Added stress for those with diabetes could be from dealing with the insensitive food comments others make about sugar-causing diabetes, which isn’t true. A person with diabetes may have to navigate how to handle comments others make about what the person with diabetes should or shouldn’t be eating since they have diabetes.
For example, “You have diabetes, so you shouldn’t be eating Christmas cookies.” Some people with diabetes may have their well-meaning family or friends make sugar-free alternatives that the person with diabetes may or may not have asked for. Yes, people with diabetes can have the “regular versions” of foods and keep their blood sugar stable. It depends on the person with diabetes and their preferences!
On top of the food comments and special versions of foods being made, changes in our sleep, eating, movement routines, increased travel, and eating different or new foods can make carb counting tricky. All these factors can cause it to be challenging to enjoy ourselves, keep up with regular routines, and manage blood sugars.
As a dietitian living with type 1 diabetes, here are some of my tips for navigating diabetes during the holidays.
Nourish yourself all day. I don’t recommend “saving up” for the big meal. Eating consistently throughout the day will help keep your blood sugar, energy, and mood stable.
Enjoy the food! If your favorite dish is being served, have some, and take home some leftovers! You can incorporate your favorite dessert into breakfast or a snack the next day by having the dessert with Greek yogurt, your favorite nut butter, chia or flaxseeds, fruit, etc. Also, you can just enjoy the leftovers by themselves!
Eat dessert with your meal. This is not a requirement, but if you have the option, it may benefit your blood sugars to have dessert with your meal because the protein and fiber from your meal may help stabilize the carbohydrates in the dessert.
If you have the capacity, educate others about diabetes. This could be like explaining how your diabetes technology works or challenging diabetes stigma by providing education.
Connect with friends with diabetes, “diabuddies,” in person, online, or share with those in your life who are open to listening. Diabetes can be isolating. You don’t have to deal with it all on your own!
Practice self-care. Self-care can look like having low-blood sugar snacks on hand, designating time for rest, staying hydrated, practicing saying no, and having boundaries. No one can do it all!
Go easy on yourself. It is okay if your blood sugar isn’t perfect. The holidays can be a busy and emotionally challenging time of year. Try to give yourself grace and be present.
Instead of beating yourself up or relying on expensive takeout, it can be helpful to use other tools at your disposal, like meal delivery services. While they are more expensive than cooking, compared to frequent takeout, you can save money in the long run.
Here are a few meal delivery services I recommend to my clients* and some highlights of each. All involve prepared meals ready to heat, serve, and deliver to Chicago.
Territory Foods’s registered dietitians work with local chefs and restaurants to craft healthy meals within your dietary restrictions. All meals are dairy and gluten-free and contain no refined sugars, nitrates, chemical preservatives, or artificial colors.
Balanced meals that include all food groups. Creative, colorful meals with variety. Entrees (mostly lunch and dinner) and individual meal components – e.g., “family style” grilled chicken breast, roasted broccoli, or roasted sweet potatoes.
All meals are dairy and gluten-free; some vegetarian/vegan options.
MyoMeals is based out of Chicago and only delivers to the Chicagoland area. They offer healthy, affordable meals featuring ingredients mainly sourced from local Chicago vendors. They believe meals created with macronutrients in mind lead to more nutritious meals and provide this information on each meal. MyoMeals also incorporates an assorted menu with international dishes.
Balanced meals that include all food groups at a reasonable price point. Both classic and more unique options are available.
-Entrees (including breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
MyoMeals doesn’t mention meals for dietary intolerances or restrictions. Limited vegetarian options; no information on allergens or intolerances exists, but ingredients are listed.
Chef-owned Chicago-based meal delivery company offering ”delicious, mindfully-prepared meals throughout the Chicagoland area.”. KitchFix’s chefs and nutritionists create a rotating variety of healthy, unique meals for various diets. KitchFix partners, donates, and volunteers with many local charity organizations.
Fun fact! During graduate school, I worked at their storefront in the Gold Coast (which has since closed – they now operate 100% online). I can vouch for how delicious their meals are!
Balanced meals that include all food groups. Unique, colorful meals with variety. Entrees include (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and individual meal components – e.g., grilled chicken breast, sweet potato wedges, or herbed salmon, and dessert options (e.g., brownie bites).
