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What is Fibre & Why is it Important?

Whenever we go to the grocery store, we see many labels on packages advertising a product’s fibre content. If we follow health accounts on social media, we’ll probably see something about fibre at some point. All of these messages about fibre can make us think that we should increase our fibre intake, but is that really true? Why is fibre so important exactly? Where can we get it? And what is it anyway? These are all questions most of us have, or have probably had at some point. This article will answer many of your queries to help you successfully and confidently increase your fibre intake.

Firstly, we need to understand what fibre is. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that our body cannot break down into molecules that provide our bodies with energy. Therefore, fibre simply adds bulk to the food contents in our digestive tract, which keeps us feeling fuller for longer. There are two main types of fibre: soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. Each type of fibre is an important part of our diet and contributes different types of health benefits. Soluble fibre, as the name presumes, is soluble in water. This means that it absorbs fluids and turns into a gel-like consistency in our digestive tract. In contrast, insoluble fibre does not absorb water, but simply adds bulk to the foods we eat.

Fibre is found in a variety of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Buying whole grain products or eating whole fruits are easy ways to increase fibre intake. Furthermore, adding chia seeds, flax seeds, psyllium husk, or leafy greens to smoothies is another great way to consume more fibre. The recommended daily intake of fibre for women is 25g and 39g for men1. When it comes to packaged foods, it is good to read the labels and check the percent daily value found on the right side of a nutrition label. If the daily value is at 15% or more, that product is a great source of fibre that will help you meet your daily recommendation.

When consumed in the recommended amounts, fibre brings several benefits for our digestion . Soluble fibre serves as a prebiotic3. This means that it supports beneficial microorganisms in our large intestines, which play an important role in our overall health. Furthermore, both soluble fibre and insoluble fibre can help keep bowel movements regular and alleviate constipation if consumed with plenty of water3.However, it is possible to eat too much fibre. Excess fibre can actually be harmful because it can displace the nutrients that fuel and support our bodies, as well as bind to minerals and possibly lead to deficiencies. Some signs that you may be eating too much fibre include bloating, gas, abdominal discomfort, constipation, or diarrhea.

Eating more plant-based foods can greatly increase fibre consumption throughout the day and help us reap all the benefits associated with consuming adequate fibre.Consult a Registered Dietitian to see if fibre supplements or fortified fibre products are right for you because they may cause more harm than good. Fibre consumption should be increased gradually to avoid effects such as gas, bloating, constipation, and discomfort. Fibre also traps water, so make sure to drink enough water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Regularly eating a wide variety of whole foods from different food groups, while listening to your body’s needs is the easiest way to eat more fibre. Knowing more about fibre can help us become informed consumers and help us take care of our bodies.


References

  1. Facts on Soluble Fibre. In Unlock Food. Retrieved from http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Fibre/Facts-on-Soluble-Fibre.aspx.
  2. McRorie, J. W., & McKeown, N. M (2017). Understanding the Physics of Functional Fibers in the Gastrointestinal Tract: An Evidence-Based Approach to Resolving Enduring Misconceptions about Insoluble and Soluble Fiber. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 117(2), 251-264. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.021.
  3. Anderson, J. W., Baird, P., Davis, R. H., Ferreri S., Knudtson, M., Koraym, A., Waters, V., & Williams. C. L. (2009). Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutrition Reviews, 67(4), 188-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x.

Surviving the Holidays in Eating Disorder Recovery

For many people, the holidays are a highly anticipated time of the year. However, for those recovering from an eating disorder, the holiday season can be anxiety provoking and pose an obstacle to their recovery journey. Prior preparation can help to lessen the anxiety and tension that often accompanies the holidays for those recovering from an eating disorder. In today’s blog post, we are going to look at some tips to help take away some of the uncertainty and anxiety that this time of the year may bring for those on their recovery journey.

Having a support system is a crucial component of the recovery journey, but is especially important during the holidays. Choose at least one person whom you trust to be your support. Speak to them before the holidays and discuss your concerns with them and any situations you think may be triggering. Ask them if you would be able to text or call them when you are struggling or start to feel overwhelmed.

The holidays often mean multiple gatherings with friends and family. This may be overwhelming as there is often lots of small talk involved, some of which may be centered around food or weight loss. It is not rude to excuse yourself from these conversations if they make you feel uncomfortable. Having responses prepared in advance can be helpful in navigating potentially triggering conversations. This may be as simple as saying, “I am learning how to have a more positive relationship with food and this kind of talk is not helpful to me right now”.1

If you do decide to participate in social gatherings, it may be wise to come up with a back-up plan in case you feel the situation is starting to be overwhelming. Prior to the event, come up with an alternate plan of somewhere else you can go or someone you can talk to during the event. This may be deciding on something else you can do while at the gathering, for example, going for a walk or going into a separate room by yourself, texting/calling someone you feel comfortable talking to (i.e. your trusted person we discussed above), or even finding somewhere else you can go.  Having a back-up plan can ease some tension associated with attending social gatherings and will give you peace of mind as you know there is an alternative to the situation you find yourself in.

