NUTRITION FOR WOMEN
A complete nutritional guide for ladies of all ages
What if instead of restrictive diets that label some foods “good” and others “bad”, there was a fresh way to address eating habits, your relationship with food and your own body shape. Strategies like “Mindful Eating”, “Intuitive Eating”, and the “Satiety Index” are designed for just this purpose – to help you focus on the moment, overcome cravings, choose foods that satisfy, and control your weight to create a healthier soul-satisfying relationship to food.
TUNING IN TO CLUES
If you ask people to monitor why they eat, their answers might surprise you. “They eat because they’re stressed, bored, depressed, overtired, lonely, or in a social eating situation,” says Kathy Isoldi, MS, RD, CDE, coordinator of clinical services at the Weill Cornell Medical Center’s Comprehensive weight Control program. “Hunger is often further down on the list.” Enter “mindful” eating which encourages people to recognize hunger, eat attentively with a sense of power and control, and make healthy food and portion choices. It’s a natural extension of the mindfulness-based stress reduction programme popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School two decades ago. “Mindful eating teaches people to tune into their emotions and how it affects their eating patterns,” according to Isoldi. “At Cornell, we use this approach to help patients recognize and grade their hunger pangs, identify the times during the day that they get hungry, and the issues in their lives that make them overeat.” Many people use eating as a reward at the end of a long, stressful day, irregardless of how hungry they may or may not feel, she observes. “Part of our mission is to help patients find an alternative to overeating as a stress reduction technique by creating awareness in the moment and learning to divert overeating tendencies elsewhere.”
The first steps to more mindful eating: Slow down and sit down. Deborah Kesten, MPH, author of Feeding the Body, Nourishing the Soul: Essentials of Eating for Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Well-Being advocates putting spirituality back into eating by borrowing cultural traditions that help us slow down and focus on the taste and smell of food. Many cultures have some kind of prayer or another ritual before eating that helps us to slow down and contemplate the food before us (for example, saying “grace”). In her book, Kesten suggests stopping for a few seconds before eating (whether it’s to take a deep breath and appreciate the scent of the food, or to say a brief prayer) so that we slow down and appreciate what we’re about to eat. There are also various cultural traditions, such as the Japanese tea ceremony, that focus attention on the ritual of eating and the taste of food. It’s another way of slowing down. Sitting down for a meal helps to focus your attention on the meal; never eat standing up. Focus on savoring each moment of the meal, each mouthful of food. It takes around 20 minutes for the brain to get the message that you’re full; rushing meals promotes overeating. Create soothing mealtime rituals. Even if you’re dining alone, use china plates and your best flatware. Bring out the cloth napkins. Have flowers on the table. Light candles for the evening meal. Eat with your family or invite friends for a meal. Turn the television off and don’t talk on the phone while you eat. Enjoy conversation. Not only will you feel more satisfied by a meal, but you’re less likely to need antacids for dessert. After eating, take some time to relax. Put on some music, or read a book, Kesten’s book suggests.
Many of us label certain foods “good” and “bad.” When you deprive yourself of a certain food, it can lead to bingeing and sabotage efforts at healthful eating. One way to quit judging each forkful is to take an intuitive approach. “Intuitive eating teaches a philosophy of making peace with food preferences and choices, with the understanding that balance and wisdom regarding nutrition will emerge,” says Elyse Resch, co-author of Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Programme that Works. “Because deprivation feelings build when foods are restricted there’s often a transitional period where people eat larger quantities of foods that were once forbidden.
“Lifting the ‘ban’ on socalled ‘bad’ foods eliminates associated feelings of deprivation and guilt. Over time, intuitive eaters taper off from eating excessive amounts of these items and become more able to enjoy them in quantities good for maintaining a normal weight and healthy lifestyle.” Learning to eat in tune with intuitive hunger signals will also help re-adjust your set point so that you lose excess
MINDFUL EATING Determine if you are eating as a result of physiological, social, or emotional cues. Learn stress-reduction strategies to reduce overeating. Eat only when you are hungry and stop when full. Slow down around mealtimes to aid digestion. Focus only on the meal; don’t multitask.
INTUITIVE EATING Don’t attach moral judgments to foods – there are no “good” or “bad” foods. Allow your body to sense what it needs to eat. Eat mainly when hungry and stop when satisfied rather than full. Rate hunger on scale of 1-10. Don’t get down below a 3 in terms of hunger, and stop eating when you’re at a 6 or 7. Maintain normal physical activity. Accept your body. Banish “diets.”