Kitchfix Caters to dietary intolerances or preferences: all meals are dairy and gluten-free, although only a few vegan/vegetarian options are available. Meals are non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, and refined sugar-free.
Veestro Meals is the best option for vegetarians and vegans, as all meals are plant-based. They create meals using fresh ingredients and are chef-prepared. Meal options list all ingredients and nutritional information.
All plant-based (vegetarian or vegan) meals. A variety of delicious and creative options. Regular entrees (mostly lunch and dinner) are available, and individual meal components – e.g., roasted broccoli, potato wedges, buffalo cauliflower- and dessert options (e.g., fudgy brownies and chocolate chip cookies).
Veestro Meals offers plant-based (vegetarian or vegan) meals. The website doesn’t mention other dietary restrictions or allergies.
If you’re looking for a culinary-focused meal delivery service, CookUnity is an outstanding option. It boasts a roster of over seventy chefs, including Food Network alums and James Beard award winners. They use modified atmosphere packaging technology, allowing fresh meals to last longer in the fridge. CookUnity is sustainability-focused and launched a returnable packaging program in NY and LA to reduce waste.
Balanced, tasty-looking meals made by local chefs. Each meal has a rating (out of 5 stars), so you can see which meals other customers have preferred—regular entrees (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) with many options.
Able to filter by vegetarian, gluten-free, etc., or specific ingredients needing avoidance.
If you are recovering from disordered eating, please note that most of these websites and meals contain calorie and macro information, and if this is triggering for you, please consider avoiding it.
I’ve always been passionate about believing that all foods can fit into a healthy eating pattern. However, there are many reasons why people may seek out a more plant-based style of eating.
Within plant-based diets, there are different subcategories: vegetarian diets include eggs and dairy but do not include meat and fish, whereas vegan diets involve abstaining from animal products altogether. Many folks choose to follow these patterns of eating for ethical reasons, such as supporting animal rights and protesting the harms of factory farming or environmental reasons (meat and dairy contribute more significantly to environmental pollution than most plant foods).
There are pros and cons to any dietary pattern. The pros of a plant-based eating pattern include reduced saturated fat intake, which can help improve or reduce the risk of metabolic disease. Another possible advantage is the extra fiber intake, mostly from plant foods. Research has shown that diets rich in plant foods have been associated with longevity and lower disease risks. That being said, you don’t have to eliminate animal products to get these benefits completely, but rather, include more plants in your diet!
The benefits of plants extend well beyond the benefits of fiber. For example, plant foods also contain phytochemicals, which are powerful chemicals that can help decrease the risk of developing certain cancers, as well as heart disease and Diabetes.
Whenever you cut out certain foods or food groups, you run the risk of nutrient deficiencies. It is very possible to have a well-balanced diet as a plant-based eater; it simply requires more thoughtfulness and planning. The key is variety—including plenty of diverse vegetables, fruits, starches, plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and sources of omega-3s and fortified foods/supplements. The main nutrients to watch closely include protein, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, iodine, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, and selenium.
Despite the long list, only a few supplements and fortified foods are needed. The rest can be obtained through a well-thought-out diet. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D from food or the sun (and sunscreen blocks its absorption). Therefore, most people should supplement with a small dose a few times a week, year-round.
For vegans, another common supplement is Vitamin B12, as it’s not found in plant foods except for nutritional yeast, which is a plant-based source of Vitamin B12 that imparts a cheesy flavor and texture to dishes.
Iodine is a mineral found inconsistently in plant foods, and similarly, commercial and processed foods (and sea salt) are not typically iodized. One can cook with salt labeled “iodized” or take a multivitamin with iodine to supplement. Iron, zinc, and selenium are minerals found abundantly in animal products but are also available in plant foods in smaller amounts, so they need to be included more intentionally.
There are also ways to enhance absorption. For example, iron from plants is best absorbed with Vitamin C (e.g., lemon juice) and when avoiding tea, coffee, red wine, and calcium supplements within an hour of meals. Sources of these minerals include legumes, tempeh, nuts/seeds, cooked green vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals (iron), legumes, nuts/seeds, oatmeal, bread, tempeh, and miso (zinc), and Brazil nuts (selenium).
