Sass is back! We welcome Laura Ligos back to the podcast! We discuss: pregnancy and post partum nutrition, wanting to lose weight but not wanting the diet culture that comes with it, the problem with MLMs, the 1200 calorie diet myth, post-pandemic uptic of diet culture, and a fast round Q&A!
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This is Joy & Claire Episode 83: Break Through Diet Culture BS with The Sassy Dietitian
Episode Date: July 15, 2021
Transcription Completed: August 3, 2021
Audio Length: 58:23 minutes
Joy: Hey guys, this is Joy.
Claire: [singsong voice] And this is Claire.
Joy: [singsong voice] And this is Joy and Claire. And Laura Ligos because we all know the Sassy Dietician. She’s back with us. We’ve known her for years. We met ages ago through the podcast through social media. We have a lot to talk about, so we’re not even going to waste any time. If you don’t know Laura Ligos, it’s Sassy Dietician… The Sassy Dietician on Instagram?
Joy: But your handle on Instagram?
Laura: Oh, yeah. @thesassydietician.
Joy: @thesassydietician. But you can Google “Sassy Dietician” and all things Laura Ligos, and work with her. We’ll put everything in the show notes as far as where to find her. She’s a registered dietician, and we just have a lot of things to talk about today. We’ve bottled up everything from the pandemic. You just had a baby. We have a lot of diet culture to unpack here. Let’s start. Let’s start with the topic of pregnancy and postpartum because that is the closest to what you’ve dealt with personally. But what are people writing in about the most? What do you hear the most about with pregnancy and postpartum?
Laura: The biggest theme that I have found with trying to conceive, pregnancy, miscarriage, postpartum across the board is everybody wants to know what they should and shouldn’t eat. I didn’t realize how rampant diet culture was within that season of life. Obviously, because I had never been through it. I think that’s my biggest takeaway from this all is so many people are so worried about what they should and shouldn’t eat, as if I eat one wrong thing everything’s going to go completely wrong. Claire and I have experienced miscarriage, and it was none of our doing. It was literally just that that process is a natural part of, unfortunately, the process. It was not a viable pregnancy. It sucks on so many levels, but it wasn’t because I ended up eating deli meat or I didn’t eat enough fruits and vegetables or I didn’t have the right supplements. For some people, yes, if you go into it with a poor diet and lifestyle and habits, drinking, drugs, anything like that – yes, that can have an effect. But I just find people are so, so worried about the minutiae. I just tell people, you have to take a step back. You have to try to enjoy the process and recognize that you’re not going to ruin everything just because you decided that you wanted to have an extra cupcake or you forgot your prenatal. I can’t tell you how many days I forgot my prenatal while pregnant. It’s not about being perfect. I don’t know if that’s social media that’s been playing on people. I don’t know if it’s because OB’s and midwives don’t have enough education on nutrition to help people understand. I don’t know where it’s coming from, but it’s really rampant. I just try to tell people, my first trimester, I literally survived via Lemonhead, Starburst, and mints. Sugar. I survived on sugar. I could not stomach food. Have you seen my child? He is healthy and fine and well and so am I. So that’s how I feel on that. I just feel like the fear mongering around the whole process has got to stop.
Claire: So let’s take a step back. How old is Connor?
Laura: Five months.
Claire: In March 2020, you had a miscarriage. You went on, obviously, to get pregnant again and have Connor full term and now have been navigating postpartum period. And you’re breast feeding and pumping, is that correct?
Laura: Mostly breast feeding. I only pump on days I have childcare.
Claire: And he is still exclusively breast fed? Okay.
Laura: Which is a whole other rabbit hole if we want to go down there.
Claire: Yes. Whole other giant rabbit hole. And I personally think that a lot of those questions come from people being in the middle of a process through the conceiving and pregnancy process wanting to control the one tiny thing that they can control, which is their diet. That process can be so incredibly hard when it doesn’t go the way you want it to go. If you are having fertility problems, if you have had miscarriages, there are likely reasons for that that you will never know. And I don’t mean that from a spiritual, capital “U” Universe way. I mean that from a biology standpoint. A lot of infertility is undiagnosable. A lot of miscarriages are undiagnosable. There’s not a switch that was flipped when you ate a cupcake. There is a biological thing going on. It’s just that a lot of times for a variety of reasons, many of those reasons rooted in the fact that the amount of research out there about women’s health is painfully lacking and is difficult to obtain because doing medical research on pregnant women in ethically impossible, that the little things that you feel like you can control are your supplements, are whatever foods you’re eating, are the foods that you eat preconception? Of course, there’s better and worse. But meth addicts that live under bridges get pregnant too, not to be flippant about it. Truly, that’s what I would always tell myself. If somebody who’s addicted to drugs can get pregnant, it’s not about whether or not I remember to take my desiccated beef liver organ capsule today. I wanted it to be about that because that was something I could control.
Laura: Yes. A lot of people when they get pregnant after a miscarriage, they’re like, “What can I do?” The biggest thing you can do is to just let go. Stop Googling things. Stop doom scrolling on Instagram, and just let go. That’s the healthiest thing I could do is stop controlling things. Because you can’t. Like you said, there are just some things in biology that they happen for a reason. And I don’t like that phrase, “everything happens for a reason.” I hate that, but there are reasons within science and within our body and anatomy and biology. Things happen because they’re not supposed to happen.
Joy: So you get a lot of fear-based questions, which is understandable. People just wanting to do the best that they can. So swinging into the middle of the things that they can do without taking it to the extreme, what do you suggest? Supplements… the basics that people can do.
