Woman choosing what food to eat

Do you fight with your food? Struggle with stress eating? Get frustrated with food fads? Cater to picky eaters?

Nourishing yourself should be simple, but we all know that’s not always the case. In fact, even nutrition professionals such as registered dietitians can struggle with food issues. This March, for Nutrition Month, we’re asking two Fraser Health registered dietitians about the most common food issues they and their clients face – and how to overcome them.

For Devika Sharma, a registered dietitian who works in Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Hemodialysis Unit, stress eating is one of the most challenging food issues she faces – and treats in patients. She writes:

When most people think about dietitians, they generally see us as the “food police,” or stereotype us as people who only eat kale. But dietitians also deal with food issues.

My biggest food fight has been stress eating. During a period of transition in my work life someone close to me passed away unexpectedly. In an attempt to uphold the image that I was able to keep it together, I overcommitted to responsibilities at home and at work. To help ‘fuel’ and reward myself through busy and stressful days, I would skip meals and graze on my favourite comfort food and snacks – cookies and caramel popcorn. Eventually, I found myself dealing with stress-induced weight gain. I felt that I was not able to uphold the image of a healthy dietitian. In other words, I was not practicing what I preached.

It wasn’t until I sought proper support that I was able to identify the root cause of my stress-eating – my grief. I had to learn to engage in activities that helped deal with my emotions (such as journaling, blogging, listening to music). Through this I was able to re-establish a daily routine where daily physical activity and eating wholesome food was a priority. My advice to anyone dealing with stress-eating is:

  • Change requires work. If your goal is to break free from stress eating, engage in behaviours that support your goal. Identify the issue, learn non-food ways to deal with it, and seek support.
  • Make your health your priority because no one else will. No one ever regrets fueling their body with healthy foods. If you are not sure where to begin or how to keep going, connect with a registered dietitian.

Whitney Hussain, a registered dietitian who works in Abbotsford Regional Hospital’s cardiac and youth clinics, shares that her most frustrating food issue – and one of the top issues for her clients – is trying to make sense of food fads and not get caught up in unhealthy hype diets. She writes:

As an dietitian working with patients and clients in the community, I come across so many different diets, new weight loss programs and a crazy number of supplements that can "improve your health" or "cure your chronic disease." It can be very confusing reading and hearing the media, health professionals, friends and celebrities promoting these fads. Even with a degree in nutrition, I can sometimes be momentarily fooled. Here are some tips to help you tell if the new superfood advice you are reading is for real or a fad:

  • Ask yourself: is the website promising a quick fix or a miracle cure? If it has a list of “cures” for a number of different conditions, it’s likely false.
  • Are they trying to sell something or to educate you on how to make better food choices?
  • Does the product or diet involve a detox or cleanse? If you’re healthy individual, you don’t need to do this: your body is “detoxing” itself all the time
  • Are the claims based on a single study or do they fail to cite any evidence or research?
  • Question, question, question. Don’t accept and follow nutrition information online without investigating who wrote it and if it’s backed by science rather than personal opinion.

Find more nutrition advice from Devika on her blog at onemorebite.ca, on Facebook at OneMoreBite, and on Twitter at @one_more_bite_. Check out Whitney’s food and health blog at whitney-rd.com, on Facebook at Whitney Hussain RD, and on Twitter at @whitneyhussain.

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