Many look to the new year with hopes of eating better and losing weight. Sometimes, however, that process can be more complex than we anticipate, and it’s easy to lose sight of reasonable goals: Some might give up after two weeks, and others might become overly obsessive about healthy eating to a point that is no longer healthy.
Additionally, many people often overlook the benefits of eating well that have nothing to do with weight loss: The foods that we put into our bodies have a direct impact on the way we feel, the energy we have, and our bodies’ ability to heal. It sounds straight-forward, but that notion can get easily lost in our day-to-day lives.
To sort through some of the complexities and confusions that can crop up around nutrition, weight, and mental health, 425 sat down with four providers at Crave Health, an integrative health practice in Bellevue made up of registered dietitian nutritionists and licensed mental health counselors.
Megan Vucinovich MS, RDN, CD
Disordered eating, metabolic disorders, weight loss
“Eating disorders are very much so a mental health disorder. A lot of times when (patients) come to see us, they think we’ll be talking about meal plans and calorie ranges. The reality is that we don’t — instead, we do reality checks and a lot of radical acceptance. We discuss their feared foods and try to reincorporate them and dispel anxiety around them.
“People might have misinformation about food from Instagram or YouTube. I’ve had young kids come in and say they want to do the ketogenic diet. I’ve talked to doctors about this, and unless you have cancer, autism, or a neurological disorder, you don’t need to be on it. Or people feel anxious about eating peanut butter or salmon because they’re fatty; I do nutrition education around those feared foods (to teach them) about their nutritional benefits.
“When people come in to see a dietitian, a lot of them think that we’ll back them. They think, ‘I shouldn’t eat that much sugar,’ or ‘I should be eating organic.’ But I think they should have sugar — it’s all about moderation. (People) try so hard to be healthy that it’s killing them. If you’re living in a bubble where you won’t go to your grandma’s birthday party if you can’t have organic, that’s not a healthy lifestyle. Everyone should be able to feel comfortable eating unhealthy things. It’s OK.”
Lida Buckley MS, RDN, CD
Disordered eating, weight loss, aging wellness
“We all can create rules for ourselves that aren’t healthy to sustain. And then when we break these arbitrary rules we’ve created for ourselves, we are riddled with guilt and feel like we have ‘cheated’ or are ‘bad.’ We then overcompensate to make up for our broken rules, thus leading us down a spiral of guilt, shame, anger, and frustration. My job is to help everyone get rid of this black and white thinking and learn to live and love living in the gray.
“When it comes to weight loss, I try to steer away from perfection and focus on the big picture. Living in the gray means different things to different people. For me personally, it means living an 80 percent healthy life. That allows for 20 percent of the time to not be ideal. That translates into my exercise, my sleep, and my eating patterns.
When you don’t feel good about yourself, you are more likely to not take care of yourself — and vice versa. But don’t worry about perfection. And remember to have days where you eat for just the fuel but also days where you remember to eat just for fun.”
Jessica Hoffman RDN, CD, FMN
Genetics and genomics
“When you’re under stress for long periods of time, it uses up a lot of your free serotonin, the down regulating neurotransmitter that makes you feel good. There are ways to balance that when your body is under stress, and one of them is to eat a balanced diet. Getting the right amount of folic acid and B12, which is found in animal products, helps (regulate stress). Assessing your work-life balance is necessary, if you’re under stress: Maybe you can switch teams, have essential oils at your desk, do yoga during lunch, listen to classical music. It’s also important to get enough sleep because sleep removes toxins from your body.
“Important foods to include in your diet are dark leafy greens, anything high in vitamin C, and seasonal fruits and veggies, which have more nutrition in them. A great choice in the winter would be a kale salad with fennel, nuts, pomegranate seeds, and orange zest. Lean proteins — like turkey — are also important because they contain amino acids, the building blocks of neurotransmitters.
“People tend to overlook the fact that their diet is very much involved in how they feel overall and how they respond to stress and environmental toxins. I’ve had clients who had regular panic attacks, then changed their diet and were able to basically eliminate those attacks.”
Cassie Kinson MA, LMHC
Depression, anxiety, eating disorders
“As a counselor, I believe good nutrition is a form of good self-care. It is one of the ways that we support ourselves, among many other things, like sleep, exercise, and life balance. In working with eating disorders, developing a healthy relationship with food as well as healthy behaviors with food is vital for recovery and stability — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Finding balance and moderation in the relationship with food is critical to establishing a lifestyle that promotes well-being and that is also sustainable.
“When our goals and demands are too high, and we aren’t able to achieve them, the end result is often feeling like a failure or experiencing shame. This cycle perpetuates dysfunctional thinking (and) contributes to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and many other difficulties. The stigma around mental health support has been a great barrier for many in receiving help. I absolutely feel that we need to continue to work hard to destigmatize mental illness and mental health care. Many believe receiving help is a weakness or burden to others; I believe it is just the opposite. It is very brave to choose help and to allow someone into these more vulnerable spaces in our lives.”