Laura: I would say, if you can, start before you’re trying to conceive. There’s already so much stress and things out of your control. Especially in the first trimester, you’re just surviving. If you think that you want to get pregnant within the next six months to five years even, start putting things into place now. Because if you think about it, your body is a reservoir of nutrients. If we go in in a draught, then it becomes more important to do more work with nutrition while pregnant. Whereas if we’re going in filled to the brim, then we have way more wiggle room. It’s the last thing we have to stress about when you already have to stress about getting bloodwork done. Making sure you’re able to sleep and hydrate enough or stay hydrated if you’re throwing up all the time. I think that is the biggest takeaway. If you can, focus on balanced meals, building a healthy relationship with food, making sure you’re staying hydrated. If you’re taking supplements, learn how to be consistent with them. Move your body. All of that beforehand. Now, if you’re the person who’s like, crap I’m already here. Don’t think that, oh my God, I ruined everything. I’m just telling you that if you can, do it beforehand. If you can’t, if you’re already there, then the best thing you can do is, one, stay hydrated. Two, lean into the sleep, lean into the relaxation. Because you’re going to be exhausted. There’s a reason for that. And three, eat balanced meals. Literally just try to have a protein, a carb, and a fat. They don’t have to be perfect. It can be a freezer meal for all I care. But get balanced meals because that’s what is going to be what fills you up and helps you get to the next day. It doesn’t have to be rocket science in order to feel good and to fuel yourself.
Claire: Going through pregnancy and worrying about weight gain is something that most pregnant women deal with at some point, especially people who have been very entrenched in fitness and very entrenched in diet culture. Even your OB will tell you, here’s the weight gain curve you should follow. I remember yelling at my midwife when I was pregnant with Miles when I had my gestational diabetes test and she was like, “All your blood levels are totally normal. But I just want to make sure we’re keeping an eye on your weight gain.” And I literally looked at her like, you just told me all my levels are totally normal. Come back to me and talk to me about my weight gain if my levels start to get out of control. But I’m me, and very few people would actually talk back to their midwives like that. Instead they would leave thinking, oh my gosh, I better go eat some low fat yogurt and walk 10,000 more streps. So how did you deal with that mind game throughout pregnancy and the early phases of postpartum.
Laura: I would say for me, postpartum was way harder than pregnancy. Pregnancy to me, biologically it just made sense. I am gaining weight because I am growing a human. Never once did I question it. I also think that I have thin privilege. I don’t have people looking at me and questioning my weight. If I gained weight, it’s because I needed to. That’s where the problem is within healthcare is that they look at somebody and just assume they’re healthy or not healthy based on their weight. Whereas I should not be treated any differently than someone whose BMI is higher than mine. We should both be treated the same. Fortunately and unfortunately, I had a good experience because it was never brought up to me that I should be worried about it. I gained, I want to say, 35 lbs. from beginning to end. Granted, I also went to 41+ weeks. But that didn’t scare me. If I had gained 45 lbs., it wouldn’t have scared me. I forget what the stat is, but the stat is something outrageous like 70+% of women gain more than the recommended amount. To me, that says that the ranges are wrong. That means that that’s just not right. There are people who gain way more and there’s people who gain way less, and they still have the healthy outcome that is their child. I think that we need to put less emphasis on it. My practice that I was at, I think the nurses did an amazing job. I don’t know if they were like that with everybody, but I would get on the scale, they wouldn’t say my weight, and they wouldn’t make commentary. I had a friend tell me, she’s very petite, and it depended on which nurse she got. One would be like, “Oh, great. You only gained a pound.” Or one would be like, “Huh,” would just make that comment. She would just call me and be like, “Am I okay?” Yes, you’re fine. But that commentary really messes with people. Because now they’re like, “What did that mean?” I think one thing I never truly understood is how much anxiety and how nervous you are being pregnant because you know there’s so much that could go wrong. The miracle of life is that everything has to go right for it to go right. Long story short, I don’t think I had much worry about that because to me it just made logical sense. I’m gaining weight because I’m growing a human. If that means I gain more weight than they say, then so be it. And that’s how I try to explain it to any client too. It’s going to be hard because the number might feel really uncomfortable. But you’re growing a human, and that takes a lot of extra energy to do. Fat isn’t a bad thing on our body. Fat on our body means that we have fuel stored for when we need it. So that’s how I feel about pregnancy. Postpartum is really I think what messed with me. Not so much – I didn’t step on a scale until my 6-week appointment because I don’t believe that the scale is very helpful to me personally. I find that it just messes with me because pre-pregnancy I weighed more now than I previously did and I was the fittest I had ever been. So I recognized early on, my weight does not dictate my health. But I would say what was hard for me body image wise postpartum was, one, my stomach was like a bowl of Jell-O. And I don’t mean that in the way it looks. I mean that in the way it felt. You can’t engage anything. This is coming from a background of athletics. I was almost defined by my ability to perform fitness activities. It was to the point where if I was laying on my couch, I couldn’t sit up. I had to roll to get up. And that to me was the hardest part was I felt very disconnected from my body. I felt like I had no idea who I was. I was out of body, but I was trapped in it, if that makes any. sense. So that’s what I struggled most with is just relearning how my body feels and trying to respect the heck out of it because I know all it did for me. That doesn’t mean I was perfect. I still struggle with it some days when I really wish that I could do two pull-ups instead of just one. I wish that I could go for a run just because I want to go for a run, which doesn’t happen often but does. For me, it’s not necessarily body image in the sense that I’m worried about weight. It’s more that I don’t recognize this body as it is right now.