Contrary to popular belief, getting enough protein isn’t a difficult task if you include awide variety of protein options, such as soy products (e.g., tempeh, tofu, seitan, veggieburgers), beans and lentils, high protein pasta such as chickpea and lentil pasta, nuts/seeds, and grains such as quinoa and oatmeal. To ensure you are getting the nine essential amino acids that cannot be made in the body, include different types of proteins and grains within these categories.
Omega 3 fatty acid intake can be trickier. While plant-based foods contain omega 3s (e.g., chia, flax, walnuts, and soy foods), it can be difficult to get the optimal recommended daily amounts from these foods when compared to fish. Some, therefore, opt to take a vegan omega-3 (algae–based) supplement, although the research on the necessity of this is conflicting.
If you want to change your diet towards a plant-based eating pattern, especially for a climate impact, I recommend taking it slow. For instance, you could start with just one plant-based meal a week. You could also consider reducing the portions of animal products at meals (e.g., having a smaller amount of steak and adding beans).
The bottom line is that when it comes to the influence of dietary patterns on the health of our planet, having more people eating fewer animal products is a lot more impactful than having a small minority of people eating none. Small changes in all our individual diets add up to big differences.
Eating disorders are serious mental and physical illnesses that involve disturbances in eating thoughts and behaviors. This can include restricting one’s food intake and/or compensating for intake through purging, over-exercising, laxative abuse, or other harmful behaviors, with the goal of reducing one’s body shape or size.
This can also involve feeling out of control around food, eating larger amounts of food in one sitting than feels nourishing, and experiencing high levels of guilt and shame for these behaviors. Eating disorders can affect any person– regardless of body size, race, culture, socioeconomic status, or gender identity.
Eating disorders are, unfortunately, one of the deadliest of all mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose. While the typical image we see in the media of someone with an eating disorder involves being in a thin and frail body, only 6% of people with eating disorders are medically considered “underweight.”
As a result, it is common for people to go without treatment or to experience delayed treatment, despite the fact that the sooner one receives treatment, the better the prognosis. Here are some of the common symptoms to be aware of that may indicate an eating disorder:
Those suffering from eating disorders often experience constant “food noise.” This is when food, eating, or other related concerns – such as how food affects one’s body weight, shape, or size – take up a significant portion of daily thoughts and lead to high levels of distress.
If food or body thoughts are taking you or your loved one away from essential aspects of life, such as focusing on work or school or enjoying hobbies and relationships, this may be a sign focus on food has become excessive.
Some decide to make dietary changes based on values or ethics, for example, becoming vegetarian for environmental or animal rights concerns. However, these dietary changes could also be used to mask abnormal eating behaviors. For instance, avoiding carbs, gluten, or animal products can also make it easier to avoid eating certain foods when in social situations – those deemed “unhealthy” or “bad.” It can be helpful to ask yourself about your intentions before making any sudden dietary changes.
Those suffering from disordered eating may feel uncomfortable eating around others due to fear of judgment (related to their own preoccupations with food and body) or fear of being pressured to eat more than they want or to eat specific foods. If you or your loved one suddenly withdraws from social events involving food, consider this as a potential sign there may be an eating disturbance occurring.
Food has calories, and calories are our body’s main energy source – this can be easy to forget in today’s dieting-focused culture – “calorie” has almost become a bad word! Therefore, if someone is restricting food, this is going to affect their fuel reserves negatively. This can lead to energy conservation – the body’s attempt at saving remaining fuel reserves for essential processes needed to keep them alive. This doesn’t leave enough energy to fuel optimal brain function, which can lead to poor concentration, low mood, and overall inability to carry out one’s usual daily tasks.
When someone isn’t eating enough at meals or isn’t eating regularly (it’s recommended to eat about every 3-5 hours), this can significantly impact digestion. The movement of food through the digestive system will slow down, and the stomach will produce less acid (or overproduce acid when a meal does finally enter the system). This can lead to constipation, abdominal cramping, bloating, acid reflux, and other gastrointestinal-related problems, and these symptoms can cause a lot of distress as well as further hinder eating.
