Why do I feel guilty when I eat?

Why do I feel guilty when I eat?

Why do I feel guilty when I eat?

Feeling guilty after eating is something a lot of people experience.

Unfortunately we live in a society where eating less, restricting intake of certain foods, and being thinner, are all valued highly.

This means that we are CONDITIONED from a very young age to feel guilt when we eat more than we’d planned; or more than our family see as “normal”; or we eat foods outside what we deem healthy as a family unit.

Also, media and social media, particularly this year, demonizes certain food groups and foods…and this is taken more and more to extreme.

It’s hard to know what is healthy and what is less nutritious when we have bananas being compared to mars bars!!!! (yes, this has ACTUALLY happened ….and fyi they are not at all the same!).

There are many reasons you may feel guilty after eating…here are some of them, but this is by no means an exhaustive list….

Keep reading for Jen’s 6 top tips to stopping the guilt…

Reasons you may feel guilty after eating:

💫 Society and cultural Influences

Thinness is better, food is seen as “good” or “bad”

💫Psychological factors

Anxiety and depression can lead to feelings of guilt around eating.  Along with internalised beliefs, past negative comments on your weight, shape, size or eating habits also play a role.

💫 Eating Disorders

Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder frequently involve feelings of guilt or shame related to food intake. In these illnesses, the biological mechanisms of hunger and satiety are distorted or overridden by intense emotional responses.  If you think you have an eating disorder, please ask for support.

💫 Disruption in hunger and fullness cues

Even outside of eating disorders, many people lose touch with their internal hunger and fullness cues. Overeating or eating when not physically hungry can lead to feelings of guilt or regret.

💫 Dieting and restricting food intake

Frequent dieting and the restriction of certain foods or food groups can exacerbate feelings of deprivation, which can sometimes lead to guilt when those foods are eventually consumed.

💫 Guilt as a learned response

Guilt after eating can also be a learned emotional response. If eating certain foods or amounts was met with punishment or judgment during childhood or adolescence, those feelings might carry into adulthood.

Jen’s top 6 tips to alleviate the guilt:

💖 Positive self-talk

Remind yourself you are allowed to eat freely, no one meal/snack will make a difference to your overall health

💖 Remind yourself that we have to eat to survive

Many of us have forgotten what “normal” eating looks like amidst a crazy amount of fad diets and rules – download my free guide if you resonate with this

💖 Start to write down how you feel before eating

Sometimes the guilt that you feel afterwards is merely the feelings beforehand coming out in a different way – it is for example a lot easier to blame being upset or a bad mood on having just eaten a packet of biscuits, rather than acknowledging that you are upset by something more threatening/scary, such as family stress, work stress, grief.

💖 Start to reject diet culture

You do not need to eat in a certain way.  You do not need tonnes of external rules around what you can/can’t eat – once you remove the rules, you create space for allowing food freedom (and I promise that this does not mean you will only eat chocolate!)

💖 Keep a food and mood diary

Record your sleep, stress levels, time of the month (where relevant) – understanding your body and your cravings means you are more likely to be able to be kind and compassionate to yourself

💖 Talk to yourself more kindly

Try to talk to yourself as you would a friend or family member if they told you they’d just eaten what you had eaten – I doubt you would speak to them in the same way you speak to yourself!

Being kind and compassionate to yourself is key.

AND it gets you off the binge/restrict cycle.

Is it time to start to do things differently?

Intuitive Eating Blog

Intuitive Eating Blog

Listening to your body – how to reject diet mentality and tune into your needs

There is so much on social media, and in the media about weight loss – it feels never ending so far this year.  And some of it is “disguised” as health and wellbeing, but it is still targeting people who want to lose weight.

This is the “diet culture” that we currently live in.  Our society is obsessed with losing weight and the notion that ‘thin is best’, even when a person does not have a medical reason to need to lose weight.

What if you don’t need to lose half a stone to become the best version of yourself?  What if we could be kind to our bodies and appreciate them for what they are, as opposed to what they look like? What if we could be anti diets and tune into our bodies instead?

We know from studies that around 80% of people who go on a diet end up putting the weight back on, and often end up weighing heavier than when they started.  And yet, instead of looking at dieting as the issue, people will blame themselves for having “no willpower”.

