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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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Tag: food

16 Jun

An apple a day won’t keep your waistline at bay, but…

Ideas to Consider 2 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

A recent study in A Cancer Journal for Clinicians indicated that, despite popular wisdom, consuming more fruits and vegetables won’t reduce rates of obesity.

The dictum that eating more of the nutrient dense foods would slim our society has taken hold in recent years, and has become the basis for a number of public health initiatives encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption. But according to researchers, these programs are based on false assumptions.

Namely, the belief is that if people eat more fruits and vegetables, they’ll fill up and take in less calorically dense foods. Some of us have heard the tip to eat an apple before a meal because you’ll consume less of the higher calorie items, or to always start with a salad.

But what actually happens is that we tend to eat the apple or the salad, and consume just as much. In fact, it could be the case that our eating the “healthy” item psychologically primes us to feel we then deserve something “unhealthy.” Researchers found that people eat on average 30 more pounds of vegetables and 25 more pounds of fruit than 50 years ago, and yet they believe that we are heavier as a nation.

So what can we take away from this research?

If we are eating fruits and vegetables to reduce our waistlines, we might be sorely disappointed. But we still might have less disease, think and feel emotionally better, have prettier skin, and have more energy. And I think those are all much better reasons to consume than to have a lower number on a scale.

Oh, and they are delicious and better for the environment than animal-based products and highly processed foods. So there’s that.

We also have to recognize the difference between what is true for a society and what is true for an individual. While increasing fruit and vegetable consumption overall didn’t reduce population-wide weight, eating them could have an impact on an individual. That may not even be weight (or it could be…), but could be even more important health indicators.

So the message you’ll read here is this: don’t give up on your fruits and veggies. And don’t worry so much about what will make you thinner. Listen to your taste buds and tune in to the foods that make you feel happy and healthy.

02 Jun

What It Means When McDonald’s Sponsors Dietetic Conferences

Ideas to Consider 5 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

mcd{image credit :: thomas hawk}

I promise I don’t go to conferences for the food – at least not solely – but when I’m forking over a large sum and spending all day in educational seminars in alternately chilly and stuffy conference rooms, I could use a good meal around noon-time. So I would be a bit miffed to get a plastic-packaged meal from an everyday fast food joint. If I was attending the annual conference of my state’s dietetic association, I’d be downright irritated.

Nutritionists and dietitians at the annual California Dietetic Association conference in April were treated to lunch by McDonald’s, the premier sponsor of the event. If you cocked your head and raised your eyebrows in reading that (I’ll say it again… premier sponsor), you’re not alone. Nutrition professionals in attendance – and I – had the same reaction.

McDonald’s is now sponsoring dietetic conferences? Where will Big Food not go?

And lest you think that McDonald’s is an anomaly, other exhibitors included Nestle and Better Buds, maker of an enzyme-modified butter product with the benefit of “flavor masking” (yum…?).

Now, just because McDonalds supported the conference and gave out free lunch doesn’t mean that the actual educational sessions the dietitians were attending were influenced, right? Well, Mother Jones reported that sessions included talks about the safety of genetically modified foods, the value of Walmart in communities, and the defense of high-fructose corn syrup.

The bottom line is that there are many sides to every debate, and none of the above topics are clear cut. Personally, I would be frustrated to think that dietitians in our communities are hearing only one perspective on any of these ideas. Villainizing any one food or food group – whether it’s wheat, sugar, dairy, or something else – isn’t an approach I would support. So I’m not suggesting that all the points made by Big Food are inherently wrong.

But we all know that it’s hard to argue with a giant, especially a giant with billions of dollars who are primarily invested in keep shareholders happy.  Not healthy, but happy. Decreased sales because of panic around trans fats is a crisis for thousands of companies in the U.S. And trying to reduce the panic by changing public discourse is a hell of a lot cheaper (and less risky) than changing their entire product line. I get it. Business has an agenda, and that agenda is not always in line with public health.

But we trust our dietetic professionals to sift through the noise of and tell us how to navigate this chaotic world of food – a world that’s unparalleled in its range of options and misinformation. And when those professionals get caught up in the agenda of Big Food, I get concerned.

And it’s not just some dietitians in California at a convention that I worry about, it’s the larger scale canoodling between organizations like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the largest of its kind, and companies like Coca-Cola and Mars.

Put simply, how can an organization whose primary objective is to enhance the public’s health make reasoned recommendations when dependent on organizations with a completely different mission?

Back to the real world where money is what makes it go round… The reason the AND and the School Nutrition Association and so many other similar organizations accept these sponsorships is because they need money to survive and do their work, and it’s easy to submit to the allure of cold hard cash coming from Big Food with plenty of it.

So if our dietetic organizations need money to exist and enact their missions, and other sources aren’t available, what happens? We get our dinner served with a slice of Big Food agenda. Maybe it’s better than going hungry… Perhaps only time will tell.