Those who struggle with eating often tend to compensate for perceived transgressions with food to avoid weight gain, to “balance out” energy intake, or to reduce guilt. One way this can manifest is through excessive exercise routines. Some signs of being overly rigid with activity include if it is difficult or impossible to take rest days – or you are riddled with guilt and food thoughts when you do – or if you tend to push exercise despite unsafe weather conditions, illness, or injury.
The recently coined term “orthorexia” has been used to describe an extreme focus on ingredients. It is, of course, okay to want to eat in a healthful manner and to take care of and nourish your body, but this can quickly take an unhealthy turn if it becomes an inability to eat anything except for a narrow group of foods that are deemed “healthy” or “clean.” This could lead to guilt when eating foods that are not deemed clean, not eating enough calories overall, or missing out on key nutrients due to cutting out food groups.
Significant and sudden weight changes can indicate that someone struggles to maintain a consistent eating routine. Not only is criticizing weight gain damaging but so too is complimenting weight loss – you never know what is going on behind the scenes or what has caused those weight changes.
As mentioned above, when energy intake is consistently low, the body slows down all non-essential processes to conserve energy. This can include a reduction in blood pressure or heart rate so that the heart muscle isn’t working as hard (leading to dizziness when sudden changes occur with standing), cold hands and feet due to the body prioritizing keeping your core warm but not the extremities, and hair loss – because protein is more essentially needed in other bodily processes!
Of course, with all these internal battles and physical symptoms occurring, it’s no wonder why someone may become withdrawn from their friends or loved ones. Eating disturbances can also co-occur with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, making reaching out for help all the more challenging.
Additional References on Eating Disorders:
Here are a dietitian’s top five tips for getting the most out of your activity during the warmer months:
The body needs energy to perform optimally, regardless of the activity, including whether it’s just for fun or exercise. Before you engage in movement, aim to eat something that contains simple forms of carbohydrates — like a banana, pretzels, crackers, bagel, or toast — about 30-60 minutes prior.
This pre-workout fuel, especially when it’s coming from quick-acting carbohydrates (broken down into sugars), allows you to feel more energized and can improve your performance. Your body can break down these simple carbs into sugars more quickly than a meal that contains complex carbs (think whole grains with fiber, which slows down the digestion of the sugars) or a lot of protein or fat (which also slows digestion).
The heat can be very exhausting on the body and can even increase cortisol levels (a stress hormone), leaving you feeling depleted after your workout. It can also increase your risk of dehydration due to excessive sweating. To feel better during your workouts, consider getting outside for your activities in the early morning, late afternoon, or evening when the outside temperatures are cooler. This reduces the sweating and stress on your body from the heat and allows you to feel more comfortable during your workout.
Getting enough sleep is a great way to make sure you have enough energy to engage in movement that you find joyful. This may also make it easier for you to get up earlier to engage in activity before your day starts, or could allow you to have more energy to be active later in the evening. Sleep is also when our bodies go into a state of rest and repair, allowing your muscle tissues to regenerate for your next activity.
Try to consume foods that contain both a carbohydrate and a protein source after your workouts. After a workout, you want both quick carbs to restore the depleted glycogen (or energy stores) in the liver and muscles and you want protein to repair your muscles. In fact, it is important to get both because carbs are “protein sparing” – that is if you get enough protein but no carbs, your body will convert some of that protein into carbs for energy, so less of the protein will go to repairing and building muscle!
A few great post-activity snack options include Greek yogurt with fruit, a fruit smoothie with protein powder, or a granola bar with added protein for a quick on-the-go option.
If engaging in movement outside in the heat, especially if you are sweating a lot or outside for long periods, consider refueling with electrolytes (think sodium and potassium), which have been depleted from sweating, through sports drinks or electrolyte powders/tablets.
Adding in 5-10 minutes of yoga, stretching, or walking can make a big difference in how you feel and in your overall health. This could be as simple as using a standing desk or taking a five-minute break to walk around the house or stretch. Just breaking up the stillness of sitting or lying down can benefit our health by allowing our blood to flow properly and our muscles to be engaged.