SATIETY INDEX Eat foods that help you feel satisfied. Choose bulkier foods that contain more water and fewer calories, such as fruits and vegetables.
weight, according to Resch. “Each of us has a genetically determined set point weight which is maintained throughout life by eating in response to normal hunger and fullness signals and by maintaining normal amounts of physical activity,” she says. “Unfortunately, many people become distanced from this inner wisdom due to dieting and emotional factors. They get into ‘primal hunger,’ eating before hunger presents, and ignoring fullness signals so that they become overweight.” If you’re not at your set point weight, you’ll slim down naturally by adopting intuitive eating principles, according to Resch.
THE “SATIETY INDEX”
The trick to controlling how much you eat is choosing foods that successfully stave off hunger pangs so you don’t keep stuffing yourself. The “Satiety Index,” was created in 1995 by Australian researcher Susanna H. Holt, PhD, then at the department of biochemistry at the University of Sydney. To see which foods gave a satisfied feeling, she fed 240-calorie portions of 38 different foods to student volunteers, then rated their appetite levels over a two-hour period. White bread became the baseline measure of 100. Foods that scored over 100. Foods that scored over 100 were more satiating than bread; those rated lower than 100 were less satisfying. (See list, at right.) Foods high in fibre, protein, and water satisfied appetite longer because they contain nutrients that are slowly absorbed. A similar approach from Barbara J. Rolls, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences at the Pennsylvania State University, is called “Volumetrics.” Rolls advocates eating bulky, low calorie foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables (such as celery, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, melon, grapes, pears, and apples), as well as low-fat and broth-based soups. Choosing foods that give you more bulk for your calories in terms of portion size, such as popcorn, keep
you from being hungry longer so you don’t overeat.
THE NONDIET DIET
Mindful eating and intuitive eating both stress learning to identify internal cues for hunger, satisfaction, and fullness to avoid overeating. That strategy appears to have a positive effect on reducing key health risks like high cholesterol and blood pressure. Working with a programme called “Health at Every Size,” nutritionists at the University of California, Davis divided 78 women aged 30-45 in two groups. The dieting group was put on a moderately restrictive diet that trimmed calories and fat. They were told to keep food diaries, and monitor their weight. Instead of being restricted in their food choices, the nondieting group learned to tune into their internal body cues to identify true hunger, fullness, and foodrelated feelings. The nondieters also participated in support groups to learn how to accept their larger size. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels were measured during the two-year study, along with physical activity, eating behavior, and attitudes about their body and about eating. Even though the nondieters didn’t lose weight, in many respects they were the big winners. Ninetytwo per cent remained in the study programme, compared to just 58 per cent of the dieters. By the study’s end, the nondieters had significantly decreased their total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, practically quadrupled moderate physical activity, and dramatically improved selfesteem and depression. Not so the dieters. Their cholesterol and LDL were unchanged and they were unable to sustain improvement in their blood pressure, physical activity, and depression. BOTTOM LINE: There was a significant improvement in the health of non-dieters, even though they didn’t lose weight. Although the dieters lost five percent of their original weight, two years later they had regained most of it. Dieting didn’t make anyone healthier; changing eating patterns to eat in response to internal cues did.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
Louis J. Aronne, MD, clinical professor of medicine and director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Programme at Cornell University, and his colleague Kathy Isoldi believe that each of these approaches contain effective tools that contribute to a lifelong weight loss programme. Approaching food mindfully to learn whether you’re eating in response to emotional or social cues or because you’re actually hungry is essential to losing weight and keeping it off, says Dr. Aronne, Intuitive eating brings a lot to the table by removing the stigma attached to certain foods like chocolate, candy, and “junk” food, thereby eliminating food-associated feelings of deprivation, guilt, and cravings. Selecting foods rated high on the Satiety Index will keep you feeling fuller longer, helping to control the nibble factor. Each is an interesting concept but none makes a whole plan. “We don’t agree that the body can sense its own nutritional needs as outlined in Intuitive Eating principles, but rather that everyone needs good nutritional guidelines in order to choose a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean cuts of meat,” says Isoldi. “What has to change is the myth that the only way to be beautiful is to be thin. Health at every size has shown us that you can be fit and healthy if you exercise, even if you are overweight. And that’s where our focus as a society should be: on good health for every size.”