What’s on the Dietitian’s Bookshelf?

Hey friends! It’s me, Casey. Instead of another holiday eating post (been there, done that – check the archives on the home page!), today I am going to share with you some reviews of books I’ve read this year.

But first, I have to address the newest fly-by-night, sensationalized, not-quality-research-based documentary (there’s one EVERY year that shocks the nation). Another dietitian already summarized my thoughts on the matter. It is worth noting this dietitian is a vegan; here is her review: https://kellyjonesnutrition.com/2019/11/06/the-game-changers-review/

Moving along…

I intentionally make New Year’s Resolutions which don’t involve food, since I have spent most of my career trying to steer people away from “diets” in the most modern sense of that word. This year, I vowed to read one book a month. While I didn’t always succeed in finishing exactly one book a month, I sometimes read more than one in a month…so it all came out in the wash, and I reached my goal (yay).

Nutrition is kind of like that – we don’t have to eat perfectly to help our bodies to WIN. Sometimes we eat better than other days; and usually, (if we are really intentional with our efforts) we get most of the nutrients we need in the end.

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I will spare you from a review of ALL the books I’ve read this year, as I can’t find a way to relate nutrition to the writings of my beloved Stephen King nor John Grisham. Therefore, I have selected those that are most relevant. They are listed in no particular order of relevance, as I found them each to be fantastic jackpots of information.

Nourishing Diets by Sally Fallon Morell

BLUF: This book reviews why saturated fats and whole, unprocessed, animal-based foods are nutrient-rich and beneficial to our lives.

Here is an example of the truth in a sea of society’s “opinions” versus reality. Sally meticulously describes the nutritional habits across countless cultures and time periods, and explains what a true “ancestral” diet really was.

She also discusses the fallacies brought into US nutrition policy by Ancel Keys, and why his poorly-designed study reports were…inaccurate at best…flat-out wrong at worst.

This book explains what a REAL Mediterranean diet is—as in, what the healthy inhabitants of the Mediterranean region ACTUALLY are/were eating.

Finally, she myth-busts one of the most popular books on the “blue zones,” the areas of the world where live the highest percentages of people who reach 100 years old or beyond. She points out the fact that the author of that book used methodology with inherent flaws. In fact, he seems to have completely ignored the massive amount of animal foods the centenarians actually ate, and inaccurately portrayed them to eat processed vegetable seed oils and mostly only plants (not true).

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

BLUF: This book challenges you to pull your head out of excuses and get after what you want in life. It is not for the faint of heart, and there are many profanities used. But it. is. awesome. In fact, I read it twice, back-to-back. I have never done that with any book before in my life.

David tells the story of how he was faced with barrier after barrier in his life, but persevered by mastering his mind. Despite an incredibly tragic upbringing as a child, he overcame abuse and poverty to become a prestigious Navy Seal.

He didn’t become a Navy Seal on his first…or second…or even third try. This guy has more heart and more gumption than anyone I’ve ever heard of or known, and he depicts it in such a way as to help you and I get over ourselves.

Although I am not likely to get as extreme as David did with all his ultra-marathons, he still inspired the crap out of me to get past my mental blocks to achieve anything I want to achieve in this one life.

I bought this book before our trip to Europe this past summer. While I had planned to sleep during our 10-ish hour flight….I actually read this book cover to cover instead. It was superb.

Intuitive Eating by Lynn Rossy

BLUF: If you struggle to manage your health, your weight, or indulgent food cravings, intuitive eating is a skill you will want to master.

Although I’ve read about (and taught) intuitive eating to my patients for more than a decade, this book was a more clear, concise version than most I’ve read.

Lynn teaches you how to really be intentional about what you are eating. She may even help you to realize you don’t even actually love those foods you keep binging on. Most importantly, she will help you to discover how you feel when you eat a certain way. You might even come to the realization you love how you feel when you are truly listening to your body.

Diets do not work, yet they seem to continue to be a dime a dozen. In December, January, and February, you will be inundated with ads for the latest diet. Now is the time to buck the trend, and truly get healthy.

Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols

BLUF: Every single woman of child-bearing age, especially those who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant MUST read this. I think it should be required reading with an exam that follows!

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I have a professional nutrition philosophy which requires a focus on NUTRIENTS first and foremost; that is exactly what Lily embodies, especially in this book.

Lily discusses the significant role of specific nutrients in building a baby. Her advice is not only for the health of the baby, but also for the health of the mother. Even for women who are not pregnant (or even considering it), I guarantee you will come away from this book learning some valuable nuggets of wisdom surrounding why we have to be concerned about NUTRIENTS, not just calories, in our eating styles.

She unpacks the ancestral practices of many cultures for pregnancy and post-partum care, many of which are still practiced in these countries today.