Claire: I think that’s such a good point because during pregnancy, it’s a very slow process. Even though there are days along the way when you wake up and think, “Woah, what happened last night?” Overall, when you’re pregnant, it feels like you’re pregnant for a hundred years. And then with postpartum, you give birth and literally within minutes your entire body is wildly different in a way that I don’t think there’s any other experience outside of a super traumatic injury where a really horrific thing would happen to your body where something like that happens where all of the sudden within minutes the way your body feels, the way it works, the way it acts, the switch just flips and it changes. So I can really relate to that. I think it’s interesting. I think we’re talking about it more and more, but up until the last few years very few people ever talked about that postpartum period where it wasn’t like you give birth and now all of the sudden you’re back to the way you were. Your body will never be back to the way it was. I was thinking about that today while I was taking a shower. Evie’s two and a half, and I will never have the body that I used to have. And not even just the weight. Even if I weighed the same, the way that my weight is distributed will be different. My hips will never be the same. Obviously my boobs will never be the same. But more so than just the obvious things, the skin on my stomach – but the alignment of my hips feels like it’s changed forever. These little things. The distribution of fat on my body feels like it’s forever changed. It is really hard to accept and embrace that this is the body you’ve always had because it is so sudden. And then on top of that, you’ve just gone through a really difficult physical experience, potentially truly traumatic experience for some people. Now you have this baby who is hopefully healthy but might not be. I think that’s one thing that I’ve really learned from friends of mine who have had babies who have not been healthy. Everyone just says, “You got a healthy baby out of it.” Well, what if you didn’t get a “healthy baby” out of it? What if you went home without a baby because your baby was in the NICU? Or what if your baby has a disability or cerebral palsy or whatever? It’s also not just about, oh, well as long as your baby’s healthy. Because what if your baby’s not healthy? That doesn’t necessarily reflect on anything that you did or didn’t do either. And there’s so much wrapped up in that, well as long as you’re healthy. I think that regardless of whether you are healthy or your baby is healthy, there is still this profound transformation that is just so abrupt. I also wanted to comment on the pregnancy weight gain thing and just say, for anyone listening who’s going through this. When I was pregnant with Miles, I worked out every day. I ate Paleo. I think I did a Whole 30 during my pregnancy, like a psycho. I did all the things, right? I gained 52 lbs. When I was pregnant with Evie, I threw up every day. All I could eat was cream cheese and crackers, apple cider donuts, and chicken soup until she was 2 weeks old, and I gained 52 lbs. There was nothing I could have done to have gained more weight or less weight. My body was going to gain the weight that it was going to gain to do what it needed to do.
Laura: Absolutely. And I just think that we talk about this outside of pregnancy. Weight is one metric of health. It’s not the metric of health. I think it’s okay to track. One of the biggest reasons to track it is for fluid retention. With fluid retention, that can mean things like blood pressure is too high or hydration is off. That makes total sense. So that’s why it needs to be tracked, but if we’re being so meticulous with it as we would be in normal life, it doesn’t pan out. You have two healthy babies, two different pregnancy experiences, and the same results. You are health and you are fine, obviously without diminishing the experience. You were fine with that weight gain. That weight gain was not unhealthy. But someone would look at it in a numbers way and be like, “That was an unhealthy pregnancy.” No, it wasn’t. Again, an absurd amount of people gain more weight than is recommended, which means that something is going on here. It means that the numbers are not something we need to be tied to. End of story.
Joy: You also take a lot of questions from people, and you work with people one-on-one. And the big question that’s been around – and thankfully isn’t the “get your body back” mentality anymore – I hope, that we’re trending away from that. Still people are going to ask you, “How do I lose weight postpartum?” What do you say and what do you guide people to do? Without it being this “get your body back” because people still ask that question.
Laura: They do. I get it from a different level now because I get wanting to feel more yourself in your body. again. I respect that on a whole new level. I also want to feel myself in my body again. And I don’t think I’m truly there yet. I think I’m still on that journey. But the whole trying to shrink back down and get smaller, that’s a narrative that we really need to do away with. And here’s the thing. Just like Claire was saying, you are forever postpartum at this point. You can’t go back. You can’t turn back. Your body is a completely new body. Not to mention, you just experienced 9+ months, maybe less, of being pregnant, and you expect it to go back to normal in 6 weeks. I think 6 weeks is people’s gold standard because that’s when you go back to see your OB and they’re like, “Yeah, you’re great. Go have fun.” [sarcastically] Okay. My 6-week self was not okay mentally or physically. If you are, I’m jealous. But that’s where we’re like, okay, you were pregnant for 9 months and now you want to get back in 6 weeks? Take a step back. Give yourself 9 months to even start getting your feet under you. Let alone, you’re not just taking care of you. You’re taking care of another being. So we need to take a step back and recognize we have unrealistic expectations of when our body is supposed to go back. And it’s never going to go back. So instead, we need to focus on, first and foremost, if you’re feeding your child, feed your child the best you possibly can. I do think having the discussion around breast feeding, I know it’s a sensitive subject. You feed your baby however you and your baby need to be fed. That is not judgement or shame. But if you are breast feeding in any capacity, whether that’s pumping, whether that’s exclusively nursing, combination, or you’re supplementing formula and breast feeding. Your body is still going through a hormonal shift. Your body is likely going to hold onto fat stores so that your body can produce enough milk for your child. So the thought that you are going to go back to your pre-pregnancy weight while still nursing and breastfeeding, pumping in some fashion, is just unrealistic. Yes, there are some people who do. That’s just how their bodies respond. But for most people, so sustain their supply, they’re going to hold onto weight. I think I’m at least 5 lbs., maybe 10 lbs. above my pre-pregnancy weight right now, and that’s literally the last thing on my mind. I choose to breastfeed, so I choose to also make sure I’m eating enough, which means that I’m probably going to sit a little bit higher than maybe would be “healthy” per whoever, the doctors that be. So that’s something to consider. And then the next thing to consider is, okay, if I do want to lose weight, I need to not jump on the next MLM diet. I need to not restrict everything. It’s a vulnerable population. That’s who ends up getting sucked into these MLMs because they feel like there’s no other option. The only option must be something extreme because what used to work doesn’t work anymore. And it doesn’t work anymore because you just went through an incredibly traumatic experience and your body has been through hell and back and stressed the heck out. You may or may not be sleeping. You may have to feed yourself with one hadn’t while shushing a baby and also doing ten other things around the house. We just need to be more realistic with our expectations. Obviously media and social media and diet culture don’t help any of this, but if you’re in that process give yourself time. Buy new clothes. Have fun with that. Get new clothes for your mom bod. We don’t ever shame dads for their dad bod. And you know why they get a dad bod? Because they also – I mean, they’re not as busy as moms. I’m just going to say that. – But they have more responsibility, so they probably have less time to be counting macros or meal prepping or going to the gym five or six days a week. That’s okay. That doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy. That just means you have a different, body, and that’s okay.
