This is the time for resolutions, intentions, goals, and dreams. Research is clear that you have a higher chance of keeping your resolutions if you write them down and they are as detailed as possible.
The Potentia team is a fan of the Passion Planner and we have been busy personalizing our planners with our hopes and plans for 2017.
When it comes to resolutions, one of the most common goals for the new year is around weight loss. Carrying extra weight sure has been demonized to the point of many developing an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy (orthorexia). Because it is an easy measure, checking the number on the scale is common practice with the goal, though often misleading, for improving health.
As a result, our culture is very focused the scale. Because the brain gives a dopamine reward every time we check that number, we often feel compelled to check this number frequently. The scale is tricky as it is a common measure of health – yet not the most important one. Things like activity levels, how your labs are looking, and the quality of your relationships + connections are much better life-span indicators.
Whatever the number being chased, the results of the scale usually leave you feeling wanting: for more weight loss, fear of gaining weight or maybe thinking you can lose just a little more weight – even after you hit your “goal” weight. Often with the scale, it is never enough – scarcity mindset in all its glory.
And when scarcity mindset is running the show, your worth quickly gets tied into the number on the scale. Then you are living from the protective parts of you which are shame-based instead of leading from a place of calm, clarity, confidence and courage.
Goals which focus on true health contribute to a longer life-span and offer a more enjoyable life with increased sense of meaning and improved relationships. These are a few of the areas we encourage our clients to focus on as they detox from a diet-mentality and move to a (re) define health mentality.
Some more of our favorite “non scale victories” are around improving:
Connectedness with self and others
Which non scale victories would you add to the above list? And as you wrap up the year, we created this download to help you with some of you goals for the new year. We can’t wait to hear about some of your looking forward-looking back reflections.
how to better discern the quality of the research so many health “facts” are based on
figure out what the key factors are which impact and define health
Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book along with my additional thoughts and reflections. It was really hard to decide which nuggets to quote from this book as Dr. Mann has packed in so much wisdom. It is a worthy investment, for sure!
1. The use of the BMI is controversial because the formula for calculating it is not based on any understanding of how height and weight relate to each other, and because people who have high muscle mass tend to get categorized as overweight, despite having very little fat. (p.4)
At Potentia, we have educated our clients and community for years on the flaws of the BMI as a measure of health. It is more of a marketing tool and not an evidenced based measure of true health. Be wary of how you use this information to define your definition of health. It also can be very shaming and trigger behaviors that are unsafe.
2. If their (the weight loss industry) products were effective in leading to long-term weight loss, they would soon put themselves out of business. These businesses count on repeat customers. Richard Samber, the longtime financial chairman of Weight Watchers, likened dieting to playing the lottery. “If you don’t win, you play it again. Maybe you’ll win the second time. When asked how the business could be successful when only 16 percent of customers maintained their weight loss, he said “It’s successful because the other 84 percent have to come back and do it again. That’s where your business comes from. (p.9)
Caution against investing in businesses which profit from your failure. This is particularly concerning as weight-cycling (repeated gaining and losing weight) is shown to be more dangerous than carrying extra weight. This fact is cited extensively in this book, too!
3. Researchers have known for a long time that diets don’t work. Now you know it, too. (p. 15)
In this chapter, Dr. Mann shares how she and her students dug into all the studies often used to validate why a particular weight loss programs/diet will work. She found three major flaws in various health and weight related studies on weight. It is also noted why it is important for you to understand the gold standard of research and how to be a better consumer and questioner of the data being quoted. “The research says…” need not shut down the conversation but instead be a conversation starter.
4. Think of willpower as brute strength. The amount of you need is larger than the amount of it you have, and the amount you have is nearly depleted by nearly everything you do. (p. 48)
Unpacking the science behind willpower, Dr. Mann points out that willpower – when used as a tool to maintain health – is not the best approach to lifestyle changes. She eloquently helps you understand the science of willpower so you can make better choices and decrease the physical, emotional and spiritual struggles around food + your health.
5. Shame is more painful than guilt, and to add injury to insult, shame has been shown to lead to a release of the stress hormone cortisol, and another kind of cell in the immune system (called a proinflammatory cytokine), which, among other things can promote the growth of disease. (p.62)
When shame is running your life around how you care for your body, diets – or some kind of restrictive or rigid rules around feeding and moving your body – are often a go-to response. Diet related behavior is one of shame’s bff’s.
6. But variables such as exercise, weight cycling, socieoeconomic status, fat distribution, and discrimination all factor into a person’s overall health…I hope you’re not still under the impression that you have to diet or obesity will kill you. If you exercise, eat nutritiously, avoid weight cycling, and get good quality medical care, you do not need to worry about obesity shortening your life. Especially if you shield yourself from weight stigma and the stress it causes… (p. 82+84-85)
Chapter 5 is powerful and provocative. It digs deep into the topic of obesity and myth-busting many narratives around carrying extra weight. The above words outline the complex factors which are a part of an accurate definition of health.