What do you think? Should corporations like McDonalds be sponsoring dietetic events?

30 Jan

You Should Know :: Food to Eat

You Should Know 4 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

food_to_eat-cover-newest

If someone has ever told you that there’s no simple recipe for eating disorder recovery, well… they’re right. But fortunately there is now a set of easy (and delicious!) recipes that can aide in recovery from destructive eating habits. It’s called Food to Eat and it’s the new book by Registered Dietitian, Lori Lieberman, and eating disorder survivor, Cate Sangster.

It would be easy to call this a recipe book for eating disorders, but that would be grossly over-simplifying what it offers. Rather than a cookbook,  Lori and Cate have created a fabulous resource for individuals working their way towards recovery. They put they heads together to develop a book that teaches readers not only great-tasting recipes, but how, and even why, to approach food.

Creating a food-focused book for a food-fearful set of readers is no easy task, and Cate and Lori are able to do it with sensitivity, skill, and even humor. The book shifts back and forth between the two authors’ perspectives, so readers get a chance to hear from both an experience nutrition expert and someone who’s been in the trenches of an eating disorder for many years. The book makes it clear that the two didn’t always agree on the approach to take, and I appreciated the candor and richness that resulted.

What others might appreciate is the focus on developing an awareness of one’s own stage of readiness in tackling cooking and food preparation. The authors are cognizant that individuals are at various places in recovery and that even making something simple can be a major hurdle. They respond both firmly and with compassion about the importance of making small steps towards a healthier tomorrow.

At the heart of the book are several chapters worth of recipes. They are divided by the preparation time required, from less than 20 minutes to greater than 40. They include helpful symbols indicating useful information such as whether the recipe is vegetarian-friendly or requires some per-prepared ingredients. It’s obvious that the recipes were selected carefully, with a diverse set of a readers in mind. None require intensive kitchen skills and they are rich in flavors and nutrients. Each is accompanied by beautiful photography of the prepared dish. What’s great too is that those following an exchange system of meal planning can find this information in the appendix.

Developed for those in recovery, this is really a book both for individuals in the trenches of disordered eating, those on the other side, and people who care about them. It’s a fun, helpful guide to eating well, and a book that could have a place in every kitchen. (And now it’s even available for the iPad!)

What are your favorite things to make?

24 Aug

Reader Poll :: Should we tax “junk” food?

Current Events, Reader Poll 5 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Would you pay $1.44 more for a six-pack of Pepsi? What about 50 cents more for your favorite french fries?

Mark Bittman, journalist and food activist, is banking on the answer being no – and yes. In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Bittman outlined a push for creating an excise tax on certain foods deemed to be unhealthy, with the subsidies used to promote healthier options.

Despite my initial cringe at the reference to “bad food” (I work tirelessly to eliminate the categorical and moral language of “good” and “bad” when it comes to food among my patients), I read on to learn more about Bittman’s theory.

And what he suggests makes sense – at least initially. He starts his argument by reminding us all of the dangers of obesity (another cringe, but still reading…) and the increasing health-care costs piling up due to our heavily non-nutritive U.S. diet of potato chips and doughnuts.

He suggests that the food industry is incapable of marketing healthier foods (and based on my analysis of the baby carrot gaffe, I would have to agree) and are not incentivized to do so. Thus, he says, it’s up to the federal government to intervene on behalf of the health of its citizens.

What makes a tax such as this more palatable is that the funds generated – which are expected to be in the billions – would help to subsidize healthy food options for the poor, something that is direly needed regardless of the means. Indeed, a substantial proportion of our nation lives in what has been termed food deserts, areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk due to lack of transportation, proximities of grocery stores, or other reasons. (To determine if your area is a food desert, check out this locator.)

According to Bittman, as well as researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy at Yale, an excise tax would work to decrease the consumption of sugary foods, decrease disease and health-care costs, and raise funds for health-focused programs. Millions of Americans would benefit from having nutrient-rich foods more available and making feeding their children healthy options one less thing to worry about. The potential impact of this cannot be overstated.

But we’re still left with the difficult questions about the role of government in helping us make our food choices. Bittman suggests that public health has always been the role of government. But does public health call for making Red Bull less affordable?

Also, what is the long-term impact of beginning to categorize foods as good or bad, as would be required to decide on what items to tax? If one food is taxed and another is not, should that really inform our food choices? What about making those decisions based on our own body’s particular needs and desires?

I also worry about the implications of the data that has and will most certainly been used to popularize these types of initiatives. When we talk about posting calories at restaurants and other such (formerly radical) ideas, proponents frequently point to the “obesity epidemic” and the “war on obesity,” a term and movement fraught with bias and discrimination. Is there a way to propose a food tax without implying fat people make bad food choices unless made to pay more? Perhaps, but it’ll require more creativity than we often see in politics and the media today.

Those are some of my initial thoughts, but I want to hear yours! What do you think?

 

 

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