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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ONeil On Eating

Let's eat. This beautiful breakfast began my day at Rancho La Puerta. You need energy to bounce through hikes, core workouts and pilates moves. Let the new blog begin.

Forget about dieting. Didn't work too well for anyone did it?

I think that's because Americans never really learned how to eat. Sure, we can grab snacks with great skill and forgo the bread because it's "fattening" and slurp down diet soft drinks to "be good" but that's not eating. That's not living. And guess what? That's not healthy for our bodies or our minds. Let's revisit some lovely lessons on eating from "Eat PrayLove."

It was the fresh buffalo mozzarella pizza with sweet tomato sauce and one sprig of basil that got me thinking of lessons learned about digging into delicious foods and letting go of weighty worries and calories consumed. In the first section of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love she travels to Italy as part of what the subtitle describes as “one woman’s search for everything.” Her journey of self discovery, now depicted by actress Julia Roberts in a movie of the same name, includes a serious confrontation with American women’s attitudes about eating, dieting and the guilt often associated with enjoying indulgent foods. At a pizzeria in Naples, Gilbert describes a “Thin, doughy, strong, gummy, yummy, chewy, salty pizza paradise” and orders two whole pizzas for herself because “the pizza is so good we can barely cope.” She goes on to admit she’s gaining weight every day in Italy and says friends back home refer to her trip as the “No Carb Left Behind Tour.” But Gilbert’s new found joyful abandon with pleasures of the palate isn’t a runaway train headed for dietary doom. It’s an exhilarating side trip of gelato, pastries, pasta, wine and chocolate with a plan to get back on track later as she imagines her body is telling her, “OK, kid, live it up. I recognize that this is just temporary.”

In both the book and movie, the message throughout seemed to be about finding balance in life, love, work, thoughts and deeds. Balance is certainly something dietitians talk about all of the time in terms of a healthy balanced diet to support well being of body and mind. So, here’s a sampling of thoughts about the eating in Eat, Pray, Love from nutrition experts who offer guidance to clients on their personal health journeys of self discovery.
Yes, her name is Love.
Page Love, Registered dietitian, Nutrifit Sport Therapy of Atlanta, “I think it is wonderful how the main character reminds women how to really enjoy food and be OK with letting her waistband expand. She also reminds us how to tune into cravings and mindfulness -listening to body signals and responding to what your body is telling you it wants -sometimes more, sometimes less. Sometimes more because it just looks so good and tastes so good, but then there are other times when our body tells us that we have had enough. She reminds us of the sheer enjoyment of eating without worry of what others are thinking or what may happen to our body!”
Love took her own solo mid-life trip to Rome and says she didn’t gain weight because she was so active touring around and walking everywhere as tourists often do.
When in Rome

Bonnie Taub-Dix, registered dietitian, National Spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, “I was smitten after reading the first part on Italy and wanted to pack mybags immediately and go directly to that pizza shop! Traveling, for me, is so much about food. That’s the message I try to convey to patients: Savor the moment, make itworth it, make it special, make it count. Don’t eat bread in Italy just because you’re in Italy. Eat bread in Italy when an amazing piece of bread is served to you while you’re there and hopefully it’s coupled with an amazing Barolo!” Taub-Dix is the author of a new book on better understanding food labels, Read It Before You Eat It (Plume 2010)
Give up the Guilt
Ann Dunaway Teh, registered dietitian, Dunaway Dietetics, Atlanta,
“Unfortunately I still think there is a lot of competition almost among women when eating, such as always noticing what the other person is eating or choosing, making qualifying statements or disclaimers about why they made this choice or that choice.
I counsel on moderation and not restricting certain foods because this can set up a person for “binging” on that particular item later and feelings of guilt. I also temper my advice with physical activity and teach people how to enjoy all foods in moderation and have their eating reflect physical activity and vice versa.” Dunaway Teh specializes in nutrition counseling for athletes and families.
Enjoy! It’s Healthy
Marsha Hudnall, registered dietitian, Green Mountain at Fox Run, Vermont.
“Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life, and the current attitudes about eating in this country seriously interfere with that enjoyment. We can dig into our food, enjoy it thoroughly, and still walk away healthy. In fact, enjoyment and happiness even promote good digestion and utilization of the nutrients in food. I believe that one of the positive life messages in Eat, Pray, Love is to realize that food is a wonderful part of life and to enjoy it as part of a full life that includes other things” Hudnall is program director at Green Mountain at Fox Run in Ludlow Vermont, a women's healthy weight loss retreat and pioneer in the non-diet, mindful eating approach to health and healthy weights. She leads Adventures in Mindful Eating Tours of Italy!

Mealtime Mindfulness
Each one of the nutrition experts mentioned the importance of mindfulness in eating. Page Love said it well, “When we tune in by eating slowly, pausing during meals, you will get appropriate and accurate measures of when to stop. Set up a “healthy meal environment” sitting in an aesthetically pleasing environment. Maximize your enjoyment mindfully which will in the end help you decide how much you need of yummy food without overdoing it!”
Elizabeth Gilbert, author Eat, Pray, Love communicates mindfulness too writing about her lunch of eggs, asparagus, olives, goat cheese, salmon and a peach, “Finally when I had fully absorbed the prettiness of my meal, I went and sat in a patch of sunbeam on my clean wooden floor and ate every bit of it with my fingers.”

Carolyn O’Neil, MS RD is a registered dietitian and co-author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous! She can be seen on the Food Network’s Good Eats with Alton Brown, as recurring nutrition expert, The Lady of the Refrigerator.

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