With all of the food and gatherings that the holiday season brings, it can be tempting to just want to stay home. However, this is leaves little room for growth or change to occur. Challenge yourself to make small choices that help you take small steps outside of your comfort zone. Maybe it’s eating a small piece of that food you usually don’t allow yourself to enjoy or attending a small gathering2. If something feels unattainable, it is likely too big of a challenge at the time. Start by challenging yourself to something that feels realistically attainable.

Here are a few practical tips to help you thrive this holiday season:

  • Practice normal eating throughout the holidays: “saving up” for a meal is ineffective and is more likely to increase the desire to binge and/or restrict.
  • Expect the potential discomfort of fullness: denser foods tend to be more readily available around the holidays. Try to distract yourself from dwelling on your fullness with other activities, such as playing a game with your family/friends after the meal3.
  • Have positive responses prepared for negative thoughts: for example, if you ate more than you usually do, think, “that meal was delicious and I am now satisfied”, instead of falling victim to negative self-talk.
  • Volunteer: take your mind off your current situation and invest in others. It’s amazing how helping others can help us get a new perspective and help us fill our cups.

Above all else, it is important to be compassionate towards yourself. The holiday season won’t last forever. While your struggles may seem intensified, they will not last. Acknowledge all of the progress you have made and be gracious towards yourself when you slip up. Recovery is a journey and that means there may be struggles along the way, but you are healing a little more with each step you take. This holiday season, lets enjoy the beauty of this special time while acknowledging this time of year is not easy for everyone. A little bit of extra kindness, especially towards ourselves, goes a long way!


References

  1. Susanna, G. (2018, November 21). Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving in Recovery. In NEDA. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/tips-surviving-thanksgiving-recovery
  1. McLaughlin, A. (2013). Lessons in Self-Care: 5 Ways to Survive and Thrive Through the Holidays When You Have an Eating Disorder. In NEDA.Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/lessons-self-care-5-ways-survive-and-thrive-through-holidays-when-you-have-eating-disorder
  2. Jacobsen, M. (2015). Coping with the Holidays. In NEDIC. Retrieved from http://nedic.ca/coping-holidays

What is Set Point Weight Theory?

We can put so much energy into trying to attain a certain weight, through dieting,over-exercising, excessive meal prepping, over-hydration, etc. But what if our body has a built-in mechanism that naturally keeps our weight within a certain range? Wouldn’t all that energy be better spent a different way? In today’s blog post we are going to look more closely at this phenomenon known as the set point weight theory.

Research indicates that every human being has a set weight range that they are genetically predisposed to maintain1. This range is known as the body’s set pointweight. Just as individuals have a fixed height they reach or have the same shoe size for the majority of their adult life,there is also a predetermined weight range they naturally fluctuate around. One’s set point is affected by their eating habits but is largely determined by genetics; our overall build, bone structure, metabolism, and musculature1.The body goes through various changes regularly due to fluid retention, hormonal changes and medicationswhich leads to normal fluctuation within a certain range2.

So how does the body strive to stay within its’set pointweight? Just as the body has feedback control mechanisms to maintain a constant body temperature, it also has mechanisms that will help it stay within its’set point weight range. For example, if there is an increase in food intake, the body will raise its’internal temperature and increase metabolism to try to use up the extra energy1. Similarly, if there is a decrease in food intake, the body will slow down its’metabolism to try to conserve energy1. Additionally, if the body is not receiving adequate energy it will use hunger signaling as a mechanism to try to get us to eatwhile also slowing down our metabolism to conserve energy1. This is just another reason why diets do not work. The body naturally wants to stay within a certain weight range and by restricting food intake it only slows metabolism and increases hunger to combat the lack of energy. Some people may successfully be able to maintain weight loss after dieting due to the fact that they were above their set point prior to beginning a diet, but this is quite rare3. For those who are within or below their set point before beginning a diet, they will likely find it difficult to lose weight as their body slows metabolism to conserve as much energy as possible.

Set point weight theory is an important concept in eating disorders. Food restriction may cause the body to fall below its’normal set point range which will slow metabolism and increase hunger in an effort to protect us from starvation1.This will lead to an increase in thoughts of food and make it difficult to focus on other things. A preoccupation with food may cause individuals to be more susceptible to episodes of binge eating1. The best thing one can do for their body is to allow it to naturally settle into its’set point weight and avoid behaviours that suppress the body’s normal weight tendency. This is much healthier than cycles of weight loss and regain, as is common with dieting.

So how can you know if you are at your set point weight? A weight set point is not a static number on the scale; it is a range that the body normally fluctuates within. The best way to get a good idea of what your weight set point might be is to engage in normal eating and moderate exercise for approximatelyone year3. The body usually requires this length of time to settle into its natural weightbut it can sometimes take even longer. This only applies to those who have stopped growing. Adolescents and young adults are meant to have an increasing weight until their young 20s. Finding your body’s natural set point is best done through intuitive eating and gentle exercise, as mentioned above, and not using objective measures like the scale or measuring tapes.

