The Obamas Don’t Diet and Neither Should You “It’s a Lifestyle”

My heart is full at this very moment. It’s not often that positive messages about healthy living get out there. It’s RARE that the word “DIET” is out there in a negative or neutral context. But that’s exactly what happens in this video with Sam Kass, White House Chef when he said “we don’t diet – it’s a lifestyle”. THANK YOU! It is so important for the public to hear dieting in a negative context.

People equate healthy living to dieting. That is not the case. Changing your behaviors to eat more nutritious may feel like “dieting” because it is so new, but when you eat healthy, nourishing foods your body will naturally lose weight if you need to. People also equate “not dieting” to eating without any boundaries, inhibitions, or structure. Also not the case. Intuitive eating guides you to balance out what your body needs (nourishment) and wants (cravings and appetite)

Dieting is deprivation and a complete waste of time. If you need motivation for swapping a diet-mind for a self-care mind focused on your own health (not size) check out the “me” movement. However, we have a long way to go… check out some of the post comments in the Yahoo blog. People ripped apart the use of dried fruit. Hello, FOOD POLICE. Thankfully others in the comments sorted it out. It is so clear that most of us are still very diet-minded. It’s another reason we have to ditch diets!

Yahoo video: A favorite Michelle Obama snack: Exclusive access into White House kitchen

Fruit, Nut and Oatmeal Bars

originally posted at Yahoo.


6 tablespoons grapeseed oil, or other neutral oil, plus extra for brushing pan
2 cups rolled oats
½ cup mixed seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame
½ cup honey
½ cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups mixed dried fruit, such as raisins, cherries, apricots, papaya, pineapple and cranberries (at least 3 kinds, cut into small pieces if large)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon
2 tablespoons of butter

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, letting a few inches hangs over side of pan. Brush with oil
2. Spread oats and seeds on another baking pan and toast in oven just until golden and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes, shaking pan once.
3. In a saucepan, combine oil, butter, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup and salt. Stir over medium heat until smooth and hot. In a mixing bowl, toss together toasted oats and seeds, dried fruit and cardamom. Pour hot sugar mixture over and stir until well combined.
4. While mixture is warm, transfer to prepared pan, pressing into pan evenly with an offset spatula.
5. Bake until brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack and let cool completely. Using the overhanging foil or paper, lift out of pan and place on a work surface Cut into bars, about 1 ½ inches by 3 inches.

Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat

Is it possible to eat what you want without gaining weight? Many people, especially those who are chronic dieters are afraid this is not possible. Breaking away from the rigid set of dieting rules feels scary, and dieters are comfortable with the “restrictive” state diets teach. How can we learn to reshape our relationship with food, and respect our hunger?

Michelle May, MD is the  author of “Eat what you love, love what you eat: How to break your eat-repent-repeat cycle.” Her website Am I Hungry? describes many of her eating philosophies. In her own words:

“Most diets are restrictive and unsustainable, leaving the dieter feeling guilty and disappointed. My goal is to help people recognize and cope with their triggers for overeating, rediscover joy in physical activity, and effectively nourish their body, mind, heart and spirit.

Video Brochure: Watch excerpts of Michelle's powerful message Imagine how your participants, members or employees will benefit from a presentation like this!

After reading her article on the blog “Dieting and You” entitled Paint-by-Numbers or a Masterpiece, I decided to reach out to her for an interview. Michelle was kind enough to take the time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions. Eloquently and kindly she spoke about how we can turn our relationship with food around and answer the question “What are you hungry for?”

Q: You don’t advocate “Dieting,” So tell us, Why don’t diets work?

A: They do work-temporarily. But they fail to address the root cause, and for many people, result in feelings of deprivation. This causes them to crave food more, and feel more out of control when they are around food. Restriction drives overeating. People think they don’t have enough willpower. Restriction also leads to obsession which is bad. Our body is wise, but people are skeptical because we are so diet-focused as a society. we think that we need to diet chronically to maintain are weight. But, we are all born with the instinctive ability to eat what our body needs. Instinctive eaters eat what they love, when they’re hungry, stop when they’re full and don’t worry about food in the between times.

Q: It can be very difficult and scary for chronic dieters to look at this approach to eating. They believe being intuitive is impossible and they will never know when they are really hungry and full. How do we separate cravings/hunger for love etc. from real biological hunger

A: This is a deceptively simple step. Ask yourself the question “Am I hungry?” Before you eat. Before starting to eat, focus on what’s going on inside. Do a Mind-body scan for the physical sign/symptoms (such as a drop in blood sugar) and also notice emotions/feelings. If your not sure you’re hungry, you’re probably not. If you decide to eat even if you are not physically hungry, notice this, and try to gain insight on why you want to eat. This question, “Am I hungry” must not become a rule to abide to, instead look at it as a way to pause, and reflect, being more mindful of your eating habits.

Q: So if we learn to appreciate and respect our hunger we can end yo-yo dieting and the eat-repent-repeat cycle?

A: Instead of a yo-yo I like to think of this as a Pendulum between excess and restriction.  Find the flexible arc in the middle of the pendulum where you still have freedom. We need to get away from this hopeless pursuit of trying to be perfect. Accept where you are. Everyone overeats, undereats, over exercises, underexerises sometimes. Its just important that we find a Balance.

Q: How can we move away from the “perfect” “skinny” mindset and learn to appreciate ourselves and our bodies, our health?
A: For too long now, we’ve tried to measure things by physical attributes-health is just a trophy that everyone seeks.
We need a balance of body, mind, health and spirit.  Health is  more than a number on a scale. Numbers like BMI, blood pressure, are easy to get obsessed with, and we need to take a step back and look at the whole picture of health.

Q: How can we fit fitness into this pictures without it becoming obsessive?

