Posts Tagged ‘disordered eating’

 Counting Your Macros: The Pros and Cons 

NOVA Sports Nutrition Counting Macros

The term “counting your macros” has become a popular buzzword. This approach to dieting involves tracking the intake of macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, and fats – to achieve specific health and fitness goals. While many swear by its effectiveness, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons to determine if this method is right for you. Let’s dive into the benefits and drawbacks of counting macros and how it can impact your fitness journey.

What Are Macros?

Before diving into the pros and cons, let’s briefly define what macronutrients, or “macros,” are:

Carbohydrate: The body’s primary source of energy. Found in foods like grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Proteins: Essential for building and repairing tissues. Found in meat, fish, dairy, beans, and legumes.

Fats: Crucial for hormone production, nutrient absorption, and protecting organs. Found in oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish.

Counting macros involves calculating the number of grams of each macronutrient you need to consume daily based on your goals, whether it’s weight loss, muscle gain, or maintenance.

 The Pros of Counting Macros

  1. Personalized Nutrition Tailored to Your Goals: Unlike one-size-fits-all diets, counting macros allows you to customize your nutrient intake to suit your specific goals, whether you want to lose fat, gain muscle, or maintain your current weight.
  2. Greater Flexibility: Unlike restrictive diets, counting macros offers flexibility in food choices as long as they fit your macro targets. This can make it easier to stick to your plan long-term.

Improved Nutritional Awareness

  1. Understanding Food Composition : Tracking macros increases your awareness of the nutrient content of foods, helping you make more informed choices and understand the impact of different foods on your body.
  2. Balanced Diet : Ensuring you get the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats can help you achieve a more balanced and nutritionally complete diet.

Enhanced Performance and Recovery

  1. Optimized Energy Levels: By tailoring your carbohydrate intake to match your activity levels, you can ensure you have enough energy for workouts and daily activities.
  2. Muscle Growth and Repair: Adequate protein intake is essential for muscle repair and growth, making macro counting beneficial for those engaged in strength training.

The Cons of Counting Macros

Time-Consuming

  1. Tracking Every Meal: Keeping track of every meal and snack can be time-consuming and may feel burdensome, especially for those with busy schedules.
  2. Weighing and Measuring: To accurately count macros, you often need to weigh and measure your food, which can be inconvenient.

Potential for Obsessiveness

  1. Rigid Thinking: Focusing too much on hitting exact macro targets can lead to obsessive behavior and an unhealthy relationship with food.
  2. Stress and Anxiety: The pressure to consistently track and meet your macro goals can lead to stress and anxiety, detracting from the enjoyment of eating.

May Overlook Micronutrients

  1. Nutrient Gaps: Focusing primarily on macros can sometimes lead to neglecting micronutrient intake (vitamins and minerals), which are also crucial for overall health.

Counting macros can be a powerful tool for achieving your fitness and nutrition goals. It offers personalized nutrition, greater flexibility, and a deeper understanding of your dietary habits. However, it also comes with challenges such as time commitment, the potential for obsessive behavior, and the risk of neglecting micronutrients. 

Ultimately, whether counting macros is right for you depends on your personality, lifestyle, and specific goals. It’s important to approach this method with balance and flexibility, ensuring it enhances rather than hinders your relationship with food. If you’re considering starting a macro-counting journey, consulting with a dietitian can provide valuable guidance tailored to your individual needs.

Ready to optimize your nutrition and reach your fitness goals? Check out our resources and inquire about our services here.

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Understanding Disordered Eating in Athletes

NOVA Sports Nutrition Disordered Eating

Eating disorders in sports is a complex issue that warrants attention and support. Let’s explore what disordered eating entails in the athletic context and discuss actionable steps and resources to help you navigate this challenge effectively.

Understanding Disordered Eating in Athletes

Disordered eating refers to a range of behaviors and attitudes towards food that deviate from healthy eating patterns. In many sports, athletes may experience unique pressures that contribute to the development of disordered eating habits. Athletes such as bodybuilders, gymnasts and ballerinas alike for example, can experience aesthetic pressures. These pressures present themselves as body dysmorphia, social pressures, exercise addictions and more. 