You may be wondering how you can accept your body’s set point weight. What if it’s higher than you think it should be? Diet culture has taught us to value thinness and low numbers on the scale. It can be difficult to accept one’s weight being higher than deemed acceptable by society. You may not initially feel comfortable at your natural weight, however, this is something that takes timeand reflection. Gradually, by showing kindness towards your body, by dressing in clothes that fit you and are comfortable, and by taking care of your body, an acceptance of your body’s natural size will be fostered. Try to avoid wastingyour time trying to attain a certain number on the scale that your body cannot naturally attain. You have not failed if your weight is higher than you think it should be. Strive to take care of your body as it is by eating intuitively and engaging in gentle exercise and it will become the weight it is meant to be. Try to spend less energy focusing on maintaining a certain weight and put your energy into more productive activities, like being kind to others and creating beautiful things. Let’s not let our lives be marked by the number on the scale.


References

  1. Centre for Clinical Interventions.(2018). Set Point Theory. [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/~/media/6CD4432DC40649949D8B4923C725742D.ashx
  2. Eating Disorder Help. (2017, September 22).Can I Accept My Body at It’s Natural, Comfortable Weight? Retrieved November 17, 2018, from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/accept-body-comfortable-weight
  3. National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC). (n.d.). sSet Point: What Your Body is Trying to Tell You.Retrieved November 17, 2018, from http://nedic.ca/set-point-what-your-body-trying-tell-you

 

I Want to Eat Vegan, Am I at Risk for Nutrient Deficiencies?

Perhaps you are considering going vegan but wondering if you will still be able to get all of the nutrients your body needs without eating animal products? On last week’s blog post we talked about what micronutrients are and why they are important for the proper functioning of our bodies. This week we are going to look potential micronutrient deficiencies and a macronutrient deficiency that may result from following a vegan diet.

A vegan diet is one that eliminates all animal products; this includes dairy, meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and honey. This differs from a vegetarian diet that may include one or a combination of these foods in the diet. A well planned vegan diet is high in fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. However, if a vegan diet is not thoughtfully planned it can result in various nutrient deficiencies. Animal products contain various nutrients that are found in their most absorbable form and are either less absorbable, in smaller quantities or not found naturally in plant-based foods. For this reason, it is important to ensure a vegan diet is well planned to avoid deficiencies in these nutrients.

The following is a list of nutrients that are most likely to be deficient in a vegan diet as well as common vegan food sources of these nutrients.

Iron

The iron that is found in meat is highly absorbable; this is known as heme iron. Iron can be found in non-meat sources as well but it is less absorbable; this is called non-heme iron. Absorption of non-heme iron decreases when consumed in conjunction with phytates (found in whole grain, brans and legumes) and tannins (found in coffee, tea and cola drinks). However, absorption can be increased when consumed with foods that are rich in vitamin C (such as citrus fruits, berries, and tomatoes) and foods rich in vitamin A (such as oils and spreads). Vegan food sources that are rich in that are rich in non-heme iron include dried beans and other legumes, blackstrap molasses, wheatgerm, pasta, bulgur, spinach, prune juice and dried fruit (especially dried apricots).

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal products. Vegan food sources of vitamin B12include vitamin B12fortified meat substitutes and plant milks, and nutritional yeast. This usually needs to be supplemented in vegan diets.

Calcium

Calcium is found primarily in dairy products. Vegan food sources of calcium include fortified soy milk and tofu fortified with calcium. Other vegan food sources that contain calcium in smaller amounts include molasses, almonds, spinach, kale and broccoli.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also usually found in dairy products. Vegan food sources of vitamin D include fortified soy milk or orange juice, and fortified soft margarine. This is a vitamin that usually needs to be supplemented in all Canadians, not just vegans.

Zinc

Zinc is found primarily in meat but is also present in non-meat sources. Vegan food sources of zinc include whole grains, legumes and seeds.

Protein

A vegan diet is also at risk of having a macronutrient deficiency, protein, as well as the micronutrient deficiencies mentioned above. The main source of protein in many peoples diets is meat, but it can also be obtained from non-meat sources as well. The protein found in animal products is complete; this means that it contains all of the essential amino acids our bodies cannot produce on their own that must be obtained from the diet. However, the protein found in plants is incomplete as it does not contain all of the essential amino acids. However, you can still get all of the essential amino acids by combining different kinds of protein rich plant based foods. Vegan sources of protein include lentils and other legumes, tofu or soy products, and nuts and seeds. Other vegan foods contain protein but in smaller amounts; these foods include whole grain bread, potatoes, pasta and corn.

You may be wondering if you need to supplement any of these nutrients that may be lacking in a vegan diet. Supplementation may be necessary if you suspect quantities of these nutrients from your diet is not sufficient to meet your body’s needs. Speak to your doctor or dietitian if you are concerned about having an inadequate intake in any of the aforementioned nutrients before supplementing.

A vegan diet can be nutritious and meet all of your nutrient requirements if it is well planned. However, some nutrients may be more difficult to obtain from diet alone and supplementation may be necessary. Consider your reasons for choosing veganism very carefully. If there is a possibility it is tied into disordered eating thoughts, speak to your healthcare team before eliminating food groups from your diet.