Claire: I also just want to chime in and say, I weight 20-25 lbs. more than I did before pregnancy, and I probably always will. For the rest of my life. Oh well. I have thrown away my pre-pregnancy low-rise jeans. Plus, low-rise jeans aren’t in anymore, so lucky me. I got to get rid of the skinnies. I just wish that more people would be like – after I had Miles, getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight was very important to me. After I had Evie, I was like I just don’t care. Where did that metric come from? Why am I holding myself to this number that existed at a time in my life where my life looked completely different than how it looks now. And not just, oh I went through pregnancy and I had this weight gain and I need to give myself grace. I’m not going to be able to lose it right away. But what if I just never lose it? What if I just have this weight now and it’s not a big deal? And I live myself in a slightly-larger pair of pants. I really, really relate. And I think a lot of the moms on here really, really relate to what you said on here, wanting to feel at home in my body again. And that for me required more work around letting go of obsessing over what I felt like in my body all the time. I forget where I read this recently. Was it an email we got? Or it might have been a social media post that maybe even you did. Someone recently was like, “I asked my husband if they love their body. And he looked at me and was like, ‘No, what a weird question.’” This concept of loving our bodies, why are we so obsessed with that? “Why are you so obsessed with me?” Maybe we need to let that go and be like, I don’t need to love my body every single second of the day. I exist in it. I appreciate the hell out of it. I respect it. But I don’t need to fawn over it all the time. Can’t it just be this super –
Joy: Let it do what it needs to do. And I think this brings up a good question, Laura, that segues into what everybody, not only postpartum, but can you want to lose weight without falling into diet culture? That’s another question that we got too. How do you answer that question?
Laura: Yes. I live in this grey area in the nutrition world, and it’s very hard to navigate. I’m the one that’s supposed to be ahead of it, but sometimes I’m struggling, paddling through it as well. But yes, you can want to lose weight. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve your body or change your body, as long as it comes from a healthy spot. If you’re wanting to lose weight because you’re trying to fit into this cultural norm or you’re trying to look like your favorite influencer, news flash, you’re never going to look like that person because you’re not that person. But it doesn’t mean if you’re truly coming from a spot of I want to lose weight because it’s something that’s going to help me. It’s going to improve my life. It’s going to be a healthy means of doing, then yes, by all means you can work on losing weight. The problem with weight loss is weight loss is not linear. People want it to be like, “I’m going to lose 2 lbs. a week for the next 6 weeks. And bam, there’s my 12 lb. weight loss.” It doesn’t work that way. For a lot of men, it will work that way. For a lot of females, it will not. So I think what ends up happening is women end up crash dieting because it’s like, “Oh my God, it’s not working. The basics that are supposed to the working are not working.” So now all of the sudden I do dive down the diet culture rabbit hole. I think that’s where the problem lies is we’re putting in the work, but it’s like – I think I’ve seen on social media too this line graph. And when you zoom in, it looks like you’re doing really bad. But then you zoom out and, oh, it was just a bad week or a bad month or whatever. We can look back and we are actually seeing improvements over the long haul, but when we’re looking from day to day or weighing ourselves day to day, we aren’t seeing change, so we assume we’re bad. We assume we’re a failure. And so we try to diet harder or restrict harder, whatever might be. And then what happens is we end up down regulating our metabolism, and now it’s harder to lose weight because we literally went from doing all the right stuff, giving ourself the foundation, and then all of the sudden we’re like, “Let’s go eat 800 calories a day because it’s the only way I can possibly lose weight.” That’s when it becomes unhealthy. But if you’re doing it from a healthy place. I tell most of my clients, “We are working on the foundations. I need you to have a healthy relationship with food before we can work on weight loss.” It’s okay that you want to lose weight, but it’s not okay if you’re going in it from a really negative place. If you’re doing it because you think you look terrible and you’re telling yourself you’re a terrible person because of it. There is no worth associated with your weight at all. So I think that you can. It’s just a matter of how. You’re going to need help to do it if you struggle with diet culture because you’re going to need someone holding your hand to make sure you don’t fall back down that rabbit hole.
Joy: Right. I was just going to ask you, as a dietician, how do you skate the world of diet culture and thinness is really horrible. How do we not feed into the fat phobia and loving all bodies at all sizes. That’s just what I struggle with when I see people wanting to lose weight where I’m like, why? Why do we want to lose weight? It doesn’t always have to be bad. It doesn’t have to be black or white. It’s just that people can have that goal for themselves, and it’s not our place to judge it. I think it’s just important that we’re looking at the cultural aspects of it too of why are we focused on – is it thinness? I don’t know what it is. But as a dietician, you’re teaching people to eat healthy or to eat well? What is your mindset when you’re going into that?
