January strikes again. Ugh.

Today I've heard from a couple of people about an article going around about "new research" saying you should weigh yourself every day to lose weight. Responses have ranged from "should I be doing this?" to "OMG WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THIS MAKE IT STAHP," both of which were kind of hard for me to hear over the sound of my head hitting my desk over and over. 

Is this really an effective weight loss technique? Maybe. So should you do this? Probably not.

First of all, let's talk about where this comes from. To be honest I haven't seen today's article, but this is not new research. There is a thing called the National Weight Control Registry that keeps tabs on people who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off (this has been going on since 1994, so if that's new you all need to rush out and buy me gifts for my recent high school graduation). One thing they track is the behaviors that many of the successful weight-losers have in common, one of which is weighing themselves on a regularly basis (at least weekly). So there is a correlation between monitoring one's own weight and successful weigh management, but as we know from statistics, correlation does not prove causation

But even if there is not a direct causal relationship, it seems like it's worth trying, right? I'd still say probably not. Let me explain myself. 

Daily weighing is a psychological technique, and it's one I don't find particularly healthy. Those who recommend it say it helps "keep you on track" by reminding you what you're trying to do each day. Maybe it does, but at what cost? I've known too many people whose entire day- whose entire self-worth- is dictated by the scale. Some people can use the scale as a tool and a daily reminder, but for some it's incredibly painful and damaging. Even if you're not on either of those extremes, it can be discouraging, distracting, and frustrating. While it may be motivating for some, it may be discouraging enough to cause others to give up. Or, more tragically, fall into dangerous and disordered eating.

And why? Because weight is not static. It changes daily, sometimes even hourly, based on a pile of physiological processes that happen throughout the day. Basically, if you weigh yourself every day you're measuring changes in water and waste. Weight can fluctuate by 2-5 pounds daily (ballpark) depending on size, physiology, activity level, and time of the month. While that sounds logical, our reactions to seeing on the scale usually aren't. Can you predict how you're going to feel if you wake up tomorrow and your weight is 2.4 pounds more than it was today? What if it's 0.7 pounds lower? Followed by 1.3 pounds up, then 1.2 pounds down, then....etcetera.

What a freaking emotional roller coaster. And it means nothing, because that's just what weight does. The only difference is that we're not usually aware of it. The overall trend is important, which can easily be monitored weekly or even monthly. It can even be measured by someone else. 

There's nothing inherently wrong with weighing yourself. It's a vital sign; it's just unfortunately the one we tend to take the most personally. Some people handle that information better than others, so whether and how often you should weigh are quite personal and require some self-honesty (and maybe a frank conversation with someone like me). But like any vital sign, it's affected most by what we do, not by how closely we watch it. So instead of watching your weight, how about find some other (more meaningful) things to do with your time and attention? Watch a season of Portlandia. Or spend more time outside walking and listening to nature. Take up Zumba if you're into it. Above all, if you're concerned about your health, do things that nurture it- not things that are meant to punish you.
 
 
A few ideas:

Spend more time outside.

Deepen the relationships that matter most to you.

Laugh more.

Take up meditation.

Take more photos.

Try one new food a week.

Delete your calorie counting app.

Adopt a shelter animal.

Start flossing.

Get rid of all your diet books.

Try out for roller derby.

Breakfast. 

Learn to knit.

Start journaling.

Go buy a guitar and learn to play it.

Have fun. Be nice. Stay curious.* 

Happy New Year.


*I stole that last part from my friend Lisa
 
 
12/31/2015.

This is a strange day to do something new, isn't it? The truth is, I've been thinking about this page for some time. What is it they say about good intentions? And haven't I asked the same question here before?

I'm pushing myself to write you today because I would like to avoid the cliche of saying I will start tomorrow/next year/as a resolution. 

This time of year I get extremely introspective and nostalgic. I like to look back; I like to look forward. Both can be positive experiences as long as I don't linger too long. My goal is to assess what went well, what didn't, what I wish I'd done more of, and what I'd like to focus on in the coming year. It doesn't have to happen this time of year, but for me it's a good time for nostalgia anyway so I roll with it.