References

  1. What You Need to Know About Following a Vegan Eating Plan – Unlock Food [Internet]. [cited 2018 Nov 10]. Available from: http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vegetarian-and-Vegan-Diets/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-Following-a-Vegan-Eati.aspx
  2. Centre for Clinical Interventions. (2018). All about iron. [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/CCI/Mental%20Health%20Professionals/Eating%20Disorders/Eating%20Disorders%20-%20Information%20Sheets/Eating%20Disorders%20Information%20Sheet%20-%2002%20-%20All%20About%20Iron.pdf
  3. Center for Clinical Interventions. (2018). Vegetarian diets and eating disorders. [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/CCI/Mental%20Health%20Professionals/Eating%20Disorders/Eating%20Disorders%20-%20Information%20Sheets/Eating%20Disorders%20Information%20Sheet%20-%2029%20-%20Vegetarian%20Diet%20and%20Eating%20Disorders.pdf

 

What are Micronutrients, Exactly?

Perhaps you’ve heard the term micronutrient before and aren’t quite sure what it means. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that our bodies need in a smaller quantity. In a previous blog post, we discussed macronutrients and how they are needed in larger amounts from our diet. Similarly, micronutrients are required because our bodies cannot produce them on their own so they need to be consumed through food. In an individual with an eating disorder especially, risk of a micronutrient deficiency can be a serious problem. We will be going into more depth of various vitamins and minerals, their functions, what foods they can be found in and if supplementation is required.

Vitamin A: helps with normal growth and development, maintenance of healthy eyes, skin and immune system. Vitamin A can be found in milk and alternatives (milk, yogurt, cheese, soy milk) and fruits and vegetables.

B Vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12): help make red blood cells, maintain healthy nervous system and help the body use energy from food. The B vitamins can be found in milk and alternatives, meat and alternatives (meat, poultry, fish, tofu, beans) and grain products (bread, rice, cereal, oats).

Vitamin C: helps maintain healthy gums, helps to heal cuts and wounds, helps with formation and repair of blood, bones and other tissues, role as an antioxidant and increases absorption of iron. Vitamin C can be found in fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin D: helps the body absorb calcium, works with calcium to maintain bone and teeth health, helps with proper functioning of muscles, nerves, and immune system. Vitamin D can be found in milk and alternatives and is synthesized in the skin by exposure to the sun.

Side note: the B vitamins and vitamin C are water soluble while vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble. Fat soluble vitamins must be consumed with fat in order to be absorbed properly. An individual who restricts fat in their diet may be at risk for developing a deficiency in any of the fat soluble vitamins. This is just one of the many important functions fat has in the body – fat should not be feared!

Zinc: maintenance of healthy immune system and promotion of normal growth and development. Zinc can be found in milk and alternatives, meat and alternatives and grain products.

Calcium: formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, helps with proper functioning of heart, muscles and nerves. Calcium can be found in milk and alternatives.

Iron: component of hemoglobin which transports oxygen throughout the body, helps cells release energy, red blood cell production and maintenance of a healthy immune system. Iron can be found in meat and alternatives and grain products.

Magnesium: helps control blood pressure and the maintenance of healthy bones, muscles and nerves. Magnesium can be found in milk and alternatives, meat and alternatives, grain products and fruits and vegetables.

Potassium: maintenance of healthy bones, nerves, muscles and kidneys. Potassium can be found in milk and alternatives, meat and alternatives, grain products and fruits and vegetables.

Micronutrient deficiencies are not quite as common in North America as they are in developing nations. There have been many advances in reducing micronutrient deficiencies, particularly with B vitamin fortification in grain products. In addition, vitamins and minerals can be found in a wide range of food so deficiencies are less likely if one is consuming a well-balanced diet. However, avoidance of certain foods can lead to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals that are plentiful in those food groups. For example, if an individual chooses not to consume dairy and does not compensate with fortified soy beverage or other calcium-rich foods, they may be at risk for calcium deficiency. Similarly, if an individual does not eat meat or is lacking other sources of protein in their diet, they may be at risk for a B vitamin or iron deficiency.

The best way to get vitamins and minerals is from food as it provides other beneficial nutrients that supplements cannot, such as fiber, essential fatty acids, and energy. There is no substitute for a well-balanced diet. However, in some cases vitamin or mineral supplementation may be necessary if quantities of micronutrients are not sufficient from diet alone. If you think you may be at risk for a micronutrient deficiency contact your doctor or a dietitian and consider supplementation.