Laura: I feel where my strength is, is that I teach people how to fuel themselves without feeling like they need to diet. I was talking to some dietician friends today. I’m trying to help them undiet. I’m not telling them not to diet. I’m not telling you not to – if you feel better when you’re eating gluten free, great. If you feel better with eating vegetarian, great. There’s a way to do everything, but we need to do it from a place of “this feels good” and “I’m fueling myself,” as opposed to coming from a place of “I need to restrict to get smaller.” There’s a complete different. I also don’t need you to go the other way of being like, “Well the heck with it. I’m just going to eat anything and everything that’s not tied down.” We can find a happy medium. To do that, we work to build a better relationship with food. So with a lot of my clients, I’ll have them journal. Some of them will look at macros. Some of them are truly just looking around their rhetoric around meals and what are we saying when we eat. Are we saying that we’re good, are we saying that we’re bad? Instead, we should say, how do I feel? How does this make me feel? Am I hungry? Am I not hungry? Things like that. And then we also work on eating consistently. I find across the board, there’s this notion with females that we’re supposed to eat a small breakfast or not at all. And then we don’t understand why in the evening when the kids go to sleep, we literally eat everything that’s not bolted down. It’s because we’re hungry. And instead, we just sit there and we think, “I’m a terrible person because I have no control.” No, you don’t have control because you’re hungry. Your body’s screaming at you to feed it. We normally can take a step back, and I would say most of my clients come to me and they’re not eating breakfast. Or they’re eating 200 calories for breakfast, and they’re being “good” all day long until 8pm. And then they’re like, “I’m no longer good.” Well, first off, you’re not good or bad because of the way you ate. You’re good or bad because of the way you treat people, not the way you eat. So instead, we’ve refocused that and we say, why are you eating so much late at night? Because you’re not fueling yourself. So we work on that consistency as well. We are told that we’re not supposed to feed ourselves, and what happens when we don’t feed ourselves is that we end up binging at some other point. We end up making up for it. The 1200-calorie diet that is still rampant and I don’t understand, people are like, “Well, I don’t lose weight on it, so I have to eat less.” The reason you’re not losing weight is normally because you get hangry and you end up eating double and then some. 1200 calories is absurd. It is not enough fuel. There are dietician that recommend it, and I am not vouching for them. They are fighting their own battle. If they want to come at me – I don’t think they want to come at me.
Joy: Please come at you. But why do they do that? It’s the same thing with the – what is it, the new MLM thing that they’re marketing? Why is that the magic number? When did that happen?
Claire: Have you guys just heard Laura literally growl? I apologize.
Laura: So sorry.
Claire: Honestly, we ask for questions from our listeners on this episode. And ten people, they’re response was, “Just please rant.”
Joy: Just let her talk, yeah.
Laura: Ugh, yeah. Sometimes I’m like, do you guys really want that? How I am on social media is me. My God.
Joy: Yeah, it’s the best.
Laura: What you see is what you get. I don’t know why 1200 calories is the magic number, but apparently it’s going down. Not up, it’s going down. So if you want me to go down this OPTAVIA rabbit hole.
Joy: Yeah, what is it? And I think it’s important what you said earlier about how they kind of prey on postpartum women because they’re like, “Look, you can just make it easy for yourself. You have a baby to take care of. Just take these meals.”
Claire: I think postpartum is obviously a huge vulnerable population, but right now we’re seeing diet culture just the flames being fanned because of the “post-pandemic weight gain.” Your quarantine 15. Everybody is saying, oh we’ve all gained weight over the past year because we were all inside eating comfort snacks and fail to mention that we all just went through a massive collective trauma. Maybe gaining weight was a super totally fine way to cope with it. And you don’t need to just turn around and start eating a bunch of mass packaged meals as your penance.
Laura: Yeah, I would agree. I was thinking that when we were talking about accepting your body at a different weight or a different size. These seasons of life, everybody goes through them. Some people go through bigger seasons than others. It doesn’t have to be postpartum. Copy and paste this on when you have a different season of your life, like a new job or moving across country, moving across the world, whatever it might be. But yes, I feel like it’s prey upon the vulnerable, and it’s so sad to see. I was ranting this morning on Instagram about OPTAVIA and the amount of people who reached out to me of, “I did this” or “so-and-so did this” and it was because of x, y, and z, and a lot was because of the pandemic. We are seeing this uptick of diet culture because everyone’s freaking out. We’re going back out to eat at restaurants. We’re going back to work. We’re going to be more visible. We have to put clothes back on now. Now all of the sudden we expect our bodies to shed all these pounds, so we must do something extreme. As opposed to realizing it’s been 1.5 years of a very traumatic experience, and now we are coming out of it. Our bodies have been stressed. The last thing we need to do is stress it further by eating the meals that look so disgusting. They look like food models from the 1990’s. They don’t even look like real food. They look like what dietician used to use to teach people serving sizes, and they were fake, plastic food. So there’s that. Promoting supplements, promoting less-than-1200-calorie diets and whatnot. I don’t know if you want me to rant on that, or I don’t know where I was going with that to be completely honest.
Joy: Well I think it’s just the idea too that that is a fix. And fixing what, I guess? Why is that not an answer? Why should we not turn to those products?
Laura: Usually because you’re not getting an expert when you’re going towards these products. OPTAVIA somehow, I think it’s because they used to be Medifast is what I’m learning. Medifast is from years ago. It’s not prescribed. It’s recommended by doctors. So people put a lot of clout with their doctors. Oh, my doctor told me to do it, it must be what I need. So now all of the sudden, we’re going down this rabbit hole. They go to OPTAVIA. But OPTAVIA, you have a coach, and the coach is someone that is literally just selling you garbage. They have no idea how to actually coach you. They’re not qualified to coach you. They’re not qualified to tell you what to eat or what to supplement. They have no idea what to do if someone goes to them and is like, “I have a history of an eating disorder.” They’re going to be like, “Oh cool. Great. This is perfect for you. Chew three pieces of gum for your snack.” Okay. That person is going to end up in deep doodoo.