In fact dieting can slow your metabolism, so that when you come off a diet you have to eat a lot less to be able to maintain that new lower weight for a period of time afterwards, so in a sense you are set up to fail.

What is intuitive eating?

The Intuitive Eating Principals were developed by two registered Dietitians in America, who were disillusioned with giving clients meal plans, only for them to lose weight and then regain again once they stopped the plan.  

It is based on ten principals, which aim to shun dieting, promote body acceptance, whilst also allowing you to eat healthfully and move joyfully. 

They found that teaching people how to tune into their own internal cues of hunger, fullness and satisfaction, meant that they reached a weight that was healthy for them, and also helped to improve their relationship with food and their body image. 

The principals of intuitive eating:

  • Reject diet mentality: stop thinking that you need to be, or are on, a “diet”. Stop following people on social media who make you feel as though you should be dieting.  Realise that 80% of diets do not work.  Have a read of the Intuitive Eating book (below) to find out more about this. 
  • Honour your hunger: start to tune into your hunger signals. This does not mean eating only when you feel physical hunger pangs, but also acknowledging that you may sometimes eat for reasons other than hunger, and this is ok!
  • Make peace with food: allow all foods to be part of your life – eating a chocolate bar should feel the same emotionally as eating a piece of fruit. If you don’t allow yourself a food, and then eat it (because you are human!), you are likely to feel guilty
  • Challenge the “food police” inside your head: stop listening to the rules you have made yourself around food e.g you should exercise to earn your food, don’t eat after 7pm, you mustn’t eat carbs…and the list continues…
  • Feel your fullness: observe your body and stop eating when you feel comfortably full. 
  • Discover the satisfaction factor: try to choose foods you feel like eating, rather than choosing based on what you think is more healthy (this requires you to have given up the diet mentality and challenged the “food police” first!)
  • Cope with your emotions without using food: find ways to comfort and look after yourself without using food – either restrictively or for comfort. Eating/not eating does not fix or suppress your feelings for any length of time, and normally adds to feelings of failure and guilt.
  • Respect your body: treat your body kindly and meet your basic physiological needs. Your body deserves to be fed and deserves to be dressed comfortably
  • Exercise: focus on joyful movement and how it feels to move your body. Focus on the positives of exercise away from calorie burning
  • Honour your health with gentle nutrition: by relaxing the rules around food, and the associated guilt, people will generally choose a balanced healthy food intake, as it physically feels good. Allow yourself to eat healthfully (including all foods!) and look after your body.

The pros of intuitive eating:

  • It allows you to relax rules around eating and join in with social events
  • Encourages you to feel your feelings rather than using food to supress feelings, meaning you are likely to live a more authentic and whole-hearted life
  • Food is longer “good” or “bad”
  • Food no longer has the capacity to make you feel guilty or ashamed
  • Food and body shape is no longer a preoccupation, meaning you have more time and energy to give to the rest of life
  • For many, this is the first time they have enjoyed eating and exercise
  • Food and exercise are not supposed to be punishments – they can be, and should be, a joyful part of life.

The cons of intuitive eating:

  • It’s a very hard switch to make
  • Often we have learnt not to trust our bodies and minds, which means we’re very out of touch of listening to them
  • For some people, for example with eating disorders, this is not an appropriate first line treatment. People with eating disorders have often spent years ignoring their body’s signals, which means those signals cannot always be relied upon to begin with.  Also, feeling fullness is often very triggering for a person with an eating disorder and may actually make someone more ill.  However, in recovery, with help from health professionals, it may be a useful way to stay well.  Additionally some people are just unable to feel sensations in their body, for many different reasons, and so cannot tune into hunger and fullness signals.  
  • You won’t necessarily lose weight. That’s not to say you won’t.  But weight loss will no longer be your focus.  For many that is a very difficult part of intuitive eating to accept

At the end of the day, you really do know what you need to do to be the most healthy version of yourself – mentally, physically and emotionally – and it certainly does not involve fad diets and detoxes, and is much more likely to involve the principals of intuitive eating.   Be kind to yourself.

For more information on Intuitive Eating see “Intuitive Eating, A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.  Or “Just Eat It” by Laura Thomas.

