to eat the icecream, then do so mindfully. That is, slowing down, getting rid of any distractions and truly tuning in as you take each mouthful. As you take bites, think about the texture, taste and smell. Try to really be in the present moment throughout the whole eating experience. 

Then once you’ve finished, carry on with your day and don’t give it another thought. A big part of this process is not allowing food to occupy our minds and think about it anymore than we have to.  

Step 3: Make a plan for how you’re going to include the “forbidden foods” back into your life 

Now that you know you can have your icecream whenever you choose, plan out when you would like to practice eating mindfully with it. This helps to avoid eating it impulsively. And remember, this is practice and it’s normal to not get it perfect! Some days you may end up eating more of the icecream than you would have liked, but that’s perfectly fine! This is about gaining confidence that you can trust your body and discover that no one food has power over you.   

Giving yourself permission is a process. And it takes practiceIf there are days where you overeat, instead of being critical, get curious about what was going on that day. The key is not to beat yourself up over it! After all, there are much worse things you could do than eat some chocolate!  

For more on how to stop binge eating, 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

References 

  1. Tribole E, Resch E. Intuitive Eating, 3rd ed. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press; 2012 
  2. Brown, A. J., Parman, K. M., Rudat, D. A., & Craighead, L. W. (2012). Disordered eating, perfectionism, and food rules. Eating Behaviors, 13(4), 347-353. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2012.05.011 

 

Am I addicted to sugar?

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD Am I addicted to sugar? KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian 1st May 2019 I am often asked by clients whether sugar addiction is a real thing and if so, whether they should go cold turkey to quit.  Quitting seems logical solution, given that...

read more

How to stop food obsession

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD How to Stop Food Obsession   KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian April 17th 2019 Obsessing about food is all too common. It’s often seen as part and parcel of being a human being. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. In this article I...

read more

Hitting Diet Rock Bottom

Hitting Diet Rock Bottom

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

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!  

Am I addicted to sugar?

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD Am I addicted to sugar? KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian 1st May 2019 I am often asked by clients whether sugar addiction is a real thing and if so, whether they should go cold turkey to quit.  Quitting seems logical solution, given that...

read more

How to stop food obsession

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD How to Stop Food Obsession   KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian April 17th 2019 Obsessing about food is all too common. It’s often seen as part and parcel of being a human being. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. In this article I...

read more

How to spot diet culture: unpacking the less obvious diets

How to spot diet culture: unpacking the less obvious diets

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

How to spot diet culture: unpacking the less obvious diets

KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian

January 9th 2019

At the start of a new year, we’re bombarded with health information. Some people tell us to start this new, exciting, “long-term solution” diet. Others tell us we don’t need to diet. And some tell us that we just need to make small and consistent “lifestyle changes”. All of these messages can make it darn right confusing as to how we can improve our health. 

Research tells us that weight-loss doesn’t work for the majority. Whether it’s jazzed up a ‘lifestyle’ but is still selling weight loss, it’s a diet. Sadly, 80% of people who lose weight regain it (and often more) by 5 years (1).

I’m not here to ruin your fun and I am not anti-weight loss. Rather, I anti-pursuit of weight loss as I have witnessed the miserable side effects of pursuing it – there is also a load of research that have identified these miserable side effects too. 

I therefore, believe it’s important for you to understand whether you are subconsciously wrapped up in a diet. To understand the damaging effects of dieting, and to be able to point out who is selling you a diet, before jumping into the next diet trap. 

So, are you subconsciously wrapped up in a diet? 

Well sadly, diet culture is everywhere. It teaches us that we’re not good enough as we are. That we have to live a life of constant monitoring, controlling our bodies, restricting ourselves, and over exercising. It promises that when we’re thinner, we will fit in, be smarter, happier, more loveable and more worthy. 

We can see how prominent it is when we look at different types of eating personalities.  

