5 Signs Your “Healthy Lifestyle” is a Diet in Disguise

So, you’ve dieted what seems like most of your life…and you’ve finally said you’re “done” with dieting…you just want to be “healthy”…so you look to magazines, blogs, Pinterest, and social media influencer’s to help you…

“This” influencer tells you to take a bunch of supplements, fast once a week, and drink a herbal detox twice a month. You do what they say, after all – this is what it takes to be “healthy”, right?

Then, “that” influencer tell you it’s okay to eat “forbidden” foods, but only on cheat days. And, if you want to eat fruit, don’t eat more than 2 servings per day if you really want to be “healthy”.

…only eat organic, non GMO foods if you want to be “healthy”.

Oh, and don’t even think about touching any grains, legumes, beans or night-shade plants because, well…you want to be “healthy”, don’t you?

“It’s not a diet, it’s a healthy lifestyle”…

Do you see a pattern here? It doesn’t matter if it’s a “fad” diet or not…if someone tells you to completely eliminate one food item out of your “lifestyle” (unless it’s an allergy or legit medical condition) – it’s a diet!

Now, why are diets undesirable? What’s wrong with them?

Well, in short, 90-95% of diets don’t work in the long haul. They aren’t sustainable for life. People go on diets to lose weight, then within 2-5 years after that diet, all the weight that was lost is gained back, plus some extra pounds. Does this sound familiar to you? It definitely resonates with me. And I’m sorry…but if you are still demonizing food but you’re not on an official “fad diet”, you’ve got a poor relationship with food. And without a true healthy relationship with food, you’ll have a hard time getting out of that “diet” mentality – whether you’re on a formal diet or not!

Here are 5 ways you can test if your “healthy lifestyle” is in fact diet culture posing as “wellness” or “fitness” culture.

  1. You have a “good food – bad food” mentality
    You only buy the almond flour crackers because wheat is “bad”. You only buy cauliflower crust because it’s “gluten free”. You’ll only allow yourself to eat blueberries because other fruits are “fattening”, and blueberries are “super-foods”. You eat sweet potatoes over white potatoes because they are “healthier” according to diet culture. You’ll never touch anything with refined sugar in it, but eat the tar out of something made out of maple syrup or coconut sugar.

    My friends, that is diet culture in disguise. “Wellness culture” is just modern day diet culture. If you find yourself forbidding these foods but you’re not on a “formal fad diet” – you’re still being affected by diet culture. Start by normalizing all foods. All foods provide your body with some sort of value, whether it’s nutrient dense or not.

    Now, of course nutrient dense foods are nourishing for the body because they make our bodies physically feel good – packed full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber – but that doesn’t mean it’s “better” than other foods. Food does not hold a moral value – one food is not going to lead to weight gain or weight loss…food in excess leads to weight gain – regardless of what food it is.
  2. You have to “earn” food
    Wellness culture highlights the importance of intense exercise. And if you want to be healthy, you gotta exhaust yourself in your workout (according to fitness culture).

    I’m totally on board with exercise – I love it! I love it because it makes my body feel amazing – inside and out. But, why are you exercising? Are you exercising to burn calories? Do you find yourself overly exhausted after a workout? Can’t sit on a toilet 2 days after a leg workout? You’re likely over-training.

    I used to think I had to burn at least 500 calories in a workout if I wanted to eat for the day. And if I was “planning” on eating dessert or going out to eat, I’d push myself even harder so I could “earn” food. But you know what? Your body STILL deserves and physically needs nourishment even if you lay in the bed all day. You of course need more fuel the more active you are…but you need food every single day – regardless if you worked out or not. You don’t have to exercise to earn food. Your body needs it for survival. Period.
  3. If you’re craving “this”, eat “that”
    Have you ever seen those Pinterest graphics that say “if you’re craving chocolate, that means you’re deficient in magnesium. Eat some kale, it’ll curb your craving!”

    I used to follow that stuff! And y’all – I don’t care who you are – if you’re craving chocolate, I can promise you eating kale will not satisfy that craving. I see this a lot from people’s experiences (and my own) – trying so hard to mask the craving by eating something “healthy” instead…

    What happens is, when we don’t honor that craving and try to substitute with something else, our mind can’t stop thinking about that one food. You end up eating other things to “fix” the craving…but ultimately, those other foods don’t satisfy you. So, you end up “giving in” and eating the craving anyway…you likely feel over-stuffed and intense food guilt. You blame the craving, when really it was all the food leading up to the craving that over-stuffed you.

    Has this ever happened to you? I’ve been there!

