And so begins one of my most dreaded two weeks of the year. You may be wondering how could anyone dread this time of year - it's (sort of) sweater weather meaning we aren't yet drudging through snow season nor is it that awful window in January where the credit card bills from Christmas shopping start rolling in - so what gives? For me, this week and next represent the two weeks of the year where while working with clients I get to hear all about the pumpkin pie.
"Well.....this month won't be good because of Thanksgiving and the pumpkin pie".
"I know I shouldn't have but after the giant plate I had at the meal, I had pumpkin pie with whipped cream too".
"There's no sense in lying - I was bad and had pumpkin pie over the weekend"
You get the idea. My office chair will be inhabited with clients expressing guilt, disappointment and feeling that they are a failure for having pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving when they have weight loss goals. Want to know why I cringe inside every time this happens?
Dietitians and other health care practitioners used to be pretty good at advising clients cut calories and get rid of treats such as pumpkin pie as a means to facilitate weight loss - we had this magic equation that if a client could only cut 500 calories per day than over the course of a week they'd lose weight. Easy right? Well I've really moved away from this message in my practice because we've learned (and accepted) there really is more to it than that. First that magic 500 calorie number doesn't seem to work in practice and yet it caused a lot of people to become calorie counting zombies. In my practice I look more at the 'nutrient bang' for your diet's calorie buck but I also look at something else which is 'the how often'
So what's the 'how often'? It's looking at and realizing that what we do (or don't do) often has the potential to play a big roll in our health. Us humans seem to be really good at deciding where we 'went wrong' and then blaming that profusely "I ate the pumpkin pie this weekend, and therefore I won't be down the weight I want to be since our last appointment". My response - how much pie are we talking? 1.....2 slices? And when was your last appointment.....4 weeks ago - so between 4 weeks ago and now, the 2 slices of pie you ate are what was responsible for the lack of change in weight on the scale? That's 2 pieces of pie included in your intake over a month long window where if you consumed 3 meals per day would equal 84 meals. Even IF that magic weight loss equation was accurate, how could what happened on one day, at one meal be held solely responsible?
The 'how often' also recognizes that the foods we eat are more than just a vehicle to obtain energy and nutrients. That pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving might represent a tradition or could be a reminder of a childhood memory that is relived by carefully preparing Grandma's recipe for the family to share. We should be able to enjoy these special celebrations without the blame and guilt after all - positive experiences with food and celebrations plays a roll in our mental health and depriving ourselves of that is not without consequence.
I am hopeful that this post will resonate with some of you. If you are one of the people ready to blame the pumpkin pie you had on the weekend for your 'failures', it isn't too late! Working with a Registered Dietitian can help you explore your relationship with food and move away from a place of blame and guilt while still working on your health goals.
Full disclosure: Over the weekend, I had a piece of pumpkin pie for breakfast with my coffee yesterday morning. Pie for breakfast is a once a year occurrence for me, not at all like my usual breakfast routine - and I enjoyed every. single. bite.