Recognizing the signs

It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between behaviors rooted in improving health and athletic performance and behaviors that begin to cross into rigid or disordered behaviors that can cause physical or emotional harm. Below are some common signs of disordered eating to be aware of:

  • Calorie Tracking and Food Restriction
    • Constant monitoring of food intake and avoidance of specific food groups, especially if it leads to significant energy or nutrient restriction or avoidance of social situations due to not having control over the ingredients or amount of food, can often be one of the first signs of an eating disorder.
  • Obsession with Weight or Body Composition
    • In many collegiate and professional sport environments, measuring weight or body composition can be a common way to track progress and use data to inform nutrition or training goals. However, fixation on achieving a certain weight or body shape at the expense of health becomes a concern and can ultimately lead to decreased athletic performance.
  • Excessive Exercise
    • Athletes will often have demanding training programs as part of their sport, but if an athlete is engaging in compulsive exercise to offset food intake or burn calories or is engaging in exercise beyond what is prescribed by coaches and trainers, the risk for a disorder (as well as injury or illness) significantly increase.
  • Emotional Responses to Eating
    • Feelings of guilt or shame associated with food consumption are important to pay attention to and are not feelings associated with having a healthy relationship with food and body image.

Overcoming Disordered Eating: Practical Tips and Resources

If any of the above signs resonate with you, there are many resources and tools that can help you to begin the journey towards a positive relationship with food and body image and true focus on health and performance:

  • Professional Support
    • Seek guidance from qualified healthcare professionals, including registered dietitians and therapists specializing in eating disorders. We offer personalized assistance and nutrition interventions tailored to individual needs and are always happy to provide referrals to local or telehealth therapists.
  • Embrace Balanced Nutrition
    • When selecting foods, it’s important to think about what will fuel you well, what will provide good nutrition, and also what will taste good to you! The focus isn’t just on macronutrients, but also making food enjoyable and finding meals and snacks that are well balanced in all areas.
  • Prioritize Performance and Health
    • Redirect your attention from external appearance to performance and holistic well-being. Emphasize the importance of fueling your body adequately to support athletic endeavors and promote longevity in the sport.
  • Develop Coping Mechanisms
    • Explore healthy coping strategies to manage stress, emotions, and pressures associated with athletic pursuits. Practices such as mindfulness, journaling, and seeking social support can aid in building resilience.
  • Build a Support Network
    • Surround yourself with a supportive community of teammates, coaches, and peers who prioritize health and well-being. Foster open communication and create a safe space for discussing challenges and seeking assistance.
  • Educate Yourself
    • Equip yourself with knowledge about nutrition and its role in optimizing athletic performance. Understanding nutritional principles can dispel myths and misconceptions, empowering you to make informed choices about fueling your body effectively. Be mindful of who you follow on social media, and if you need recommendations for good follows you can always ask us!

Disordered eating poses significant challenges for athletes, but with awareness, support, and actionable strategies, it can be addressed effectively. By prioritizing health, seeking professional guidance, and fostering a supportive environment, athletes can overcome disordered eating and cultivate a positive relationship with food and their bodies. Remember, your worth as an athlete transcends physical appearance and is rooted in your dedication, resilience, and passion for your sport.

What Can You Do If You Suspect That You or A Loved One May Be Experiencing Disordered Eating?

The most important thing to do is reach out for help or additional resources as soon as possible. Both disordered eating and eating disorders have higher rates of recovery when these issues are addressed early. It’s important to find a trusted professional or team of professionals to help guide you or your loved one. Health professionals that can help include registered dietitians, counselors or therapists, psychiatrists, primary care doctors, and social workers. Please note that it’s important to seek out professionals that have experience working in the field of eating disorders or disordered eating in particular. Not all dietitians will be able to help with these issues, just like not all doctors are specialized in cardiology or orthopedics.

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Anxieties Around Sugar Consumption

NOVA Sports Nutrition sugar intake

Anxieties around consuming sugar have become increasingly prevalent in modern society as awareness of its potential health impacts has grown. Many people worry about the effects of excessive sugar intake on their overall well-being, including weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and dental issues. This concern is not unfounded, as there are many studies that have linked high sugar consumption to these health problems.

