Meal Plan for Eating Disorder Recovery

Breakfast  
Thick sourdough bread slathered in real butter and strawberry preserves. Whole milk blended up with protein powder and almond butter. This is my Monday morning breakfast. This meal plan follows the diet from the keto pure diet | stylish magazine.

Wait a minute, gluten-filled bread? Real butter and whole milk? Blasphemy! This is a gluten –free and dairy-free blog, right?

That time has passed. I am welcoming in all the foods. No restrictions.

I have battled an eating disorder for ten years. Evidence of that is written all over this blog. My eating disorder is why I started  cooking, I knew i want to get better and last fall I recommitted to weekly therapy sessions with an ED (eating disorder) specialist, and I began to cook. I described Sparkle Kitchen in our first meeting the fog began to lift. My special protocols and elimination diets were blatantly feeding my disease.  


Snack  
Cheddar cubes and raw carrots. 10am snack.

My therapist recommends using the following guideline to avoid any ED triggers:

Breakfast
Snack
Lunch
Snack
Dinner
Snack

I was intermittent fasting when I met my current therapist. And I was spiraling into daily panic attacks and binging to calm myself. It wasn’t pretty. Any type of restrictive diet sets my eating disorder in motion so the daily meal guide above allows me to feel safe; safety in knowing that another meal is in sight and I don’t have to compensate for eating more or less.


Lunch
Salmon sushi with a mixed greens salad.

Sometimes food isn’t the solution.  I believed eating the most nourishing foods would cure my ailments. All the pain and discomfort of a leaky gut would resolve itself if I just followed the right diet.

Diet can help if you know what your body needs. But I didn’t know, I was merely guessing.  

I enlisted the help of a nutritional biochemist to run a full panel of testing. The results were more or less expected. Minor case of leaky gut, no gluten sensitivity, a bit of candida overgrowth, very low zinc levels and my thyroid T3 and T4 hormones were in the functionally low range.

Three years of sardines, organ meats, coconut oil, seaweed and bone broth and I still had these issues.

The nutritional biochemist suggested a series of supplements over a three-month period. No custom diet. I eat anything and everything.

My therapist explained how denying certain foods can put your body in shock when it does encounter a “forbidden” treat. Whether this is founded in science I’m uncertain, but I can definitely attest to the placebo effect. Sugar is/was my trigger food and every time I indulged I would feel awful, full blown sugar hangover. Ninety percent of that is/was guilt. Guilt of putting a “no” food into my body and the possibility of it impacting my weight.


Snack
Plain yogurt and banana. Or chocolate chips stirred into crunchy peanut butter.


Dinner
Sautéed bok choy, chicken burger.

I spent a week in the hospital in college. The result was misdiagnosed Crohn’s disease.

I’d suffered from severe abdominal pain since both my parents remarried at age ten. At the time, no one thought to correlate the two and I traveled from doctor to doctor for years with no accurate diagnosis.

Stress wreaks havoc on our bodies, taking shape in a myriad of ailments. Mine rooted in my bowels.  I didn’t have the necessary tools to process my stress as a child so my body responded the only way it knew how, stomach pain. While I suppressed the emotional pains of my life, my abdomen did the screaming instead.


Snack
Glass of milk and a bit of dark chocolate.

Improv comedy has the “Yes, and…” rule of thumb that I’ve incorporated into my eating philosophy.  I say “yes” to all the foods. And add a scoop of ice cream to my slice of pie.

Breaking Up with the 2015 Dietary Guidelines

Five years. Numerous new scientific findings. Zero progress.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans launched last week and the bad advice continues. It encourages multiple servings of refined grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein and limiting saturated fat.

Here’s the recommended Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern:

health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-1/a-closer-look-inside-healthy-eating-patterns/#table-1-1Table in 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Let’s break it down:

GRAINS
Six servings of grains are recommended per day, with three of those coming from refined grains. I have nothing against whole grains but to suggest that we consume the refined variety is one of the reasons we’re dealing with an obesity epidemic.

Refined grains are white flour and white rice that have been processed to remove the most nutritious parts of the food. These are metabolized immediately in the body as glucose, spiking insulin levels. The day-after-day effects of this can and will eventually lead to diabetes. And the government wants us to consume three serving of these foods every day. 


DAIRY
Full-fat dairy is healthier, and more nutrient-rich than low-fat. Yet the US Guidelines strictly recommends the later.

When you consume a whole food, you get the whole package of nutrients working together. Whole dairy contains butyrate, phytanic acid, trans palmitoleic acid, and conjugated linoleic acid that have beneficial effects not found in low-fat dairy. Low-fat dairy is basically skimming off all the good stuff our body needs.