 

Firstly, there is the Careful Eater. This can be someone who thinks they’re not following a specific diet, but instead chooses a certain food because they think it is healthier than something else. 

This person may scrutinise food labels or seek reassurance from a waiter in a restaurant that a meal is prepared exactly as they like it (I.e.: is it grilled rather than fried?). The Careful Eater can spend most of their days thinking about what they’re going to eat and even become a little anxious about it.  

The problem with this type of eating is that while it’s great to make informed food choices, it can adversely affect your relationship with food and your body. If you’re only eating “safe” foods and not really what you care for, it can lead to bingeing episodes later on due to deprivation of what you actually want to eat. 

The second eating personality is the Professional Dieter. As you’d imagine, this person can be easily identified. They’re the ones who are clued up on the latest dieting trends. They can tell you calorie content of most foods. They are then always pursuing another diet after the previous one didn’t work out. They diet and eat for the pursuit of weight loss, rather than health.

It’s not unusual for this person to engage in Last Supper eating (I.e: bingeing on foods that they don’t think they’ll ever be allowed to eat again) and starting their new diet the next day with a “clean slate”.  

The problem with this is that chronic dieting is not an effective or scientifically proven method to lose weight. In fact, it is a surefire way to develop other harmful effects such as disordered eating, slowed metabolism and decreased mental health.  

The final eating personality is the Unconscious Eater. As the name would suggest, this person will eat while being distracted by something else, such as watching television or being on their phone. There are subtypes under this category.  

The Chaotic Unconscious Eater is the busy person whose life is so hectic that they’ll eat anything that’s available at the time. They can go for long stints without eating and whenever they finally do eat, they’re ravenous. They can end up losing the ability to recognise biological hunger signals. 

The Refuse-Not Unconscious Eater is someone who will eat food that’s in sight regardless of hunger and are usually unaware of what or how much they’re eating. Attending cocktail parties or buffet style events can be tough for this group. 

The Waste-Not Unconscious Eater is the person who will not leave anything on their plate to ensure they can get as much value for money as they can. It can be common for this person to eat other people’s leftovers to ensure nothing is wasted.  

The Emotional Unconscious Eater eats food to soothe an emotion, whether it’s sadness, loneliness or frustration. This person often thinks that eating is the problem as opposed to getting to the root cause that’s driving them to eat in the first place 

The problem with being any subtype of Unconscious Eater is that it can lead to overeating. A classic example is having a large packet of crisps at your desk while writing a report and before you know it, the packet is empty because you were completely engaged in the report writing, rather than the eating.  

It is not anyone’s fault that they have become one or several of these types. This is the effect of living in a society where there is a $66 billion weight loss industry out there profiting from the people who will do anything to pursue their “ideal” body (2). 

And this industry continues to thrive because the same people go back again and again. That’s because the diet or weight loss aid failed them… not because of their lack of willpower as diet culture would have you believe. 

Does any of this sound familiar to you? 

If so, rejecting diets and becoming more of an Intuitive Eater may be best for you. 

An Intuitive Eater is able to make choices based on biological hunger and make food choices without experiencing guilt, or an ethical dilemma. They honour their hunger, respect their fullness and enjoy the pleasures of eating.

How do you spot diet culture? 

Unfortunately, there has been a recent trend of “health professionals” claiming under false pretences to be non-diet. They talk about body positivity and “anti-diet this” and “nondiet that”, which seems legitimate, when in actual fact is not.

Instead, they still push dieting and weight loss. This is a problem, when we know the side effects of any pursuit of weight loss are pretty miserable. 

In order to help shed some light on how to spot dietculture, I have identified some key phrases. These are notoriously used by these people who are trying to sound like they’re not selling diets, but actually are. 