References

What You Need to Know About Vitamin A – Unlock Food. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2018, fromhttp://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-Vitamin-A.aspx

Canada, H., & Canada, H. (2007, February 5). Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide – A Resource for Educators and Communicators [education and awareness]. Retrieved November 5, 2018, fromhttps://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/reports-publications/eating-well-canada-food-guide-resource-educators-communicators-2007.html

B Vitamins. (n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2018, from https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/B-Vitamins.aspx

What you need to know about vitamin C – Unlock Food. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2018, fromhttp://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-you-need-to-know-about-vitamin-C.aspx

What You Need To Know About Vitamin D – Unlock Food. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2018, fromhttp://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-you-need-to-know-about-Vitamin-D.aspx

What You Need to Know about Zinc – Unlock Food. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2018, from http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/-What-You-Need-to-Know-about-Zinc.aspx

What You Need to Know about Calcium – Unlock Food. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2018, from http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-You-Need-to-Know-about-Calcium.aspx

What You Need to Know About Iron and How Much Iron Do You Need – Unlock Food. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2018, from http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-You-Need-To-Know-About-Iron.aspx

What you need to know about magnesium – Unlock Food. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2018, fromhttp://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-you-need-to-know-about-magnesium.aspx

What You Need to Know About Potassium – Unlock Food. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2018, fromhttp://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-Potassium.aspx

How to Take Your Life Back From an Eating Disorder

Recovering from an eating disorder requires a lot of strength, courage, and determination. Although you may want your life to be the way it was previous to the development of your eating disorder, this may not always be realistic. When treatment ends, it is time to overcome challenges independently. During this transition, it is normal to feel overwhelmed, anxious, as well as resistant to further changes. However, it is important to not give in to eating disorder behaviours during this shift, as recovery is imperative for your future health and well-being. Throughout this process, you will learn ways to rebuild your life with a new mindset that is not controlled by your eating disorder.

During recovery, it is crucial to develop and maintain a support system. Most individuals find it difficult to reach out – this is normal. Although it is important to be independent, it is okay to ask for help from others in times of need. Staying connected with those who are supportive and nurturing can help during difficult situations1. Your support system can consist of family members, friends, or even health care providers.

In order to prevent relapse, identifying triggers for your eating disorder is key. A trigger can consist of anything that may cause your disordered eating behaviours to reoccur1. Trying to identify your triggers can help in knowing when to not partake in certain activities. In order to do this, try to reflect on times when you’ve felt the urge to engage in disordered eating behaviours. Sometimes, a previous traumatic experience may be triggering, making it difficult to participate in social outings or activities. Making your support system aware of your triggers is also a good idea, as they will keep these triggers in mind when planning activities that involve you.

At the end of the day, it is crucial take care of your health and well-being. Remind yourself that you deserve to put time aside for self-care. Planning a time to relax can help in reducing stress. For those struggling with anxiety or stress, yoga or meditation are common practices to help with that2. Other relaxing activities can include painting, writing, or listening to music.

There may be times where we want to numb negative feelings with old habits. Flexibility plays an important role during recovery. The world is full of spontaneous and unexpected surprises that may catch you off guard. There are times where you may be triggered, or experience stress unexpectedly. If you do happen to relapse, try to not be so hard on yourself. Instead of dwelling on past experiences, you should learn from each experience (good or bad) and keep a positive perspective in order to move forward.

Never think you need to be perfect, and try not to expect life to be perfect too. Everyone experiences a different journey throughout recovery, and there will never be perfection in this experience. Throughout life, you will be faced with many obstacles, though you will need to stay positive, strong and resilient. Don’t let your eating disorder define you. By staying focused on making your journey through life positive, you can overcome your fears and take back your life from an eating disorder.


References

  1. Sclisizzi K, Wilton K, Jasper K. (2014). Managing Triggers while Recovering from an Eating Disorder. In National Eating Disorder Information Centre. Retrieved from http://nedic.ca/sites/default/files/files/Vol29No1Feb2014Triggers.pdf.
  2. Six relaxation techniques to reduce stress. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/six-relaxation-techniques-to-reduce-stress

 

The Problem with Dieting

When you hear the word diet, what do you think of? Does the word remind you of various strategies to lose weight? Although Oxford dictionary has multiple definitions of the term, diet is initially defined as the types of food that one eats1.

Unfortunately, the word “diet” has become tainted due to the weight loss industry and diet culture in general.  Considering the amount of marketing products that use this term to describe variations of foods low in calories, it makes sense why diet has lost its initial meaning. When most individuals use the word diet, they are referring to a specific way of eating with an end goal of losing weight. Of course there are cases where certain dietary recommendations are needed, such as individuals with medical conditions – for example, dietary changes to control diabetes. However, there is a misunderstanding with the term diet, since it’s intended meaning is often lost due to how society typically defines it.

The type of diets that we are referring to here are the ones known as fad diets, that is, any short-term methods used to instil change in eating behaviours in the hopes of losing weight. These diets are often harmful and can lead to potential health problems in the future2. Due to the unsustainable nature of fad diets, individuals often regress back to old eating patterns once the goal weight is reached, defeating their purpose of starting the diet in the first place.

A common category that exists among fad diets are those that focus on a reduction in caloric intake. The less calories eaten per day, the more difficult it is to reach your nutrient needs2.  By neglecting meals, diets that reduce caloric intake run the risk of putting your body into a state of starvation. By putting your body in starvation mode, this acts to lower your metabolism with the intention of conserving energy3.