Claire: And that’s a real recommendation from the website. That’s not just an example you pull off the top of your head.
Laura: No. God, no. My head is not what it used to be. It’s hard to remember anything, but that is actually on the OPTAVIA website. Or you can have two dill pickles. That’s the scary part. Them, Herbal Life, and enter all MLM’s here, you don’t have to be a qualified expert to provide information and recommendations, and that’s really what’s scary. A lot of people are always like, “What about this MLM? What about this one?” I’m like, listen. I’m not a fan of MLM’s in general, but I’m less of a fan and more outraged by those that provide information on nutrition and supplements and are just the epitome of bad diet culture. Sure, if you want to sell your skincare, whatever. But you selling a supplement, that can do damage to somebody. Not only can it do damage to their organs, but it can also do damage to their relationship with food. And now this person no longer knows how to feed themself, and they end up gaining more weight than losing because they have no idea what the heck they’re doing.
Joy: And as a dietician, you’re looking at everything from your professional lens, and that includes doing no harm. So when you see people that get to take this advice and say things willy nilly, they don’t understand the impact that they’re having on people’s lives. I know that you post a lot about MLM’s in your stories and on social media. From an educational standpoint, what is the argument that you’re wrong from people that are in MLM’s. What do they say?
Laura: I was just sitting here and I’m like, “I’m not wrong.”
Joy: I know you’re not wrong, but what is the argument?
Laura: I do get clap backs. I’m sitting here, I’m like, “What? I’m not wrong, Joy.” Oh no, no, no, they think I’m very wrong. A lot of times, they’ll come at me and say, “But it worked for me.” Here’s the thing. I’m never going to discredit you if something worked for you. Because guess what, there are exceptions to every rule ever. So if something worked for you and you feel good and you feel confident in your body and you’re healthy for you, round of applause. I’m happy for you. I’m not going to sit here and tell you not to do it. What I’m going to tell you is that what works for you does not work for other people, and you pushing that upon someone because you’re trying to make a check is really not ethical. There is a lot of issues surrounding that. Like these Herbal Life shops, you have no idea who is walking in your door and who you’re trying to push a supplement upon. They’re probably very vulnerable. That’s why they’re there. I just think there’s a lot wrong with that. By all means, if you’re healthy, great. And then another argument is – because I think in my article, I say that a lot of them are not profitable. And the FDC shows that 99% of people who sell MLM products are not profitable. That is a big one. They always come back. “I’m profitable.”
Joy: Yeah. If anyone has any question about that, just listen to the podcast The Dream. Just listen to the podcast The Dream. Listen to that entire series, and you will learn a lot about it. We never want to be bashing someone’s success, so if you’ve had success with it, awesome. And not a lot of people have that story unfortunately.
Claire: MLM’s. But it’s also any sort of diet trend. You rant a lot about Noom. You rant a lot about any type of up-and-coming diet trend that makes you want to think, “Oh it’s different,” but really it’s just 1200 calories packaged in a different bow. Here we all are sort of always somehow defaulting to that. You hear these success stories. You read these testimonials. You see these before and afters. And I think all of us, no matter how much work we’ve done to unplug ourselves from diet culture, still have that serotonin hit when we see that. “That person must be so much happier now that they’re in their after photo. I want that.” It’s so hard to not react that way, even just for a split second. Even if you can talk yourself out of it. Even if you know that’s objectively unhealthy. Even if you know you’ve gone down that road before and it didn’t work. You still have that knee jerk reaction. How do you talk to people, and what advice do you give to people who really want to reclaim their thought process around diet culture but still feel like, “yeah, but I want that success, I want that after photo.”
Laura: For a lot of people who I work with, they’re in a season of their life where their responsibilities are not their own. Meaning that they have kids or pets or careers, multiple careers, houses, all these different responsibilities. I always ask, do you have all this time in the world to dedicate to your nutrition and to your fitness. A lot of times the answer is no. My response then is, then why do you think that this would be a good idea? Why are you comparing yourself to a 20-year-old who of course looks great. She has a lot more time on her plate. That’s her life. When I was 20, I was working out a lot more and could eat whatever I wanted because that was life. So that’s always something that I try to draw back of, what season of life are you in? What time do you have to actually dedicate to it, and then what can we prioritize for you so that that makes sense? We also talk about, who are you comparing yourself to? And if it’s people that are in your life, whether they’re close friends or family or social media people, unfollow them. Because it is unrealistic to think we are going to have the same before and after, and you have no idea what happened after the after. You have no clue. First off, you have no clue what happened between the before and after. People can fabricate anything these days. But you have no idea. Are they smiling because someone said, “Say cheese.” Or are they smiling because they are truly happy. You have no idea. So wouldn’t it be way better to find your own happy, to find your own rhythm with nutrition and fitness in the season of life that you’re in? Yes, it’s way more fulfilling. Yes, it’s not going to look at sexy as these before and after pictures. But life isn’t sexy. That’s just life. So I don’t know. It’s a lot of undoing. This is why I talk about these dietician. Shout out to them, love them. It’s a lot of undoing, a lot of uncomplicating things, a lot of unfollowing people.
Joy: A lot of unlearning. It’s so much unlearning.
Laura: All of it. Just knowing that, yes, you can want weight loss and you can work on your body and you can work on your nutrition. There’s nothing wrong with it. But why are you doing it? Are you doing it because you want to look like that person? Okay, but why is that person happy? Do you know if the person’s happy? Is it just because they reached a certain aesthetic or a certain number on the scale? And one question I always ask my clients is, do you look at a person and think of a number? No. You’re not looking at someone and being like, “You’re 150 lbs.” No. You’re looking at a person and you’re being like, “Oh, they’re funny” or “I like their hair” or “I like the way they make me feel” or “I love how good of a cook they are.” There’s a lot more that we think about a person in front of us than we ever think about their body. Because we’re normally thinking about our own body. When we go to the beach or the gym, we’re worried about what we look like.