  • This is a “wellness approach”  
  • It’s a lifestyle not a diet” 
  • This food is good and this food is bad’” 
  • You can only have X serving size and amount of meals/snacks/points in one day 
  • “You can only have X grams of carbs/fat/protein per day” 
  • You can only eat at certain times of the day 
  • Detox your fridge”  
  • “This is a cleanse in a healthy way 
  • “You only have to eliminate x, y, z foods for 30 days to change your life”  
  • Let’s work together to shift habits 
  • “This is all about clean, energising eating” 

So essentially, if it looks like a diet, sounds like a diet and smells like a diet, it’s most likely a diet. And it’s important that we call these people out. The reason being that even if you have the best intentions of stopping dieting, you could still have a little bit of unconscious diet mentality (called Psuedo-dieting). This could make you susceptible to the diet trap 

 

But this is not your fault. This is the effect of the insidious diet culture we live in.  

That’s why we need to make sure you can spot diet culture being perpetuated by people cashing in on it. Together, we can call them out, and help the world to see that dieting is not the answer.  

For more on ending dieting and how to start intuitive eating, check out my FREE download. 

References 

  1. 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. 
  2. Rothblum, E. D. (2018). Slim chance for permanent weight loss. Archives of Scientific Psychology, 6(1), 63-69. doi:10.1037/arc0000043 

Am I addicted to sugar?

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD Am I addicted to sugar? KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian 1st May 2019 I am often asked by clients whether sugar addiction is a real thing and if so, whether they should go cold turkey to quit.  Quitting seems logical solution, given that...

read more

How to stop food obsession

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD How to Stop Food Obsession   KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian April 17th 2019 Obsessing about food is all too common. It’s often seen as part and parcel of being a human being. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. In this article I...

read more

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.  

 

Am I addicted to sugar?

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD Am I addicted to sugar? KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian 1st May 2019 I am often asked by clients whether sugar addiction is a real thing and if so, whether they should go cold turkey to quit.  Quitting seems logical solution, given that...

read more

How to stop food obsession

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD How to Stop Food Obsession   KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian April 17th 2019 Obsessing about food is all too common. It’s often seen as part and parcel of being a human being. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. In this article I...

read more

How to be healthy without obsessing this Christmas

How to be healthy without obsessing this Christmas

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

How to be Healthy Without Obsessing this Christmas

KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian

12th December 2018

It’s been a busy year. You’re exhausted and you’re ready to take a well-deserved break.

But you’re also feeling slightly anxious about the upcoming festivities – mainly because being merry often involves eating and drinking. Perhaps you are worried this could “undo” the progress you’ve made this year in your nutrition journey.  

But fear not. I’ve compiled my favourite tips and strategies to help you enjoy the holiday period (and all other times of the year!) without being concerned with weight or “out of control” eating behaviours.  

Tip #1 – Make the buffet your friend 

Buffets can be extremely overwhelming and cause much anxiety when it comes time to filling up a plate. With so much choice and food available it’s hard to know where to begin. What should I have? Should I have sweet or savoury? How much of each thing should I have? Can I go back for seconds?  

What can you do if you find yourself feeling anxious?  

Give yourself permission to eat all foods. All of the dishes that are presented on the buffet tables are there for you to enjoy – in as much or as little quantities as you desire. The food does not control you, but rather, trust yourself that you can figure out exactly what food you need that will truly satisfy you. 

But how? 

  • First, pick up a plate and wander around the buffet.  
  • Ask yourself “what looks good and what do I really feel like now?”  
  • Prioritise what you would like to REALLY eat now.  

Go for fewer options to have quality, rather than a little bit of everything. This can lead to a very full plate filled with foods that you may not really feel like eating. Being mindful in this way will help you to choose something that will truly satisfy you. This will help avoid any deprivation, which we know can lead to binge eating and guilt later on.  

A few things to remember when you’re doing this exercise: 

  • The food that you see will be there tomorrow. 
  • The food that you think you might crave later can be bought later. 
  • If you’re still hungry after your first plate, you can go get more food!  

“Choose something that will truly satisfy you and avoid any deprivation, which we know can lead to binge eating and guilt later on.