There are many diets that eliminate or significantly decrease consumption of certain macronutrients, a common example being carbohydrates. Some examples of low carbohydrate diets are the Atkins Diet, the Zone Diet, Sugar Busters and Protein Power, and the Ketogenic Diet2. A big misconception in social media is how carbohydrates are bad for you. Carbohydrates are full of B vitamins, as well as fibre. Adding fibre to your diet will help with feeling satiated, so eliminating this food group is certainly not a good idea. Carbohydrates are also our brains only source of energy, and it cannot be stored so it requires a sufficient supply to keep you going throughout the day. Carbohydrates are also our entire bodies’ primary source of energy, as it can be easily broken down into glucose which our cells require to function. Consuming such a low intake of carbohydrates may cause irritability and headaches, among other symptoms2. Your body stores carbohydrates in the form of glycogen in the muscle and liver, which attracts water in its stored state. Yes, it is certainly possible to quickly lose weight on low carbohydrate diets, but the initial weight loss is caused by water loss from your muscles and liver. If the body has insufficient stores of glycogen, your body will break down protein or fat in place of it2. Your body requires fat and protein for other uses, so this is not recommended.

There are also existing diets with low fat intake, such as Pritikin Principle, Eat More Weigh Less, and the Scarsdale Diet2. There is often the misconception that eating fat will make you gain fat, which couldn’t be further from the truth. We need fat for our body to function the way it was intended. We require fat to insulate our organs, transport our fat soluble vitamins, store energy, produce hormones, as well as many other functions2. Other common diets include meal plans consisting of ‘magic foods’. These diets claim that rapid weight loss/fat burning can be triggered through eating specific foods or specific combinations of food. Examples of these diets are the Cabbage Soup Diet, Eat Right for Your Type, the Rice Diet and the Raw Food Diet. The problem with these diets is that the rationales provided to lose weight are not evidence-based, and any claims have yet to be proven true2.

A take home message is there are no bad foods, as well as no bad food groups. The problem is that these diets do not teach individuals about mindful, wholesome eating. While it might be obvious that some foods are more nutrient dense than others, does this mean we need to exclude the foods deemed as “unhealthy”? The answer is no, we shouldn’t. Instead of dieting, let’s try to change our mindset to eat foods that we enjoy, but are also mindful of providing our bodies with the nutrients it requires. Your body takes care of the physical functions required to keep you alive, so it’s important to make sure it gets what it needs. Eating a variety of foods is the best way to ensure you are receiving enough nutrients. By incorporating mindful eating into your diet, you are taking into account your bodies signals for hunger, as well as fullness. As long as you are are listening to your body’s needs, you are treating it right.


References

  1. Oxford University Press. (2018). Diet. In Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/diet.
  2. Pennington Biomedical Research Center. (2011). Fad Diets Defined. In Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pbrc.edu/training-and-education/pdf/pns/PNS_Fad_Diets.pdf.
  3. Fleming, K. (2018). Why diets do not work. In Centre for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved from https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Home/Resources/~/media/A8C18174D9F742F9B2DDD320FC253FC0.ashx.

How To Survive Halloween When You Have an Eating Disorder

Fall has begun and Halloween is just around the corner, with stores selling costumes and candies in abundance. For some, Halloween is the most exciting time of the year, however for others it can be a holiday where anxiety and insecurities flourish. For those struggling with an eating disorder, it can be difficult to want to go out and celebrate. Regardless of age, candy and other festivities will typically make a larger appearance than usual during this season. Throughout childhood or early adolescence, trick or treating is how most celebrate Halloween. During high school or college/university, Halloween costume parties are often the norm. As you mature through life, you may be exposed to the holiday through pumpkin carving with family, events at work, or even indulging in the goodies leftover after handing out candy.

For those struggling with body image issues or an eating disorder, Halloween can be a tough holiday to endure. In today’s society,  the majority of adult costumes, especially those marketed towards females, can be quite revealing.  Although many do not consider this, Halloween has the potential to create a hostile environment for some, as dressing up may cause individuals with body image issues to compare themselves to others.

While it may seem difficult, it’s not impossible to enjoy this holiday. Being aware of the possible triggers during this season can prepare you for a positive experience. If Halloween may be triggering to your eating disorder, there is absolutely nothing wrong in deciding to not partake – always look out for yourself. You should never feel pressured to have to dress up or go out, those close to you should understand and respect your decision to stay in. Prioritizing your mental health is very important, and should be strongly taken into consideration when making any decision that may affect your recovery process.

Throughout any holiday, intuitive eating can help to remove guilty feelings or the shame that some attach to the act of eating Halloween candy. Depending on the type of eating disorder you are struggling with, you may have avoided eating Halloween candy in previous years, or binged on it in secret. By practicing intuitive eating, you can enjoy these treats without having the urge to engage in disordered eating behaviours1.  By making peace with food, you are giving yourself permission to enjoy the treats that come with Halloween, while also listening to your hunger and satiety cues1.  Developing a positive relationship with food is an important step in recovery, and can start whenever you feel ready. There are many different ways to celebrate Halloween without feeling insecure. Deciding to stay in and watch Halloween themed movies with friends or a loved one is a fun way to celebrate Halloween. Another exciting way to partake is through handing out candy to children. If you decide to not participate, something you should never feel is guilt. Instead, praise yourself for deciding to prioritize your needs. Halloween will be there next year, as well as the year afterwards. If choosing to not celebrate will help you during recovery, it is absolutely worth it.

