Explore DC with your Other Senses: A guide to activities in DC without Eating or Drinking

Lately many clients have expressed that while they love socializing, it is hard to find activities in the DC area that aren't centered around food and alcohol. DC is a very social city, which is a lot of fun but can be challenging for those who are trying to reach their health goals!

It is important to work on managing food intake at the amazing restaurants in the area, but even better to get in a variety of activities with friends and family. This is helpful not only with food consumption but stress management and exercise goals as well. I recently surveyed clients and friends for activities in the DC area that they enjoy outside of dining and many wonderful ideas were generated. Here they are! 

Explore Nearby Towns

                                                                                                                                  Harper's Ferry, WV  (photo by william fox)

                                                                                                                                 Harper's Ferry, WV (photo by william fox)

Bike to and walk around Old Town, Alexandria

Visit and walk around Annapolis, Maryland

Visit Leesburg town and Outlets

Visit (and hike around) Harper's Ferry, West Virginia

Hike DC!

                                                               Great Falls National Park

                                                              Great Falls National Park

                                                                            Jefferson Memorial at the National Mall

                                                                            Jefferson Memorial at the National Mall

                        Pure Prana yoga studio  in old town, alexandria

                       Pure Prana yoga studio in old town, alexandria

305 Dance Class with friends

Workout class with friends

Cut Seven

Jiu Jitsu

Pulse Inferno

Horseback Riding

Running

Yoga

Stand Up Paddleboarding in DC  & VA

Indoor Fun

                                                     King street coffee  in leesburg, VA

                                                    King street coffee in leesburg, VA

General Activities

Rock Climbing

Read a book at a coffee shop

See a movie

Spa Day

Public Talks

DC-Area Related

Story District - every second Tuesday of the Month

Meditation class: with Tara Brach, in Arlington, in Ashburn

See a show at DC Improv

Daybreaker

Visit ARTECHOUSE

African American Museum

Pottery Making at Hinckley Pottery

Union Market

See a play: Kennedy Center, Ford's Theater, Studio Theatre

Stay at Home

                              Plants from  leesburg farmers market  and  Catoctin Gardens

                              Plants from leesburg farmers market and Catoctin Gardens

Potluck Dinner with Friends

Game Night

Gardening

Arts & Crafts

Fun with Animals

                                                                                                            FOHA

                                                                                                            FOHA

                      Volunteer with animals: Lucky Dog Rescue, Washington Animal Rescue League, Friends of Homeless Animals

Spend time with other Dog Owners with

 

Any other ideas that you enjoy? Feel free to send them my way! 

 

 

How to Make Long-Lasting New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again! The time of New Year's resolutions and creating health goals for yourself to have your best year yet. While many of these resolutions are well-intended, you may find yourself in the cycle of: create goals --> stay on track for a few weeks  --> get sidetracked/frustrated/disappointed --> lose motivation and fall off the wagon. 

I learned a long time ago from my own experiences and those I learned in school and work that resolutions won't work if you don't have the necessary tools and expectations to make yourself successful. While we may think that it's all about willpower and determination, it is SO much more. Similarly to what I discuss in nutrition sessions, behavior change is complex and requires exploring your lifestyle, environment, stressors, knowledge, support systems, mindset, thought process and much much more. Behavior change takes time and our culture often forgets to mention these things. For New Year's resolutions that will last, here are a few of my go-to tips:

Washington - DC - Ashburn - Nutritionist

1. Be patient and forget the quick-results mentality. Our health culture is all about quick changes and overnight success, which almost always leads to failure. The diet industry has a 5% success rate and there is a reason for that! Making changes that will last takes time -- sometimes months to years. It's important to take this time to explore and learn about yourself and be compassionate with the time it will take to make this habit change. If you have been doing something for a few decades of your life, it will take more than a few days or months to reverse it. Give yourself time and enjoy the journey. Also, diets or cutting out food groups don't work. Remember that :) 

2. Be realistic. It is great to have goals to reach for, but what is actually doable for you? Where are you right now in your life and what types of changes are achievable? If you set unrealistic goals for yourself you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Start small and build up gradually, one day, week or month at a time. For example, if you are looking to make healthier choices, rather than cut out sugar completely, try to focus on increasing your fruit and vegetable intake to 3 servings per day, building up to 4 and then 5. You will be much more successful this way. 

Washington - DC - Ashburn - Nutritionist

3. Have a support system. Behavior change can be hard, so having a support system in place to help you reach your health goals can make a huge difference. This could be in the form of supportive family members and friends, a professional, group activities or meetings, online forums, etc. If you don't feel comfortable talking to anyone about your progress and goals, having support through a journal can even be helpful. Staying accountable and finding like-minded individuals can make a huge difference.

