What to Eat: Three Questions to Ask Yourself

by Michelle May, M.D.

We are bombarded with conflicting messages about what to eat–often side by side on the same magazine cover. These confusing messages create internal conflict when what you want to eat must face off with what you should eat according to the latest expert.

Ironically, the definition of “good” and “bad” foods changes every few years so people feel confused and overwhelmed by all the conflicting and often arbitrary messages about what they are supposed to eat.

However it is possible to strike a balance between eating for nourishment and eating for enjoyment. In fact, one of the keys to optimal health and lifelong weight management is to nurture your body and your soul with the foods you eat.

So how do you drown out all the noise and find that balance when deciding what to eat? Start by asking yourself three simple questions when you’re hungry: “What do I want to eat?” “What do I need to eat?” and “What do I have to eat?”

What Do I Want to Eat?

The first question, “What do I want to eat?” may come as a surprise. But what happens when you try to avoid food you really want-like those Girl Scout Cookies that were delivered after you started your new low-carb diet?

First you check the label and confirm that they’re off limits so you put them in the freezer. Two days later they whisper to you from their hiding place, “Pssst. We’re in here!” You manage to resist them, instead munching on some olives, four cubes of cheese, a hunk of leftover meatloaf with a side of celery sticks, two pieces of low-carb toast–and yet you still don’t feel satisfied.

“Hey! We’re in here and we taste great […]

By |September 2nd, 2010|Food, Intuitive Eating, Mindful Eating|0 Comments

15 Tips for Holiday Eating Without Weight Gain

by Michelle May, M.D.

Do you anticipate the holidays but dread the “inevitable” holiday weight gain? Do your holiday events revolve around eating more than the meaning, people, presents, decorations, or travel?

Avoiding holiday weight gain and eating healthy during the holidays can be a real challenge unless you have a great strategy.  These 15 holiday eating tips will help you avoid holiday weight gain and enjoy the season more while eating less.

1.  It is easier to get distracted from signals of physical hunger and satiety at social gatherings, especially if food is the main event. Make an effort to pay close attention to your body’s signals.

2.  Be a food snob. Skip the store-bought goodies, the dried-out fudge and the so-so stuffing. If the food you select doesn’t taste as good as you expected, stop eating it and choose something else. Think of how much less you’d eat if you only ate things that tasted fabulous!

3.  Think of your appetite as an expense account. How much do you want to spend on appetizers or the entree? Do you want to save some room for dessert? Go through this process mentally to avoid eating too much food and feeling uncomfortable for the rest of the evening.

4.  Pace your eating prior to the event so you’ll be hungry but not famished at mealtime. But please, ignore the old diet advice of “eat before you go to a party so you won’t be tempted.” That is absurd! You want to be hungry enough to enjoy your favorites.

5.  Socialize away from the sight of the food. People who tend to overeat are “food suggestible” so just hanging around food […]

By |December 3rd, 2009|Emotional Eating, Food, Mindful Eating, Tips|0 Comments

How to Be a Food Snob

I’ll never forget the day I figured out I was a food snob. There I was, sitting in a graduate seminar chatting with a colleague, when she pulled out a granola bar that looked interesting.  I said, “Wow, I’ve never seen that kind before, but then again I never buy granola bars.” And when she replied, “Of course you don’t, you’re a total food snob!”, I was taken aback.  Was this an insult? After a few seconds, I thought, “Yes, yes I am a food snob!” and thanked her for her compliment.

What is a Food Snob?

What the heck is a food snob, you might ask, and why should you be proud to be one? Good question!  A food snob is someone who has an epicurean zeal for high quality, fresh and fancy food.

Here are some of the traits and behaviour patterns of a food snob:

* They prefer to buy their food from specialty shops; bread from bakeries, meat from butcher shops, and nuts and grains from bulk food stores.

* When in a suburban-style mega-grocery store, they mostly avoid the centre aisles, opting instead for fresh produce and dairy.

* They don’t buy things that come in crinkly bags or brightly coloured boxes with cartoon characters on them.

* Whatever they do buy from centre aisles has to be imported from some foreign country and in a glass bottle with a fancy label, thank you very much.

