Breakfast: Is it Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?

Many of us have been told since we were children that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Truth is, it’s not a myth! Eating within an hour of waking “breaks the fast” (ie. break-fast) and helps our body to wake up and get ready for the day. In order to tackle our daily tasks, we must first fuel our brains and provide our bodies with substantial energy to thrive during the day. Eating meals and snacks throughout the day not only provide us structure but also assists in the recovery process by helping our body get used to adequate nutrition again.

What does “breaking the fast” really mean? Well, during the night our bodies are in a fasted state which means that bodily processes slow down to rest. This includes our breathing, our heart rate and digestion. Upon awakening, our bodies seek energy primarily in the form of carbohydrates which is utilized to supply fuel to our brains. Further, the digestive tract begins its’ natural rhythm as it knows that food is on its way.Consuming breakfast after the night’s fast helps to regulate blood sugars and hormones such as cortisol, the “stress hormone”.By fuelling our bodies with food, cortisol levels naturally balance out and our body is no longer in a stressed state due to the overnight fast.2

Eating breakfast also helps to set up our appetite. Hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin, are noticeably balanced after consuming a meal.2 A large piece of eating disorder recovery is re-learning our hunger and fullness cues and eating breakfast can be tremendously helpful in this endeavour. People who do not eat breakfast will often notice increased feelings of fatigue and brain fog as the day goes on.The cycle perpetuates itself, often impacting cognition and the ability to learn.4

Nutrition supports growth and bodily functions. For example, during infancy, childhood and adolescence, nutrition supports cognitive development and growth. During the later years, nutrition helps to maintain a strong immunity and maintain cognitive performance.3,5 Many studies illustrate the connection of eating a nutrient dense breakfast to increased academic performance and sustained energy. Eating breakfast also enhances concentration, memory and alertness.2,3 It provides us with the brain power to critically think and reason out outcomes during problem solving.Consuming regular meals and snacks helps in meeting nutrient and energy needs, facilitates the development of normalized eating patterns and reduces the likelihood of disordered eating.6

Consuming breakfast is one of the first nutrition goals when working with our dietitians to overcome an eating disorder.By engaging in regular eating for recovery, one will recognize and respond to their hunger cues and become more in tuned with their body providing it with sustained energy throughout the day.This is also known as mechanical eating, suggesting that individuals should eat every 2-4 hours while awake. This technique disrupts disordered eating, grazing, binge eating, purging and relieves anxiety associated to food rules.4 Committing to this nutrition goal benefits the individual by providing them with structure to their day and encourages routine to plan, prepare and prioritize meals.4 Ultimately it is protective to recovery as it allows the body to heal and repair and stimulates a positive mind set.


References

1. Betts, J. A., Chowdhury, E. A., Gonzalez, J. T., Richardson, J. D., Tsintzas, K., & Thompson, D. (2016). Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? In Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 75(04), 464–474. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665116000318

2.  Spence, C. (2017). Breakfast: The most important meal of the day? In International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, 8, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijgfs.2017.01.003

3. Affinita, A., Catalani, L., Cecchetto, G., De Lorenzo, G., Dilillo, D., Donegani, G., Zuccotti, G. V. (2013). Breakfast: a multidisciplinary approach. In Italian Journal of Pediatrics, 39(1), 44. https://doi.org/10.1186/1824-7288-39-44

4. Ferrer-Cascales, R., Sánchez-SanSegundo, M., Ruiz-Robledillo, N., Albaladejo-Blázquez, N., Laguna-Pérez, A., & Zaragoza-Martí, A. (2018). Eat or skip breakfast? the important role of breakfast quality for health-related quality of life, stress and depression in spanish adolescents.International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(8), 1781. doi:10.3390/ijerph15081781

5. B, C. (2018). The Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Eating Breakfast. In Brookhaven Blog. Retrieved from https://www.brookhavenretreat.com/cms/blog-22/item/3090-mental-physical-benefits-eating-breakfast

6. Fleming, K. (2018). Regular eating for recovery. In Center for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved from https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/~/media/95F9A1FC3F1C4D0A92CD31B09166FDDB.ashx

 

Book Review (Part I): “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight” by Linda Bacon

When we set out to read Linda Bacon’s book, “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight,” we thought we already had a good idea of what the Health at Every Size movement was. But this book has proven itself as a rich resource in the field of healthcare. It presents relevant scientific evidence, challenges common beliefs about health and weight loss, and suggests alternate ways of thinking. This is a book that we would recommend to everyone.