7. The benefits of exercise simply cannot be denied. Regular exercise can increase your life span, prevent disease, improve your mood, aid creativity, help you sleep better, and allow you to age more gracefully. These benefits are more easily attained than dramatic weight loss, and can be yours even if you do not lose a pound. (p.185)
Activity is a powerful indicator of your health. Finding an activity you will be motivated to do regularly is key. Now over-exercise, over-use injuries and complications related to hydrating and nutrition are flags that your activity has crossed over from being a positive positive part of your health into a negative one. At Potentia, we help our clients (re) define activity when this happens so moving their body can return to being a part of wellness and not the sole manager emotional pain.
There is so much good information packed into this book. I hope you check it out.
If you read the book, I would love to know what impacted you the most on how you view health.
All the best as you continue to challenge yourself to (re) define health in your life.
With gratitude –
Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT, Founder + Director of Potentia Family Therapy, Inc.
Let’s start off with an overview of saturated fatty acids, and how they differ from poly or monounsaturated fatty acids.
Saturated fatty acids (SFA’s) have the following characteristics distinguishing them from other fatty acids (trans, monounsaturated & polyunsaturated):
solid at room temperature
occur naturally in foods
referred to as ‘saturated’ due to their having no double bonds along the carbon chains that comprise these saturated fatty acids
Unsaturated oils, on the other hand, are liquid at room temperature, primarily found in higher concentrations in plant sources (with the exception of fatty fish) and have one (mono) or multiple (poly) double bonds along the carbon chain.
Contrary to popular belief, foods do not consist of one type of fatty acid. Rather, foods are composed of varying percentages of unsaturated and saturated fatty acids.
For example, SFA’s comprise roughly 13% of the fatty acids in olive oil, and 65% of the SFA’s in butter.
SFA’s are found in higher amounts in dairy products (ex: cream, butter, milk, cheese) as well as in meats (bacon, sausage, chicken fat, mutton), ghee, suet and lard.
Palm oil, palm kernal, coconut and cottonseed oils contain a larger percentage of SFA’s (relative to the other plant based fats), though they lack the cholesterol contained in animal sources.
Examples of SFA’s include:
lauric (palm kernal oil, coconut oil, vegetable shortening and is also used in )
palmitic (palm oil, tallow, processed foods to enhance texture)
These fatty acids are also commonly used in conjunction with sodium hydroxide, creating a product commonly found in soaps, shampoos and cosmetics (ex: sodium laurate and sodium palmitate).
For several decades, foods high in SFA’s were demonized by public health and nutrition experts, citing numerous studies suggesting that SFA’s were disease promoting.
Saturated fats were linked to increased LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol), a primary risk factor for heart disease.
Current American Heart Association guidelines suggest limiting calories from saturated fat to less than 7% per day (or roughly 16g or 140 calories).
SFA’s were somewhat vindicated when evidence emerged several years ago suggesting that trans fatty acids (partially hydrogenated oil) were more offensive, as they not only raise LDL, but decrease HDL (or ‘good’ cholesterol).
Recently, however, results of a meta-analysis of 72 studies (including both observational studies and randomized controlled trials) on saturated fat intake and heart disease published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found no association with SFA intake and risk of heart disease – basically stating saturated fats were found to have no influence, positively or negatively, on heart disease.
The results were highly publicized, and largely misconstrued by media.
Results of the published study actually read as follows:
“Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.”
Critics of the study, including nutrition experts from the Harvard School of Public Health (one of whom actually authored the study) are calling for a retraction or revision of the paper.
Critics have pointed to the limitations of meta-analyses as one potential problem, as numerous studies are combined and summarized, despite vast differences in methodologies (particularly across nutrition literature).
They also cite conflicting findings from numerous large scale population studies that link plant based/vegetarian diets (and lower intake of animal products) with health and longevity (Framingham, Adventist Health Study, China Study).
Another author (there were fourteen) has stood by the study’s findings, but insists that the conclusion of the meta analysis only suggested that we need further research to better understand the relationship between SFA’s and heart disease.
She has also supported continued adherence to American Heart Association’s parameters for SFA intake, stating that relaxing the guidelines would be premature at this point.
There are a number of studies in progress looking at the influence of particular saturated fatty acids on health outcomes, inspired by recent findings that suggest that all fatty acids are created equally.
The results of Annals of Internal Medicine study are intriguing indeed, and warrant further attention.
But until we have more evidence, the large majority of experts recommend continuing to keep SFA intake to a minimum and acquiring dietary fat from plant based sources (examples include olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds). We must also consider the steep environmental cost of meat consumption (10-15 pounds of grain is required to produce 1 pound of meat).
Bottom line: It’s a bit too soon to begin piling meat and cheese on your plate, but the results do suggest that more work needs to be done before we fully understand the relationship between SFA’s and heart disease.
And please be cautious when relying on media to interpret results of complex studies.
What can we conclude from the referenced study and other similar studies on SFA’s and health?
It seems that not all SFA’s are ‘equal’, and the way that they influence disease risk is not well understood and deserves further attention, so avoid dogmatic teachings around good food/bad food.