My goal for the coming year is to focus more on the things that are important to me: my favorite relationships, activities, qualities, and work. This blog is one of those things. 

I'd also like to take care of each day, well, each day, rather than letting things pile. But that's another story.

This is important to me because I have things I want to tell you, and this is the best way I know how to do it without clogging up your Twitter feeds. It's bothered me to have neglected this page, but perfectionism and overplanning (procrastination's sneaky predecessors) got the best of me for a while. For that reason I don't really have an outline or a path I plan to follow yet, which seems like a really good way to lose your interest right off the bat. For now, just know I plan to be here more. I plan to talk about things I care a lot about. I want to help. I think maybe I can.

You know what? I want to be at least one voice of calm and reassurance and rationality on the internet when it comes to food and nutrition. Of course, if you know me, you know I won't necessarily be calm about some of these things because I get frustrated with the nonsense that is mostly designed to sell products by making people feel worse about themselves. So sometimes, I guess I'll be the voice that say "NO STAHP YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO ALL THAT CRAZINESS!!!" 

Anyway, just please don't make any resolutions to do any cleanses this year.

That's all I got today. I started. Maybe I'll see you tomorrow.

Maybe I should've written this in my private moleskine instead of on my professional website. What do you think?
 
 
Amarillo, Texas is about a six hour drive from Dallas. I grew up in Amarillo. So did my husband. His family still lives there, so we make that drive a lot.

The thing about the drive between Amarillo and Dallas is that it's boring. It may seem quaint and charming to road trip across Texas and pass through all the small towns, but it's really not. It's flat, there's nothing to see, and the towns are made mostly of dust and tumbleweeds. For me, since John likes to do the driving now, the best thing about drive to Amarillo and back are the naps.

Several years ago, I actually stayed awake all the way back home after a visit to Amarillo. John and I talked about everything: the visit, his parents, nostalgia, what we love about Dallas, music, life, whatever...and then somehow we got onto donuts. Donuts! How great they are. How much we'd like to have a donut right now. How great it would be if there was a 24-hour donut shop in the middle of nowhere on 287 on a Sunday. Wouldn't that just be the best? Man, donuts would be so great right now. What a bummer we don't have any donuts.*

Eventually we made it home. We opened the trunk and started pulling our stuff out to take inside, and there, under a pillow...was a box of donuts. A box we did not put there. We stared at each other in disbelief and amazement, and then we ate some donuts because that's just what you do when magic trunk donuts appear at the end of a road trip. Huzzah!

This felt like a revelation and so I've told the story many times since. It's turned into a parable for me. The lesson? What we need is usually nearby if we're just open to finding it. Look around. Pay attention. I've found it to be true many times since. Spirituality in the form of a donut. It seems important to mention I was actually not a dietitian yet.

Now for some real talk: My sister-in-law has triplets. They're 18 now, but at the time they were still children. With three small children, it is mandatory to own a minivan, which we borrowed to take the kids to do some fun aunt and uncle thing while we were in town. Meanwhile my sister-in-law had our car, which she took grocery shopping. It's a safe guess that she bought donuts and left them behind by mistake. Maybe we even started thinking about donuts because we could smell them, but not enough to notice consciously. Maybe my nephews were later blamed for the missing donuts, but we never brought it up to find out. Because donuts.

There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for where the donuts came from, but that doesn't really matter. In fact, for me it makes the story better. Donuts weren't magicked into our trunk; they were there all along. Our answers are too, but first we have to want them, then we have to pay attention and look for them. Otherwise they're just going stale in your trunk, unused and forgotten. 

I really like donuts.

*I promise we were not high. We are like this quite naturally.
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Outside of Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon. Because for some reason, every dietitian has a cheesy picture of themselves eating. It's in the handbook and is considered mandatory.
 
 
Dear Rachael, hope all is good. 

Would love to get your advice about the book Wheat Belly, which denounces wheat as our enemy. 

Your views are balanced, and we both agree that evidence based medicine is better than extreme views and radical diets are hard to sustain. 