    Tip: Always honor your craving in an amount that will satisfy your body to prevent a binge later on.
  4. You have to “track” your food
    This is probably my favorite one. Not too long ago, I did a “fitness challenge” hoping to work on my muscular strength. A big part of the program was tracking your food using MyFitnessPal. I did it for a few days just to see if I was hitting my macros…

    Even though I thought I was “recovered” from diet culture at that point in my life (I wasn’t by the way…I was stuck in “wellness” culture), I found myself feeling guilty about food. I was so obsessed with getting my macros and calorie counts perfect, and when I didn’t count calories, I was worried if I was eating too much…”if I eat this, will I go over my allotted calories for the day?”…”am I allowed to have this?”…”is there too much fat in this avocado?”…”crap, I’ve gone over my carb count for the day, guess I can’t have anything other than water for supper…”

    My “so-called” recovered diet-self was on a downward spiral back into diet culture, so I stopped tracking my food & quit taking “before & after” pics, and focused on how the workouts made my body physically feel. How the workouts improved my strength and flexibility. How the workouts improved my stress levels and mental well-being.

    You CAN love fitness & exercise without tracking your macros. You CAN be “healthy” without tracking every little thing that you put into your mouth. Calorie & macro counting is meticulous and time exhausting – you can do SO much more with your time!
  5. “Cheat days” or “cheat meals”
    This is very popular in the fitness industry. More specifically, cheat meals. You can eat anything you want in an hour time frame. So, you’ve restricted all these “cheat” foods for at least a week, as soon as you gain access to those foods during your “cheat hour”, you’re going to cram that food into your mouth as fast as you can so you don’t waste any of it…so you can eat as much of this “yummy, terrible for you” foods before the hour is up.

    This is wrong on so many levels. First, you have the “good-foods bad-foods” mentality. Second, you’re completely ignoring your hunger & fullness cues – a very instrumental step in mindful & intuitive eating. Our body was designed to tell us when we are hungry & when we are full – to prevent us from overeating. But, when we restrict “forbidden” foods from our “lifestyles”, as soon as we get access to them when it’s “okay”, we go all out! And then, as a result, feel like total crap after the meal- then we blame that food! It wasn’t the food’s fault, it was the food in excess…the decision you made to ignore your hunger & fullness levels because it’s a “cheat meal”. Third, you tell yourself “I’ll just go back on my diet tomorrow”, and it creates a diet-binge-diet-binge-diet-binge cycle. If you’ve been a chronic dieter, I know you’ve been there- I’ve been there too!

Did any of this resonate with you? Let me know in the comments section here or on Instagram. I know it’s hard to let go of the diet mentality – in both diet culture & the fitness/wellness industry. Know that your body is worthy of achieving health promoting goals that have nothing to do with dieting, weight loss, restriction, deprivation, or over-exercising. You CAN be healthy without falling into diet culture’s trap.

Jumpstart your mindful eating journey by downloading my 6 Steps to Mindful Eating guide here – it’s free!



Until Next Time,

Happy Chewing!
Katrina Detter, RD, LDN
Follow me on social media for more food freedom + gentle nutrition + body respect material

How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

We’ve all heard it…”eat more protein if you’re working out”…

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But what does that really mean?  For the average individual who starts walking for an hour after work–do they really need to bulk up the protein?

For the person who wants to lose weight the “easy” way and not exercise, does higher protein diet benefit their goal?

So many questions, so many opinions…today I am going to share some research with you and my own opinion based on evidenced-based literature.

 

**Disclaimer: I am going into detail of what protein is and how much our bodies need for various different activity levels…HOWEVER I do not typically promote macro/calorie counting for the average individual BECAUSE I believe in mindful eating, balance, and not obsessing over food…if you listen to your body and eat a well rounded, balanced diet, you should be eating adequate amounts of protein, carbs, and fat.**

 

First off, what is protein?

Well, in short, protein is made up of amino acids that build muscle, support metabolism, carry out cellular communication, heal wounds and repair cellular damage–just to name a few. Amino acids help our nails, hair, and skin look and feel healthy. So–it sounds like protein is a very important macronutrient–and it IS! We need protein.

There are 20 amino acids–9 of which are essential, meaning our bodies do not make them. This means we have to get those 9 essential amino acids from the food we eat. Foods like lean poultry, fish, beef, eggs, dairy and plant based proteins like legumes and grains. Animal and soy protein contain all 9 essential amino acids while other plant based proteins like beans, rice and corn are missing a couple amino acids. However, legumes and grains compliment one another making them a “complete” protein…so eating plant based protein is just as beneficial as animal proteins–maybe even a smidge better because they contain fiber. (you know me and fiber…build that healthy colon!)

 

Alright,  now we know what protein is and what it does for us…so how much do we need?

That question is such a debatable one…considering fitness industries promote all kinds of supplements…”Eat protein and have big muscles”…

And sadly, some people believe that…”If I eat over 100 grams of protein a day, then I will build muscle”…

Negative. The only way to build muscle is to work out. It is that simple. You cannot expect to eat more than the recommended amounts of protein and gain muscle mass. Your body does not work that way. You HAVE to put effort in the gym (or home workouts) to build lean muscle. Protein does, however play an important role in rebuilding the muscle fibers being “torn” during your workout. You cannot have one without the other.

 

Protein Recommendations

As far as recommendations of protein, the average adult needs 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram. Through my research, it amazes me how many fitness industry websites recommend 0.8 grams per pound of body weight…can you imagine?

Note: 1 kilogram is equivalent to 2.2 pounds. 

