If we started naming diets right now, we could probably write a list so long even Santa would balk.
No carbs. Low carbs. Cookie diets. Grapefruit diets. Vegan diets. Juice cleanses. There are even diets so based on the rummagings of cavemen.
But here’s the thing. (And I’m probably not the first to break it to you.)
- Diets don’t work.
- Restriction and deprivation are a ruse.
- Counting calories is a gilded cage.
And if it’s thigh gaps you seek, you can easily find them in the lush flamingo gardens of South Florida. But do NOT attempt them at home.
So how does one truly, finally – ONCE AND FOR ALL – figure out this food crisis?
It has been the objective of my career to determine this, and I’m happy to say I can offer the answer with absolute certainty: Feed Your Essence.
“Feed Your Essence” is my motto and the guiding principle of my practice. But it’s also something that’s taken me a long time to understand, let alone master.
Let me paint a nutrition Monet for you.
In a nutshell, a person who feeds her essence is someone who is very in tune with their nutritional needs, from a scientific perspective – but also uses intuitive self-guidance.
The ability to even eat is a true gift. As someone who just came back from Mexico with a parasite and could barely tolerate broth for two weeks, and as a Crohn’s patient who would suffer debilitating pain with the smallest bite of food, know that as I lay on my IV bag waiting to go into a procedure with my mom, we made lists of all of my favorite foods and restaurants I would eat at when I was healthy again.
I worked for two years in the pediatric intensive care unit. I cared for children with trauma, burns, cancer, genetic conditions, you name it. Sometimes, these children can’t eat temporarily or even permanently. We have to feed them through tubes in their noses, their stomach, and sometimes even their veins. TRUST ME, the fact that you can chew, taste, swallow, and digest, is SO incredibly precious
They do not see any food as “bad” or “off-limits”. They are not running scared from every food group. They don’t demonize or glorify any particular category of foods, or feel restricted or hungry in any way.
In fact, they love food.
- Their purse is a veritable fruit farm. #pursepersimmons
- Their office has snacks galore.
- They enjoy their kale and have their Nutella, too.
In other words, they have an extremely healthy relationship with food because have the knowledge, the confidence, and the skill to make great choices for themselves throughout the day and on weekends.
You will find them at happy hour, out with friends, dining in their favorite restaurants, and cooking dinner parties at home, while maintaining optimal weight and optimal health, because no matter where they are, they have strategies and tools to design their meals in a way that satisfies and delights them.
Sound like a unicorn fantasy?
I thought so, too. Growing up, my family lived a typical American lifestyle. Nutrition and diet were not talked about extensively in my home. In fact, most of my family would not be considered the portrayal of optimal vitality.
It wasn’t until graduate school, admittedly, that I started really dialing in my own health and getting serious about the role nutrition and food was going to play in my life.
But I figured it out. I studied the science. I learned the behaviors.
So here are three simple tips you can use to find your Shangri-La and make peace with food.
1. Slow. WAY. Down.
I believe that food is a gift. It literally becomes the essence of your body and spirit. So give it the attention and love it deserves. No matter what you’re eating, slow down to enjoy every bite of it. Notice how it tastes. The textures. The colors. The smells. And most importantly – how it makes your body feel to eat it.
You may even choose to write down your insights. You may notice that dairy makes you feel gassy. Or nut butters feel very satisfying. Without getting really connected to your body, how will you ever make the choices that seem right for you?
2. If you can afford to, see a dietitian.
The science doesn’t lie. Although everyone’s Krebs cycle is exactly the same, the way our bodies are wired – chemically and biologically – is drastically different. Your gender, age, body fat content, medical conditions, medications, body type, and genetics are highly variable and deserve a unique and customized plan for YOUR VERSION of optimal health.
It may seem like a shameless plug for dietitians, but I became a dietitian because I wanted every person to achieve their own personal best health, and I believe that your biological makeup is a very important part of that. Only a medical doctor or dietitian can legally prescribe diet recommendations.
3. Think well-nourished, before thin.
Your number one goal is always to be well nourished. Society right now is hyper-focused on weight. And keeping a healthy BMI is important. I won’t deny that. But what can be equally or even more important is getting all the nutrients your body needs to function properly, like plenty of water, vitamins, enough of each macronutrient, and plenty of antioxidants. By focusing on weight so heavily, we forget that the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients of what we’re eating gives our body so much incredible value. You can be underweight and still considered malnourished. You can be overweight and well nourished.
Plus, when you begin eating in a nutritious manner, slowly enjoying every bite, you will be surprised at how your body becomes satiated, your cravings deteriorate, and you return to a cozy food-harmony that can be a great joy in your life.
Food is for nourishment as well as pleasure; we are not PEZ machines
Europe has it right. The most high quality, artisanal ingredients made with care, savored, enjoyed with family and friends in a cozy environment
Fat-free products are not from this planet.
Remember that nutrition at its core is a SCIENCE, not a dogma. I took biochemistry, organic chemistry, a whole class on vitamins, and metabolism. I don’t “believe” in foods, this, or that. I have published peer-reviewed research. There is so much we don’t know yet, but we can empirically hypothesize. It’s important to eat for happiness, yes, but it’s equally as important to eat and ensure you are meeting your nutrition goals, which are highly individualized.
My holiday wish for you is to find the peace within yourself to make peace with food. And by all means, save me a slice of rhubarb pie.
Monica Auslander, MS, RD, LD/N is the owner of Essence Nutrition, LLC and is the nutrition princess of South Florida’s food culture. She can be found frequenting the many, many amazing restaurants in Coral Gables and Merrick Park, and has met the love of her life Madeleine, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who meets clients with her in the office. A practicing registered dietitian, Monica completed her Master’s in Dietetics and Nutrition at Florida International University with published and presented research at the 2013 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition. Monica has previously worked as a pediatric dietitian at Jackson Memorial Hospital in the pediatric intensive care unit and completed internships at Oliver-Pyatt Center, the University of Miami Crohn’s and Colitis Center, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and University of Miami hospital. Monica’s inspiration is to be an advisor, coach, and head cheerleader for all those who wish to make peace with food and achieve optimal health.