Best wishes for 2015!
Thank you for asking my thoughts on Wheat Belly. I suspect I hear skepticism in your question, and you probably won't be surprised to know I'm not a huge fan. As you mentioned, it is quite a radical and restrictive/disruptive diet with not a lot of evidence to support its use. I think Dr. Davis both over- and under-simplifies the subjects of nutrition, diet, and weight. It would be wonderful if we could point to one food item and identify it as the root of all problems, but it's just not that simple. Eliminating something as ubiquitous as wheat may certainly lead to weight loss, but only because there is so much less to eat and therefore a calorie deficit is created. An unfortunate side effect of that level of restriction, though, is that one's diet is probably also lacking in some important nutrients, which Dr. Davis doesn't really offer good advice on how to replace.

He also mentions his concerns that genetic modifications in wheat crops have led to a litany of health problems. I'm not sure there is really enough evidence to support this. Regardless, even if there have been significant changes in the wheat we eat today, there is so much else that has changed in our food environment that it seems odd to attribute obesity, diabetes, etc to that single aspect. We also have more food available with higher levels of salt, fat, and sugar than ever before (whether it contains wheat or not). Our survival instinct still tells us to eat what's available even though we are in no danger of starving anymore; we haven't caught up to our new food environment. 

Like any diet of this nature, my main concerns are nutritional insufficiency, feelings of deprivation (which, for some, can lead to binging or simply giving up entirely), and how disruptive it is to daily life- all of which are unnecessary because there are simpler options that are much more sustainable.

I dug up a couple of trustworthy resources that elaborate on more of his claims. I hope you find them helpful:

Wheatophobia: Will avoiding wheat really improve your health?

Wheat Belly - An Analysis of Selected Statements and Basic Theses of the Book

All the best,

Rachael
 
 
There are so many diets out there. Like so, so many. How do you know which one is right for you? How do you know which ones are garbage?

Most diets have rules. Some of those rules are convenient and simple and relatively easy to follow, and some are nearly impossible. Some fit great with certain personality types and taste preferences but not others. It's fine. That's one of the reasons there are so many. That, and there's a demand and people can make money selling diets, but that's another issue for another blog post. 

Here's how to know if the diet you're on is not right for you: you're miserable. It's hard to follow. You are hungry and don't have enough energy. It's hard to realistically follow the rules. Any of these mean it's probably not the best thing for you (or possibly anyone).

Eating healthfully and maintaining an appropriate body weight doesn't mean you have to suffer. It is possible to enjoy food and life while taking care of your health and weight. In fact, it's really the only way to do it over the long term. No one wants to stick with a diet or lifestyle that sucks!  

Do you have a "my diet made me miserable" story you'd like to share? Something that worked really well for you? Let me know in the comments. Or, if you have questions about a specific diet, let me know what it is and I'll see what I can come up with for you! 
 
 
Yesterday my husband and I attended a funeral. I was pretty pissed off about it. I almost always am.

Don't get me wrong; I am fairly comfortable dealing with grief. Or rather, I'm willing. Anger is only one of the many perfectly normal feelings I experience at funerals. It usually takes turns with sadness, disbelief, gratitude, and initial attempts at acceptance. I've had more practice than I would prefer; 38 seems too young to have attended as many funerals as I have.  Part of is the nature of my work, and part of it is just...life, I guess. The risk of caring is losing, which is a risk I am always willing to take. 

One of the wonderful and terrible things about loss is it always reminds me of what's important. Appreciating the people we care for. Being our best selves. Enjoying life. Not sweating the small stuff. Cliché cliché cliché.

It also reminds me of the urgency of certain things. The importance of action where action is needed. I've attended funerals precipitated by addiction, alcoholism, schizophrenia, heart disease, cancer, suicide, and murder. Often preventable things, if the right intervention (or perhaps many daily interventions) had occurred. A couple times I was lucky enough to go to funerals that came at the end of a long and happy life. Those are my favorite, and the only ones I'm not pissed off about.

I don't say all this to be macabre, though it's starting to seem that way as I write. I actually mean to end with a hopeful message, so I promise it's coming. Partly, this writing is a reminder and a call to action to myself. I'm still processing and thinking out loud, so I thought I'd share these thoughts with you. My work is so important to me, but it's also just flat out important. I am so grateful to get to help people do more than just not die; I get to help people get better and live happier lives. That's an amazing honor and a tremendous responsibility. 