The prevalence of co-occurring diagnoses of eating disorders and substance use disorders is on the rise. According to the National Center on Addictions and Substance Abuse, up to 50% of individuals with eating disorders also abuse alcohol or illicit drugs, a rate 11 times greater than the general population. It’s worth noting, however, that this statistic is from 2003. The prevalence rate may be much higher 20 years later, especially after the increased stress and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why are those who struggle with eating disorders more likely to experience problems with addiction and vice versa? There may not be a simple answer to this, but to better understand, it’s important to consider some similarities between ED and SUD.
First, there are many risk factors for developing an ED, and many of these are shared with developing SUD. Some of these common risk factors include alteration in brain chemistry, family history of the disorder, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, trauma, undiagnosed mental health issues, and social pressures.
These risk factors often lead to the individual searching for a coping mechanism, a way to “control” their situation, or a temporary distraction. Substance use and engaging in ED behaviors can serve their purpose here. While both are dangerous and can be life-threatening, they are coping strategies that vulnerable populations often utilize.
Second, there are some behavioral and personality-trait overlaps between those with ED and SUD. Sufferers of both disorders often may have an obsessive preoccupation, compulsive behaviors, a tendency to be secretive about their behaviors, and may isolate to continue the behaviors. People who suffer from eating disorders often describe their ED behaviors as feeling addictive, similar to how an addict feels towards drugs or alcohol – like it has become less of a choice and more of a compulsion.
The concept of transferring addictions is one that comes up a lot in the world of substance use. When a person discontinues using their substance of choice, often their first instinct is to replace that addiction with another. Even if a person is not experiencing an eating disorder in active addiction, it’s quite common for eating disorder behaviors to emerge or re-emerge when that person gets sober. It’s important to be on the lookout for eating disorder behaviors when a person is newly sober, even if they haven’t exhibited signs of having an eating disorder previously.
Although eating disorder recovery and addiction recovery can look different, what is similar between the two is that it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to stop without help. Fortunately, recovery from addiction and/or an eating disorder is possible, and getting help with one can often improve the likelihood of recovery from the other.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. Food for Thought: Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) Columbia University; New York: 2003.
The registered dietitians at Healthier Tomorrows truly do believe that all foods fit – there is always a place for the savory and the sweet, for appetizers and desserts! So, to help welcome in the warmer weather and the more relaxed days of summer, we have compiled here a few of our favorite summer desserts… please enjoy!!
This dish is very refreshing after a day outside or even to add to a day of self-care this summer! I love the sweetness of the fresh strawberries and light/creaminess of the homemade whipped cream. It truly is a wonderful snack or dessert. This recipe can be modified based on preferences as well. Peaches and blackberries are another great option!
My go-to summer dessert is cooling down with any sort of ice cream! I’m not too picky either – a local ice cream shop, ice cream truck, or the grocery store will do the trick. I’m always debating if I go the fruity flavor route or chocolate/cookie direction. If I’m going the fruity route, I might end up with something along the lines of raspberry cheesecake ice cream, while if I’m going in the other direction, I might opt for a simple chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich! Either way, it always hits the spot!
I have such happy memories through my childhood of eating chocolate eclair cake at potlucks, and it’s still my go-to summer dessert recipe! It’s easier to make than it may sound, only requiring 5 ingredients. Plus, it’s a no-bake recipe which helps keep your home cooler than using your oven in the midst of the summer heat. The best part (besides how yummy it is!) is that you can make it ahead of time and it keeps beautifully in the refrigerator!
No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Cake (there are many variations, but here’s one! https://www.thecountrycook.net/eclair-cake/#recipe)
I love ice cream cake! There are tons of variations out there. A personal favorite is a Buster Bar ice cream cake. My mom made something like this growing up so I have many fond memories. I love that you don’t have to turn on the oven and it doesn’t take too much effort. The hardest thing about it is planning ahead to give yourself enough time for each layer to freeze. But the great thing is it can be made many days in advance.
My favorite summer dessert is a red, white, and blue trifle! It’s easy to put together and combines all the tasty sweets into one. This a recipe I enjoy using: https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/food-cooking/recipes/a36321045/red-white-and-blue-trifle/ but instead of making my own whip (the cream cheese and granulated sugar). I use cool whip for convenience. This is my go-to dessert to bring to family gatherings and parties.