Bloating in eating disorder recovery

Bloating in eating disorder recovery

Co-written by Gina Giebner (Gastro Dietitian) & Jennifer Low (Eating disorder Dietitian)

Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that have physical consequences.

Bloating in eating disorder recovery is a common complaint, and one that can severely hinder a person’s efforts at recovery.

While the psychological and emotional aspects of these disorders are well-known, their impact on the gastrointestinal (GI) system is often overlooked.  Often people are told that when they recover from their eating disorder the symptoms will improve.  Whilst that is often the case, trying to manage these debilitating symptoms whilst also recovering from an eating disorder, can feel very overwhelming.

In this blog post, Gina, our specialist gastro Registered Dietitian, explores the various GI symptoms that people with eating disorders may experience & provides some ways that these can be alleviated in the short term (in the longer term, recovery from the eating disorder will eventually mean that you don’t have these symptoms anymore).

Stomach Pain and Bloating:

Stomach pain and bloating, along with constipation, are probably the most frequent issues we see in clinic.  People with eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa, often restrict their food intake, which can lead to a reduced production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes.

This can result in delayed gastric emptying, bloating, discomfort, and abdominal pain.  This does all improve with time and proper nourishment, but in the meantime have a look at Gina’s tips below.

Top 3 tips
● Try finishing a meal with a mint, ginger or fennel tea
● Manage stress and anxiety in healthy ways – such as yoga or mindfulness practices
● Avoid fizzy drinks

Acid Reflux and Heartburn:

One of the most common GI symptoms associated with eating disorders is acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the oesophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest and throat. Frequent vomiting can contribute to the development of GERD.

Top 3 tips to reduce symptoms

  • Eat regularly through the day
  • Swap your caffeine drinks to de-caffeinated
  • Chew well and eat slowly, allowing time before lying down after food (around 60 minutes before going to bed)

Diarrhoea and Constipation:

The irregular eating patterns and restrictive diets associated with eating disorders can disrupt normal bowel movements. Diarrhoea may occur as a result of malabsorption due to inadequate nutrient intake. On the other hand, constipation can arise from insufficient fibre, energy & fluid intake. Both symptoms can be distressing and contribute to further disordered eating behaviours.

Top 3 tips
● Try to finish a meal with soft fruits, such as kiwi, and a calcium rich food like Greek Yoghurt
● Make sure you are drinking enough (around 6-10 glasses/mugs a day)
● Eat regularly through the day

Gastroparesis:

Gastroparesis, a condition characterised by delayed stomach emptying, and is commonly seen in individuals with eating disorders. Malnutrition and electrolyte imbalances can affect the normal muscular contractions (peristalsis) required for food to move through the digestive system. Also, because lack of energy causes the all the processes in the body to slow, just the lack of energy itself can mean that stomach emptying is delayed, which can lead to feelings of fullness and bloating in eating disorder recovery, when someone is trying their best to nourish themselves more fully.

Gastroparesis can lead to feelings of fullness, early satiety (fullness), as well as nausea.

Top 3 tips
● Stick to softer, easy to digest foods
● Eating little and often throughout the day
● Eating 6 smaller meals a day can be better tolerated

Dental Problems:

Frequent vomiting associated with some types of eating disorders can have a detrimental effect on dental health. The stomach acid that comes into contact with the teeth during episodes of vomiting can erode tooth enamel, leading to tooth sensitivity, decay, and even tooth loss. Poor nutrition can also weaken the teeth and contribute to oral health problems.

Top 3 tips
● Finish a meal with a calcium rich food like a lump of cheese/Greek yoghurt
● If cold drinks feel painful on sensitive teeth, then try having warmer drinks, such as decaffeinated or herbal teas
● Stick to softer, easy to eat foods for the time being

Malnutrition and Nutrient Deficiencies:

As we know, eating disorders often involve restrictive diets, cutting out of whole food groups, limited variety and inadequate food intake, leading to malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies.

The lack of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can affect the entire body, including the GI system. Malnourished people may experience weakened GI muscles, impaired digestion, and absorption issues, further exacerbating their symptoms.