Since the book is divided into two main sections, we’ve decided to review them one at a time. This week we’ll talk about “Part One: Deconstructing Weight”and next week we’ll cover “Part Two: Health at Every Size”.

The first six chapters of the book are like one big literature review. In these chapters, the author summarizes a wide array of up-to-date scientific research regarding weight and health and she derives conclusions from this evidence. All of part one is extremely thorough, detailed, and yet still easy to read. Every point is backed up with references to credible journal articles and studies. Though some of the information is high-level and complex, Bacon lays it out in a very approachable way that is easy for the everyday reader to understand. And don’t get scared away by all of our mentions of “journal articles” and “scientific literature” – we assure you this book is neither dry nor dense! In fact, there are even interactive quizzes and activities interspersed throughout the book to help keep you engaged with the content.

So, what is the book all about?

Right from the get-go, Bacon makes her message clear: your weight is not your fault. She points to biology and genetics to explain variations in weight between individuals. She discusses how humans have changed over history – our lifestyles are vastly different than hunter-gatherer societies of the past, yet our genetics remain the same. Bacon demonstrates how this discrepancy contributes to our weight today.

There is a chapter devoted to explaining how the food we eat has changed due to the increase in food processing, and what this means for our health. Bacon also explains various factors besides diet and exercise that contribute to a person’s weight. She exposes the futility of common weight loss practices, and even digs into the politics behind food and weight.

In “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight”, Bacon is not afraid to make bold claims. These claims will peak your curiosity and inspire you to dig into the evidence for yourself. Linda Bacon challenges her readers to filter the information they receive both explicitly and inexplicitly and learn to critically analyze scientific literature. In this way and in many other ways, this book is a valuable learning tool.

One of the most shocking sections of the book was a section on bariatric surgery. Drawing from both research and personal testimonials, Bacon shines a light on the often ignored risks of bariatric surgery as well as the long-term effects. She gives this hard-hitting statement: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if bariatric medicine shifted its focus to helping people get or stay healthy rather than thin?” Just let that sit with you for a minute.

Another part of the book that stands out is the sixth chapter, titled “We’re Victims of Fat Politics”. This chapter is chock-full of information that is crucial to reducing fear and judgement of fat, and to embracing size diversity. This information can (and should!) change both our personal and societal viewpoints.

Even after just reading the first six chapters, we felt that the information in this book should be read by everyone – whether you’ve been told you need to lose weight, believe that a thinner body is a better body, or think that people who are heavier are less healthy than those who weigh less. One specific group of people that would benefit from reading this book is healthcare professionals and the university students that will one day fill their shoes. Not only can the information found in this book help these individuals in correcting their own personal assumptions and judgements, but it can also help them to better serve their patients by promoting positive lifestyle changes for the sake of health, not weight loss, and operate from a non-weight-centric perspective.


References:

  1. Bacon, L. (2008). Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books.

What Is “Healthy Movement”?

Today’s blog post is the final part of our series on “being healthy”. Last week, we talked about nourishing our bodies with food. This week, the focus is on energizing our bodies through movement. We like to use the term “energizing” as opposed to exercising because there can be negative connotations to the term “exercise.” For the purpose of this blog post, however, we will stick with more commonly used terms like physical activity and exercise so we’re all on the same page.

Most of us know that being physically active in a healthy way can benefit both our mental and physical health. Getting our bodies moving is good for our heart, can help relieve anxiety and can strengthen our bones and muscles. But, like all good things, exercise can become unhealthy as well. A good way to identify if your exercise pattern has become a problem is to look at the reason why you exercise. For example, someone may exercise just to burn calories. This is not part of a healthy lifestyle and may be linked to disordered eating1.