My friend died unexpectedly of a heart attack. He was in his early 50's. He was making efforts to improve his health, I hear. Sometimes I get so focused on addiction and eating disorders- because they seem so big and so urgent- that I have to be reminded that slow killers are still out there, lurking, waiting, chipping away at wonderful people. And sometimes, someone like me could've helped. It feels arrogant and self-serving to say that dietitians can save lives, but we all know by now what a huge role that diet plays in health. I'm not taking responsibility or "what if"-ing, but it's a hell of a call to action. It makes me proud to get to do something so important, but also just bitterly angry for those we've already lost.

This is a call to action for both of us. Me and you. Is there something you need to be taking more seriously? Is there something you need to be taking less seriously? Is there something you've been telling yourself you need to do, something you plan to do that you've been putting off? Does your life depend on it? You are worth the effort. We need you as long as we can have you.

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." 
–Chinese Proverb

Let's get to work. Let me know how I can help.
For Tom, with affection. I'm pretty sure he would've liked this song a lot.

He wasn't someone we saw often, but he had a larger-than-life personality and a warm and unforgettable heart. The first time we met, I thought he was a jackass. I've never been more wrong about a person, and I'm grateful for the small roles we got to play in each other's lives. I will raise a glass and shed a tear for him at Rangers Opening Day, the one place we always knew we'd see him.
 
 
This Sunday I will be participating in my second first Dallas Half Marathon. My first first half marathon was cancelled due to Icepocalypse 2013, so months of planning and excitement ended in a pretty disappointing and anticlimactic way. As consolation, I get medals for both years when I cross the finish line this weekend. For the time I spent preparing and the 10 miles of the course I trudged alone before I got too cold and went home, I feel okay about accepting last year’s medal. 

In the last two years, I’ve participated in a lot of 5Ks, 10Ks, and miscellaneous other races. Doesn’t that make me sound like such a badass? I mean, only serious runners compete in races, right? The truth is, like lots of people, I struggle with the idea of calling myself a runner. Every time I check into a race on Facebook, I make the same self-deprecating joke: “Pay money, get up early, and run a race I have no chance of winning.” Lately I’ve just shortened it to: “Etcetera.”

I’ve only been running for a little over two years. It started as a rebound relationship when I broke up with roller derby and it just sort of stuck. I don't kid myself about being awesome at it. I am not a fast runner. I am not a disciplined runner. Despite those things, I like to run and I like to participate in races. I love the buzz of excitement waiting at the start line and the feelings of relief and accomplishment crossing the finish line. That’s why I keep showing up (the swag is also nice, but honestly I have enough fluorescent yellow tech shirts at this point).

As much as I enjoy these moments, I’m having some uncomfortable feelings about this Sunday that have nothing to do with the course or the distance. My excitement has been completely overshadowed by the fear of what other people will think of me. I’m embarrassed about how long it will take me to finish, how much of it I will have to walk, and how I let my training fell apart after traveling and being sick for the last two months. I'm embarrassed that my husband will cross the finish line more than an hour before me and then have to wait around. I'm embarrassed by my 12+ minute miles. And for those of you who are serious runners who actually win things or friends who have been fooled into thinking I’m some sort of fasty fast, I’m afraid of you thinking less of me or thinking I’m a fraud as a runner.

If I'm so embarrassed, why on earth would I tell you all of this? I’m telling you this so you can cheer for me, because I’m going to doubt myself at points on Sunday and a kind word from you will help more than you know. More importantly, though, I’m telling you to set myself free and stop worrying about you finding out.  I’m also telling you because you may be just like me, and my words might give you permission to stop worrying and feeling like a fraud, too. We both deserve permission to not be perfect, and we deserve to feel proud of our accomplishments rather than embarrassed by them. 

So as afraid as I am to tell you this, my bib number is 13017 if you’d like to follow me on race day.
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Go, Team Turtle!
 
 
PictureThis is embarrassing.
There are at least 17 bottles of hair products in my bathroom, of which I regularly use three.