Top 3 tips:
● Eat regularly through the day
● Try to eat a variety of different foods throughout your week
● Seek advice from a registered dietitian on any micronutrient supplements

Electrolyte Imbalances:

Electrolyte imbalances, such as low levels of potassium, sodium, and magnesium, are common in individuals with eating disorders. These imbalances can disrupt the normal functioning of the GI system, leading to irregular bowel movements, muscle weakness, and increased risk of dehydration.  These imbalances are detected through blood tests and need to be carefully managed by your GP or treatment team.

In conclusion, gastrointestinal symptoms, in particular bloating and tummy pains during recovery from an eating disorder, can significantly impact a person’s physical health and overall well-being. It is crucial to recognise and address these symptoms as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Seeking professional help from specialist Registered Dietitians is essential to manage both the psychological and physical aspects of these conditions. By understanding and addressing any GI symptoms, we can support people on their road to recovery, and improve their quality of life.

Gina, our fabulous gastro dietitian, often carries out one or two sessions with our clients who have disordered eating to make symptoms more manageable, whilst they are making positive changes to recover from their eating disorder.

Find out more about our services here.

Anorexia Nervosa Recovery Meal Plan

Anorexia Nervosa Recovery Meal Plan

I am an eating disorder dietitian and spend a lot of my clinical time working with clients who have anorexia nervosa. Over the 17 years I have been doing this work I have written many hundreds of meal plans alongside my clients & patients.

Whilst it would be amazing if I could give you a “one-size-fits-all” plan….as with most parts of recovery, it is just not that simple! It really does need to be personalised. And also must take into account the risk of refeeding syndrome (and this is a good thing to discuss with your GP or treatment team).

However, from the perspective of what you could be aiming for – balance in your diet is key. So often certain macronutrients are demonised, both by the eating disorder voice and also by our society and media.

I have written this blog post to try and help you to cut through the “noise” and get the facts – which will hopefully allow you to be able to have more of a balance in your diet.

Balanced plate with all the macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein and fat
Balanced plate with all the macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein and fat

The latest on Carbohydrates why do we need them?

Image of carbohydrates as one of the macronutrients

Pasta in various forms provides us with the macronutrient carbohydrate

Carbohydrates, or “carbs”, are seemingly the enemy…or so we have been led to believe. 

We are surrounded by self-proclaimed nutrition “experts” who have come into the limelight often promoting their version of fad eating plans. 

There are a lot of myths concerning carbohydrates and this will hopefully help you to distinguish the facts from the fiction.  
Carbohydrates, as a macronutrient, cover a broad category of food and not all carbs are the same.

Types of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients found in food – the others being fat and protein.

Hardly any foods contain only one nutrient and most are a combination of the macronutrients, carbohydrates, fats and proteins, in varying amounts.

There are three different types of carbohydrate: sugar, starch and fibre

SUGAR

Sugar is found naturally in some foods, including fruit, fruit juices, milk (lactose) and vegetables. Other forms of sugar (free sugars) can be added to food and drink such as sweets, chocolates, biscuits and soft drinks during manufacturing, or added when cooking or baking at home. In the UK the maximum amount of free sugars (that is, the added sugars) should be 5% of the total daily energy intake or around 7tsp of sugar.

Starch

Starch is made up of many sugar units bonded together. It is found in foods that come from plants. Starchy foods, such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta, provide a slow and steady release of energy throughout the day.

Fibre

Fibre is essential to maintain a healthy digestive tract and to keep food moving through and eventually passing out of our guts.  A high fibre intake is associated with lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer.  We need 30g of fibre per day, but in the UK on average we only have around 18g.  Wholegrains are a really important source of fibre.  An easy way to get more fibre into your diet on a daily basis is to swap your white bread, pasta and rice for whole-grain versions.  

How carbs affect the body

Carbohydrate should be the body’s main source of energy (around 40-50% of energy intake) in a healthy balanced diet.  Carbs are broken down into glucose (sugar) before being absorbed into the bloodstream.

From there, the glucose enters the body’s cells with the help of insulin, released from your pancreas.  Your body uses glucose for energy to fuel all of your activities; whether going for a run or breathing.

Unused glucose can be converted to glycogen found in the liver and muscles. If unused, glucose can be converted to fat, for longer-term storage of energy.

Some carbohydrate is stored in the body, however there is a limited supply, and when you exercise these stores are depleted.