The National Eating Disorders Association describes healthy exercise as “being physically active in a normal, ongoing way”2. Exercise, then, is reasonable and attainable, not excessive. Healthy movement is fluid, not rigid; it changes based on the weather, our physical health and unexpected life events. It doesn’t exhaust or deplete our bodies, it energizes them3. It’s not punishment for what we just ate; it’s a way to celebrate our body’s abilities. Exercising in a healthy way is not done in secret or at inappropriate times, and it doesn’t get in the way of plans with friends and family1. Healthy movement improves our mind-body connection; it doesn’t allow or induce disconnection. And it relieves mental and physical stress instead of creating more stress3. Most of all, healthy movement is enjoyable4.

If this doesn’t sound like the kind of physical activity you’ve been engaging in, it might be time to take a break from your exercise regimen. It may be helpful to find a new, more positive way to move.

At the end of the day, physical activity is not about losing weight, burning calories or looking better. If those things become our focus, we’ll never be satisfied. We will never like ourselves more when our goal is to make our bodies fit within an impossible ideal. If we focus on changing our mindset instead of our bodies, that’s when we’ll find fulfillment. We can change our perspective on physical activity from an obligation or obsession to a way to energize our bodies and feel better. Then, we can start to actually enjoy being active! When we turn our outlooks from working on our outside to working on our inside, we’ll find we like ourselves more. Focus on your inner strengths, enjoy movement in a healthy way, and make the best of this life you’ve been given.


References

1. Dunford, M., & Doyle, J. A. (2015).Nutrition for sport and exercise (3rd). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

2. Prevention & health promotion. (2014). Retrieved from http://nedic.ca/give-get-help/prevention-health-promotion

3. Dobinson, A. (2018). Unhealthy exercise. In Centre for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved from http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/docs/ACFE916.pdf

4. The health at every size approach. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/content.asp?id=152

 

“Being Healthy” – What Does It Mean?

We’ve all heard that we should strive to be healthy, but do we ever stop to ask, “What does ‘being healthy’ really mean?” Try googling it and you’ll get a variety of answers. You’ll see things that have to do with being active and eating right. You’ll find sites that offer easy ways to “get healthy fast”. It turns out people have very different ideas of what being healthy is! Maybe being healthy looks different for everyone.

At the end of the day, we still have that nagging question. What’s the truth about health? With all the opinions out there about what health is, how can we know who’s right and who’s wrong? In this situation, perhaps things aren’t quite so black and white.

The most basic and well-known definition of health was created by the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO describes health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”1. Health is not just physical. Instead, health is holistic. Our mental, social and physical health are all equally important to our overall well-being. Also, did you notice what they said about health not just being “not sick”? It’s like happiness. If you wake up one day and you aren’t feeling sad, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you feel happy. Happiness and sadness are not simply two opposite emotions – there’s a continuum of emotion with different degrees of sadness, happiness and in-between feelings. The same can be said of health and sickness – the absence of one does not denote the presence of the other.

Now, how exactly do we “be healthy”? Like we mentioned earlier, a Google search will give you all sorts of answers for what being healthy looks like, and they all vary. Most definitions of “being healthy”, however, do include the two overarching themes of eating well and exercising. While it’s true that both of these things can improve our physical, mental and social health, diet culture is making it more and more difficult to know what it looks like to eat and exercise in a way that is truly healthful, not harmful.

Although healthy eating and healthy movement are critical pieces in the puzzle of health, they are not the only pieces. Take sleep, for instance. The amount of sleep we get affects our mental health and social life. For example, when we’re not well rested, our mood and perception of life events can be negatively impacted2. I’m sure most of us can think of a time when we didn’t get enough sleep and everything that happened that day seemed to go wrong! A lack of sleep can also decrease our motivation and impede our judgement2.

Another factor in our overall health is our social relationships. The American Sociological Association published an article in 2010 that looked at the connection between social relationships and health. The article states that both the quantity and quality of our connections with others can impact our mental and physical health3. Positive relationships with others can provide social support and improve psychological well being, whereas some relationships can be detrimental to our health by increasing stress or encouraging risky behaviours3.

The thing with health is that although it can be defined in a general way, it can also be defined subjectively. Perhaps one of the reasons the definition of health seems to vary so much is because we are all unique. What makes one person feel healthy is probably different than what makes you feel healthy! You may feel healthiest when you are able to play with your kids and be involved in their lives. Or, you might associate health with the ability to continue doing the work that you love. Maybe you feel your overall health is linked to your participation in a faith community or religious organization. There are so many things that can bring us fulfillment and meaning in life, and often we relate “being healthy” to these things. What parts of your life do you connect with feeling healthy?