Tip #2  You can have great time with or without tipples 

There can be a lot of pressure at holiday events to always have a drink in your hand. You are your own person and you can make your own decision about what and when you would like to drink. If you are feeling overwhelmed, perhaps make a plan about which events you’d like to have alcohol at and which ones you don’t. Having a strategy over the festive period could mean fewer sore heads in the morning and happier holidays!  

What can you do at the events to manage how much alcohol you drink?  

Alcohol can be a tricky one, and when you’ve had a few drinks, listening to your intuition and tuning into your hunger tends to be a little more difficult. This is something to be mindful of. 

If you would like to drink more consciously, here are some things to consider. Before you head out, perhaps have something to drink before you leave the house to quench your thirst. This may prevent you turning up to an event thirsty and dehydrated which could lead to less conscious drink choices.  

Once you’re there, try to tap into your body signals to figure out what it is that you’d really like to drink. Similar to when we eat mindfully, ask yourself what is it that will truly satisfy you right then and there. If it’s a non-alcoholic drink, then choose that!  

If you’re not sure about what to have, have a glass of water while you decide. If you enjoy a cheeky cocktail, then go get it! But then don’t feel pressured to have multiple cocktails one after the other. Feel free to have a soft drink in between. 

Tip #3 – Don’t let people drag you into negative diet talk  

We know we live in a world that is obsessed with weight and the latest fad diet that promises to “improve health”. Well I’m here to tell you that diets do not work for the majority – whether it’s in the form of a fast, a cleanse, a wrap or a clean eating lifestyle change.  

All of these diets need to be given the flick because robust evidence shows that at least 80% of the population who diet cannot sustain long term weight loss (1,2).

Why? Because our bodies are biologically driven to hold onto fat stores and slow down metabolism any time we deprive ourselves or restrict food. No wonder we have such intense cravings and end up binge eating when we diet! And not only that, dieting leads to poor selfesteem, disordered eating, loss of hunger/fullness cues, rebound weight gain, slowed metabolism, preoccupation with food … need I go on? Dieting needs to be voted off the island. Pronto. 

So what can you do if you find yourself in a circle where negative diet culture or body shape/size is the topic of conversation?  

You can either remove yourself entirely from the conversation or if you’re feeling bold you could suggest “I am sure we have more interesting things to talk about other than weight loss… Carole, how’s [insert interesting topic here].” And if that doesn’t stop the diet talk, remove yourself from the conversation. You do not have to engage in diet or negative body image talk!  

Hopefully these tips help you stay on track with your body positive and intuitive eating journeys through the festive season. (For more in depth information about intuitive eating, feel free to have a read of this article which goes through fundamentals of this mindful practice). Just remember, there is no such thing as eating or drinking perfectly and it’s normal to feel as though you’re going “off track”.  

Use this time to reflect on how far you’ve come and celebrate your wins. Trust in yourself that you have the control and wisdom to know exactly what your body needs at this time of year. Honour your internal cues. You hold the key to knowing what your body truly needs to be nourished and satisfied.  

I hope you have a wonderful festive season and spend this time doing the things that make you happy with the people you love most. 

If you need a little something to help you through this Christmas period without getting sucked into diets, diet talk and obsessing with food and your weight, check out my FREE download. This will guide you through how to start intuitive eating to help resolve your food problems.

References: 

  1. Ikeda J, Amy NK, Ernsberger P, et al. The National Weight Loss Control Registry: a critique. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour. 2005;37(4):203-205.
  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.

Am I addicted to sugar?

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD Am I addicted to sugar? KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian 1st May 2019 I am often asked by clients whether sugar addiction is a real thing and if so, whether they should go cold turkey to quit.  Quitting seems logical solution, given that...

read more

How to stop food obsession

RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD How to Stop Food Obsession   KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian April 17th 2019 Obsessing about food is all too common. It’s often seen as part and parcel of being a human being. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. In this article I...

read more