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Yaffi Lvova-Increasing positive nutrition in your home with your children and breaking nutrition myths!
Yaffi Lvova is a Registered Dietitian who specializes in perinatal and childhood nutrition. Yaffi uses the Intuitive Eating and division of responsibility approach with her clients.
Intuitive Eating was not something that I pursued; I came across it when my friend was doing iron man- a crazy triathlon. It’s a marathon that includes running, swimming, and biking and takes around 15-17 hours. You have to be in peak shape to be able to do this. I was studying nutrition with this friend, so I went to support her. As I was waiting at the finish line for her, I was watching all different kinds of people cross the finish line. My friend is tall, fit, and thin and many of the people I saw were not. I thought I could help them lose 30 pounds or so and they were accomplishing this amazing feat. It is the ultimate in fitness to finish this race and these people were vastly different in size.
It was a lightning bolt to my head that these things are not related as we think they are. People can be bigger and still compete on that level. In order to be a part of it, you have to be healthy. These people were much larger than you would normally associate health with. That really hit me.
With something like that, so against society, it takes time for your brain to really marinate it to understand the complexity of what you witnessed. How does that affect what I learned? How does that affect my view on health? How do I move forward and help people become healthy when now I don’t even really know what health represents? How do you know someone is healthy? What defines health?
So, when I found the Intuitive Eating model as an official movement it just clicked. Everything came into place. People can be big and healthy and people can be smaller and not be healthy.
(Gila) It’s very interesting because I just had an interview with Evelyn Tribole and she said that many health professionals are taking the Intuitive Eating course now because as their moving forward in their practice and trying to help people get healthier with their weight loss and diet, they’re finding it’s not working and they’re realizing that they can’t keep on doing this.
Intuitive Eating does not fit with the traditional BMI or school of thought around weight and health. It doesn’t make sense to use weight as a determinant of health.
It becomes part of the pile of a number of factors, which can be symptoms rather than goals. I still believe weight is an important number to know when we’re looking at symptoms. Some disease states come with rapid weight gain or loss and if we don’t have that information, we might miss something. By looking at weight as a determinant of health rather than a symptom of something that’s going on, we really miss the point and people are getting misdiagnosed because of that focus on weight.
(Gila) Another thing that Evelyn Tribole said is that “weight is not a behavior” were not measuring the right thing. When clients call me and say they want to lose weight and get healthier, I tell them let’s work on the healthy behaviors but we’re not necessarily going to work on the weight. Sometimes it moves, sometimes it doesn’t, and some people gain weight. Most of the time people gain weight if they have been restricting themselves for so many years and now their body is just catching up to them.
I can personally vouch for that because I battled my body for a long time. There is an amazing amount of peace on so many levels when you’re able to stop doing that and focus on what’s actually healthy. It’s not about forcing yourself to eat a kale salad. It’s learning to enjoy the food that’s in front of you, whether that’s pizza or kale.
Next, we segued into practical tips to help improve healthy eating behaviors.
The number one thing to improve healthy eating behavior as a family across the board is family dinner. It doesn’t have to represent dinner, it can be breakfast, lunch, snack, or a family cooking party. It’s spending time together and creating positive associations around food.
If you are single or having dinner by yourself, you can still have a great time with that. You can focus on mindfulness, do a food meditation, and enjoy all of the different sensory aspects that food has. Really interacting with the food on a positive level is a fantastic way to improve your health. When you can learn to appreciate the different sensory aspects of your food, you can learn to desire different sensations and experiences with your food.
We can appreciate different flavors at the same time. We can let go of the psychology that’s making the decision for us and listen to our body instead and what it really wants.
Sometimes you will want cake and sometimes you will want a quinoa salad. It’s amazing when you can get to that point and truly listen to your body.
Another principle of Intuitive Eating is joyful movement. If you find that the treadmill is torture for you, get off the treadmill and go to a yoga class. You have to find your jam and get with it. Creating positive interactions with food and your body is the best way to move forward.
For the longest time, I have been saying that it’s easier to add something to your schedule than to take something away. It’s a more positive way to look at health.
I’m going to have pizza and I’m also going to have a salad. It’s almost January 1, diet season. If you want to make sustainable healthy choices for the new secular year, try to add something instead of taking away. For example, adding in a walk.
(Gila) This is great for me and my listeners to hear. It’s the opposite of what we’re used to hearing. What does a family meal have to do with health?! It has so much to do with how or what we associate food with. As something positive or negative. It also touches on another principle of Intuitive Eating, the satisfaction factor. What is it that you actually like to eat? One of the studies in Intuitive Eating says that when you enjoy what you’re eating your body absorbs the nutrients better.
