Changing for the better, one bite and (deep) breath at a time.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Do Dietitians Eat Junk Food?

When I tell people I'm a dietitian, I'm usually met with at least one of three reactions:
1) I'm asked if I only eat healthy foods;
2) People beg me not to judge them for what they eat; and
3) Some people - usually women - look me up and down to (I assume) assess my weight.

I want to clarify a few things.

Eating should be pleasurable and enjoyable. As a staunch believer of intuitive eating, a philosophy that promotes eating based on our inherent hunger, satiety, and satisfaction signals, I love food and am not afraid to admit it. I love it so much that I try - even on my most stressed of days - to treat it with respect. I sit down when I eat, try to eat as slowly and mindfully as I can, and honor when my body says it has had enough. I also eat the foods that I love. Some days that means I have a salad for breakfast. On other days, I'm craving gooey chocolate. So yes, dietitians do eat "junk" food...we just try to enjoy it and view it for what it is: just food. Of course, balance is important, as healthy foods help us live and feel better, but what's the point of eating if we cannot enjoy special foods some of the time? (If you feel that your eating habits or relationship with food are "strained," consider working with a dietitian or therapist who practices intuitive or mindful eating principles. The Intuitive Eating National Counselor Directory is here.)

By the way, as a dietitian I don't like to "watch people" while they eat and analyze their eating patterns. Like everyone else, I don't actually want to work all the time, and constant analysis of food and eating habits of everyone around me would become exhausting. Furthermore, open judgement of others' food patterns would only promote disordered eating behaviors and would leave me without any lunch companions!

As for those who look me up and down after learning what I do, I understand why they do it. Most people equate nutrition with weight and assume that "healthy" eaters are thin and "unhealthy" eaters are overweight. This assumption could not be further from the truth, and some of my most disordered or "unhealthy" eaters who are miserable around food are the envy of their less svelte friends. For more on this, check out the Health at Every Size webpage.

My husband Greg and I go out for ice cream about once a week. When it comes to eating ice cream, I want the real thing. Full-fat, real ice cream is more satisfying than fake fro-yo and doesn't have artificial sweeteners, which I avoid as much as possible because of how poorly it makes me feel. We are usually Cold Stone fans because it's so close to our house, but I'm not always comfortable with their long ingredient lists on each ice cream flavor. I'd rather fill my body with real ingredients, and I find that I feel much better when I do so, even after eating ice cream.

My dad recommended a local artisan ice cream shop called Sweet Republic. Located on Shea and 92nd Street in Scottsdale, Sweet Republic has been voted "Top 10 Ice Cream Shop" by Bon Appetit magazine and won "Best Ice Cream" by the Phoenix New Times.

I especially like it because they serve real, 100% natural, preservative- and artificial ingredient-free ice cream. They use whole, fresh ingredients, such as real mint leaves in their mint chip flavor. They even have unusual and unexpected featured flavors such as Honey Blue Cheese (actually kind of good!) and Jalapeno Avocado. Sweet Republic also has a traveling 59 Chevy van that serves up scoops of the good stuff at farmers' markets, events, and private parties.

Greg and I both enjoyed a scoop of the Salted Butter Caramel flavor in a waffle cone. I never paid much attention to cream cones before; after all, wasn't the ice cream the main attraction? I now realize why my dad emphasized the importance of the waffle cone at Sweet Republic: it was absolutely delicious! We sat and ate our treats with little spoons, fully enjoying each bite. The best part? We felt much better physically after eating ice cream from this local shop because it doesn't contain unusual ingredients and preservatives.

If you're in the Phoenix area, I encourage you to pop into Sweet Republic and grab yourself a cone. If you're not nearby, you might be able to find Sweet Republic ice cream at your local Whole Foods store. Just make sure to savor each spoonful!