Limiting Beliefs That Impact Your Eating Habits

Brittany Braswell is a Registered Dietitian who runs a private recovery coaching practice helping Christian women ditch food rules and negative body image so they finally get off the dieting hamster wheel and experience true and lasting freedom in Christ. She has been featured as a guest expert on podcasts, at virtual summits, in blogs, and at universities. She is the creator of two exclusive courses — one on improving body image, and another on recovering from disordered eating on her website here, both of which serve women using a Christ-centered approach.

In this episode, we tackle the tough topic of how our disordered relationship with food can often reflect a disordered view of ourselves and our purpose. Download here or find wherever you get podcasts.

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Popular Phrases That Don’t Support Whole Body Health

If we’re going to partner with our bodies for whole body healing, we need to understand that the way we choose to talk to our bodies about our choices of nourishment impacts the way we digest and utilize nutrients. A body in stress won’t digest! Our thoughts pave the way for everything that happens on an intercellular level. If we are stressed about our food choices, it alters the way we digest.

Does what you put into your body impact your health? Of course! But what you tell yourself about your food and your body determines if you can access “rest and digest,” which is important for healing and restoration.

During a meal, we want to be relaxed, filled with gratitude, and completely present in our bodies to load our senses with the pleasure-filled experience of eating.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Food is not just fuel. Food is comfort, healing, information, and nourishment on so many levels.

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Dissecting Today’s Most Popular Diets

We know that diets fail 95% of the time, but think of it this way – if dieting was a medication, the FDA would never approve it.

Dieting never got to the root of my health issues. In fact, it only made things worse. My guest Heather Creekmore of Compared to Who says the same thing. Both of us have made pretty amazing health transformations – and we did it without dieting.

With spiritual, mental, emotional, and yes, physical health at the forefront of our conversation, in this podcast episode we discuss the popular dieting trends this summer.

Download and listen to this episode here or get wherever you listen to podcasts!

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75 Hard? That’s a Hard Pass… And Here’s Why

To all my hard-working, go-getting, goal-digging female friends:

Oh, how I wish I could sit you down and tell you how amazing you are and how hard your body works for you to keep you alive. How I wish you could truly see yourself the way I do. I would tell you to take a big deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. I would remind you that your body is safe. Your body is on your side.

Instead, I see the pressure. The pressure to punish the female body. To do extra hard things (as if your body isn’t working hard enough already). The latest and greatest in this masochistic movement masquerading as “discipline” is the 75 Hard program.

In case you’re unfamiliar, let me break it down for you.

In a program designed by a man (we’ll get back to that in a minute), it aims to promote mental toughness by engaging in the following activities DAILY for 75 days. Apparently, if you mess up, you start over.

  1. Follow any food plan designed for your goals, but zero alcohol and no cheat meals.
  2. Complete two 45-minute workouts every day – one of them outside.
  3. Every day, drink a gallon of water.
  4. Every day, read 10 pages of an educational or self-improvement book.
  5. Every day, take a picture of your progress.

Okay, at first glance it really seems like a great combination of holistic health – we’ve got the food piece, the movement, hydration, internal processing…. but hold up. A picture? Every day?

That’s the first thing that stands out to me that is troubling. I’ve posted many times about my personal issues with before and after pictures, so I can’t imagine the obsession a daily picture would create in me. I can just picture myself zooming in on every single roll, bulge, speck, spot, zit, crease, and stance. Making sure my pose is the exact same every day, or sucking in, not sucking in, sticking the hip out here, booty out there. Man, by the time picture time is over I could’ve been reading my 10 pages from a book! This seems to be quite triggering for anyone who struggles with body image issues – which is probably the exact type of person targeted for a program like this. Big nope for me.

Now, let’s get back to the whole “program started by a man” thing. I’m sure Andy Frisella is a very motivating person. He’s a CEO of a large company, and he gets things done. He’s created a movement. But Andy’s body is driven by a different kind of rhythm in order to get work done – the circadian rhythm. And while we females have a circadian rhythm as well, we also have something called an infradian rhythm. And where we are in that infradian rhythm – meaning, which phase of our menstrual cycle we fall into – makes a huge difference in how our bodies are going to be functioning optimally.

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How to Stop Dieting in 2022

2021 was a year of emotional upheaval for me, and I know I’m not alone. Aside from the division and tension caused by a certain virus and all the politics (unfortunately) intertwined with it, our family went through a major transition. My husband made a career change and we moved cities to follow our dreams. We left family and close friends. I grieved the loss of what we left behind, along with broken relationships that didn’t get mended.

