In this conversation, we asked Nutrition Expert and Educator, Lynda Enright, fundamental questions from our consumers about Nutrition.
If we start eating well, can we truly reverse the damage we cause to our bodies by lousy eating?
Question from a consumer: When people in their younger years go eating whatever and putting whatever in their mouths, it almost seems like our bodies can handle that and that they're somewhat immune to it up to a certain age. It seems like it's almost like a cumulative effect where if you continue to make the wrong choices, eventually it catches up to you. Is the same true for the reversal too? So if you have been eating poorly for ten years, that in fact when you switch it around, and you gain healthier habits, and eat the right way, that you can truly reverse all of the damage done to your body?
Lynda's response: Very often I find that to be the case. Yes absolutely! As we say with heart disease - Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in this country, and heart disease doesn't happen when you have a heart attack, when you're 50 years old. It happens from years of lifestyle choices and damage that occurs. It's not an instantaneous situation. It's plaque that builds up and inflammation over years and years. And the same thing with our dietary choices, and how that and all the stressors, whether it's medication, or a high-stress lifestyle, or lack of sleep, or under-exercise, or over-exercise, something that really isn't working for your body. That those years of things that aren't perfect for you can create some problems that all of a sudden now have spilled over to create this symptom and the situation that things aren't working very well. What I'm continuing to study and understand is that there's so much we can do to heal that damage that's happened. At any point we can start taking care of ourselves, and it's going to help. But if there's damage that's already happened, there needs to be some healing process that needs to happen too. It isn't just that we start doing better and immediately we feel better. Yes, very quickly people feel a lot better when they go from a Standard American Diet to a well nourishing diet. But then we still need to do that healing process because those years of damage don't just go away, it's going to take some time for that to recover. So absolutely, it's a build up over time, and then we go back down the other way and get things to a place of healing.
How long does it take to create healthy habits?
Question for Lynda: In your experience how long does it take for people to rebuild their new healthy habits? You know, clean up their refrigerators. Instinctively in our busy lives, it's easy to drive through a McDonald's than it is to come home and prep a healthy meal. How long you does it take a client to make that switch and really stick with it?
Lynda's response: That's a great question. Everybody is different of course, just like everyone is different in their health situation. Everybody is different in their ability to make change or their motivation to make change, the ability in their lifestyle to make change. So that's a lot of what I do, is help people to get to their motivation. You know, what are the reasons?
A lot of people come to me because they want to lose weight. That's sort of what they're seeing. That's sort of, you know, kind of the top of mind thing that's bothering them the most. But when I start to dig deeper I realize there's a lot of other things going on, and it's not necessarily because of an aesthetic reason. It's because they don't feel good. Because their energy is really low. Because they can't get up off the floor from playing with their kid, you know get up and down playing with their kids or their grandkids. So, I try to help people get to that. The why! What's going on with you and really that deeper why then sort of the thing that we kind of see in front of us. And then I, really help people to figure out how to make it work in their life. Because, for me to hand you a plan and say here you go, go do this. Well, if that's not right for you, and that doesn't fit into your life, then you're never going to be able to accomplish that.
So everybody is different. Some people can just take things and run and have tremendous success really rapidly. For other people, there's a lot of history that has created the habits that they have, and it doesn't just happen overnight. A lot of people are so busy these days, so it's also just the the environment that people are in.
I'll give an example of a woman that I'm working with right now. She was really excited about getting started. She has some health concerns and her weight. It is really important that she takes off some weight. She's a single mom, and since we started working together she had a sinus infection, her daughter had the flu. She now just had another medical complication that she's dealing with. So we went from creating a really specific plan of these are the things that she was going to work on. To okay, those aren't working because life got in the way. So now what do we need to do? Let's create Plan B not that it's a bad plan, by any means, but it's a plan that's going to work better for your life right now. Then we'll take the next step when we are able to take that next step.
I think it's so important to work with people where they're at because to suggest that she's got to stick to that plan A because that's the only plan that's going to work! Well, she just can't do that right now; it's not going to happen.
But there are great things that she can still do. I always think too - you know exercise is something we have to do or we have to we can build movement certainly into our day. And exercise is certainly one of the things that kind of gets knocked off the calendar when people get busy which isn't ideal. But with food, we're eating anyway. We have to eat. So how do we make it the best that we can, even in a situation that, it's really challenging right now. We can make it better We can find easy ways to simplify your life, to simplify the cooking. Even if it's getting some pre-made things at the co-op or you know or a good deli or something where they have some good salads and things available, so there's lots of variety.
So back to your question of how long it takes?
For some people, within a month they've made dramatic changes to their life. For some people, it might be six months to a year before they've really felt like they've made this shift. You know they generally I sort of think of a few months three months or so that it takes people to build some habits. When I worked in the Fitness industry we've done some weight management program. We did a 12-week program I've run a number of times and what I found is a lot of people over 12 weeks they felt really like they had made positive changes. They felt really good. All of their symptoms had improved, everything was better, but they didn't really feel like the habits were solid yet. And so that then they needed to sort of build that. Like I can do these things they're working, I know they're working but how do I just make them part of my life. And that can just take a little bit longer.
Question from a consumer: A lot of people associate food with pleasure. And so many people say food should be considered as nutrition and fuel. Where does Lynda Enright stand?
Lynda's response: Number one, of course, food is fuel. That’s what it is and should be our fuel, and we need to fuel ourselves well. But food also is pleasure. There's nothing wrong with that. It's a joy in our lives, and that's absolutely ok.