Homemade banana muffins! This is a current favorite in our house! Although they serve as a delicious dessert, they are great as a balanced snack too. They freeze well, so I typically make 2-3 times the recipe and freeze extras so they are readily available!
My favorite is a grilled peach crumble with ice cream!
I love grilling in the summer so if I can do that with a dessert than I am IN! There are many components to this dessert that pair well together like the hot and cold contrast and the smooth and crunchy combo. Such a tasty dish!
One of my favorite summer treats is super refreshing and very simple to make. After cutting up a watermelon, freeze some of the cubes and keep them to make this Watermelon Lime Slush. It’s hydrating, tart and has the perfect amount of sweetness: Blend 2 cups of frozen watermelon and the juice from one lime in a blender. Add mint as a garnish and serve in a glass. Enjoy!!
Combine frozen bananas and nut butter of choice in the food processor or blender, blend until smooth, and enjoy!
Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out yogurt into a smooth layer. Top with mini chocolate chips, coconut shreds, and fruit of choice, and freeze for at least 2 hours. Break into pieces and enjoy!
Peel ripe bananas and insert a popsicle stick. Dip in melted chocolate and roll in sprinkles or nuts of choice. Let cool on parchment paper and store in a gallon freezer bag. Keep in the freezer for an easy grab-and-go cold sweet treat!
For those of you who have gotten the chance to experience a Chicago summer, you know that it is one of the best times to enjoy and explore the city. As always with Chicago, this means delicious food! As a registered dietitian and self-proclaimed burger enthusiast, I am always excited to try new restaurants, especially when there is an outdoor patio space involved. It’s also a great opportunity to explore different neighborhoods and their cultures. Without further ado, here are a few shoutouts:
This is one of my favorite burgers in the city, and I’m not alone: it has made top lists of the “Best Burgers in Chicago,” including on the “critically acclaimed” (in my opinion!) Instagram @windycityburgerreview. What makes it special? The pretzel bun and caramelized onions, and a flavor you just must experience yourself. The restaurant itself is enough of a hidden gem in that you won’t have to wait for hours like at the popular Au Cheval. It’s located in the quirky Logan Square neighborhood. The back patio is reminiscent of your friend’s cozy backyard, with string lights included.
A perfect spot for thin crust pizza straight out of the coal oven– unique in a city full of deep dish. It recently made the top 10 in Yelp’s review of the “Top 100 Places for Pizza” in Chicago. It’s located in both West Lakeview and West Town neighborhoods– sit on the sidewalk patio overlooking Southport in Lakeview and enjoy the local shopping or enjoy the cozy indoor atmosphere in West Town. They feature another Chicago favorite for dessert – seasonal pie slices from Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits—if you have room (but there is always room for dessert because there’s a second stomach for it—this is science).
Make a pit stop in Chicago’s upbeat and eclectic Wicker Park neighborhood, even if you can’t find a spot to sit! This cute, homey taco restaurant is nestled among shops on Milwaukee Ave. It is small and tends to be bustling, but you are just a short walk from the park in Wicker itself for a picnic. There is also a location in Bridgeport if you find yourself southbound–a neighborhood known for its diverse food and culture. My favorite taco is the Garlic Shrimp with Elote cauliflower, basil, avocado, and fried kale.
One of my personal summer favorites is the spacious patio at Fiya. Located in Chicago’s north Andersonville, Fiya is known for its Mediterranean cuisine from various Levantine and related regions. They described their menu as “fruit and veggie forward” so if you’re looking for something fresh, healthy, and delicious, this is your spot. It’s also a great place for a group with shareable dishes.
What would a Chicago summer food list be without ice cream? This is a stable in the Roscoe Village neighborhood. They are known for their delectable and creamy custard, as well as their fun mix-ins and “flavors of the month.” The line can be long, but don’t worry – it goes fast, and you can observe cute dogs eating their pup cones while you wait. You can also enjoy a classic Chicago dog – you knew this had to make it on the list at some point!
With more people traveling again, you may be wondering how to take your recovery on the road. Perhaps you’re traveling to see a loved one in another state, catching up with old friends, or just soaking in the joys of exploring a new state, city, or park. Maybe you’re excited that your relationship with food has gotten much more neutral lately, or perhaps you’re nervous because you’re not sure how to keep the momentum of recovery going forward with new stressors of travel coming up. Nonetheless, here are some tips for you!