The best way to replenish the carb stores is to eat a carbohydrate rich snack or meal as soon as possible after finishing exercise.  This should also contain some protein as this helps to replenish the stores more quickly.

So, for example, you may choose breakfast cereal with milk, a yoghurt or fruit smoothie, or a stir-fry with rice or noodles.  A diet too low in carbs can lead to a lack of energy during exercise, early fatigue and delayed recovery.

So, all carbohydrates are converted to glucose and absorbed into blood.  Blood glucose concentrations are maintained between 4-7mmol/l by hormones released from your pancreas called insulin and glucagon.

Insulin reduces glucose in the blood and glucagon releases glycogen from liver and muscles to increase glucose in the blood.

Which carbs should I be eating?

Fruit, vegetables, pulses and wholegrain starchy foods provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals and the fibre in these foods can help to keep your bowels healthy and adds bulk to your meal helping you to feel full. Try to increase the amount of fibre in your diet by choosing wholegrain varieties of starchy foods and eating potatoes with the skins on. Try to aim for an average intake of 30g of fibre a day.

Sweets, chocolates, biscuits, cakes and soft drinks with added sugar are usually high in sugar and calories, and provide very few other nutrients. However, it is completely normal to have these types of foods, and they taste great!

What happens if we don’t have carbohydrates in our diets?

  • Low carbohydrate diets continue to be popular and get a lot of media attention.  However, they are not healthy, not sustainable, and can put a great deal of extra stress on the body  
  • Muscles are lost as they are used as energy for the body
  • Much greater risk of some cancers – e.g. bowel cancer
  • Tiredness, fatigue, irritability due to low blood sugar levels (no other nutrient provides glucose)
  • Inability to concentrate since the brain primarily uses glucose to work
  • Poor performance – in everyday life and sport

Fat – what should we be eating?

Avocados, oily fish and nuts and olive oil contain healthy fats, one of the macronutrients you need
Avocados, oily fish nuts and olive oil contain healthy fats, one of the macronutrients you need
The body uses different macronutrients for different purposes, so it is important to provide your body with a balance of essential nutrients including fats.

Although fats are often thought of as “bad”, in fact they are completely necessary for our bodies to function.

The reason that there is a lot of media interest in fats and, in particular, emphasis on fat reduction is because a lot of people in the UK are eating a lot more fat than the recommended amounts.

What are fats used for?

  • Providing energy
  • Keeps us warm
  • Dietary fat provides the essential fatty acids linoleic acid and linolenic acid (also known as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids). We need to eat these on a daily basis. They are essential for brain function, including the brain development of the growing foetus. They are also very important in improving brain function when returning to a normal weight after being a low weight. They also have a role in preventing heart disease.

  • Absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) – humans are unable to absorb these essential vitamins without having fats in their diet
  • Palatability of foods – making them taste nice!
  • Providing a protective layer around organs (e.g. kidneys, etc) to protect them from impact, like falls
  • Fats contribute to the structure of blood vessels, and form a major component of cell membranes. A low fat intake will therefore increase the risk of bruising very easily, and affect skin health.
  • Fats transport cholesterol around the body. Many people who are a low weight can have a high cholesterol level, which reduces if fat is added to the diet and weight is gained.
  • Fat contributes to the structure of hormones, such as oestrogen. A lack of oestrogen will lead to a lack of periods, which increases the risk of osteoporosis. Therefore, a diet low in fat may delay the return of menstruation, or the body may need to be a higher weight before periods return if a low fat diet is consumed.
  • Increasing satiety, which means that you will feel fuller more quickly than if you do not include fats. Therefore you will not feel that you have to keep eating/will not be able to stop eating after finishing a meal or snack

Types of fats in our diet

  • Saturated fats: from animal fats and products derived from animal fats (including biscuits, etc). These are necessary to provide cell membrane structure, but can raise LDL blood cholesterol if eaten large quantities
  • Monounsaturated fats: olive, rapeseed and almond oil, nuts, olives, peanut butter
    Most beneficial, especially when used to replace saturated fats
  • Polyunsaturated fats: Omega-3 and Omega-6

Essential Fats

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our health and important as part of a balanced diet

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our health and important as part of a balanced diet

what are they?