What I try to get people to step back and think about is that some of the choices we make that gives us some immediate pleasure, also give us long-term pleasure or benefit or help our health. My experience is that a lot of people, when they clean up their diet, eating whole foods, reducing sugar, cutting back on alcohol ( some of the things that are sort of kind of flares for symptoms that people are living with), they feel so much better. Then those things aren't important to them anymore. They realize that I'd rather not eat sugar because I just feel so much better without it. And I'm a big believer that if you can prepare nourishing foods, that they should be delicious. And I will argue any day that a well-cooked highly nourishing meal tastes just as good or better than the highly processed foods that are on the market. I will also say it's kind of scary how food is manufactured to be really highly stimulating. So we're up against manufacturing of food, of processed foods, that are designed to be very pleasurable and make it very difficult for us to stop eating them. But when I get people to the other side of eating whole foods, real foods that isn't the pleasure that they get any more from it.
Is your Sweet Tooth a preference or an addiction?
Question from a consumer: When people come to you and say - but I have a sweet tooth. Do they really have a sweet tooth or are they addicted to sugar?
Lynda's response: I think that part of our taste develops throughout our life so and I have children, and so I can see how one of my kids is definitely more driven to sugar than another. So I do think that we have, even are born with some of those taste preferences, and they're certainly developed in early and childhood. So some of that is our history.
There's physiology and then there's habit. So we do have a physiological response to exposure to food, sugar being one of those things. Its when we continually feed ourselves sugar.
Particularly when you start out the day and you have that coffee drink with sugar and scone you've got this huge increase in blood sugar and then you crash, and you're going to crave sugar. And that's what people do all day long is go on this roller coaster. And so that's a physiologic response. Your body is demanding that because you've started that cycle.
On the other hand, then there's the habit that goes along with, well.."That's just what I do in the morning". That's what I do for breakfast, that’s what I do, I go get that. Or when there are pastries in the breakroom at work, thats just what I do, I go get that or when I get home. We have these patterns that then create these eating habits.
So we need to shift the habits, build some different patterns. Not just say we are not going to do that anymore, but create some different patterns that work better for you and then that physiologic response changes as well. I do think people have preferences. Some people say I like salty, crunchy things appeal to me. Sweet things appeal to me. Everyone has that taste preference, but I really believe that can change if you create good habits or change those habits that create an environment that really creates nourishing foods.
Why do more men say, they have to have meat and women say they can't live without sugar?
Question for a consumer: A lot of people say to me, the percentage of men versus women, a lot of men will say they can’t live without meat - that's their source of protein! if there was one food group they can't give up it's their hamburgers or steak. And then there are women who say to me that they can’t live without their sugars. Is that really true? Is it true statistically that a lot of men crave meat and women crave sugars?
Lynda's response: I can't say that I've seen research to say one way or another, but that's certainly my experience as well. I think we've shifted in general to everyone craving more sugar. So I do think as a culture we just have such highly stimulating sweet foods in our world. But yeah, that's kind of what I see also is men lean towards a higher protein, maybe a higher fat diet in some ways depending on the quality of the meat things that they consume. Women tend to gravitate towards the higher carb, pastry things. Some of that could be hormonal impact as well. Some of it definitely is just behaviors that we've developed over time. I can't say that we have proof of one way or another, but that's been my experience as well.
The debate - Which is worse, Fat or Sugar?
Question from a consumer: Is it fat or is it sugar which is a bigger culprit when it comes to heart disease or just in general?
Lynda's response: It's been up and down over the years. There's the low sugar, and then there's the low fat, and we go back and forth. The research is coming out in just really quite recent years here talking so much more about how sugar is really one of our bigger problems, and the fat hasn't been as much of a concern as far as heart disease as we once thought. The way I look at it is we can improve in so many ways. The typical American diet is actually not a super high-fat diet; it's just the quality of our fat is really poor. Processed foods tend to have more trans fats and more saturated fats, which are not as good for our heart health. We don't get as much seafood and nuts & seeds and things like a Mediterranean kind of diet. That is one of the best in the world as far as heart health and disease prevention. So it's not that quantity of fat isn't the problem. Its just that we're eating poor quality of fat.
And then from a sugar side, carbohydrates aren't a bad thing. Fruits and vegetables are some of our primary source of carbs, whole grains, brown rice and whole wheat and barley and bulgur and rye. There are lots of different wonderful whole grains that provide excellent nutrition. We tend to be a have a diet that's very heavy in refined grains, white bread and white pasta and pastries and crackers and those things. So getting people away from the quantity of those but also shifting the quality, so they're getting high fiber and lots of vitamins and minerals in the whole grain. I do think just as a population we've shifted so much more to a heavy carb diet, and I think we're learning more and more that that's really not the answer to weight management, to heart disease prevention, or management to diabetes prevention.
There are just all the chronic disease conditions we're not seeing that's having tremendous benefit. I think we know so much more. It's really getting good quality fats, lean sources of protein, lots of fruits and vegetables not thinking so much about low carb or low fat.
Lynda Enright, MS, RDN, LD, CLT is an educator, coach, and nutrition expert. I have a Master’s of Science in Nutrition from the University of Minnesota, certification in LEAP Therapy for food sensitivities, Health and Wellness Coach certification from Wellcoaches, and am a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist. Lynda has resolved her own IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, and has helped hundreds of patients achieve a healthy weight, reduce inflammation, increase their energy, eliminate aches and pains, and come out of their brain fog!
If you read this article and are interested in working with her, Lynda Enright is offering a free initial over the phone consultation to anyone trying to use Food as Medicine in the management of their disease. Please call her (612)-581-4668 and mention this video and article.