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"New Year, Still You" - A balanced, science-based approach to eating healthy in 2021

We connected with Joline Beauregard, Registered Dietitian, to chat about having a balanced, science-based approach to healthy-eating in 2021. If you've been thinking that you need to start a new diet this year, or if you've been seeing the messaging out there about "burning off the holiday calories", or you're just looking to start feeling better but you're not sure where to start or who to listen to, this is for you! Enjoy!

Joline (Sunrise Dietetics)

Nadea: I’m going to give you a quick rundown about who Joline is... Joline is a registered dietician. She has her bachelor’s degree from Ryerson University. She has worked with a fabulous variety of humans, helping them to feel their best and reach their potential, no matter what their background or situation is. She loves helping folks to find the joy in cooking, eating, and building foundations of health from the inside out — I love that.

I loved this line from her online bio: When Joline isn’t helping the community with their nutrition goals, you’ll find her hiking and camping in our beautiful Yukon wilderness, reading historical fiction, journalling, listening to business and health podcasts, and working on her passion-project tiny house.

I think all of that is still up to date. I mean, corona has kind of thrown everything off, but as far as I know, Joline is still kicking butt and helping people. We’ll see if I did a good job of summing her up. Did I miss anything?

Joline: I don’t think so! That was pretty good.

Nadea: I’m willing to be a professional cheerleader any day now. I’ll just follow you around and let people know how awesome you are.

Joline: I mean, same, girl. I’m your biggest fan. I send people to you all the time too.

Nadea: Thank you! So let’s talk! First of all, this time of year is an interesting one. I believe you celebrate the Christmas holidays and I know that you’ve taken some very well-deserved time off recently — I think you’re back now?

Joline: Yeah.

Nadea: But even for people who don’t celebrate the holidays, there are a lot of very delicious things that are available this time of year and there is a lot more downtime. People are taking lots of breaks and things like that and — hopefully — relaxing. So I wanted to get your opinion. Can we talk a little bit about the pressure people feel during holidays and how a person can return to routine afterward all of that? What do you think?

Joline: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, whether you’re somebody who celebrates Christmas, like you said, or not, or if you’re just somebody who just gets caught up in the craziness that is December and school breaks and — at least during most years — visiting lots of family and those sorts of things, it is a lot!

We’re told all the time from media and diet culture and all of these things how we should restrict, or, at the very least, be “in control”. When we know that there’s going to be all this food, treats, people, and craziness going on, it makes sense that we go, “Oh my god, I’m overwhelmed. No. What do I do? I’m just not going to.” That leads to a lot of restrictions.

Especially now with social media, influencers, actors, and famous people are so easily given a voice, and they’re constantly telling us how they’re restricting or what their tips and tricks are. We hear it so much more than ever before. I think one of the biggest things to think about is how it doesn’t matter what you eat during the two weeks of a 52-week year.

Nadea: What?! [laughs wryly]

Joline: Right? If 80 percent of the time, you’re eating the way that works for your body and what works for your routine, the other 20 percent that is the two weeks at Christmas or your birthday — or whatever it is — where you feel like you should feel “out of control”, you don’t need to.

I realize that is easier said than done because these are things that we’re socialized into and that are so ingrained in us. But the biggest thing — especially now that we’re a couple weeks past that and trying to find our balance again — is to listen to your body.

If you’ve been eating a lot sugar or a lot of whatever, although there’s not a lot of evidence to support that your body craves the individual nutrients that it needs, it does crave the things that make you feel good. So right now, if you’ve been not eating as nutrient-dense or if you’ve been eating more fast foods or eating more sweets — or however it is that your routine has changed — your body is going to start to say, “Okay, water might be good” or “I’d really actually like a salad. Could you please put down the cookie?” Your body — if you listen to it — is going to tell you those things. It’s listening to it that is the hard part for a lot of us as adults.

"Your body — if you listen to it — is going to tell you (what it needs). It’s listening to it that is the hard part."

Nadea: That tracks. That makes a lot of sense. I think you’re right. Every now and then, my body will be like, “Maybe instead of a cookie, you could eat a salad. We could go for one nutrient. That would be good.” You’re totally right.

Joline: I mean, have both, right? Have your cookie and have your salad too.

Nadea: Yes. Put the cookie on the salad. [laughs] I don’t think that would be that delicious.

Joline: I mean… [laughs] I like flavour combination, Nadea, but that’s a little weird for me. I won’t yuck your yum, but, like…

Nadea: Yeah. I don’t know. I’ll try it and I’ll let you know if it’s any good.