Stress is a huge factor. Stress changes the pH of your stomach. It makes it more alkaline. Your stomach acid is supposed to be acid, if it’s alkaline, certain nutrients will be malabsorbed.
When that acid turns alkaline it also causes acid reflux because you don’t have the right pH to tell your lower esophageal sphincter to close. This further creates a negative association with food. You will think, you can’t have pizza or coffee because it causes me reflux. The very act of being stressed out changes your experience psychologically and physiologically at the same time.
It’s important to figure out the mental and physical components together, otherwise, it’s very difficult to sustain a healthy lifestyle. When someone is binging as a coping mechanism, they’re not enjoying the food. It may be delicious but you’re not really tasting them when you’re using them to fill a void.
I created a program, it started out as a meal planning tool kit but it’s really so much more. It includes meal planning made easy and that means made easy for your schedule, budget, taste buds, and family.
It also talks about budgeting, Intuitive eating, division of responsibility and the feeding dynamic between parents and kids, and how to plan for bumps in the road. For example, if you planned on cooking a delicious meal, but you got stuck in traffic you need a backup. I don’t consider going for pizza a backup, because then you don’t really enjoy it. Pizza tastes better when it’s a choice.
I also have a local phoenix class, but I plan to take over the world, it’s a culinary adventure for kids ages 2-6. Besides having family dinner, another way to create positive associations with food is to cook with your kids. Sometimes it’s chocolate chip cookies and sometimes it’s something like soup. Children are more likely to be interested in food that they interacted with at a stress-free level.
If you do division of responsibility at your table, you have less stress. But you are still sitting at a table during mealtime and there’s a plate in front of that child, that alone can cause stress. If they are not hungry before mealtime, touching and smelling things is also a fun experience.
Instead of telling your child to eat carrots because they are good for their eyesight. Ask them what other vegetables are orange?
Where do carrots grow? How do we pull it out of the ground? What animals eat carrots? Food is fascinating and if you can get into that and share that with your kids that’s really positively forward.
(Gila) I think the overarching theme of all of this is positivity and balance. Tonight, we had fish sticks, whole wheat noodles, and peppers for dinner. One child ate only fish sticks. Another child ate only whole wheat pasta. The main thing was that I was calm the whole time. This is the type of mother I want to be, calm and pleasant. Sometimes I will make chicken and a whole dinner and sometimes I won’t and that’s ok. That’s where intuitive Eating comes in. Rejecting the diet mentality, that perfectionism mentality. Like you said before, adding to our diet instead of taking away.
We tend to focus a lot on what happens by the table. Let’s take a step back and think about the fact that parenthood is really hard. For everyone, regardless of what their social media feed looks like. Sometimes eating takeout can be a healthier choice.
Meaning, if your making whatever your perfect meal is but it comes with a lot of stress and yelling, that’s not healthy. In that case, recognizing you had a busy day and you’re in an awful mood, so you decide to order takeout, that’s a healthy perspective.
(Gila) when I have clients who are feeling very stuck. Let’s say after eating 5 donuts over Chanukah. I tell them to ask themselves, what would you do if your adult child called you up and said I am the worst person in the world, I ate 5 donuts today. You would respond with compassion. We also have to have self-compassion in these situations. In the grand scheme of things, how bad is it? Maybe it’s not even bad at all?
I think this is where social media representation of Intuitive Eating gets off track. Were so intent on counterbalancing all of the diet talk that sometimes it looks like all Intuitive Eating posts are telling you to just eat donuts.
It’s important to find the right balance and listen to your body. Instead of what everyone else has to say because not everyone is an expert with food and nutrition. It’s about listening to your body biologically rather than psychologically to make your food choices.
(Gila) Going back to what you said about the reflux before, I understood that because I went to school for many years. But there are people posting stuff on social media without that scientific background. Nutrition is really a science. It’s tempting when you see a post of someone eating whatever they want and saying this is Intuitive Eating. But then when people try to replicate that, they think this is awful, I feel so out of control. That’s totally not what Intuitive Eating is. It’s important to educate yourself and get the right type of information from the right professionals.
Once you really get past the beginning stages of Intuitive Eating, it really is eating how much of whatever you want when you want. But it doesn’t look the same as right when you come out of diet culture. Someone who has been dieting for a long time might think, I am going to eat whatever I want when I want and that will be a pile of donuts. Once you learn to say this is what my body wants, it will lead you to a place of variety.
Next, we discuss how we can measure someone’s health without using their weight as a health indicator.