Part of the anxiety surrounding sugar consumption comes from its presence in our modern diet. Sugar is not only found in obvious sources like sweets and sugary drinks but also in a lot of processed foods, including sauces, dressings, and even snacks that “seem” healthy. This makes it difficult for people to control their sugar intake which then leads to feelings of frustration and anxiety for those trying to make healthier dietary choices.

The conflicting information in the media and online can also contribute to uncertainty and anxiety about sugar. While some sources emphasize the detrimental effects of sugar on health, others try to downplay its risks or promote alternative sweeteners as healthier options. This conflicting advice can leave people feeling confused and anxious about making the right choices for their health.

To address these anxieties and make informed decisions about sugar consumption, it’s very important to educate ourselves about the role of sugar in our diet, its potential health effects, and strategies for reducing intake. Fortunately, there are many educational resources available to help you navigate these concerns such as The American Heart Association and Dietary Guidelines For Americans. 

Managing sugar anxieties can be difficult, but there are several strategies that can help you navigate your concerns more effectively:

  • Read Labels: Become familiar with reading food labels to identify sources of added sugars in packaged foods. Look out for terms like sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, and other sugar derivatives.
  • Focus on Whole Foods: Incorporate more whole foods into your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. These foods are naturally low in added sugars and provide essential nutrients.
  • Limit Processed Foods: Minimize your consumption of processed and packaged foods, as these usually contain hidden sugars. Opt for homemade meals and snacks whenever possible to have more control over ingredients. 
  • Practice Moderation: You don’t have to cut out sugar entirely to be healthy. Instead, focus on moderation and mindful eating. Enjoy your favorite sweet treats occasionally, but be mindful of portion sizes.
  • Find Alternatives: Experiment with natural sugars or sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or stevia as alternatives to refined sugars. Just remember to use them in moderation.
  • Stay Hydrated: Sometimes, feelings of hunger or cravings can be mistaken for thirst. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and curb cravings.
  • Manage Stress: Stress can trigger cravings for sugary foods, so finding healthy ways to manage stress can help reduce the urge to overindulge in sweets. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
  • Plan Ahead: Plan your meals and snacks in advance to avoid impulsive decisions when hunger strikes. Having healthy options readily available can help you make better choices.
  • Seek Support: If sugar consumption anxieties are significantly impacting your well-being, consider seeking support from a registered dietitian, therapist, or support group. Talking to others who share similar concerns can provide validation and practical advice.

Remember, it’s normal to have concerns about sugar consumption, but it’s important not to let those anxieties control your life. By adopting healthy eating habits and finding a balance that works for you, you can enjoy a varied and satisfying diet while prioritizing your health and well-being.

NOVA Sports Nutrition is here to help you make food choices that align with your health goals. Whether you’re training for a team sport, endurance race, physique competition, or to improve your health generally, NOVA can create a workout plan to help you reach your goal. We take the guesswork out of meal planning and will help you to take control of your diet once and for all!

Nutrition counseling services are provided via secure video chat or in-person in Northern Virginia. Please reach out via the contact page or schedule a free discovery call to learn more about pricing for our nutrition services!

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Recognizing Eating Disorder Awareness Week

NOVA Eating disorder awareness week

As Eating Disorders Awareness Week approaches, it’s essential to shed light on the significance of recognizing, understanding, and supporting those affected by eating disorders. Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that can have profound effects on both physical and emotional well-being. In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of raising awareness about eating disorders, discuss common signs and symptoms, and provide resources for support and recovery.

Why Eating Disorders Awareness Matters

Eating Disorders Awareness Week serves as an opportunity to educate the public about the prevalence and impact of eating disorders, challenge stigmas and misconceptions, and promote early intervention and access to treatment. By raising awareness, we can help those struggling with eating disorders feel seen, heard, and supported, and encourage open conversations about mental health and body image.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms:

Eating disorders can manifest in various ways and may not always be obvious. Some common signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • Obsession with food, calories, and weight
  • Severe restriction of food intake or excessive exercise
  • Preoccupation with body image and fear of weight gain
  • Binge eating episodes followed by feelings of guilt or shame
  • Withdrawal from social activities and avoidance of meals with others
  • Changes in mood, energy levels, and physical health

It’s essential to approach conversations about eating disorders with compassion, empathy, and non-judgment, and to encourage seeking professional help and support.