Lily also addresses the influence of environmental toxins on our bodies’ functioning, and many, many other super important aspects of healthy living.

Roar by Stacy Sims

BLUF: This book is geared toward women who are extremely physically active. However, even women who are aspiring to perform better in their leisure exercise or races will benefit from the information presented in this book.

Unlike the countless other performance-boosting-nutrition books on the market, this one is actually science-based, not opinion or internet-sensation-based.

Dr. Sims dissects the differences in male and female performance regarding nutrition, race fueling, hydration, and more. She breaks down the different aspects of fueling in relation to a woman’s hormonal cycle, and why/how performance changes when a woman is in different phases of the cycle.

This book helps women dial-in their heart rates, fueling strategies, and overall health with actual research-based advice. I will read this again, just to try to soak all the advice in (it’s so jam-packed with info!).

……

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shameless plug for my very own book, lettucetalk. Some of you amazing friends have bought and read this, and I am forever grateful. If you have read this, please leave an amazon review to spread the word! Thanks x 1000000000.

I shall digress for now. You must’ve made it through this long post if you’re reading this…so, thanks!

Knowledge is power. But be cautious about the information you seek. In this beautiful country, we all have the 1st Amendment entitling us to freedom of speech. With that, we are surrounded by millions of internet websites and books that contain absolutely terrible nutrition advice, some of which is founded on no evidence whatsoever.

Be careful. If you are unsure if your source is an accurate portrayal of the current science surrounding nutrition, meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Cheers to another upcoming year for all my fellow bookworms! Go forth, and read!

Oh – and Happy Thanksgiving! I can’t express enough how grateful I am for you all who have been loyal followers for so long. Thank you from the bottom of my heart ❤

 

xoxo, Casey

I know you are, but what am I…

Hey! I’ve had a lot of thoughts bouncing around my head regarding what to write in this post today. What I decided to do is a parody of some of the styles of nutritionism from my perspective in professional nutrition practice.

Nutritionism encompasses the thought that singling out particular aspects of nutrition will define health. If that isn’t completely clear, hopefully it will be after the following examples.

Hello

The Selectivist

The Selectivist has some strong beliefs about health, but they pick and choose when to be healthy and when it doesn’t really matter. They often use essential oils to ward off illness, but still sneeze into their hands and touch your doorknob. They won’t touch a receipt from the cashier for fear of the BPA on the paper, but eat hot dogs and drink diet coke regularly for lunch. They use a very expensive water filter, but haven’t eaten a vegetable in weeks.

The Immediatist

Not worried about the long-term effects of suboptimal nutrition, the Immediatist seeks instant gratification for nutrition-related issues. They refuse to consider the power of regular, consistent eating in lieu of seeking advice from their friends on social media. They are constantly on the prowl for that one little gem of wisdom or powdered potion added to their water which will change…everrrryyyyything.

The Medical Marvel

Despite the wonders of modern science, considering both conventional and integrative nutrition concepts, the Medical Marvel bucks all aspects of evidence-based research. The Medical Marvel could not possibly benefit from regular physical activity and improved nutrition; no way, it wouldn’t work. The Medical Marvel defies the odds and the rules of science altogether. Living on shards of spinach and water, the Medical Marvel can still exceed weight standards, even in the face of utter starvation. It is truly unbelievable.

The Mathemanutritionist

Capable of the fastest calorie-counting in the West, the Mathemanutritionist can tabulate the exact (or so they think) caloric content of any common food. They are especially proficient in calculating the total energy load of processed foods, especially because the numbers are on the packages. In fact, the Mathemanutritionist will often pass up nutrient-rich foods, such as fresh vegetables and fruits, and instead choose super-processed (but mathematically reliable) packaged fare. Smart watches are a Mathemanutritionist’s best friend.

The Nextbestthingist

Every week is an adventure with the Nextbestthingist. Unsatistifed with consistency, the Nextbestthingist might be intermittent fasting this week, or doing full-on keto the next. Satisfaction is not a destination; rather, staying current with the latest nutritional fads is a priority and met with great pleasure or disdain, depending. The Nextbestthingist is certainly not shy about his voyage, and you can be assured you will hear all about the woes of this week’s carrot elimination as you grab your lunch from the employee breakroom. If you don’t ask, you will still hear it. It is often echoing through the hallways. The less people ask, the louder the echoes.

. . . . . . . . .

I shall digress. I hope you found a little humor from these funny (but true) forms of nutritionism I encounter every. single. day. All of them tend to have relatively good intentions, but are totally misled by seeking and/or receiving nutrition guidance from unqualified or outdated sources.

If you identify with any of these descriptions, you may benefit from meeting with a registered dietitian nutritionist! If that is too far a stretch, you can start with this book.