This took a toll on my hormones and digestion. While food consumption and movement didn’t change, my emotional environment did. And my body decided to protect me by storing weight. While I can wear my clothes still, I’m a little fluffier in them. They don’t fit the same. I don’t have the ease of movement in certain yoga poses that I used to.

Because I know I’m not the only one feeling this way, I also know this is where many of us are tempted to go on an extreme diet to lose the weight.

Here’s the thing I want to remind you – your body cannot let go of excess weight until it is in a place of safety and healing.

Trying to drastically cut calories and restrict food consumption in order to lose weight quickly may work at the beginning… at the expense of putting your body into a greater state of survival and fight or flight. This is why 95% of diets fail.

There has to be another way to restore the body to a place of healing.

For me, the key has been creating a healthy relationship with food and exercise. Here’s what that means:

  • Food isn’t something to earn.
  • Exercise isn’t punishment for poor eating.
  • Overconsuming food that has been chemically altered and designed to be overconsumed isn’t a moral failure. It doesn’t mean you lack willpower or discipline.
  • While calories are units of energy, calories in carbohydrates alone provide different types of energy than calories in protein and calories in fat, not to mention calories from a piece of cake and calories from a sweet potato. This looks different for every individual.
  • My response to certain foods changes throughout the month as my hormones shift. What is filling and fueling one day, may not be filling and fueling on another.
  • The state of stress I’m in while I’m eating may matter more than the content of what I’m eating.

Instead of placing an emphasis on food restriction and punishment, I must emphasize nourishment. What can I do for my body that is healing? What can I do that gives it a break from the stress? I think for many of us, it looks like changing the mindset first.

Until our perspective on food and health changes, we can’t make progress. We will always be battling a negative attitude toward our body and food, which perpetuates a state of survival in our already stressed out bodies.

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Your Weight Is The Least Interesting Thing About You

I had to step on a scale for life insurance this week and it triggered crazy anxiety and numerous unpleasant emotions.

I haven’t looked at the scale in years. According to the BMI (which is a mathematical calculation never intended to be used for health purposes but that’s a whole other post), I have been overweight since I was 16 years old. Because I’ve suffered from chronic health issues my entire life, I know when I’m in a healthy place and I know when I’m in an unhealthy place. The scale has never been a reflection of that. But it can tell me when my body is on high alert or fighting to restore balance. 

Yes, I am a health coach, but I don’t use the scale as a measure of health.

I dig deeper.

Because my endless hours of training are in integrative nutrition and functional medicine, I care more about what rapid weight gain or weight loss tells me about underlying imbalances.

Often times, weight is a protective mechanism. Body fat tissue is biologically active, producing hormones and immune-system proteins that act on other cells. There is a REASON for the inflammation. It’s how our body stores toxins and manages internal or external imbalances, not to mention physical and emotional stress.

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Are Your Thoughts Making You Gain Weight?

Confession: I took a page out of the media handbook and hit you with a headline to get your attention. Weight gain is not as simple as “thinking it into existence.”

But I CAN tell you this: what you think about your food changes your ability to absorb and utilize nutrients.

Have you heard of the cephalic phase of digestion?

This phase is crucial to how our food is utilized. How and what you THINK about your food impacts the way your body absorbs and utilizes nutrients. In fact, researchers have shown that 30-40% of our digestive response is due to the cephalic phase, which is our awareness of what we are consuming.

This is what your brain needs to know:

  • Does it smell good?
  • Is it colorful?
  • Does it look appealing?
  • Are you grateful for it?
  • Does it appear to be a threat to your survival?
  • Will you feel nourished and safe with this meal?

The crazy thing is, you’re not even thinking these things on a conscious level. But your body picks up on it. In fact, there is an interesting component to this phase, called the “cephalic phase insulin response.” Simply thinking about carbs, or even fantasizing about a piece of cake or candy you are restricting, can cause your body to produce excess insulin. This is just another reason I like to focus on the principle of ADDITION over RESTRICTION… and another reason I hate dieting. Stress is stress to your body, whether it’s a perceived stressor or a real stressor.

So, this holiday season, be intentional about pleasure. Get excited to sit down and eat a nourishing meal with those you care about. I always say, “a body in stress will not digest,” and this reminder is needed even more so during the holidays.