4. Stay positive. It is especially easy to get down on ourselves in today's culture when we see so much 'success' and 'perfection' in social media and around us. Remember that these are only snapshots and that everyone has struggles. Stay true to yourself and if something doesn't go as planned, learn from the experience rather than judging it. Nobody is perfect -- it would be a boring world if there were no flaws. Love yourself and see where that mindset takes you instead.

5. Manage your stress. Often times, bad habits result as a response to stress. Over drinking, overeating, under-eating, overexercising - these are often a symptom of underlying stress. It is important to find other ways to manage any emotions or stressors in your life whether it's finding a hobby, getting out in nature, exercise, practicing self-care or talking it out. 

There is a lot that goes into behavior change and it is important to go into it with a new approach this year. Start small, be realistic, surround yourself with positive people and vibes and set out on a new path! If you need support or accountability, I am here for you as are many other professionals in your area. Have a great and healthy New Year!

 

Intuitive Eating Part IV | Washington, DC Dietitian

Missed the first 3 posts in this series? Check them out!:

Intuitive Eating Part I, Intuitive Eating Part II, Intuitive Eating Part III

Principle IV: Challenging the Food Police

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

In the world of dieting, it is easy to develop negative thoughts that can work against us. These thoughts can come from diet books, magazines, television commercials, social media and more. Food thoughts and judgments run widespread through our minds, but how often do we take a moment to focus on them and notice what we are saying to ourselves? These thoughts are not born with us. Instead, we hear them as we grow up, take them in, and sometimes establish them as set rules, some negative and some positive.

When thinking about these voices, a few questions come to mind:

Where do these voices come from? What in our past or present has made us think this way?

What is the tone of the message? Critical, shaming, harsh, makes you feel guilty? Or open, curious, helpful?

What information is the food police sharing? Is it reliable? Is it something that directly affects you?

What are the affects of this information? How does it alter my thoughts and actions? 

Even when these thoughts are evaluated, they stick in the consciousness of the people who think them. We have found that in this world of dieting and eating, specific voices will pop up from time to time, ultimately influencing how we feel and how we behave.

A few of these voices can be classified. By reading the descriptions you can see which are helpful to you and which are not:

Food Police

This voice causes guilt and is full of judgment. It keeps the eater in the dieting world, and out of touch with inner cues of eating.

Nutrition Informant

The Nutrition Informant uses nutrition as a driving force to keep you dieting.

Diet Rebel

As you rebel against dieting this voice usually results in overeating and self-sabotage.

Food Anthropologist

The Food Anthropologist is a neutral observer that can give you a distant perspective into your eating world. This voice is nonjudgmental and keeps you in touch with your inner psychological and biological signals.

Nurturer

The Nurturer helps to disarm the verbal attacks from the Food Police. This voice helps you get you through the tough times and is nowhere near harmful.

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

Negative Self-Talk (And How to Change It)

When thoughts about eating are irrational or distorted, the negative feelings we develop escalate more and more rapidly. As a result, eating behavior can end up consequential and destructive. Therefore, we need to replace the irrational thinking with rational thoughts. This allows us to control our feelings and later, our behavior.

To get rid of distorted diet thoughts, you first need to identify the irrational thinking that is going through your mind. Ask yourself:

-Am I having repetitive and intense feelings about food and my body?

-What am I thinking that’s leading me to feel this way?

-What is true or correct about this belief (if anything)? What is false? Remember that just because you think something it doesn't necessarily mean it's true. Think of a more positive thing to say to retaliate against any negative voices. 

Washington - DC - Nutritionist


Go for the Gray. Gray may seem to be a dull color, while black and white are dramatic extremes. In the world of eating, however, going for the gray can give you an array of choices. Give up the notion that you must eat in an all-or-nothing fashion. Allow yourself to eat the foods that were always restricted, while checking your thoughts to be sure that they support your choices.

Self-Awareness: The Ultimate Weapon Against the Food Police. The next time you see yourself eating in a way that feels unsatisfying or out of control, give yourself the gift of remembering what you were thinking before you even took the first bite of food. Examine that thought and challenge it. As you get more proficient at the Intuitive Eating process, you’ll be able to catch these thoughts before they make you feel bad or cause undesirable behavior.

Become self-aware. Listen for the different voices that can either serve as your support or saboteur. Discard the layers of negative voices and create an opportunity to form a healthy relationship with food.

For more information about Intuitive Eating and ending the dieting cycle, contact me to set up an appointment!