High-fat dairy is less likely to contribute to obesity than low-fat and No studies point to low-fat dairy being healthier.

The Guidelines include this false statement:

“Fat-free and low-fat (1%) dairy products provide the same nutrients but less fat (and thus, fewer calories) than higher fat options, such as 2% and whole milk and regular cheese.”

A low-fat recommendation is done primarily to reduce the high saturated fat content. I’ll discuss this next.


FATS
Now this category is most concerning. The government suggests only oils be consumed and all saturated fats be limited to under ten percent. I wrote a detailed post on the benefits of animals fats verses the harmful effects of seed oils here.

It is alarming to see statements such as this in the Guidelines:

“Strong and consistent evidence shows that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, is associated with reduced blood levels of total cholesterol and of low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol).”

This is contradictory to current studies showing that seed oils actually reduce HDL cholesterol (the good stuff) when they reduce LDL cholesterol. So they do more harm than good. Saturated fats boost the good cholesterol in our bodies.

For more convincing evidence, read the work of Nina Teicholz, The Big Fat Surprise. She explains how our 30 year low-fat craze is based on very week epidemiological studies.

But there is a victory to celebrate. Trans fats are on the outs for good. The FDA has banned them and is giving food companies just three years to remove them from their products. Woohoo!

  • Until 2019, avoid these items:
    crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods
    snack foods (such as some microwave popcorn)
    stick margarines
    coffee creamers
    refrigerated dough products (such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls)
    ready-to-use frostings


MORE ON CHOLESTEROL
The egg is back on the good food list. Scientific findings are too strong for the Guidelines to ignore this one. As far as cholesterol goes, the limit has been lifted. Hopefully this means bland egg whites and egg beaters will hit the road. Good riddance.


VEGETABLES
Only two and half cups of vegetables are recommended per day. Two and half cups is equivalent to one bell pepper and four spears of asparagus. That’s it. Per day.

We can do better than that.

Vegetables are our top defense against illness. They are packed with phytochemicals that are vital for optimal health and disease prevention. Plants protect against DNA damage, oxidative stress (which is fought against with plentiful antioxidants), reduce inflammation,  slow cancer growth and many other benefits. And plants high in chlorophyll, like dark leafy greens, have protective properties that counteracter the effects of red meat’s carcinogenic proteins.

In order to fight illness and disease, studies show we need at least five servings of vegetables per day to begin seeing decreased risk. The government’s guidelines are half of the beneficial level.

If you really want improvements in your health, up those veggies to 8-9 servings.


SUGAR
Yes, the guidelines actually advocate for a reduction is sugar. In the 2010 document, it vaguely suggests reducing intake of added sugars but does not set a percentage. Now it recommends,

calories from added sugars do not exceed 10 percent per day.”

Ten percent is still a hefty amount though. That’s 200 calories or 50 grams of added sugars per day. Say you have one bottle of vitamin water (125 calories from sugar) and one Cliff Bar (80 calories from sugar), you’re already over the limit. And that could just be lunch. 

The Word Health Organization also calls out to reduce added sugars to less than ten percent. Although they go one step further, advocating that below five percent (25 grams of sugar) will offer more health gains.

Added sugars like refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup are 100% empty calories, with zero nutrition. They only harm your body. Two-thirds of the US in overweight, and much of that blame is pointed at sugar.  How can the guidelines be so lax on something that is sickening it’s population?


SODIUM
Americans like salt. A lot.

We have the processed food business to thank for supporting this addiction.

Salt prevents foods from spoiling and makes it irresistible to our taste buds. Chips, “cheese” products, frozen dinners, many restaurant meals and most of the items you find in the middle of the grocery store are overloaded with salty appeal.

Take a look at this chart. The last line demonstrates the level of sodium intake. Close to 90 percent of the population exceeds the recommended level, consuming an average of 3,440 mg per day. The guidelines sets the limit to 2,300 mg per day. This is one recommendation I can support since it is pointed to a reduction in processed foods.

health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-2/current-eating-patterns-in-the-united-states/

Graph in 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

 

REAL NUTRITION
“Nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods.” I agree 100 percent with this statement in the Guidelines. Real nutrition comes from whole foods.

Yet the actual recommendations are for few real foods. Refined grains that have been fortified with essential nutrients are ranked higher in priority than vegetables. And to still advocate for seed and vegetables oils is to blatantly ignore current scientific findings. 

Michael Pollan gets it right in his new In Defense of Food documentary. The science is presented accurately, with weigh-in from credible nutrition experts. It is a Must Watch. Then recommend it to everyone you know. I would love to see this shown in every high school across the country. 