Sharing Concerns About and Eating Disorder

Sharing your concerns with a loved one or friend who may have an eating disorder is easier said than done; sometimes, affected people won’t be aware of the severity of their condition and may deny that a problem exists at all. NEDA (the National Eating Disorder Association) offers several helpful tips if you have a friend or family member who may be suffering from an eating disorder, some of which include:

  • Learn as much as you can about eating disorders so you can understand people’s thoughts and struggles with food
  • Know the difference between facts and myths in regards to nutrition and fitness to enable you to explain the discrepancy in the person’s behavior vs. what is considered healthy
  • Compliment them on qualities unrelated to their appearance (creativity, sense of humor, etc.)
  • Be honest about what your concerns are; never judge or criticize, but emphasize that you are worried and want to make sure they are healthy
  • Refer them to a dietitian or other health professional with expertise in treating eating disorders

At NOVA Sports Nutrition, we take a holistic, comprehensive approach to nutrition therapy with the goal of improving client relationships with food, exercise, and body image. For athletes with disordered eating or an eating disorder, we will focus on a healthy return to sport and work collaboratively with additional healthcare professionals as appropriate including athletic trainers, counselors, psychologists and physicians.

The goals of outpatient nutrition counseling include developing a regular eating routine that provides balanced nutrition and adequate energy to fuel performance and activities of daily living. Your dietitian will work with you to create a sustainable plan that gradually allows you to remove stress around eating and achieve freedom from negative thoughts related to food or exercise.

We provide nutrition counseling for the following conditions:

  • Disordered eating
  • Orthorexia
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating Disorder
  • Avoidant-Restrictive Feeding and Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Treatment can be very effective in aiding recovery from eating disorders, but outcomes are significantly better when treatment is started early. If you have concerns, don’t brush them aside.

You can’t force someone to get treatment, but you never know who might be the positive influence that helps someone with an eating disorder address his or her situation. It could be you.

For more information, please see the links below:

ANAD.org
NationalEatingDisorders.org

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Stress Less and Enjoy Food More this Holiday Season!

enjoy food more

Many people have positive associations with food around the holidays: savory stuffing at Thanksgiving, homemade Christmas cookies, or delicious hot chocolate, to name a few. However, many people also experience anxiety related to holiday foods or meals. This anxiety can stem from fears of overeating, eating with a large group, or judgment from family members regarding food choices and portions. This holiday season, I want you to stress less and enjoy food more. To make this happen, read on for my top tips to manage food-related anxiety and find one or two that speak to you!

 

If you… worry about overeating

Try:

  • Remembering that one meal that is larger than normal or has more starches or fat than normal is not going to impact your overall health.
  • Eat a small meal or snack 1-2 hours before the main meal to avoid feeling famished when you sit down to eat; being extra hungry can cause us to make choices we might not otherwise make!
  • Slow down when eating and put your fork down between bites. This will help you to better recognize when you are full and may want to stop eating to avoid feeling overstuffed.
  • Fill at least half your plate with nutrient-dense foods (like roasted Brussels sprouts, baked sweet potatoes, or cooked butternut squash).
  • Wait 10 minutes after finishing your first plate to decide if you want more or would rather wait until later to eat again.

 

If you… worry about eating with a large group

Try:

  • Doing a relaxing activity before the meal, such as journaling, stretching, or listening to calm music (try this playlist as an example).
  • Reach out to a close friend or family member who will be attending the meal and lean on them for support as needed.
  • Take deep breaths at the table to lower your heart rate and slow your mind.
  • Excuse yourself from the table to take a break, if necessary, and come back when you are ready.
  • Remember that all food fits, and that it’s okay to choose anything on the table that you want to eat. Holidays are special occasions!

 

If you… often receive scrutiny or pressure from family members regarding food choices and portions

Try:

  • Setting boundaries. Let these family members know that you don’t feel comfortable with their comments and would prefer that they don’t evaluate your choices, especially around the holidays, when togetherness and enjoying time with family should be the top priorities.
  • Remember that people who tend to judge the behaviors of others often feel dissatisfied with their own behavior or have other personal issues that are not being addressed in a healthy way.
  • Remind yourself that you know what is best for your body. It could be helpful to write down this affirmation (and others you find helpful, too) ahead of time.
  • Plan to sit away from this family member and have other topics in mind if need be to redirect the conversation.
  • If this family member contributed to making the meal, thank them for the food and offer to take home leftovers rather than eating past your own comfort level to please them.

