Sunday, July 23, 2017

Eating for the 'wrong' reasons and important links

Even though I don’t have time to maintain my blog, I am reluctant to shut it down. So today I am writing for two reasons. The first is to remind readers about the danger of eating when you aren’t hungry and the second is to share a couple of health news sources. These news sources will be of particular interest to those who have enjoyed my blog topics, and I will share the links at the end. The sources have free email subscriptions and I believe they are two of the best (i.e., credible, relevant, current) out there.

As I thought about writing (my posts often percolate in my head a few days), I remembered that I started my blog as a newsletter back in 2004 (approximately) when I was working at a hospital and taking classes to earn my Master’s in Public Health. Many readers followed my journey from that point (i.e., to Florida as a Tobacco Treatment Specialist, to UNCG for more graduate studies in Public Health, to Beasley School of Law to complete a post doc in Public Health Law Research) to now – 13 years later.

Today, I am an Assistant Professor at Temple University in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. My teaching responsibilities include a course about substance use disorders and addiction (that should make sense if you’ve read the blog over the years) and a course on nutrition as it relates to the health of populations (i.e., I am still not a registered dietician and do not give individual diet advice). I teach additional courses and conduct research/program evaluations, but this blog has foremost been about behaviors that impact our health and the laws that make those behaviors harder or easier to accomplish (e.g., that darn national menu labeling law that can’t seem to be implemented, soda taxes, new food labels). 

Dietary intake and health status (including obesity) has probably been of most interest to my readers, and to me. So, I want to talk about a specific area of risk regarding dietary intake. Eating for non-hunger reasons. It is often when we eat for the ‘wrong’ reasons that we gain weight. I think what sets me apart from a lot of people is that I don’t do that. I primarily eat to fuel my body when I am hungry. Or better put: I do not eat to socialize. I do not eat because I am bored. I do not eat because I am sad. I do not eat because I am high (haha, just kidding – bc I don’t get high). I do not eat just because everybody else is eating or to be polite. To be clear, I LIKE food, and enjoy meals and snacks and alcoholic beverages, but I don’t respond to social (including work meetings) or familial pressure to eat for the sake of fitting in.

Now that I think about it, I did blog about this many years ago – about how to eat in a social context without gaining weight. I suggested that when you are going to an event (family traditions included) where it is expected that you ‘eat to be social,’ or you know your favorite foods will be available, you plan it so that the food you eat at the event is part of your daily intake (and if its occasional, maybe it’s a little more than your daily intake). But eating when you are sad, bored, or unexpectedly confronted with someone’s ‘oh I had to get these out of my house, please have some’ cookies is a sure path to over consumption/excess calories. This over consumption is especially likely because the food associated with those ‘eating but not for hunger’ reasons are usually high in sugar, saturated fat, salt and calories. So, just think about that – and decide how you want to handle it.

That’s all I have for you on diet and health today. Most importantly are the links I promised you at the start of this post. Here they are:

ConscienHealth blog   (the subscribe option is on the top right of the page)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Diet and Health: The Big Picture

After teaching an undergraduate public health nutrition course (i.e., not a course for aspiring dietitians) for a couple of years, I realize that there are a few points that are most important. The first is that healthy is a very squishy word and must be defined when used. In fact, at this very minute the FDA is taking public comments as they consider whether food companies can continue to use the word on their products and what exactly it would mean if they did (same for the word natural). I define healthy in the spirit of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Therefore, a healthy food would be high in nutrients that we need and do not get too much of (e.g., we need sodium/salt but we easily get plenty, so a food high is sodium is not considered healthy), and low in calories and things we need less of (e.g., solid fats and added sugars). So healthy foods are usually whole foods (i.e., produce, whole grains), lean proteins (e.g., some fish, legumes), certain oils (e.g., olive oil, omega 3, flaxseed) and some low fat dairy products. Unhealthy foods would be ones likely found in a box or bottle (e.g., sugar sweetened beverages) with high calories, high sodium (e.g., 10% or more of the daily value on a food label), and added sugar. Unhealthy would also include whole foods that were prepared in a way that adds excess calories, sugar or sodium, and cooking with healthy oils instead of adding a small portion (less than a tablespoon) of raw oil after preparing the food.

The remaining points are these:

  • Just because something is good for you (aka healthy) does not mean it is free of calories and that you can eat as much of it as you like.
  • Just because something is bad for you (aka unhealthy) doesn't mean you should NEVER eat it (with a few exceptions, e.g., raw fish or unpasteurized milk).
  • Calories matter no matter what you tell yourself and its important to have a general idea of how many you need and how many are in the foods and beverages (including alcohol) that you consume. On that note, the national calorie disclosure law for restaurant chains and vending companies has NOT BEEN REPEALED and is due to take effect in May.