Joy: Oh yeah, always.
Laura: Guess what? So is everybody else.
Joy: It’s the internal battle. For sure. And I think everybody can say that, yes, they know that, but it’s always that internal voice. You mention this a lot too, and I want you to talk briefly about it and then I’m going to do some lightening round questions because we’re running out of time, which I knew was going to happen. Who to work with if they do want to work with a dietician. And the reminder that just because it worked for someone on Instagram doesn’t mean that they can all of the sudden coach you how to do it because they don’t have the credentials. So what kind of credentials are they looking for if they do want to work with someone?
Laura: Obviously I’m biases. A dietician or a CNS is the gold standard, however there are not great dietician out there. Someone asked me this week. They’re like, “Can I just go to a dietician just to see if things are okay?” The answer is, yes. And I wish that more people did that. Most people go to the dentist once or twice a year for cleanings. You go to different professionals just to check in. You can do the same with a dietician. Obviously there aren’t tons of dietician who are not working in hospitals. Our private practice field is actually very small. It might feel large on social media, but it’s actually relatively small for the amount of people that are out there. So if you can’t find one, there are other options, but it depends on what you need. If you need help learning how to put food on the table, you could find a health coach. There’s tons of different certifications. My recommendation is to interview them. Ask them if you can set up a call with them. All clients who work with me can set up a 15-minute call with me. Not yet. Nobody call yet. I’m still trying to figure out this postpartum life. I always offer that free 15-minute call because I want to make sure that we even vibe as client and provider. It’s just like, Joy, you talk about therapists. It takes a while to figure that out, so you might need to do the same thing. I would also ask the person what their scope is, what they’re able to do for you. If they don’t know or they are unable to tell you or they’re like, “I can do it all,” that’s a red flag. Because chances are they have no idea.
Joy: And just explain really quick, scope would mean their expertise? Their level of expertise, their knowledge in a certain area. If you’re like, I want this specific subject.
Laura: And also, most nutritionists are not supposed to be prescribing diets. AKA, they shouldn’t be telling you to do paleo or do low salt diet. A dietician can do that, that’s part of our scope. Part of our scope is also so that we can work with disease states. So if you have something like diabetes and you go to a health coach or nutritionist and they’re telling you how to manage your blood sugars, that’s a red flag. They should refer you to a dietician because you have a disease state that is vulnerable to the changes within your nutrition. Pregnancy is actually one too. So your CrossFit who has never been pregnant, probably not going to be good to work with. Even if they have been pregnant, it’s still a medical, clinical state, and it’s a state that should be monitored by someone who knows the risks and benefits of working with nutrition. If you have that question of, there’s no dietician near me. I just want to know if what I’m doing makes sense, sure, a nutritionist or health coach might be the perfect fit because it’s easily accessible and they can just kind of give you advice. They should also be trying to refer you out. I refer clients out. If a client comes to me and says, “I have an eating disorder,” I refer them out because that’s not my scope. I could handle it under my license, but it’s not my practice. It can be confusing, but I would say if you ask them what their scope is and what they’re able to provide you, that should be a pretty clean indicator if they’re someone that you should even consider working with.
Joy: Got it, okay, awesome. So quick questions from the audience – and so many of these questions, I was like everyone just needs to read Intuitive Eating. Please just read all the Intuitive Eating books because there’s so many questions. This is a larger discussion, but let’s answer some simple ones for time’s sake. Let’s talk about the hydration multiplier. Yes or no?
Laura: Yes. Because of electrolytes, not because of the fact that it’s marketed as a hydration multiplier. Electrolytes help to draw water into the cell, and a lot of us are not efficient at doing that, especially when we’re sweating. Electrolytes are really valuable. They don’t have to be liquid IV. They can be Nuun, Gatorade, there’s a ton of different products in the market. So yes, if you’re a heavy sweater and you feel like you can’t get hydrated, then it’s a great option. It’s not to replace your water. It’s not to say, I can have one glass of water and then I’m done for the day. Still drink your eight glasses of water.
Joy: Okay. Speaking of water, does La Croix count as hydration?
Joy: It does?
Joy: Okay. I don’t know why I feel like fizzy water is bad. I don’t know where that comes from.
Laura: I get that question all the time. Do I want to see that as your only source of hydration? No.
Laura: But can it be a part of your hydration? Absolutely.
Claire: Okay, I have a quick one. This isn’t coming from our listeners, but just from my head.
Joy: Oh God.
Claire: [laughing] What do people get wrong about working with a dietician.
Laura: The biggest one is that they think we’re the food police. I sometimes have to tell clients, “I am not judging you. I am not here to judge anything that you eat or do at all. You’re not going to pass/fail my program.” So, I’m not judging, not shaming. And if someone is, whether it’s a dietician or health coach, you need to find somebody else because that is not our job. We are non-biased coaches. We should not have any bias as far as, “Oh, you had a candy bar…” No, are you kidding? We all do. I always tell all my clients literally day one. You have to be honest with me so that I can best help you. I’m never judging you. Instead, if you don’t tell me the truth, I can’t truly help you and that hurts both of us.
Joy: Dairy intolerance. Favorite non-dairy milk? Most seem to have a lot of crap in them.