 

If any of these situations speaks to you, try some of these tips this holiday season to enjoy food more and stress less! Focus on making positive memories, enjoying your favorite foods, and banning any feelings of guilt over food choices. If you still feel anxious about food choices this holiday season, send Nikky a message and she will be happy to offer additional support!

 

Happy Holidays!

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Breaking Free From Diet Culture

While it’s harmful to so many, diet culture is almost possible to avoid these days. From social media to food packaging and exercise trends, diet culture can manifest itself in so many different forms. Diet culture’s presence in our lives is so profound that most people do not understand the severity of this harmful messaging. If you feel like diet culture controls your decisions and constantly incites feelings of shame and guilt, keep reading to learn how to detect and handle diet culture in everyday life. 

 

What Is Diet Culture?

Diet culture places weight loss on a pedestal, encouraging people to strive for thinness. Viewing weight loss as the only way to gain happiness and confidence creates significant issues. Ironically, those who fall subject to diet culture and partake in restrictive behaviors become more self-conscious and shameful. 

Companies and influencers tap into their audience’s insecurities by promising their customers certain results or feelings once they buy a weight loss product or a workout plan. The diet industry strives to generate the most revenue from selling images of thinness, even if it means destroying consumers’ self esteem. New ideal body types, styles of eating, and exercises overwhelm people, yet influence them to spend more money on ‘improving’ themselves.

 

How To Spot Diet Culture

Knowing some key phrases and words make it easier to detect diet culture in daily life. Companies recognize that many people who wish to lose weight or change their body want to see changes happen quickly. Content using phrases such as “lose weight fast” or “get a six pack in 10 days” should stand out as a red flag. It takes months to see changes in our bodies and any sort of drastic change that happens in a few days is not sustainable and most likely relies on unhealthy methods. Our society is so obsessed with losing weight that people will try almost anything, even if it involves following a regime based on restriction, to change their appearance. 

Demonizing or labeling certain food groups as ‘bad’ should be a warning sign. Diet culture moralizes types of foods and exercise, placing guilt upon people who consume or do certain things. While some foods are more nutritious than others, cutting out complete food groups is restrictive and harmful.

The promotion of detoxing and cleansing is another popular diet culture trend. Companies will attach ‘removes toxins’ or ‘cleanses your gut’ into the description of any product to attract customers and make them feel as if their bodies are impure or unhealthy. Detoxing is also seen as a method to lose weight quickly in an unsustainable way. Some people claim that detoxing improves their health, but in reality “detox diets rarely identify the specific toxins they’re claimed to remove, and evidence that they remove toxins at all is lacking” (3). Our bodies naturally remove toxins through methods including sweat and urine, meaning there is no need to go an extra step. 

 

How To Handle Diet Culture

It’s very difficult to walk into any store or scroll on social media without being confronted by weight loss ads and products. Seeing these images daily can decrease your self esteem and mood. Take a few days off of social media apps or find a daily limit for your social media use. Additionally, unfollow anyone online who makes you feel self conscious or shameful about your eating and/or exercise habits.

Talking with those around you and specialists can help you vocalize your feelings about diet culture’s impact on you. If there is someone in your life, whether that be a friend, sibling, or parent, that frequently talks about weight loss and dieting or comments on your physical appearance, notify them that this upsets you and find another topic to talk about. Consulting a doctor, registered dietitian, or therapist might also be beneficial if you are struggling from negative body image or confidence. 

Even if you feel that diet culture is controlling your life, there are so many ways to break free from it. Replace scrolling on Instagram and comparing yourself to others with enjoyable hobbies or activities. Discover support groups or groups in your neighborhood that aim to empower people and provide them with a sense of strength. Most importantly, remember that your physical appearance should be the least interesting thing about you; you are so much more than what your body looks like. 

 

Resources: 

  1. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/recognizing-and-resisting-diet-culture
  2. https://behavioralnutrition.org/what-is-diet-culture/ 
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/detox-diets-101#bottom-line 

 

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