I’m roughly 155 lbs…155 lbs. x 0.8 grams=124 grams protein, meaning I need to consume 124 grams of protein as a sedentary individual…(if I followed the 0.8 grams per pound of body weight recommendation).

Following the 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram recommendation, I would need 56 grams of protein (155 lbs. / 2.2 lbs. = 70.4 kg; 70.4 kg x 0.8 grams = ~56 grams protein). Do you see the difference? That is nearly half of what you’d be getting following the “per pound” calculation…It is so important to calculate our needs using our weight in kilograms versus pounds.

However, I am not sedentary. I workout 6 days of the week doing various cardio and resistance training exercises…the recommendation for active individuals is 1.2-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram…again, some parts of the fitness industry promote 1.2-1.8 grams per pound…

So, if I were to eat 1.2-1.8 grams per pound I would be consuming 186-279 grams of protein DAILY. What does that look like? Typically, 1 ounce of meat, dairy, eggs and plant based protein contain about 7 grams of protein (the figure below will give a more accurate representation of the grams of protein in high protein foods). You would ultimately have to consume 26-40 servings of protein each day. Holy cow! That is 1116 calories in protein alone…keep in mind that all food contains a combination of the macros (protein, fat, and carbs) all of which contain different calorie components.

protein needs
picture found at https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/ultimate-list-40-high-protein-foods.html

 

What happens when you consume too much protein?

A dissertation research article by Jake Fenwich in the UK showed that the average non-athlete male who works out regularly consumes 2.48 grams of protein per kilogram per day…that is still above recommendations for active individuals(1.2-1.8 g/kg). [2] We live in a very protein-heavy nation, but if we do not utilize that extra protein by building lean muscle, then that extra protein can do a couple of things…

  1. Store extra protein as fat

  2. Excrete excess amino acids in urine (wasteful)

  3. Long term= weight gain (especially if your overall calorie intake increases because you are increasing protein)

So in short, yes you need extra protein if you are vigorously working out and “tearing” your muscles (1.2-1.8 g/kg)…but for the average sedentary individual, stick to the 0.8 grams of protein/kilogram.

 

What about weight loss? Can’t eating more protein help you lose weight?

The idea behind this thought is that protein promotes satiety–feeling full after a meal…so you would not need to eat as much altogether because you would be “full” from the high protein diet.

Which is more satisfying:

  1. Having 2 scrambled eggs with 1/2 cup of cooked grits for breakfast

OR

2. Having 1/2 cup of cooked grits with a slice of toast and jelly for breakfast

I think we can all agree that we would be more satisfied for a longer period of time when eating the eggs with the grits versus toast with grits. This is because eggs are rich in protein, which will keep us full for a longer period of time. Also, the protein in the eggs will cause our blood sugars to increase gradually instead of abruptly by just consuming carbs alone.

A meta-analysis study by Ernaehrungs Umschau International titled “Protein Paradox” suggested that high protein diets do show minor beneficial results in overweight individuals short term.[1] This would not be something you’d want to do long term–goes back to my point of excess protein leading to fat storage, amino acid waste in urine, and overall weight gain.

My Advice

Really think about what category you fit into…

Are you a mostly sedentary individual who does not get a lot of movement? You still need protein…but not as much as those who are gaining muscle mass. Stick with the 0.8 grams protein/kilogram recommendation.

Are you a lightly active individual who enjoys going on walks in the evenings or participates in light aerobic activity a couple times a week? I would still stick with the 0.8 grams protein/kilogram recommendation because our bodies are meant to be slightly active and that amount of protein would be sufficient.

Are you an avid exerciser partaking in weight lifting, sports training, regular running, frequent intense biking, or any other vigorous sport/exercise/work most days of the week? You would want to follow the 1.2-1.8 grams/kilogram recommendation because your body is wearing and tearing your muscles and they need to be rebuilt…sufficient extra protein will help rebuild those muscles and make them stronger…just be sure to not exceed your needs regularly as it could lead to unwanted weight gain.

 

Hopefully you have a better understanding on what protein is and what is does for our body, and ultimately what happens when we exceed our daily limits.  Challenge for the week (and hopefully adapted into your lifestyle): calculate your protein needs and see if your consuming the recommended allowance for your particular activity level.

 

Until Next Time,

Happy Chewing,
Katrina Detter, RD, LDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Follow me on social media!

Facebook: Live Better with Kat Detter

Instagram: @betterwithkatdetter_rd

 

 

 

 

References:
  1. Ernaehrungs-umschau.de. (2018). [online] Available at: https://www.ernaehrungs-umschau.de/fileadmin/Ernaehrungs-Umschau/pdfs/pdf_2018/02_18/EU02_2018_Special_englisch.pdf [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].
  2. Fenwick, J. (2018). An investigation into the dietary practices, beliefs and knowledge of protein in resistance training male gym goers between 18-45 years of age.. [online] Repository.cardiffmet.ac.uk. Available at: https://repository.cardiffmet.ac.uk/handle/10369/9945 [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].
Picture References:
  1. https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/ultimate-list-40-high-protein-foods.html