The next question that I had is kind of what you were talking about. So personally, as a Pilates teacher and a fitness coach, I’m seeing a lot of content out there right now about “burning off your holiday calories” — like, “Hey, we’re about to get back on track, guys! We’ve gotta burn off those holiday calories!” and the “new year, new you” concept, right?

I am seeing a lot from other people, including some clients, who are like, “I’ve cheated on being good and eating good food. I’ve been cheating. I’ve gone off track” — because they’ve been partaking in these seasonal tasty treats. Like, “Oh, no, I’ve really eaten too many gingerbread houses,” or whatever.

So as a dietician, what is your take on this whole “burn off the holiday calories” and “earn your turkey dinner” concept?

Joline: So last week, I watched the replay of the interview of the health coach who you interviewed. You guys had talked a lot about language and the importance of language. I think the same thing when I hear “cheated” or “I was bad” or “I failed” — and I hear these from my clients all the time. My first reaction is — well, two things. The first one is, you do not need to earn your food.

Nadea: What?! [feigns shock]

Joline: You do not need to earn your food! So you don’t need to go to the gym to burn off your calories. You do not need to earn your food. Some people need to hear that from a dietician, so now you have: YOU DO NOT NEED TO EARN YOUR FOOD.

The second one is that our food choices do not equal our morality.

Two things: (1) You do not need to earn your food and (2) Our food choices do not equal our morality.

Nadea: WHAT?! [feigns even more shock]

Joline: We do that! We have “good” foods and “bad” foods. We’ve put these binaries into what we eat, and that doesn’t fit into our cultures and our lifestyles and all the other reasons that we choose the foods that we choose.

So those are the first things that I think are just right of the hop with the language and stuff like that. Also, I saw your post last week about how over 90 percent of diets fail and about how that’s the fault of the diet and not the fault of the person. I just loved that.

Nadea: Oh, good!

Joline: Because we actually know that the number one side effect of intentionally trying to lose weight is actually weight gain. That is just too convenient for the multimillion dollar diet industry that relies on us feeling uncomfortable with our food choices and our bodies. If they can convince us to intentionally lose weight and that is going to make us gain more weight, what are we going to keep doing?

"The number one side effect of intentionally trying to lose weight is actually weight gain. That is just too convenient for the multimillion diet industry that relies on us feeling uncomfortable with our food choices and our bodies."

Nadea: It’s terrible!

Joline: And that’s just something that we’ve been convinced of, and it’s so, so, so sad.

Another dietician I actually went to school with and follow on Instagram — she’s amazing. Her name is Michelle Jaelin, and her Instagram handle is @nutritionartist. She actually posted today a Chinese proverb that said “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the second best time is now.”

So while I don’t believe in making “New Year’s resolutions”, I thought that this was really timely because I do believe that change is hard and we need to take whatever motivation or opportunity that we have. So if the New Year is your time that you have the motivation, the willpower, and the mindset to do a little bit of a reset, use that and run with that — absolutely. But I think the trick is setting goals that keep you motivated and don’t make you feel like you’re failing.

So on the more specific diet-side of things — and I should say that any diet or eating routine or lifestyle that encourages you not to eat certain foods or not to eat foods within a certain timeframe is not a plan that truly has your long-term health in mind, and those are not necessarily good nutrition goals. And, as a side note, most of these food-related routines are diets in disguise. So when we’re thinking about making healthy food-related goals, you want to try to think about things that don’t put your morals into your decisions — because that’s not the case — and that are long term. So use that motivation right now, but don’t use it as a New Year’s resolution that is going to be detrimental to you.

"Any diet or eating routine or lifestyle that encourages you not to eat certain foods or not to eat foods within a certain timeframe is not a plan that truly has your long-term health in mind."

Nadea: That makes sense to me. I remember seeing a quotation one time — somebody pointed out that food doesn’t have moral value. When you’re like, “Oh, I’m so bad. I ate a donut.” “Well, actually, Susan, you didn’t burn down an orphanage; you ate a donut. It’s okay. You’re not a bad person. Let’s re-evaluate that here.” So if you eating a snack makes you feel like a garbage person, maybe there might be something to think about there. I think you’re entirely right. That’s fabulous. I think everything you’re saying here is so good.