However, if you feel ready and want to challenge yourself by going out, go out! If you feel certain that you’d like to celebrate, keep in mind that it’s not about what you wear, it’s about how you wear it. Feeling comfortable is key – this is something to remember for anytime you choose an outfit. The focus should be on having fun, which is what you’ll most likely think about if you feel confident in what you’re wearing. If you find yourself comparing your physical appearance to another person, try your best to remind yourself to disengage in those thoughts. Although someone may look good, it does not mean that you look bad.

During your recovery, you will be faced with many challenges – Halloween being one of them. Try your best to face each challenge with determination, strength, as well as resilience –  you will surely succeed!


References

  1. Tribole, E, Resch E. (2012). Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.

 

The Misconceptions of Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is a common phrase used in society, but what exactly does it mean? Emotional eating is the act to overeat in response to negative emotions1. Many articles online provide tips on how to stop emotional eating, as some may a feel loss of control during moments of heightened emotion. Doing a quick search online, we found that most articles have written about overcoming it, as opposed to embracing it.

First, let’s ask ourselves – why do we eat food? Although food is used primarily to provide us with fuel for our bodies, it helps us in many more ways. Food is created to bring us joy and happiness, and at times provide us with comfort. It is thought that “hyperpalatable” foods may serve to relieve stress and provide pleasure, as they often act as comfort foods2. Hyperpalatable foods are known as foods that surpass rewarding properties of unprocessed foods (such as vegetables, fruits, or nuts) by significantly increasing salt, sugar, fat, food additives, and flavor levels3. Common examples of hyperpalatable foods may include ice cream, burgers, candy, and melted cheese. Given the satisfying pleasure provided by these foods, individuals in states of heighted negative emotion are found to favour these types of foods3.

So now let’s come back to the misconceptions of emotional eating. What if we told you that in some circumstances, it can be beneficial. When emotional eating is the only coping skill available in difficult situations, it is absolutely acceptable. If you constantly find yourself trying to find ways to avoid emotional eating, stop. Emotional eating is normal, and can be a helpful tool in soothing ourselves in times of stress. Feelings of shame or guilt aren’t productive or positive responses to emotional eating. Instead, let’s try a shift in mindset.

Something to remember is that we are all human. Although we have physiological needs, we also have emotional needs. The harder you try to control and avoid emotional eating, the more it results in controlling you. Looking at emotional eating as a form of self-care may help. For those wanting to improve their relationship with food, having other alternatives for self-care may also help. Having other options is not to eliminate emotional eating, but having a selection of options is always better. Sometimes you may find that food is the best option to help you feel better, and other times it may be something else. Other ways to soothe yourself may include participating in an activity, receiving support from a loved one, or relaxing at home in front of the television.

Allow yourself permission to enjoy the foods your bodies wants without feeling a sense of guilt. Try ditching diet rules, such as calorie restricting, elimination of certain food groups, or labelling foods as “healthy” or “unhealthy”. When we feel guilty for eating certain foods, we often categorize them as “good” or “bad”. Avoiding foods deemed “bad” increases the chance of a binge2. The bottom line is that your emotions are not to blame here. Give yourself permission to eat foods from all varieties, and stop feeling guilty for the times you want to soothe yourself with food.


References

  1. Wong M, Qian M. (2016). The role of shame in emotional eating. Eat Behav, 23:41-47. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2016.07.004
  2. Yau Y, Potenza M.N. (2013). Stress and eating behaviors. Minerva Endocrinol, 38(3): 255–267.
  3. Gearhardt A.N., Grilo C.M., DiLeone R.J., Brownell K.D., Potenza M.N. (2011). Can Food be Addictive? Public Health and Policy Implications. Addiction, 106(7): 1208–12. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.03301.x

How To Use Binge or Purge Delay in Recovery

Bingeing and purging are two disordered eating behaviours commonly associated with eating disorders, especially Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder.

Bingeing, also known as binge eating, is described by the American Psychiatric Association as:

  1. Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any two-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances.
  2. A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)1.

Purging is a behaviour used to compensate for the food we have just eaten, and the goal behind this behaviour is usually to control weight or shape6. Some commonly used methods of purging include vomiting, overexercising and the use of laxatives.

Bingeing and purging often go hand in hand in what is sometimes referred to as the Binge-Purge Cycle. Individuals struggling with negative perceptions of themselves may begin to restrict their food intake in an attempt to lose weight, however, restriction deprives their bodies of the nutrition they need. Ultimately, they will become so physically hungry that they are driven to eat. This physical and psychological drive to eat often leads them to eat more than they planned2. These individuals may even experience loss of control to the point of binge-eating2. For some, the response to a binge may be to return to restrictive eating habits. For others, however, a binge may trigger purging behaviours. In this case, the temporary effects of the purge will fade and give rise to feelings of shame and guilt, which contribute to increasingly negative self-perceptions5. Thus, restrictive eating habits are adopted again and the cycle continues.