Overall health is not about eating healthy and being active. It involves allowing yourself to get adequate sleep, enjoying social relationships, and doing things that contribute to your spiritual well-being. Being healthy means nurturing your mind, soul and body. And ALL people can engage in health-promoting behaviours like the ones just mentioned, no matter your age, ability, shape or size.


References

  1. Constitution of WHO: principles. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/about/mission/en/
  2. The Division of Sleep Medicine. (2007). Sleep, learning and memory. In Healthy sleep. Retrieved from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory
  3. Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010). Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 51(1) S54-S66. doi: 10.1177/0022146510383501

Body Positivity or Body Acceptance?

A quick Google search will yield millions of hits in just seconds on body positivity, with mixed messages. It has become an ever broadening movement founded on the belief that everyone should just love their bodies, no matter what the size. This movement is not exclusive to the internet – its’ roots reach back into the late ’60s when certain body types were marginalized and the rights for all shapes and sizes were fought for1. The body positivity movement seems to have reached its’ peak with the invention of social media as millions of people of all shapes and sizes began using hashtags such as #bodypositive and #bopo. This movement urges people to “embrace their curves” and “flaunt what they’ve got.” But in the rush towards “loving the skin you are in”, some people may find themselves left behind wondering how they can truly love their bodies after spending years upon years hating them.

While the body positivity movement has brought to light the importance of seeing all shapes and sizes represented in media and encourages people to love their curves; it may not be for everyone. At least not right away. After spending a period of time not being happy with your body, being told you should just love it – flaws and all – does not seem realistic for some. Perhaps there is a need for a middle ground where body positivity or negativity are not the only two options (and we all know how much change.creates.change likes to point out all.the.grey. between the black and white thinking!).

It is suggested that instead of working towards body positivity, which can seem daunting at first, one works towards body neutrality2. This encompasses the acceptance of the body without the need to change it. A sort of transition phase where one strives, though still struggles, to see their body as more than a body. Where there are neither positive nor negative feelings attached to one’s appearance. These feelings will likely still occur, but will no longer be the basis of one’s evaluation of their self-worth. This middle ground is known as body acceptance.

The idea that your body offers you ever so much more than looking good in that new pair of jeans or aligning with societal ideals of beauty is the basis for body acceptance.  Body acceptance is not a switch where you go from hating your body to loving it in the time it takes for you to evaluate your appearance in the mirror. It is a process and it is also a decision. One that is not based on your appearance but rather the decision to accept your body for more than it appears to be upon a glance in the mirror. Your body, more than just your external shell which is visible to the world, allows you to do many things in your daily life and experience all of the beauty this world has to offer. If you cannot accept the way your body looks, accept what your body does for you. You have air in your lungs; you are able to breathe. You have blood pumping through your veins; you can move and run and play. Your acceptability as a person is not dependent upon your outer appearance therefore while you may not necessarily love every part of your body, you can accept it as a medium that allows you to carry all of your hopes and dreams and put them into action.

First you accept your body and then you move through your day. This will influence decisions you make throughout the day and reduce stress from the striving for feelings of worth through your appearance.  You don’t need to jump on the #bopo bandwagon and love every single part of your body right away. Accept your body not for how it appears, but for what it does for you every day.


References

  1. Alptraum, L. (2017, November 6). A Short History of ‘Body Positivity’. Retrieved May 25, 2018, from https://fusion.tv/story/582813/a-short-history-of-body-positivity/
  2. Stewart, T. M. (2004). Light on Body Image Treatment.Behavior Modification,28(6), 783-811. doi:10.1177/0145445503259862
  3. What If Body Acceptance Doesn’t Work? How About Body Neutrality? (2016, March 21). Retrieved May 25, 2018, from http://nedic.ca/blog/what-if-body-acceptance-doesnt-work-how-about-body-neutrality

Don’t Say Diet – Why this dietitian never talks weight loss

Does anyone else see the issue with dieting? If diets are so great, why do we have to keep doing them time and time again? Is this a clue that maybe they aren’t working? That maybe they’re failing us?