In an idealized world, we can push politics and big food lobbying aside and focus on the ingredients of a healthy diet. Until then, steer clear of government nutrition recommendations.


RESOURCES:
2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/

The Government’s Bad Diet Advice
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/21/opinion/when-the-government-tells-you-what-to-eat.html

Still Think Low-Fat Dairy is the “Healthy Choice”? Think Again!
http://chriskresser.com/still-think-low-fat-dairy-is-the-healthy-choice-think-again/

Why Full-Fat Dairy May Be Healthier Than Low-Fat
http://time.com/3734033/whole-milk-dairy-fat/

Current Eating Patterns in the United States
http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-2/current-eating-patterns-in-the-united-states/

New Diet Guidelines Urge Less Sugar for all and less meat for boys and men. 
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/07/new-diet-guidelines-urge-less-sugar-for-all-and-less-meat-for-boys-and-men/?_r=0

The Link Between Meat and Cancer
http://www.thepaleomom.com/2015/08/the-link-between-meat-and-cancer.html

The Amazing World of Plant Phytochemicals: Why a diet rich in veggies is so important!
http://www.thepaleomom.com/2015/10/the-amazing-world-of-plant-phytochemicals.html

Science Compared to Every Diet and the Winner is Real Food
 http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/science-compared-every-diet-and-the-winner-is-real-food/284595/

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines, at long last by Marion Nestle
http://www.foodpolitics.com/2016/01/the-2015-dietary-guidelines-at-long-last/

WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/sugar-guideline/en/

 

 

Before You Go Vegan, Read My Story

Yesterday I shared this story on EcoCult.com. It’s my personal journey of diet discovery and how I learned to focus on nourishing my body while still aligning with my ethics. 

We are fortunate to live in a time where food preferences are more about lifestyle than keeping us nourished. Vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo, grain-free, pescetarian, vegan, there is a diet to suite all preferences. You can even combine them and the world accepts and respects your decision. But what are the health implications of these diets? We forget the fact that we need certain foods for nourishment. 

Nutrition and health were my beats as a kid. I took to heart everything the media reported and then made it my mission to disseminate that information to family and friends. As soon as my mom brought the groceries home, I’d carefully read every label and discard the items I deemed unfit for consumption.

This had nothing to do with a want or need to lose weight. I was fortunate to have a speedy metabolism and never thought twice about the amount of calories I consumed. My motive was in protecting myself and loved ones from the dangerous ingredients that supposedly caused this or that disease.

My obsession only intensified throughout college and my early 20s. My digestion had been problematic since before I can remember, and I searched for ways to ease the discomfort for years. I was willing to try anything for some relief. So I shifted my eating plans on a regular basis as a way to test my body and improve my health issues.

It was a combined desire of wanting to do the right thing health-wise and to be respected for those choices that led to my dive into vegan food.

Once I began working in the environmental protection field, I became heavily influenced by my surroundings. Many of my colleagues and new friends were vegetarian, vegan, or raw dieters, and my curiosity led me down a similar path. Let’s face it, I wanted to fit in and be accepted.

After a month of binging on food policy documentaries, I could no longer look the other way at how our meat is produced. Beef would never taste the same again. I was willing to sacrifice flavor for the environment and humane treatment of animals, so I gave up meat. When my stomach upset continued, a friend suggested I eliminate dairy, since it’s a common intolerance for people. I went for it.

With dairy eliminated, I was now eating a mostly vegan diet. During this time, my digestion issues lessened and I thought this must be it. My health and values were aligned and I decided this was the life path for me, no turning back.

Finding the Way?
I was vegetarian and then vegan for three years. Over the course of this new diet, I still ate seafood and eggs occasionally and splurged on bites of meat during holidays with my family. But I always felt guilty for eating it. I thought it was unhealthy and would lead to some awful disease.

These years of restrictive behavior made it difficult for me to relax and just enjoy food. Perfect eating became an obsession, and I judged all others for their food choices.

Despite eating what I considered healthy, my body began showing signs of distress. Severe dry skin patches popped up. I had to go back in for my third colonoscopy before my 24th birthday. I had repeat running injuries that never seemed to heal. With these mounting issues, my dad called me the unhealthiest healthy person.

But I was blind to the fact that my eating habits may be contributing to my problems. I was solidly convinced I was doing what was best for my body.

The Shift
Five years later my dry skin had reached a tipping point. My friend recommended a few nutrition science books, and by the next week I’d gulped down five books and made appointments with doctors. All results pointed to nutritional deficiencies.

My diet in the last year or so had begun shifting to the regular indulgence of meat a few times per month. Sustainable meat sources were readily available and I proudly told others I eat only “happy” animals. So when I learned I needed to change my eating preferences further in order to improve my health I was perplexed. How could consuming mostly vegetables, fruit, whole grains and little meat be the root of my problems?