Sometimes travel is unavoidable, for example, visiting sick loved ones or mandatory work travel. However, if the trip is optional, talk to your treatment team to determine if traveling makes sense right now based on where you are in your eating disorder recovery journey. In some situations, pausing travel may be most beneficial, as there can be a lot of uncertainty and triggers that can come up with travel.
If it is a beneficial time to put the wheels in motion, discuss personal challenges and how you might navigate them in a session with your therapist and dietitian. For example, what if breakfast gets pushed off to be brunch? What if everyone is stopping to get ice cream but you haven’t had that food in your recovery journey yet? What if there is a lot of diet talk happening on the trip? It is important to develop a plan about how you’ll navigate these situations and more. You can make it fun and do some roleplaying in sessions, too! It can also be helpful to include supports that may be traveling with you into a session or two prior to your trip – maybe a parent, significant other, or a friend. That way they can learn what is going to be challenging for you and how to support you best.
It never hurts to have backup food on hand during travel. Think about how many times you’ve had a flight get delayed, dinner ended up being several hours later than expected, or you planned to make it back to the hotel but never had time. If we have access to food, we’re much more likely to follow through with getting that nutrition in throughout the day. I like to encourage my clients to put a few snacks into their backpack, purse, or vehicle at the start of the day when traveling and restock the next day. Think nonperishable snacks such as trail mix, chips, granola bars, crackers, or your favorite candy.
In terms of hydration, I encourage clients to pack a reusable water bottle and refill in throughout the trip if the hotel/Airbnb has available water to use. Otherwise, if you’re on a road trip, throw some bottled water, Gatorade, or your favorite hydrating beverages into a cooler.
This might sound too obvious, but think about how often you’ve opened up your luggage on a trip and struggled with what to wear because nothing is comfortable. When our clothes dig at our skin it’s hard to focus and stay present. Pack options for various weather scenarios – rainy, cold, super humid, etc. Think about how you’d feel wearing those clothes in different temperatures. If wearing jean shorts isn’t comfortable when it’s sticky outside, can we opt for a loose dress or breathable shorts that might be more comfortable?
Tip: If you’re trying on clothes for an upcoming trip, or at any time for that matter, try putting on the clothes first without looking in a mirror. Ask yourself if the clothing feels comfortable. If yes, turn around and see if you like the style – if not just toss aside and try on the next item. We really want to lean into what FEELS good!
Start the conversation with your treatment team around your upcoming travel plans weeks ahead of time – start to process potential triggers, fears, and various scenarios before the time comes. This gives you time to incorporate supports into sessions, too, if it would be beneficial.
Also, I encourage my clients to start the packing process early! It can be overwhelming to try clothes on all at once, especially if you’re packing for a different season or trying on clothes that you haven’t worn since before the recovery process started. Starting the process early allows you to borrow or buy clothes that you might want in different styles or sizes.
Tip: Set an amount of time per week to spend packing, and you can chip away at it over a few weeks!
You might be scratching your head at this one…pack my coping skills?! I’m sure you have some on-the-go coping skills that don’t need to be packed, like deep breathing skills, 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique, meditation, and so many more! However, think of what you could pack to help you cope as well. Do you enjoy listening to music? Remember to pack those Airpods or your favorite headphones! Do you find joy in coloring or journaling? Remember to pack those, too!
In addition to all of the tips above, my favorite tip is this last one. Remember the purpose of your trip! Are you traveling to visit a friend, family member, or loved one after a long pause during the pandemic? Are you going on your honeymoon? Are you soaking in the culture of a new country? Ask yourself what you want to remember from your trip once you return home. Remind yourself of that during your trip routinely. It is possible to successfully keep recovery afloat while having a memorable trip!
Happy traveling – both on your road to recovery or your next vacation!
In today’s digital age, you can find an article or video, or influencer who will support all sorts of different health beliefs, diets, and wellness routines.
Recently, a video of Gwyneth Paltrow talking about her daily wellness routine has gone viral. In the video, she uses lots of today’s big buzzwords around health and nutrition, including “intermittent fasting,” “Paleo,” “Detox,” and “Bone Broth.”