Let’s take a minute for some personal reflection. Have you been on a diet before? How about more than one diet? My guess is that most of you answered yes to both of those questions. Including me. But a few years ago, I gave up on diets after seeing them fail time and time again. That’s when I became a non-diet dietitian.

Don't say diet

Dieting is a multi-billion-dollar industry, with a surplus of money available to pour into marketing their products and convincing you that you NEED them. They market the idea that by using their product, you’ll have a smaller clothing size, a lower number on the scale, a thinner waist, and you’ll be happier. What we’re often left with are these quick-fix, short-term promises with little to no plan for sustainability.

One thing you won’t hear in a weight-loss ad is the negative consequences of dieting. Dieting puts our bodies in a state of deprivation1. When we don’t eat enough food from all food groups, our bodies begin to crave the nutrition they need. On a diet, we let our bodies get to the point that they are so hungry, they are forced to get nutrition through any means necessary. Oftentimes,  this may be perceived as a binge; we may even feel as though we have lost control. And after that happens, we feel guilt and shame. We think, “I’m a failure.” We try to restrict ourselves even more, but all this leads to is an endless cycle of deprivation and overeating. How can we expect our bodies to trust us after that?

The constant ups and downs of dieting can damage our metabolism, too. If we under-eat or suddenly start an intense exercise regimen, our metabolism will slow down to try to compensate for the decrease in available calories2. If we overeat, our metabolism speeds up to burn off the extra calories. The truth of the matter is that everyone has a “set point weight” that is unique to them. This is the body’s natural weight. In fact, the body has many “set points” that it works hard to maintain to keep us healthy. The set point temperature of our body, 37 degrees Celsius, is one example. If we get sick and our temperature goes above or below 37 degrees, special mechanisms in our body kick in to get things back to the set point3.

Let’s get back to the idea of set point weight. What does that mean, exactly? And how does it happen? Research has shown that an individual’s set point weight range is determined by genetics – the weight range our body seems to always want to return to depends on our bone structure, metabolism, musculature, and much more. Trying to keep our body below this natural set point will lead to an increase in hunger signals. Our body is attempting to get back to where it wants to be! When we understand that we each have our own set point weight, it’s easier to see why dieting has such a low success rate. In fact, research has suggested that dieting often leads to weight gain in the long run, not weight loss4. In one study, within five years of starting a diet, between 33-66% of participants weighed more than they had before the diet began5. Yet almost everyone starts a diet with the ultimate goal of weight loss. Is this starting to sound a little backwards?

So, what if we stopped counting? The points, the macros, the grams of sugar? What if we just followed our gut and did what our body wanted us to do? To nourish the mind, nourish the body, nourish the soul? What does that look like for you? Does it look like starting a new diet every 3 months, every 6 months, every Monday, every January? Or does it just look like you living your life, without the guilt of eating, without the stress of “messing up” or “cheating”?

What if we took away the strict rules, the “dos” and “don’ts,” and transitioned to a more flexible approach? We could have the freedom to choose foods from all food groups, and even enjoy occasional treats without any guilt. We could change the way we think and feel about food and about our bodies.

And that’s why, as a dietitian, I don’t say diet.


References

  1. Fleming, K. (2018). Why diets do not work. In Centre for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved from www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/docs/Why%20Diets%20Do%20Not%20Work%2025-01-18.pdf
  2. Centre for Clinical Interventions (2018). Set point theory. In Centre for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved from http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/docs/Set%20Point%20Theory%2025-01-18.pdf
  3. Ciliska, D. (1992) Set point: what your body is trying to tell you. In National Eating Disorder Information Centre. Retrieved from http://nedic.ca/set-point-what-your-body-trying-tell-you
  4. NEDIC (2014). Statistics. In National Eating Disorder Information Centre. Retrieved from http://nedic.ca/know-facts/statistics
  5. Mann, T., Tomiyama, A. J., Westling, E., Lew, A., Samuels, B., & Chatman, J. (2007). Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. American Psychologist, 62(3), 220-233. doi 10.1037/0003-066X.62.3.220.

Contributor: Natasha Barnes