This has recently come to my attention because we’re moving soon, so I’m in a season of culling stuff I don’t need (or at least don't want to move). All of these products, except the three I actually use, moved into this loft with me a little over year ago. I have no idea how long I had each of them before that, but I can say how many times I’ve used them since: approximately zero.  And yet here I am, thinking about packing them up and taking them on the next move. Why?

Each of these products, for one reason or another, didn’t work for me. Maybe they seemed appealing with their promises and pretty packaging, but if they were all I had imagined and hoped for I’d still be using them. Now they are just unhelpful clutter that I’ve been carrying around with me for…years? I think it’s been years.

So, I poured a bunch out and recycled the bottles. A couple of products I’ll try one more time to make sure they still don’t work, and then I’ll chunk those too. Because seriously, why am I still dragging all this unhelpful stuff around? Maybe these things are good for someone else, but they’re sure not working for me. There’s just no need to hang onto them anymore, so it's better to let them go and stick with something that works.  

Do you see my point?

 
 
Remember when you learned to ride a bike? I do. It was scary. I couldn’t do it alone; someone had to help me*. The first time I rode my yellow bicycle- the one with daisies on it and the giant banana seat- without training wheels was on a camping trip. I rode down a steep hill, experienced the rush of speed…and then forgot how to steer and crashed into some bushes. It hurt.

Last weekend my husband and I took scuba lessons. It’s not a thing I ever imagined I would do, because the thought of not being able to breathe terrifies me. An hour into the first day of training in a pool, one of the girls in the class bailed. Her reason? “I’m just not enjoying this.”

Now the good news is that the instructor has talked with her and she’s going to complete her lessons another day, but it really got me thinking. Of course she wasn’t enjoying herself. The learning was not the enjoyable part of scuba. It was uncomfortable, scary, and sometimes boring and redundant. The first time I jumped into the water, I hit my head (hard) on the tank strapped to my back. That hurt too- so much I nearly started crying and really wanted to yell at someone. If this is what scuba is about, no one would do it. If every time anyone rode a bicycle they crashed, no one would do that, either.

The thing is, we do things that suck because on the other side of the work is something very, very worthwhile. Riding a bike, it turns out, is fun! Scuba enables us to go to places previously impossible and experience unimaginable beauty. Learning how to knit requires a lot of patience and practice, but the look on a friend’s face when you say, “I made this for you” is priceless.

Making changes in your eating (for whatever reason) sucks, too. Honestly, it does. It’s inconvenient, it’s frustrating, and it’s hard. It can also be fraught with fear, insecurity, and doubt. Trying to lose weight can be discouraging. Learning to deal with diabetes or heart disease can feel overwhelming. And going against the rules of an eating disorder? Well that’s downright terrifying.

So why? Why do something that sucks? Why put yourself through the discomfort of the learning curve and the voice that says "STOP!"? Because there is something important for you on the other side. Think about the thing you’re trying to do and what that might mean for you. How will you feel when you get where you’re going? Or even just get on the path?

Was your first thought appearance related? Keep going, then. This is not about being skinny, or looking great in a two-piece, or even not being sick. It’s more than that. No one learns to knit because they look hot knitting. They learn to knit because the activity is enjoyable and there is a sense of accomplishment. Riding a bike so people can see how fantastic you look in spandex is not sustainable, either. You ride because you love to do it, and because the breeze on your face and your muscles moving under you skin feel good. You got through the scary and difficult stuff because the reward is so worth it.

If you've got a goal, no matter what it is, I want you to ask yourself: What would truly make it worth all the work and the fear? What is the reward that will make the sucky parts endurable? Usually appearance or a number on the scale isn't enough. You need to feel it for it to matter. So what is your real reward for doing the hard work? Is it to feel strong, to conquer your fears, to have more energy, to be healthy, to be more comfortable in your skin? To know that you care enough about yourself to invest in your health on a daily basis? How about all of those things? Only you know your answer. Make it count!

*Bonus message: It's okay to let someone help you when you're learning something new. I'd even argue that it's arrogant not to!
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Because then you get to have this day.
 

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