* They love to visit farmer’s markets, and pick out local produce with the eye of a jeweller choosing the finest gems.

* They also love to try new things; the more exotic and unpronounceable, the better.

* When eating out, they get excited by hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve […]

By |September 3rd, 2009|Emotional Eating, Food, Lessons in Living, Mindful Eating, Tips|0 Comments

Back from Florida: Some observations on eating

Last week my husband and I returned from a two-week trip to Fort Lauderdale. I promised my newsletter readers I’d comment on some of my observations I made while down there, and here they are.  There are really two things I want to discuss – how I managed to keep up my own healthy eating habits and some of the ways American eating habits differ from our own (in Canada).

First off, it was surprisingly easy to stick to my intuitive eating habits that I’ve been developing over the last little while. I was actually stressing out a little before I left because I thought I’d be tempted to eat everything in sight because I was on vacation.  I was also worried that even if I wanted to make healthy choices, I’d be stuck with eating crap food from American chains like Cracker Barrel, McDonald’s (the horror!), and T.G.I. Friday’s because of a lack of proper restaurants that were reasonably priced.  Boy, did I surprise myself!

I found it was actually easier to eat intuitively while on vacation. No schedules, no running around and no stress meant that I could lounge about in the sun all day and eat whenever I felt like it, which was usually at very odd times of the day.  My day ALWAYS starts off with a healthy breakfast, so I just kept up that habit.  Having a mini-fridge and microwave in our room meant that we could do groceries and prepare a few of our own meals rather than have to eat out three times a day.  It also meant eating only when and if we were hungry.  Much to my delight, it turned out that there was […]

By |August 11th, 2008|Food, Mindful Eating|0 Comments

“Diet” is a four-letter word

I recently started reading “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyne Tribole and Elyse Resch. In it, they list the multiple reasons that dieting doesn’t work.  They discuss how we have become a nation obsessed with dieting, weight and body image concerns.  While this is nothing new, they do make the point that all this talk of dieting is contributing to our weight problems by overemphasizing the what we “should” be eating instead of learning to listen to our body’s own hunger signals.

This reminded me of another book I read recently, “French Women Don’t Get Fat” where author Mireille Guiliano states that American women are obsessed with dieting and talking about their own weight problems. She says that in France, it is considered tacky and impolite to discuss such matters in front of others, except with your doctor if health is an issue.  I found that so refreshing, because it seems that whenever women get together, half the conversation is focused on how fat they’ve been feeling lately, what they shouldn’t be eating but will “indulge” themselves with this time, what they’ve been doing to lose weight, how it’s been working/not working.  Phew!  Talk about exhausting.

Next time you’re out with friends or family I dare you to completely refuse to talk about dieting, the “evils” of food, your body, or your exercise routine (or lack thereof). Don’t say anything self-deprecating (I look terrible in these jeans!), don’t comment on your conflicted feelings about your food (I shouldn’t be eating this but it tastes so good!) or how full you feel.  And if anyone else gets started, politely excuse yourself from engaging in the conversation by saying something along the lines of, “I would prefer […]

By |June 16th, 2008|Dieting, Food|0 Comments

The real definition of conscious eating

There’s a lot of buzz these days about conscious (or mindful) eating. This usually refers to being fully present and conscious while you are eating, paying attention to the taste and texture, as well to your body’s fullness signals.  A very important part of having a healthy relationship with food.

But how conscious are we really of what we’re eating? My mom sent me an email today warning against buying chicken from China (http://www.snopes.com/photos/food/chinachicken.asp), and while the jury is still out on the validity of these claims, it does raise some interesting questions.

When picking out your produce or animal protein, do you ever ask yourself:

* What were the conditions in which the animal lived?

* How was the animal killed, and under what kind of conditions?

* What kinds of chemicals was the food exposed to (fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, toxins in the earth/ocean/food chain)?

* Where was this food grown?

* Were there enough nutrients in the soil in which the food was grown?

* How was the food harvested?

* Was it ripe when it was harvested?

* How far did the food have to travel before getting to your supermarket, and under what conditions?

Food for thought, indeed.

By |June 13th, 2008|Food, Mindful Eating|0 Comments