The issue with this video (and so many others) is that it can glamorize eating disorder behaviors. As a registered dietitian, when I hear someone say that they only drink coffee in the morning, drink bone broth for lunch and follow paleo with lots of vegetables for dinner, I do not think “health and wellness” but think “that’s not enough nutrition!” So, let’s talk about some of these buzzwords and what they mean.
There are several different variations of this diet. The general concept is that there are certain windows in which you fast (not eat) and certain windows in which you eat. A common variation of this diet is called the 16:8, where you fast 16 hours each day and eat only within an 8-hour window (10 am to 6 pm).
The Mayo health clinic lists the following side effects of fasting: hunger, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, decreased concentration, nausea, constipation, and headaches. Interestingly enough, these are the same side effects that come with an eating disorder! Because intermittent fasting covers a broad range of behaviors and no guidance on what to actually eat during the eating windows, it can be hard to compare the results of the diet.
While some people may find having some structure to their eating pattern helpful overall, intermittent fasting is no different than other diets. It can lead to an increased risk for developing an eating disorder or disordered thinking about food, and while weight may be lost initially, it is typically not sustained long-term.
Also sometimes called the caveman diet, the Paleo diet encourages eating like the hunters and gatherers would have in prehistoric times. This calls for eating meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds and cutting out most grains, legumes (a fancy word for beans), and dairy.
First of all, the diet is founded on the faulty idea that people were healthier way back when! While it may be true, there were fewer known cases of chronic diseases; this is mostly because people didn’t live long enough to develop them and died from other causes. While promoting more whole foods, more fruits and vegetables, and less processed foods can definitely have health benefits, the Paleo diet takes it a bit too far by cutting out whole food groups that have plenty of great nutrients to offer. Whole grains offer fiber and many vitamins and minerals.
Legumes are a great vegetarian protein source, along with fiber and other nutrients. Dairy is best known as a source of calcium, but is also a good source of protein, phosphorous, and vitamin D. If dairy isn’t included in one’s diet regularly, finding alternative sources of calcium is very important.
Additionally, having less variety of whole food options to choose from can make cooking and preparing meals more challenging. The other disadvantage of following the Paleo diet is it can be very limiting when eating out or in social settings.
Detox and cleanses are two words that often are seen together. There is no standardized definition of what this means. Often, these words are used to advertise or sell different products or supplements. Things like a “juice cleanse” or “green tea detox.”
Our bodies have great detox systems in place already! Our liver, kidneys, skin, and digestive track are helping us to stay “detoxed” all the time by excreting (releasing) toxins through urine, sweat, and stool. The idea that we need to help our body detox often comes down to marketing. Many of these products come with a high price tag and big claims about all the miracles they can perform. With all of the health claims and buzz around them, there is little to no evidence that they actually do anything to benefit the body. Fiber, water, and a variety of foods can help keep our system naturally feeling its best!
Bone broth is a broth or stock that is made by simmering bones (typically chicken or beef) generally for at least 12 hours, and sometimes for more than 24 hours, to have the bones release the collagen and nutrients that are typically locked inside the bones. Some bone broth recipes may also include adding vegetables during the cooking process. This can then be drunk on its own or used as a base for soups or in other recipes.
Bone broth can certainly provide many great nutrients and have some health benefits. Collagen can help with skin and joints and there are also claims that bone broth helps with digestive inflammation. While bone broth can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet, it is important to remember that no one food is the answer to all health and wellness questions and concerns.
So, if you want to try making your next soup with bone broth instead of with a traditional stock, or sip broth instead of your morning coffee, go for it! If you’d rather not, there are still plenty of other ways to take care of your body every day.
A quick Google search of most nutrition topics will give you a wide variety of opinions and very conflicting advice. It can all be enough to make your head spin! So, next time you’re watching Tik Tok or reading a blog or doing just about anything on the internet, take note of the nutrition “facts” that you’re seeing.
Before believing it all to be true, do a little investigating. It is especially important to consider the source of information; is the information coming from someone reputable or someone trying to sell you something?
As dietitians, we love helping our clients separate fact from fiction, and assisting them in making the choices that make the most sense for them, based on their individual needs and health goals!