A: Often we look at exercise as punishment for eating or we need to exercise to earn the right to eat, which creates a very negative relationship with exercise. It turns into a penance for eating a “bad” food, and often you feel guilty if it is missed. This becomes an obsessive behavior which strips all of the joy from exercise. I think we need to not discuss exercise at the same time as weight loss. Exercise is good for everyone! Not just for those people that need to lose weight. It is also important to pay attention to the positive aspects of exercise, and find something you love doing.

Q: How do we create an atmosphere where food is not viewed as an enemy but can be savored and enjoyed without going overboard?

A: We need to put food back into perspective. When you are eating, EAT. Eat with abandon and joy, not to pay penance or seek to be virtuous. When you are not eating, let it go. Don’t think about it. Enjoy what you are doing at the time. Approach life fully engaged in the present moment. Mindfulness is not only a form of eating, but also a life skill.

Thank you Michelle for your wonderful insight and tips! Check out her website Am I hungry?, read her new book “Eat what you love, love what you eat” and follow her on twitter @eatwhatyoulove

Healthy Living Summit 2010

This weekend marks the start of the Healthy Living Summit (#HLS on Twitter), taking place in Chicago this year. For those not familiar, HLS is a gathering of healthy lifestyle bloggers who come to share their knowledge on their respective topics.

Rebecca will be one of the amazing speakers, focusing on nutrition for casual exercisers and athletes in her presentation with fellow RD Heather “Fueling for Fitness: : Perform Well and Recover Quickly from Your Workouts – Body”. They will cover new sports nutrition products, super new research on metabolic efficiency training, as well as disordered eating and eating disorders (especially how we can avoid contributing to them!). Just some of the topics you won’t want to miss!

This year’s keynote speaker is  Christine Palumbo RD who will be presenting “Eating Well for Feeling Fabulous”  where she will talk about the latest health trends and their impact on the food industry as well as health policies like Let’s Move. Another great speaker is Anne P from who will cover everything you want to know about the blogging community in a panel discussion. There are many more great presentations whose topics include ethical cooking, healthy entertaining, and more. If you want to find out more about HLS and the schedule, check out the website.

USDA and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree Want Healthier School Lunches

By: Carlene Helble-Elite Nutrition Intern

Even if you can’t remember the last time you ate in a school cafeteria or what you had, you’ve probably heard a heaping portion about what’s going on with the Child Nutrition Act.  USDA Under Secretary Concannon and Congresswoman Chellie Pingee met recently to discuss what needs to change.

The Child Nutrition Act is comprised of the national School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Summer Food Service Programs which works to provide around 32 million children with a meal each day. Schools enrolled in the programs must meet certain nutritional requirements, such as meeting 1/3 of the RDIs for certain nutrients while staying under less than 30% of calories from fat, for the meals served in order to be reimbursed by the state and federal governments. But when a french-fry is considered a vegetable, how much nutrition are our kids really getting? While it is of the utmost importance to give children calories whose families may not be able to afford other meals during the day, are we not setting them up for some major nutrition related health battles later in life? USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon says “The time is now to pass a bill that will strengthen our child nutrition programs, make them more accessible, and improve the quality of our school meals so that they meet the highest nutrition standards.”

The goal of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill will aim to fight hunger, but also obesity while improving the nutrition of children. And while many school systems agree that what they serve is nutritionally lacking, each school lunch line has to be run like a business. The school systems are self-supporting, and to make money, they are forced to serve things that will sell, and those ‘things’ like pizza with a roll and fries, are the problem. As much as the schools want to buy local produce or healthier whole grain options, money is an issue. First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign will set its sights on improving the Child Nutrition Act to help change funding legislation. Within this coming year, the USDA and Congress will work to make this happen. The Food pyramid will be updated, and more grocery and healthy food retailers will be brought to underserved areas. In the passage of the reauthorization legislation, as well as the $1 billion annual increase that the Obama administration requested, this can be a reality.

Concannon outlined USDA’s priorities for the Child Nutrition Act which include:

Improve nutrition standards

Increase access to meal programs.

Increase education about healthy eating

Establish standards for competitive foods sold in schools.

Serve more healthy food.

Increase physical activity.

Train people who prepare school meals.

Provide schools with better equipment

Enhance food safety.

Strengthen the link between local farmers and school cafeterias.

Now we’re talking. Let’s Move! And make these changes  a reality in our schools!

Nutritious School Lunch Solutions Connect Kids to Their Plates

Childhood obesity has been a hot button topic years in the making. From the First Lady’s interest in the issue, to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution show, America is well aware of how school lunches and nutrition are affecting our youth.

A new documentary series, ‘Food Forward’, which focuses on the ever-changing food system and its effect on different populations, recently visited Pacific Elementary School  near San Jose, California to film their school lunch production. Every day, the fifth and sixth grade students make 100 meals from scratch with the help of staff. That’s right, the kids are involved in the cooking! (What a novel idea… home ec, anyone?)

The program started when Stephanie Raugust, the current manager of Food Lab, wanted to change the way students were eating. With her hands on approach, students use math to change recipe scale, learn portioning for serving, and focus on nutrition when composing a meal.  Raugust and her students make dishes such as oat scones and chicken with tzatziki lemon sauce, impressive by any standards. While Food Lab is currently only a small-scale operation, many hope to find a way to help expand this learning experience to larger school systems.

While Food Lab may seem like the perfect solution to our chronic chicken nugget and French fries school lunch menu, feasibility defines the problem: How to make a nutritious lunch program flourish on a large scale with low cost. Other small programs focusing on wholesome foods have sprung up across the country, including Edible Schoolyard with chef Alice Waters. It is apparent that there is a need and a want for such programs, and we can only hope a nation wide plan comes to exist in the near future.

To view the Food Forward trailer, visit