  • They are fats that the body cannot make from other types of fats, so we need to get them from our diet
  • They have important functions in the body, as explained below
  • There are two types: linoleic (n – 6) and alpha linolenic (n – 3). They are also known as omega 6 or omega 3 fatty acids
  • Alpha linoleic acid (Omega 3 fatty acid) is changed in the body to make two other fats, known as EPA and DHA
  • Most people need to eat more omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Omega-3

    Omega-3 is a type of polyunsaturated fat found in fish, fish oils and flaxseeds, among others; omega-6 is found in vegetable oils, vegetable oil based spreads, nuts and seeds (due to them being in vegetable oils they are also found in processed foods, such as biscuits, cakes, crisps, etc). Polyunsaturated fats are essential fats.

    Why are essential fats important?

  • Essential fatty acids are important for keeping cells healthy. A lack of fat and essential fatty acids can cause easy bruising and slow wound healing.
  • DHA is a very important part of the brain, and low levels of DHA have been linked to many emotional and mental health problems, including anorexia nervosa. It may also be relevant for people with bulimia nervosa if they have a very low fat diet, or have been a low weight at any stage prior to developing bulimia.
  • Essential fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attacks by reducing (“bad”) cholesterol levels and increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.
  • Essential fatty acids may also help to alleviate depression and anxiety and may help to reduce inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis.
  • How much do we need?

    In the UK there are no specific recommendations on how much we should be having. The only guideline is that you should include two portions of fish per week and at least one of these should be an oily fish.

    What if I don’t eat fish, can I have supplements?

    It is best to try and get omega-3 from foods but the following advice may be helpful if you find this difficult and wish to take a supplement:
    • Avoid supplements made from fish liver oil as this has less omega-3 fatty acid and may have more contaminants. Find a supplement made from the oil from the fish body.
    • Check the vitamin A content -The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) advises that if you take supplements containing vitamin A, you should not have more than a total of 1.5mg (1500ug) a day from food and supplements combined (also in pregnancy you must not take supplements containing vitamin A)
    • Check labels for DHA and EPA content – stick to the daily amount provided by eating one to two portions of fish per week (about 450mg EPA and DHA per daily adult dose)

    There are currently no UK recommendations for omega-3 supplements as there is not enough evidence that they benefit healthy adults and children.

    Vegetarian sources of omega-3 fats:

    If you are vegetarian then you can get some omega-3 fatty acids from foods:
  • Rapeseed or canola oil (and use an olive oil based margarine)
  • Walnut or soya oil
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts – walnuts, pecans, peanuts and almonds
  • Soya products (like soya beans and tofu)
  • Omega-3 enriched eggs
  • Seeds such as linseed/flax seed (up to 1 dessertspoon a day)
  • Diets that do not contain fat as a macronutrient, not only negatively affect your overall health due to the reasons above, but also tend to be very bulky.

    Fats are not automatically converted into body fat. As long as you are eating the correct amount of energy to maintain your body weight, the fat you eat (and energy you get from the other nutrients) will be used for energy.

    If you need to increase your weight then the energy you consume over and above your needs to maintain your weight, will be used to start to replenish your muscles. You will also notice that your fat stores do increase (adipose tissue) and this is entirely necessary for recovery to full health.

    Protein: Your Body’s Building Blocks

    What is protein?

    Protein is a macronutrient that is found throughout the body—in muscle, bone, skin, hair, and virtually every other tissue.

    Protein is required by the body for many different functions including:

    • Growth and repair of body tissues
    • transporting nutrients around the body
    • forming enzymes
    • antibodies

    Foods high in protein:

    You can think of proteins as intricate puzzles, made up of more than 20 amino acids—some are essential amino acids (meaning you need them from your diet) and some are non-essential (ones that your body can make from others you get from the diet).

    Amino acids are found in animal products (as complete protein) and a few plant sources (as incomplete protein).

    Plant-based proteins

    Incomplete proteins usually don’t have all nine essential amino acids so if most of your protein comes from plants, make sure that you eat a wide variety of different sources of plant-based proteins on a daily basis.
    – Good sources of plant-based protein include: tofu, chickpeas, lentil, baked beans, nuts, and kidney beans.