I think you’ve already kind of touched on this but you may have some added tips. We have had a heck of a year. Last year was insane. I think it makes sense that people want to feel good. It makes sense that people want to have a fresh start, like you were saying. Maybe you have that little bit of an impetus of “Hey, I have a new year!” Food obviously has a huge impact on how we feel. If people want to feel good, maybe they want to make some changes. So do you maybe have one or two tips on how someone could approach that from a more balanced perspective?

Joline: So I guess this kind of builds on my last answer a little bit. I guess the biggest thing is that I think it’s much more helpful and healthy to think about how you can add to yourself and your life with food rather than thinking about it as restriction.

"It’s much more helpful and healthy to think about how you can add to yourself and your life with food rather than thinking about it as restriction."

We often think of our goals or the changes that we want to make about our food routine as “I want to eat less of XYZ”. But thinking about it as you might want to eat more fruits and vegetables or more whole grains, thinking about choosing water first or drinking more water, eating breakfast more often — like, how can you add to your food and your relationship with food and with food culture instead of those restrictions? Another one might be eating with my family more often.

Those types of things help us to build a positive relationship with food, and then when we need to make more serious changes because of our health or whatever, having that positive foundation helps make it more attainable when you do have to make more restrictive changes because of a health concern.

Nadea: That makes sense. I really like that. That seems like a way fresher, happier, more positive mentality than feeling like “I can’t eat this” or saying “Oh, I shouldn’t…” That’s really nice. I like that. You’re brilliant.

I think this next question ties in with what you’re saying as well — it’s almost like there’s a theme. The question I have next is: Do you think it’s helpful or reasonable — or even possible — to completely change your eating habits and become a “new you”? And, to add onto that, is it even necessary for you to say “I need to be a new me”?

Joline: You know what? I think I do — for part of your question, I do. I’ve seen people, for example, who have been diagnosed with celiac disease and have to change their whole life. Their whole kitchen is becoming gluten free. They’re getting a new toaster, new cutting boards — their entire kitchen is professional deep cleaned in some situations, depending on how severe these types of things are. This is a commitment and it is a challenge, but unfortunately, for some people, it’s just necessary for your health and for all of those things.

However, for the average healthy individual who wants to be making positive changes related to nutrition, something like that is just not necessary. I think that’s the biggest thing from influencers, diet culture, and all these things — that your changes have to be big or they don’t count, that they have to be black and white, and that if you’re not doing it 100% all the time, then you have failed and all of these other negative things that we’ve been talking about.

What I do find that most people struggle with — and what I work on with people with wild success — is building a more positive relationship with food and breaking down those diet culture beliefs. This creates more positive experiences with eating, less experiences of guilt, elevated food freedom, increased body satisfaction, and so many other things. Since our mental health and how we think about things is so closely tied to our physiological health, it can actually decrease physiological symptoms. So if people have a better relationship with food, some of their GI upset, bloating, nausea — stuff like that — can actually go away.

So rather than changing your habits and your routines, building positive behaviours and changing your relationship with food can actually be much more effective than just “cutting out carbs” or cutting out whatever you have felt you should be cutting out.

Nadea: I love that, because a few years back, I was given a sort of blanket diagnosis of “IBS” and it’s kind of interesting, because I’ve seen even in my own experience that a person’s stress levels and how you feel about food can make a huge difference with regard to how your tummy is feeling — which seems crazy but it’s totally a thing. So it’s way better if you’re not having intense anxiety about stuff.

I was also thinking about what you were saying about the whole “black and white” thing, because as a fitness trainer, we see that all the time too — where people are like, “Oh, I can’t start taking care of my body and being fit unless I do it every single day, first thing in the morning. We’re just going to go from zero to 500%!” And then when it doesn’t work out — and inevitably, this isn’t going to work out, right? — then they’re like, “Aw man, I failed. Everything stinks!” People will do that with food too — so I think you’re right!

Joline: I think you and I have talked about this — we need to set goals that are more intentions rather than “I have to do THIS thing THIS many times to be successful.” So instead of saying, “I’m going to start from nothing and now I’m going to the gym three times a week, and then once I haven’t done it the second week, now I’m failing and I’m probably going to quit because I feel like I’m already unsuccessful”, try saying, “I’m not going to the gym today” or “I’m not going to do this crazy workout that I said I was going to do because I don’t have it in me, but I’m still going to go for a 10-minute walk.” Do those little things — setting those intentions.

The same can be said for nutrition. I was talking to a friend about this yesterday — I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution. But my intention for this year is to set my future self up for success, and that can be something different every day.