When you sit to eat, slow down, breathe in between bites, and chew your food. Remember – the only part of digestion you can control is the amount of times you chew to assist in the breakdown. Be sure to allow your senses to take over; that’s when the magic happens. Food heals. It brings peace.

Food is crucial for survival. We must create a relationship with food that makes us feel safe.

If not, we make what is intended to be a restful and healing experience a stressful and inflammatory experience.

Your body will let you know which is which. 

If you need help with any of the above, reach out! Optimizing digestion is a big part of what I like to work on with my one-on-one clients. We also dive into this a bit in my Feast 2 Fast program, which re-launches early in January. It looks like another weight loss program, but I assure you, it’s all about incorporating real food into our real lives – and allowing room for the fun food we get pleasure from.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with good food, good people, and lots of good JOY!

Make Like a Tree and Let Go

There are less than 50 days left in the year. This inspires a lot of go-getters, influencers, self-help authors, and leadership coaches to call for some kind of goal-setting push to finish the year strong.

But I want to consider something else.

Instead of doing a hard push, forcing yourself to live up to some imaginary expectation for yourself only YOU are freaking out about, let’s acknowledge what you’ve been through and the coping mechanisms you’ve developed in effort to support you.

No judgment. No shaming.

I’ll go first.

When I’m stressed, I like to numb out with a bag of flavored chips that will make me feel like crap afterwards.

Do I want to do it? No. Is it “healthy” from a physical, mental, or spiritual standpoint? Probably not. But it’s familiar to me. It’s comfort. This coping skill worked when I was younger. It brought me temporary relief and comfort when I was depressed and couldn’t find relief or a way out of the dark hole I had fallen into.

By beating myself up for continuing to fall victim to my coping behavior, I make it worse, and cause more stress… making me more likely to repeat the behavior, perpetuating the cycle of unpleasant feeling, coping, shame, unpleasant feeling, shame, and coping.

So the worst thing I can do, in order to cope with my stress, is to add on more rigidity, more standards to live by, forcing an already stressed out and emotionally dysregulated brain into more dysregulation.

It’s going to backfire. My brain wants to keep me alive, and when things get hard, my brain will find the familiar way out. Every time. It’s what brains do.

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Why Cutting Calories Creates Long-term Chaos

Are you cutting calories to lose weight?

A recent groundbreaking study, authored by 17 experts in the field, was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition called, “The Carbohydrate-insulin Model: a Physiological Perspective on the Obesity Pandemic.”

This study highlights these important areas:

  • An excess of calories doesn’t cause fat storage.
  • Caloric restriction often decreases metabolic rate and increases hunger.
  • What the energy source is made up of makes a difference in how the body digests and utilizes it,
  • Processed, easily digestible carbohydrates signal a cascade of hormonal and metabolic shifts that lead to fat storage and HUNGER.

The Energy Balance model has always stated that when you consume more calories (energy) than what you expend, you will store fat. What we are learning (and seeing in real time) is that it isn’t so much the calorie quantity as it is the quality. WHAT you consume will cause metabolic changes in the body, because not all calories are alike. A chronic restriction of calories alone can cause your basal metabolic rate to decrease, while driving the body weight “set point” up.

Restricting calories and consuming a lot of foods with a high glycemic load causes your body to absorb glucose quickly while also decreasing metabolic fuel concentration so soon afterward that your brain then believes it is depleted of energy sources (called “cellular semistarvation”) and will soon elicit hunger and cravings, so that the cycle keeps perpetuating. Whew! This requires a lot of work on your body’s part!

I don’t share this to stress anyone out. If you’ve been reading my blog or listening to my podcast, I don’t do the diet thing. But I do want to encourage people to partner with their bodies in order to find a place of healing and wholeness. The best way to lighten the stress load from a nutritional standpoint is to focus on whole food sources that are fiber-rich and help assist the glucose response.

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What’s Really Behind Your Hunger?

Weight loss and hunger are about so much more than calories consumed or “burned.” When looking to make changes to our habits, it’s important to take a deeper look into our relationship with food, body image, and ourselves.

Adrienne Youdim, MD, FACP, is an internist who specializes in medical weight loss and nutrition. Her mission is to transform the weight loss narrative to one that is both empowering and compassionate, inspiring people to live more physically and emotionally fulfilling lives.

Download this episode here or wherever you find podcasts.

Continue reading “What’s Really Behind Your Hunger?”