Read more at: http://intuitiveeatingcommunity.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fat is Back | Washington DC Dietitian

Fat, like other food groups, has gotten a bad name. But just like carbohydrates and protein are essential to your diet, fats are too!

When nutrition first started getting popular, people were convinced that the cure to good health was cutting the fat out. Sure, fat should be eaten in moderation, but cutting it out completely is not the answer.

What resulted from this "no-fat craze" was turning all of our regular food into low fat or non-fat chemical bombs. Foods that used to have fat were stripped of it and instead replaced with sugar and chemicals to make the item more flavorful. When things don't have flavor or fat to keep us feeling full, we are left unsatisfied and craving more, which leads to more eating. Have you ever tried a 100 calorie pack and ended up eating 5 because you were still hungry and craving more? I know you've been there...

It can be hard to switch what years of "training" has taught us. Growing up we have learned that fat is bad and to reduce it as much as possible. The truth is that fat is good for you as long as you choose the right types and eat it in moderation.

  • Eat more good fats. Mono & polyunsaturated fats come mostly from plant products and are beneficial to our health. Sources include avocado, olive oil, canola oil, seeds, nuts, nut butters and more.
  • Eat Omega 3's. Omega-3's are another source of healthy fat that aids in reducing inflammation and improving brain function. You will find this healthy fat in fish, flax seed & walnuts.
  • Limit intake of bad fats. Try to avoid trans and saturated fats, which can affect your heart. You will find these fats in fried foods, baked goods, and high fat meat and dairy products.

Be aware of portion sizes: the recommended amount of fat per serving is about 2 tbsp, which is around the size of a golf ball.

When looking at the plate method we see room for carbohydrates, protein, fruits, vegetables & dairy. This doesn't mean that fat should be excluded. Fat is necessary at each meal as part of a balanced diet. Here's a few ways to add it in.

  • Top salads and sandwiches with avocado
  • Use olive or canola oil when cooking
  • Add olives to salad
  • Have nuts paired with fruit for a snack
  • Add a small amount of peanut butter to your oatmeal
  • Add chia or flax seeds to yogurt, oatmeal and smoothies
  • Try to eat fish 2-3x per week or take Omega 3 supplements

Fat is important for our body to function normally and also helps us feel full and satisfied. Without it we are more likely to overeat and be less satisfied with our meals. Research is coming out touting the health benefits of full fat dairy so stay tuned for the final verdict!

 

All You Need is Yoga | Washington DC Dietitian

This post is for the hard core yogis, the sporadic attendees and the yoga-curious.

When yoga first became popular I wondered about the benefits. Research showed that it was great for flexibility, improved mood, strength and overall well-being, but many questioned whether this one practice was enough for your overall health. Did yoga provide the same benefits as an exercise routine that included aerobic activity and strength training? For a while, professionals said no. That the best way to incorporate yoga was part of a routine that included aerobics and strength training. But recent research is starting to prove otherwise.

Yoga Teacher John Schumacher did his own digging on this subject. Based in Washington, DC he owns Unity Woods Yoga and has been practicing solely yoga for over 30 years. To find out whether yoga was enough, he checked in with his doctors and at age 52 he is completely healthy and in top health compared to people in his age range. Since then many Universities have done research to find out whether yoga provides a good enough workout for overall health. Similar beneficial results have been found.  Yoga has been found to build strength, provide cardiovascular benefits, improve lung function, improve flexibility and improve your overall body composition.

                                                                                                             

Research about Yoga is still small but is starting to build. From a researcher's perspective the studies might not include enough people or be done over a long enough span of time. But we are seeing benefits in the participants nonetheless. If yoga is your go-to form of exercise or you are looking to increase it, it may be all you need. Practicing intense yoga for 1 hour several times per week can help improve your overall health. If you are only doing about 15-20 minutes of light yoga 3-4x per week, you will want to incorporate other exercise into your routine as well. This is especially true for beginners when you aren't as involved in the practice but are working up to it.

If yoga is all you do, then it might be all you need. If you dabble in yoga then combine it with a mix of cardio and strength training for optimal results. Namaste!

 

How to Increase your Metabolism | Washington DC Dietitian

The burning question that everyone wants to know is "What can I do to increase my metabolism?".  I'm sorry to break the news but magic pills and super foods won't do the trick. Green tea, caffeine and spicy foods are quick fixes with negligible effects. The long-term approach to increasing your metabolism goes back to the basics: eating well and exercising often.