Laura: I think it depends. Here I go ahead. It depends. Mostly it depends on why you’re using it. If it’s a splash of milk in your coffee, do what you like. So if you like the flavor of oat milk, have oat milk. If you like almond milk, have almond milk. But if you’re using it in a larger capacity, like if you’re having a bunch of smoothies and shakes and cereal and all that stuff, then it becomes important. There’s no best dairy alternative. I would say if you’re looking at one that’s more comparable to milk, I would say soy milk. And everyone’s like, “Ahh, soy.” But soy is not going to kill you. I would say that’s actually the most comparable. Rice I think is a close second. Rice does have its own issues with arsenic, so it depends on the quantity in which you are consuming it. And the rest, it’s really just like, why are you having it? If you’re having it because you want a glass of milk, then maybe we can find a better drink or a better snack. But I think that’s where it becomes tricky. I personally like the flavor of oat milk better. If you truly are worried about the additives, oat milk is one of the easiest milks to make yourself because it’s just oats and water and it takes no time at all. So that’s an option as well, if you’re concerned about that. I don’t love almond milk. I think it tastes like water.
Joy: I do too.
Laura: But there’s nothing wrong with it, per se, I just don’t like it.
Joy: Is the Oat Yeah brand okay from Silk? That’s what I drink, and I really like it.
Laura: I honestly haven’t seen it, but my guess is –
Joy: Here I go thinking you’re going to guilt me, like, “That’s what I like.” [laughing]
Laura: Yeah, look at you. You’re like [nervous sound].
Claire: What did we just talk about, Joy?
Joy: Don’t judge me. So funny,
Laura: I ate Starburst, Lemonheads, and mints in my first trimester. For three solid months, guys.
Joy: Yeah, no judgement. No judgement here.
Laura: I didn’t judge myself.
Joy: Nor should you. The is a judgement-free podcast. Some things. I’m just kidding. Except for MLM’s. I’m just kidding. Is there truth to the starvation mode theory where your body holds onto weight? 45 seconds.
Laura: I’m like, how long do you have? No. I mean, yes, in some sense. So if you’re not eating enough fuel, your metabolism – or your BMR, your basil metabolic rate of what you need to live and breathe and function – will downregulate. So if normally it’s 1400, it could go down to 1200. That is what you need baseline just to be alive. So it might down regulate, so that way your body can function on less food. However, what normally happens is that, like we said before, now you’ve down regulated. Maybe your body is around 1200 calories of just needing to be, and now eating 1400 calories when you were eating 1600 before is the same difference, if that makes sense? So you end up putting on weight because your body needs less fuel because you down regulated, but you’re actually over consuming, more than you were before. So what happens is we end up eating more than our body needs. It doesn’t mean that we should then say, “Well, I’ll just keep eating less.” Instead, we should work on improving our BMR again. To do that, a lot of times we have to – it’s called reverse dieting, whatever you want to call it. But a lot of times, we have to eat more food, put on some weight, get ourselves back to a better homeostasis, and then we can work on weight loss in the future. But no. If you think about it, if you were to track 1200 calories for a week, my guess is that by day four – if you’re really good, I guess. I hate using the word “good.” – Then, you’re going to binge. 1200 calories is not enough food. So what happens is everyone thinks I’m being “good,” 1200 through the week, and then my weekends are just I’m eating everything that’s not tied down, eating 3000 or 4000 calories. Now, you do out the math over the 7 days and you have not been at 1200 calories.
Joy: Yeah, that’s very Tim Ferriss circa 2007. You know when he wrote that book and he’s like, “Eat whatever you want on Saturdays” or whatever.
Laura: A lovely four-hour work week. Okay. Okay.
Joy: The reverse dieting thing made me think of – and I’m sorry, I’m opening a can of worms – but the body building community. And from your point as a dietician, is constantly doing that really, really screwing a body up?
Laura: I don’t know, would be my answer. I don’t know that we know. But I would think, yes, and I would also think that there’s a mental component with it. No matter how well one does that, I think that there’s a mental component that definitely would mess with you and would mess with your relationship with food and how you eat for the long-term. Not to mention, if you’re going down that body builder rabbit hole, I can’t imagine – I haven’t done it myself, so I don’t have experience – but I can’t imagine being that lean and worried that much about my aesthetic. It’s all about look. You’re getting judged for how you look, and you’re getting praised for how you look. A lot of people in that community talk about how they don’t feel good when they’re that lean. They acknowledge it. But now you look at how you look in the mirror a few weeks after, but you were praised on stage. What does that do to your psyche? I can only imagine. And I’ve never been through it, and so I think that would definitely have a huge impact on your mental health around food.
Joy: Yeah. Well you always do Q&A’s on your stories, so if you’re not already following @thesassydietician, please go follow her because you are always doing Q&A day. What day is it?
Laura: Wednesday. Every Wednesday, and then sprinkled in whenever I have a few moments.
Joy: Right, which is great. So if your question did not get answered today, you can always join her on stories and ask your questions there. Where else can people find you? Website?
Laura: Website. Instagram. Those are pretty much the only places I’m hanging out right now. And with my tiny child at home. Please don’t come to my home.
Claire: I want to end with a lightning round of This or That.
Laura: Oh, I love these.
Claire: Tacos or burritos.
Claire: Pancakes or waffles?
Claire: Donuts or bagels?
Claire: Smoothies or açai bowls?
Claire: Chips or pretzels?
Claire: Fries or tots?
Claire: Cake or pie?
Claire: Joy or Claire? Just kidding.
Laura: I was like [nervous intake]. I’m already sweating, geez.
Claire: Laura, thank you so much for coming on.
Laura: Thank you. You guys are the best.
Claire: And guys, you can find us @joyandclaire_ on Instagram, firstname.lastname@example.org. Our website is joyandclaire.com. Come and hang out with us. Find us every week. You can subscribe, leave a review, tell your friends about us. We really appreciate it, and we will talk to you next Thursday.
Joy: Bye guys.
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