Negative self-perceptions

At the surface level, purging may seem like an effective way to get rid of unwanted calories. But both bingeing and purging are dangerous to our health, contributing to issues such as malnutrition, fluid and mineral imbalances, cardiac and renal dysfunction, erosion of tooth enamel and damage to the digestive system, to name a few5.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating behaviours such as bingeing and purging, it is important to seek treatment. Once you are able to begin adopting unrestrained, normal eating habits, you may also want to start working away at eliminating destructive binge-eating and purging habits. One effective method for making these habits extinct is to practice delaying the binge or purge.

When an urge to binge or purge arises, that desire can feel overwhelming. Oftentimes, however, a desire to binge or purge will only increase to a certain point, and then will eventually subside – it won’t last forever. When you feel the urge to engage in these behaviours, try setting a timer on your oven or your phone for 5 or 10 minutes. Tell yourself you will delay bingeing or purging until that timer goes off.

While you wait, engage in an alternate activity that is incompatible with eating. The point of this is to distract yourself from the urge you are experiencing and allow that urge to subside naturally. It’s useful to make a list of activities that you find effective in distracting yourself from your desire to binge or purge. If the list is made before you feel the urge, you will be better prepared to delay the behaviour in the moment of the urge. Here is a sample list of alternate activities that you may find helpful:

  • Calling a friend
  • Listening to music
  • Listening to a guided meditation
  • Taking a bath or shower
  • Painting your nails
  • Lighting a scented candle
  • Knitting, crocheting, or beadwork
  • Painting
  • Coloring in a coloring book
  • Video games
  • Puzzles – crosswords, sudoku, or jigsaw
  • Going for a walk
  • Playing with a pet
  • Cleaning the bathroom
  • Playing with silly putty
  • Doing simple relaxing yoga poses
  • Putting on essential oils or scented lotion3

This list is just an example of what your own list could look like. Feel free to write down any of the above ideas that you like and add some ideas of your own too. Additionally, it may be helpful to keep a record the activities that you’ve tried, and whether they were effective in distracting your thoughts during a delay3. Figuring out which activities work best for you is based on trial and error – don’t be afraid to add or remove items from your list! Most times, different distractions will work in different moments and this will shift over time.

So after the timer goes off, what happens next? The first thing you should do is check in with yourself. How strong is the urge now? If you managed to not binge or purge during the delay, count it as a victory! And, if you are able to, set the timer again and return to your activity, or to a new activity. Whether you feel able to set the timer for two minutes or twenty minutes, just do what you can. Try to keep repeating the process, increasing the time of the delay incrementally until the urge dissipates enough to become manageable. Eventually, you won’t feel the intense need to binge or purge anymore. Remember, though, that this is a process. If at any point the timer goes off and you still need to binge or purge, then you can do so. Habits are difficult to break, and we all need to give ourselves grace in the recovery journey.

As you practice delaying binges or purges, always be trying to cultivate mindfulness. Check in with yourself and your emotions during the delays and when the timer goes off. Even if you decide to binge or purge, check in during those experiences and observe, describe and participate in what is happening in a non-judgemental way. Observing doesn’t mean terminating or changing an experience, but simply being aware of what is happening4. Describing is identifying an emotion as an emotion or a thought as a thought, without labelling those emotions or thoughts morally4. And participating means being fully present in the experience4  By learning mindfulness, you will gain a solid basis for helping you to regulate your emotions in healthy ways4.

Delaying a binge or purge is just one technique to help you eliminate these disordered eating behaviours. Cultivating mindfulness is another. Your therapist or a trusted support person in your life can help you practice these techniques, and we hope that by practicing them you will find freedom from the binge-purge cycle.

 


References

  1. American Psychiatric Association DSM-5 Task Force. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
  2. Fleming, K. (2018). Why diets do not work. In Centre for clinical interventions. Retrieved from: http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/CCI/Mental%20Health%20Professionals/Eating%20Disorders/Eating%20Disorders%20-%20Information%20Sheets/Eating%20Disorders%20Information%20Sheet%20-%2034%20-%20Why%20Diets%20Do%20Not%20Work.pdf
  3. Muhlheim, L. (2018). Alternatives to help prevent binges and purges. In Very well mind. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/delays-and-alternatives-help-prevent-binges-and-purges-4063023
  4. Safer, D. L., Telch, C. F., & Chen, E. Y. (2009). Dialectical behaviour therapy for binge eating and bulimia. New York:Guilford Press.
  5. Whitney, E., Rolfes, S. R., Hammond, G., & Piché, L. A. (2016). Understand nutrition (2nd ed.).Toronto, ON: Nelson Education Ltd.
  6. What are eating disorders? (2018). Retrieved from: http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/CCI/Mental%20Health%20Professionals/Eating%20Disorders/Eating%20Disorders%20-%20Information%20Sheets/Eating%20Disorders%20Information%20Sheet%20-%2032%20-%20What%20are%20Eating%20Disorders.pdf