    Animal-based proteins

    Red meats, poultry (chicken, turkey, duck), a variety of seafood (fish, crustaceans, mollusks), eggs and dairy products are your best bet.
    These protein rich foods also provide iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and omega-3 too.
    Fish, beans and nuts contain the macronutrient protein

    Fish, beans and nuts contain the macronutrient protein

    What happens when we don’t consume enough protein?

  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Hair loss and brittle nails
  • Poor wound healing and increased risk of infection
  • We know that most people in a western society do meet their protein needs, as long as they are meeting their total energy needs and are at a healthy bodyweight (i.e. not underweight).

    How much protein should I eat?

    Protein should contribute to 15% of our total energy.

    Although protein is an essential part of our diet – it is equally important to have enough carbohydrate and fat in our diets to maintain energy levels throughout the day, reduce feelings of fatigue and stop muscles being broken down for energy.

    Very high protein diets that cut out or drastically reduce other macronutrients are not helpful for anyone and this can lead to eating disorder development.

    Conclusion

    Aim to eat a variety of food, regularly throughout the day, leaving no more than 3-4 hours between meals and snacks and aiming for 3 meals and 3-4 snacks a day (as a minimum!) as a goal.

    And remembering small steps are great – celebrate every win!

    If you want more info on what ‘normal eating” looks like, click to download my FREE guid here.

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    Is sugar bad for you?

    Is sugar bad for you?

    Where do we find sugars in our diet?

    • Free sugars are added to various food and drinks such as chocolate, sugar sweetened beverages, ice cream, biscuits, sauces, cereals and yogurt.
    • Diet versions of sugar sweetened beverages can be an easy way to reduce sugar intake as artificial sweeteners have little to no calories.
    • The term ‘free sugars’ refers to sugars that are added to foods or found naturally in fruit juice, honey, and syrups. It does not include sugar found naturally in dairy products (such as lactose) or in whole fruit (BDA, 2017).
    • Free sugars are a type of carbohydrate alongside fibre and starch.

    How much sugar should we be having in a day?

    Current guidelines recommend that free sugars should make up just 5% of our total daily energy, which is just 30g.

    Over the past 9 years, NDNS data has shown there has been a reduction in consumption of free sugars in adults. However, sugar intake is still above the current recommendations (NDNS, 2019)

    Overall, we can reduce the amount of free sugars that we consume, but sugar contributes to the flavouring of foods – making them taste nice. Therefore it is important to remember that there is a place for sugar in the diet in its right quantities.

    Do all sugars have same effect on health? 

    Many people are worried that fruit is high in sugar. However, because the fibre is still intact in whole fruit, the sugars are still built up in the internal matrix and are therefore not released. The benefits from the micronutrients and fibre contained in fruit outweigh the intrinsic sugar content.

    Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar in milk. Milk contains an abundance of micronutrients such as vitamin D, iodine, vitamin B12 and calcium, which are all required by the body for different functions such as supporting bone and dental health.

    All carbohydrates are broken down to sugar eventually (glucose) and we need glucose for the brain to function. In fact, the brain alone uses 20% of the glucose that our bodies require for energy.

    It is also often found that when individuals cut out all sugar, they often cut wholegrain carbs, which are needed for fibre, for a healthy bowel movements and overall gut health.

    Psychological research has shown that when individuals restrict a certain food, they are more likely to crave it. On the other hand, allowing it in moderation takes the “power” away from the food and therefore allows for a healthier relationship with food and reduces the risk of bingeing.

    Is sugar “addictive” in the same way as tobacco, or has it been wrongly vilified?

    • A recent cross-sectional study involving university students suggested that increased feelings of reward from foods are more so related to the energy density and an individual’s relationship with food rather than the foods sugar content (Markus et al, 2017).
    • One literature review analysing of both human and animal studies found little evidence regarding sugar addiction in humans (Westwater et al., 2016). It is also important to remember that findings from animal studies cannot be compared directly to humans.
    • Sugar has been branded in the media to be the enemy and consuming large amounts can result in an addiction to sugar. Based on current literature, there is not sufficient evidence to support this theory – so do not be scared to eat foods that contain sugar now and again.

    References

    • https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/sugar.html
    • https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/772434/NDNS_UK_Y1-9_report.pdf
    • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28330706/
    • https://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(09)00239-8/fulltext#secd8962889e567