While we seek to better understand the SFA/health relationship and await further study results, please still proceed with caution when adding SFA’s to your intake.
Foods that are high in SFA’s (meats, dairy) are also often high in preservatives (and other artificial fillers) and sodium. Quality of meat/dairy DOES have a meaningful effect on the nutrient density, so going organic/grass fed IS worthwhile if you’re able.
Good nutrition is a complex picture with many shifting parts, and research is moving away from studying the influence of single nutrients on health outcomes, so be wary of these kinds of studies.
Lean on a plant based diet for necessary fats and proteins such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains (budget friendly AND protective), and supplementing with high quality (organic/grass fed) meat and dairy products when you do want to include animal fats.
Questions, thoughts and reflections? Please post them below. I look forward to continuing this important discussion with you.
In good health –
Study Reference: Rajiv Chowdhury, Samantha Warnakula, Setor Kunutsor, Francesca Crowe, Heather A. Ward, Laura Johnson, Oscar H. Franco, Adam S. Butterworth, Nita G. Forouhi, Simon G. Thompson, Kay-Tee Khaw, Dariush Mozaffarian, John Danesh, Emanuele Di Angelantonio; Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014 Mar; 160(6):398-406.
“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” – Albert Einstein
In honor of Respect Your Body Month, Potentia’s Coordinator of Nutrition and Wellness – Megan Holt, DrPH, MPH, RD – compiled a timeline and unpacked the history of fad diets and their many claims. Somewhat humorous and ridiculous at times, this list is not an endorsement of any of these trends but is intended to reflect the the constant ebb and flow of claims on what is true health. We support a non-diet, intuitive eating approach to feeding – when appropriate – and are passionate about educating the community on the dangers of fad diets and the diet mentality. – Rebecca
1863 Banting’s Diet: One of the first documented low carbohydrate diets. William Banting was a carpenter and undertaker. “Bad” foods included sugar/starch, butter, milk and beer.
1830 Graham’s Diet: A Presbyterian Minister, Sylvester Graham, touted a ‘bland’, vegetarian diet free of milk, meat, alcohol, white bread and ‘excitatory’ spices (which, upon intake, cause a person to become ‘lustful’).
1920 Inuit Diet: Vilhjalmur Stefannson, an Arctic explorer, noted improved health and quality of life among persons living in Arctic regions by eating a diet consisting predominantly of whale blubber, raw fish and caribou, with minimal fruit and vegetables. Thus, the Inuit Diet was born.
1930 Dr. Stoll’s Diet Aid: One of the first liquid supplement diets, shakes were given out as meal substitutes in local beauty parlors in efforts to popularize this diet.
1930 Hay’s Diet: Dr.Hay warned of ‘digestive explosion’ from consumption of fruit, meat and dairy at the same meal. He urged separation of foods into alkaline, acidic and neutral meal/snack categories.
1950 Grapefruit Diet: Consists of having ½ grapefruit daily, and minimal caffeine. Fatty meats, particularly bacon, may be consumed liberally, as the combination of grapefruit and saturated fat is “claimed” to accelerate the burning of body fat.
1980 Cabbage Soup Diet: This plan advises the consumer to consume cabbage soup at meal times for seven consecutive days, with the stepwise addition of beef, fruit, vegetables, brown rice and skim milk.
1980: Fat free/very low fat: Emphasized elimination of fat in the diet, given its caloric density and link to development of cardiovascular disease. Manufacturers quickly adapted by producing fat reduced versions of our favorite foods, using sugar to enhance palatability.
1990 Atkins Diet: Popularized by Dr.Robert Atkins, initial phases demand a carbohydrate intake not greater than 20g/day, and exclusion of fruit, starches/grains, added sugar, starchy vegetables and beans/legumes. Caffeine and alcohol are forbidden, but meat, eggs and oils may be consumed liberally.
2000 South Beach Diet: Essentially a tamer version of Atkin’s, partakers are allowed to include a greater percentage of calories from carbohydrates in the form of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in later stages, and are discouraged from over consumption of fatty meats/foods rich in saturated fats.
2000 Master Cleanse: Users are ‘detoxified’ by adhering to a strict regimen that includes a mixture of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and salt. The diet was originally publicized in the 1940’s by an alternative healer by the name of Stanley Burroughs.
Present day fad: The Paleo Diet, also referred to by some as the ‘Caveman’ diet, advocates a diet mimicking that of our Paleolithic ancestors. The Paleo diet features exclusion of processed grains/oils, legumes and dairy. This sort of an eating style is not new, as it was initially popularized in the 1970’s, though it’s made a comeback in recent years.
Despite their obvious differences, many of these diets all share a few common features (aside from the lack of credentials or expertise of behalf their wealthy creators): They erroneously suggest that we can manage health/weight through black and white thinking, they don’t ‘work’, they aren’t sustainable and they lack supporting evidence.
What do you think about this list? Would you add to it?
How do you respect your body through how you feed yourself?