Cheers,
Casey
xoxoxoxox

Is Your Brain Sick?

Namaste Focused on Nutrients

Hey there, it’s your friendly, neighborhood dietitian here. I have had some interesting experiences this week, relevant to nutrition’s role in holistic health. I’d like to share one of them with you.

This week marked the fourth or fifth time I had seen this one particular patient for outpatient nutrition counseling. The first time she came in, arms crossed in reluctance for being there at all, she was down-trodden (to say the least). She tearfully told me this was the most she had ever weighed in her life, and she was disgusted with herself.

This woman is a young mother of FIVE kids (zoinks!) and has a super-supportive husband at home. She simply had fallen off-track with healthy habits after separating from the military. Or, perhaps her habits had never been very healthy, and they simply caught up with her. At any rate, she was there to see me for help.

At visit #1, she admitted she had stopped any form of exercise since it “hadn’t help me lose any weight.” She was eating 0-1 meal(s) a day. She cried throughout the majority of the visit while telling me how depressed she was; I believed her, and it broke my heart.

Keep in mind, weight is merely an indicator of what is going on inside our bodies. We can be overweight and malnourished. Yes, it’s a thing. When our internal machine is not getting the fuel it needs to function, everything gets out of whack.

During the next few visits, the story remained about the same. This young woman was so depressed, she was resorting to near starvation. She was too depressed to do any sort of exercise, and she saw exercise simply as a punishment designed to help you lose weight.

What we continued to focus on from day one is the role of nutrients in human functioning. Our society is taught to count everything and eat as “low calorie” as possible in order to achieve a desirable physique. If that includes near-starvation? Sure! Eating only once a day and calling it “intermittent fasting”? Sure! Will we exhaust all nutrient stores in our body’s tissues and organs? Sure! Although she had come seeking a “diet” from me, I refused; but I offered her another way.

The reality is, this woman was depressed. I don’t know the details behind her military experiences. I don’t know what the first few decades of her nutrition and exercise habits were. What I did know is what her most recent health history looked like, and what her current lifestyle was.

Without eating well (or at all), the brain cannot function optimally. At the very least, our brains need a regular influx of nutrients, such as:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids – salmon, sardines, tuna, trout, herring, chia seeds, etc.
  • Antioxidants (including, but not limited to):
    • Vitamin C – bell peppers, cabbage, kiwis, oranges, Brussels sprouts, etc.
    • Vitamin E – nuts, seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, etc.
  • B-vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folate, B12) – 100% whole grains, whole fruit, whole vegetables, milk, meat, etc.
  • Iron – meat, fish, dark greens, etc.
  • Calcium – broccoli, oranges, milk, yogurt, cheese, figs, etc.
  • And many, many others.

Luckily, this woman had begun to see a mental health professional to unpack some of the behavioral aspects of her depression and other factors impacting her mental health. However, no amount of mental health counseling can make up for the absence of proper physiology inside the body. Sure, medications can help, too; but that still isn’t the only solution, nor will medications “fix” anything without proper nutrition and exercise.

Holistic health includes nurturing body, mind, and spirit. Mental health counseling addresses mind and spirit; it cannot independently help depression if the bricks and mortar of the chemical processes that make the brain function are not there. Optimizing nutrition and exercise are critical components of a healthy brain.

Upon arrival to the most recent session we had this week, she arrived practically beaming with joy. She truly seemed like an entirely different human walking into my office. Her life hadn’t changed much; her family is (and always has been) very supportive. Her mental health counseling has continued regularly, as it had for months/years.

What was different?

She had reluctantly taken my advice to focus on developing a more consistent, more robust eating pattern. She was eating at least 3 times a day – morning, midday, and evening. If there were long breaks between meals, she was having a snack. Not only was she actually eating (which was new for her starved body), but she was also intentionally choosing nutrient-rich foods. She had begun exercising as a means of spending quality time with her family, and she was enjoying herself. She wasn’t dieting. She wasn’t counting anything.

Her brain (and body) are healing. Not only is her depression markedly improved, but she has begun to lose weight healthfully. She is enjoying her newfound increasing energy; she is smiling instead of crying. She is gaining some muscle and her clothes are fitting better. She is beginning to live, not just exist.

Remember, our body weight is merely a piece of the puzzle, it is not the whole picture. An undesirable weight (underweight, overweight, whatever) is a signal that our body is not functioning properly. Often, suboptimal nutrition is to blame. “Normal” weight does not guarantee health without proper nutrition.

Bottom line? Nourish your body with real food. Move your body, even if it is just a little bit at at time when you get started. If you take care of your body, you are more likely to have a healthy one. If you are struggling, seek guidance from a registered dietitian nutritionist.

xoxo – Casey