Blame is often put on a few things when it comes to metabolism and weight loss. They include the following:

  • "I have a slow metabolism": It's true that some people have a faster metabolism than others but this doesn't mean that weight loss isn't possible. At a previous job we offered metabolic testing and I rarely saw a metabolism that was considered to be too slow. Some results were slower than others, but often it would be a smaller woman since they may require fewer calories. In general though patients had average metabolisms that allowed for weight loss! Often times we may think we have a slow metabolism even if we really don't.
  • "I have bad genes": Genes can play a role in our health, but keep in mind that they are a smaller factor in your weight than your lifestyle. Eating well and exercising can rule out bad genes.
  • "I'm getting older so my metabolism is slower": Yes, as we age our metabolism decreases, but the decrease is slight and age is usually not the main reason for weight gain. The bigger factor that correlates with weight gain is a decrease in exercise and activity.

No matter what your genes are, what your past has been or how old or young you are, it is possible to increase your metabolism. Here's how.

  • Strength train: Muscle mass increases your metabolism which helps you burn more calories throughout the day. Make sure to incorporate strength training at least 1-2x per week for the best benefit.
  • Eat Breakfast: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it jump starts your metabolism to make it work efficiently throughout the day. Eat within an hour of waking up to reduce the risk of slowing your metabolism.
  • Eat frequently throughout the day: Eating food actually increases your metabolism, so make sure to eat small meals throughout the day to keep it going strong. Aim for 3 meals and 2 snacks per day for the best balance. Eat healthy foods and proper portion sizes to avoid weight gain. Refer to my post on eating balanced meals for healthy options.

If you begin a healthy weight loss plan, are following these tips and are still not losing weight it may be helpful to check with your physician. Often times if weight gain is occurring while following a healthy lifestyle it could be because of your thyroid. A simple blood test can be done to check for hypothyroidism.

Get your metabolism in gear by eating often and building muscle mass. Weight loss may require changing your habits, but soon enough they will become part of your normal routine.

A Balancing Act | Washington DC Dietitian

There are many misconceptions about weight loss out there, mainly those that revolve around cutting out food groups and restricting food intake to reach your goals. But what if I told you that eating more instead of less could help with weight loss?

Many patients come in telling me about their typical meal plans. They skip breakfast, don't snack and eat a large lunch and dinner as their normal eating pattern. This, my friends, is also known as the Sumo Wrestler's diet. In order for sumo wrestlers to gain and maintain their weight (400-600 pounds), they skip breakfast, don't snack and eat an extra-large lunch and dinner. When we skip meals and snacks, our metabolism slows and we overeat later in the day, both which lead to weight gain. 

Therefore it is important to eat small amounts, frequently throughout the day. This helps your metabolism and keeps you satisfied to prevent overeating at meals. Try to aim for 3 meals and 2 snacks per day, eating about every 3 hours. Not only does this keep your metabolism going, but it also keeps blood sugars stable to help prevent fatigue, headaches and cravings throughout the day.

Another important goal is to make sure that every meal and snack is a balance of carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates give you energy while protein and fat keep you feeling full and satisfied to hold you over in between meals. If you eat only carbohydrates your blood sugar goes up, but if you pair it with protein it stays more stable. Aim for 3+ grams of protein per snack to keep you feeling satisfied. Eating only vegetables as snacks or eating "air foods" such as rice cakes will only leave you wanting more.

The point is to make everything that you eat count and be nutrient dense. Eating a balance at each meal and snack helps you stay satisfied, reduces cravings, increases energy, and prevents overeating later in the day.  Below are some examples to help clarify.

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal made with skim milk topped with fruit and a small serving of nuts.
  • 2 Eggs with vegetables and a sprinkle of cheese, slice of whole grain toast on the side.
  • Whole grain cereal with skim milk
  • Smoothie made with frozen fruit, skim milk, low-fat yogurt and flaxseed

Lunch and Dinner

  • Salad with vegetables, beans and low-fat dressing
  • Soup with vegetables and beans or lean meat
  • Turkey sandwich with vegetables, mustard on whole grain bread
  • Lean meat or meat substitute, vegetable and starch

Snacks

Aim for around 150-180 calories and 3+ grams of protein per snack to keep you satisfied between meals. Balanced options include:

  • Fruit and nuts
  • Fruit and low-fat cheese or low-fat cottage cheese
  • Low fat cheese and crackers
  • Low fat yogurt (yogurt is a carbohydrate and there is protein in it)
  • Granola bars such as Kashi Chewy Bars or Snackwell's Cereal Bars (both include 5-8g of protein)
  • Sliced turkey and bread

Eat frequently and keep a balance of nutrients for overall health and satisfaction throughout the day.