I was determined to cure my ailments, so I had no choice but to make the change to a diet that served my body’s nutritional needs. That included eating meat guilt-free for the first time in years. Meat was no longer the enemy. It was a rich source of nutrients my body needed to thrive.

Then I had the realization that saved my life. My diet choices had induced a full-blown eating disorder. I was a food restrictor. And my choice to become vegan was a way to have more control over my body by removing all the animal fat.

Seeing this side of myself wasn’t pretty, and only validated the need to lift all bans on my diet.

I was also officially diagnosed with a dairy allergy, which explained my lifelong digestion discomfort. All of the puzzle pieces were beginning to fit together.

Should You Go Vegan? 
When I adopted a plant-based diet, I was unaware of the possible health implications. My surroundings influenced my decision. Eating more plants seemed like a logical way to improve my health, only the opposite happened. It led to restrictive eating patterns and nutritional deficiencies.

That was a major mind shift that I’m still trying to wrap my head around. With the environmental world bashing meat production, it’s difficult to go against a movement aligned with my values. I’m still committed to my environmentalist values. Most of my food is purchased from small sustainable farmers and the “happy” meat philosophy still rings true to me. I just have to remember that the motive for this comes from a place of ethics rather than restriction.

Vegetarian and vegan didn’t work for me, but it does work for so many people. If I had been less naive about nutritional needs and worked with a dietician, my story would be different. It’s smart to have a medical professional involved when making the choice to omit meat. Meat is some of the most nutrient dense food on the planet, containing essential vitamins that plants cannot provide. You must be up on your body’s inner workings before you toss meat to the curb.

Why Eat Meat?
1. Meat is some of the most nutrient dense food on the planet. Just a few bites of meat can satisfy nutritional needs whereas triple the amount is needed from plant sources for the same benefit.

2. Fat-soluble vitamin A is only found in meat. The vitamin A we associate with carrots is actually beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A that must be converted by our bodies into vitamin A. This conversation rate is tricky too. The ratio varies from 3.8:1 to 28:1 depending on the source. If a woman eats four servings of yellow-orange fruits and vegetables and/ or dark leafy greens she would reach the minimum recommended value needed per day. In contrast just one bite of beef liver contains the same amount of vitamin A and does not have to be converted.  

3. Vitamin D can only be obtained from meat, which is needed for bone health and boots immunity.

4. Restrictive diets are linked to eating disorders. Ethics aside, many sufferers have used the vegan or vegetarian diet as a politically acceptable form of extreme weight control.

5. Vitamin K2 in only in meat sources, such pastured egg yolks, milk and cheese from grassfed animals, liver, beef, and chicken. We need vitamin K2 to transport calcium to our bones. Without it, calcium builds up and causes blocks in our arteries. 

6. Vitamin B12 and iron are also only found in meat sources. Vegans typically must take an absorbable supplement in order to meet these nutritional requirements.

7. The active forms of omega 3 fatty acids are only found in meat sources. EPA and DHA are the active forms found mostly in wild-caught fatty fish and grass-fed beef. The omega 3 found in plants (walnuts, flaxseed, purslane) is in the form of ALA and must be converted to EPA or DHA for the body to use it. Unfortunately these rates are low, with women converting about 21% of ALA to EPA and 9% to DHA. 

Food is a personal subject. We all have strong opinions of what we eat and how we eat it. It’s easy to become wrapped up in the lifestyle and leave behind the fact that food is a necessity for living. Green smoothies are as much of a fashion accessory as your new floral clutch. The media throws conflicting studies at us daily so it’s difficult to find the truth.

But for me, it was a matter of trial and a lot of errors to finding the healthiest me. And the healthiest me eats meat.

Resources:

Eat the Yolks, Liz Wolfe

Vegetarians and Vegans Return to Meat. Why?, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animals-and-us/201412/84-vegetarians-and-vegans-return-meat-why

Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/

Resource: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062320041/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0062320041&linkCode=as2&tag=empowesusten-20&linkId=7KPNYVKZ5SJ7XRFG

Eating Disorders: The Dark Side of Vegetarianism?, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animals-and-us/201009/eating-disorders-the-dark-side-vegetarianism

Food Habits: Are You A Restrictor or a Permitter?, http://www.saragottfriedmd.com/food-habits-are-you-a-restrictor-or-a-permitter/

The age of Information is also the age of misinformation – Claims regarding vegetarianism and vitamin A, http://www.vrg.org/blog/2014/08/28/the-age-of-information-is-also-the-age-of-misinformation-claims-regarding-vegetarianism-and-vitamin-a/