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Embrace healthy eating

Embrace healthy eating
July 28
13:19 2017

I’ve accepted that many people don’t want to meet a dietitian. It’s assumed that we’re going to suggest eating bland, healthy, nutritious food, and avoiding all the tasty treats. Quite frankly, sometimes a version of that is true, causing a vicious cycle to occur.

Clients are annoyed that they must give up the fun foods, and every follow-up appointment is a discussion about how they feel deprived and can’t imagine another day without their drinks, sweets and fries.

This pattern leads to stress. People judge food as “good” and “bad”, are overwhelmed about food choices, feel frustrated that they can’t eat treats and sweets and guilty when they eat something they’re not “supposed” to. Everything about food, nutrition and health becomes stressful and unpleasant.
It’s a tricky situation, because dietitians truly don’t want people to excessively eat sweets, fried foods and other goodies or drink too much alcohol or sweetened beverages. We want to support individuals in creating long-term behaviour change and enjoying the experience. Typically, if people think they’re on a diet, it rarely sticks for the long term.
To achieve the goal of nutrition, behaviour change requires a shift in perspective.
Psychologist Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk, “How to make stress your friend”, sheds light on how one’s perception of stress can be a game changer in creating sustainable behaviour change.

She highlights a study in which researchers took close to 30,000 names from the 1998 US National Health Interview Survey and looked at how those people answered questions related to their stress levels, their perception of stress, and whether they try to reduce their stress.
The researchers then used public health records to compare that information with mortality data through 2006. One finding was that neither amount of stress nor perception of stress alone was associated with a higher risk of death. But both of those factors together – reporting a lot of stress and believing stress has a large effect on health – did increase that risk.

Another study she describes is one in which participants were put in stressful situations and monitored on their physical response. One group was taught in advance to look at stress as positive.

For example, they learned that an adrenaline rush helps them perform better. That group experienced fewer negative physical response symptoms. Their perception of stress decreased their internal stress response.

How can this support you in creating new nutrition habits?
Here are some common stressful and unpleasant thoughts one can have while starting a healthy eating plan:
“I hate being so restricted. How am I going to survive without my favourite food?”
“I’m not going to be able to have a social life! How am I going to fit in during social situations? What am I going to eat at that party?”
“I hate this. Why do I have to struggle like this? Why does this have to be so difficult?

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