First, we have to go back to what our definition of health is. Right now the definition of health is very physical, when we can expand the definition to include the mind and spirit, that will give us a bigger picture. Spiritual health has no objective measure, it will look different from person to person. Health of the mind is a little easier because you can talk a bit more objectively about stress levels and coping mechanisms. Physical health has many measures, such as blood levels, bone density, and hydration. Weight is really not as important as everyone believes. It’s more of a symptom as opposed to a goal.
(Gila) one of the goals of Intuitive Eating is to give someone autonomy because dieting takes that away. The person themselves is really the only one who knows how they are feeling physically. It’s not about me as a dietitian, it’s about you and how you feel. Dieting is the opposite; it tells you how you feel. I have so many clients who tell me that they have been on many diets and the person guiding them tells them not to worry, in a few weeks you won’t even feel the hunger pains. They know it’s ridiculous because they are hungry, they do feel the hunger pains. How can you tell me I’m not hungry? Intuitive eating is the opposite, you learn what hunger feels like.
It’s interesting when you look at things with a different historical lens. This reminds me of female suffrage. They would fast and go on hunger strikes to secure votes for women’s rights.
Something that people don’t know is that you do stop feeling hungry at some point. It’s a coping mechanism that your body uses to prevent so much pain. So, they would go on hunger strikes, they would be jailed and the guards would wait until they knew they stopped feeling hunger. Then they would force-feed them so they would have to start that process all over again.
We are supposed to feel hunger. It’s supposed to tell us something. If you no longer feel hunger, that’s a sign that something is not working.
if you start an eating plan and you notice you’re getting rashes, or your sweating or shaking, these are not symptoms of your body cleansing, these are symptoms of your body in distress telling you to eat something.
(Gila) I understand why people are obsessed with weight loss and it’s really nobody’s fault, it’s because of the society we live in. But it’s frustrating as a dietitian, it’s so painful. Because as your saying, they’re actually doing the opposite. The keto diet was created for kids with epilepsy and now we’re using it as this awesome way to cleanse your body and create ketones in your body which is horrible. I just want people to know that there is a lot of science behind nutrition and so much education that goes into becoming a dietitian.
I totally agree. I want to bring up something specific. The whole celery juice thing. That’s from a site called medical medium. It’s a perfect example of being cautious of where you get your information from.
A medical medium is someone who was popular in the late 1800s with the spiritualist movement in North America and somewhat in England. Instead of having a doctor, they would have a séance and the person leading the séance for a medical purpose was a medical medium. Instead of using any kind of medical training, they would communicate with ghosts in order to diagnose someone and come up with a treatment plan. This is how they chose their name. They are getting the information from the air.
Celery is delicious, if you like celery juice enjoy it. It won’t save your life though. You have to look at this stuff and see where it came from and make sure it’s not harmful. Drinking celery juice is not harmful. But there are things out there that are harmful. Being on a 1000-calorie diet while breastfeeding will hurt you and your baby. It’s important to keep that in mind and stay away from those things.
We don’t have to do cleanses. Everything goes into your blood and the liver and kidneys filter your blood.
It’s important to have a lot of hydration to help with that. You don’t need to buy a product to do that. We are exposed to a lot more these days than we used to be, but our bodies adapt so it’s good to have a variety of things. If a certain food has a lot of a specific pesticide, but you eat a variety of foods, your not really exposed to that much of that type. Your exposed to a variety and your body can handle that a lot better.
(Gila) God made us have to eat, but He didn’t have to make it pleasurable. He made it pleasurable as a way to reinforce us to eat. When a baby is born the first thing they have is milk and it’s sweet. It’s normal that humans like sweet things. We all enjoy eating and there’s nothing to feel ashamed about. Getting over that hump is the hardest part because were conditioned to feel shame about the way we eat.
When my kids ask for chocolate chip cookies, I show them the poster I have hanging with a picture of a tongue and the different flavors. We are going to do a little hopscotch around the tongue, were going to taste some sweet, some sour…It’s not that sugar is bad, it’s that we have to taste a variety of different flavors throughout the day to be healthy.
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-Gila Glassberg, MS, RDN, CDN, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor
If you are ready to make peace with food and never say diet again, check out my website https://gilaglassberg.com and apply for a free 20 minute clarity call. I look forward to hearing from you!
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Gila Glassberg is a Master's level registered dietitian and a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. As a teenager, she was faced with constant diet talk, body shaming and obsessive guilt around food. She struggled with disordered eating. This is what propelled her into the field of nutrition. She uses a non-diet, weight-neutral approach called Intuitive Eating. She helps growth oriented women break out of chronic dieting, and regain clarity into what is really important to them.
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