SPP: So first thank you so much for being on the show. It’s really awesome how we kind of found you through Brene’s thing and nutrition, health, all the things that we’re going to talk about is something that we have focused a lot of our podcast around actually. We’re pretty excited to talk to you about this topic.
Debra: Well I have been kind of trained in Western Medicine when it comes to how you treat diseases with diets. However, I very quickly was frustrated with that kind of orientation and focused much more on preventing disease and creating a sense of wellness. And also found pretty quickly that telling people what to eat really doesn’t help. You really need to help people understand what’s going on with their eating behavior. And along with it their bodies and their emotions and their thought process around why they’re choosing to eat. So for me it’s not just the what to eat it’s also the how you’re eating and why you’re eating that I spent a lot of time on. And you probably already know that I include yoga in the workshops of my classes because I think it’s a really nice shortcut to trying to interpret what your body’s trying to tell you.
SPP: Right. And it’s funny when you say “Why we eat?” I’m like I eat because I’m hungry. So I’m interested what kind of topics do you dive into when you say “Why we eat?”
Debra: You know I really wish that everybody could say that, but I think most people would say I hardly ever eat because I’m hungry. Actually I don’t know when I’m hungry. I think a lot of people, at least the people that I end up talking to, really are pretty disconnected with their bodies and they rarely eat from the physiological kind of responding to the body sensation. It’s much more about I just want something or I’m just on automatic pilot. Most folks are pretty programmed or mindless in the way that they think of themselves. And I try to encourage, at least initially, development of awareness around are you eating because you’re hungry from your stomach, versus are you eating because you’re hungry in another place in your body. Like we call it Mouth Hunger, when you just want something in your mouth, do you know what I mean?
SPP: Absolutely. And it’s actually funny that you bring that up because there’s a lot of times, I live by myself and I’ll eat when I’m bored.
Debra: Yes. So that’s a really good example. Boredom is one of the top reasons.
Debra: But stress kind of easing into the evening, that transition period after work for a lot of people, means the first thing you do is open the fridge or go into the pantry, or go through the drive-thru on the way home.
SPP: One thing and I guess you’re answering the question I was going to ask, is I saw on your Web site you talk about how you’re able to identify common behaviors that create kind of nutritional issues. And then you work through those as part of your practice. And I thought that was interesting because I don’t really personally look at eating behaviors. It’s been engrained in our society to look at what you eat. So if you’re eating potato chips or if you’re eating an apple that’s clear cut. But really what you’re saying is a lot of it is the behaviors that lead to the problems.
Debra: In my opinion eating is a very complicated behavior. If you look at how very basic it is when it comes to needing to nourish ourselves to survive that’s one way of looking at it. But it’s how we connect with other people, it’s how we show that we love somebody, it’s where we go when we’re lonely or bored or stressed, it’s something that we avoid when we’re trying to control our bodies.
SPP: There’s so much stuff around the workplace that’s focused around food, drinking and all that stuff and you mentioned that society is based around focusing around food. How can somebody control themselves in those situations? Or what do you teach them? What do you tell them so that they know, okay I’m going to have to go to this social event. I’m going to be around food and alcohol, food and other drinks. What do you do in those situations?
Debra: Well let me just give you a little background as to just my general approach and that is to help people become more mindful and more intuitive in their eating process. So they have to get out of their heads and listen to their bodies and to kind of tune into your appetite regulation system. Because you’re born into the world with an appetite regulation system that’s beautiful, it’s fine tuned, and it works perfectly. But then we kind of intrude into that naturally occurring system by setting up.
Like when you have a baby somebody might tell you to feed them so many ounces every so many hours. Instead of just letting your baby tell you when they’re hungry and they pull away from the nipple when they’ve enough. We send them off to preschool and they get a smiley face plate and get a cookie, if they eat it all, regardless of how their body felt. And then of course as parents we get all hyper vigilant about making sure your kid eats a certain thing, make sure they eat enough. We kind of interrupt a naturally occurring very well developed pristine system, so when you do that all sorts of things kind of become problematic. And when you get kind of out of tuned you either over or under eat usually. And it doesn’t have to get pathological but it gets out of sync and most people obviously are overeating.
So when you’re going to a social event, as you just said, I encourage people to not go too hungry. It’s a really good strategy to try to make sure that you have had say a good high protein snack going into something like that so you feel relatively satisfied. Because if you kind of anticipate this social event by under eating and kind of saving up then you’re going to be a little too hungry and that puts you at risk of kind of going for it. And not to mention if there’s alcohol onboard then you’re disinhibited by the alcohol and everything gets casted to the wind. So you’re more at risk of overeating then.
SPP: I think I have an idea of what you’re saying with that. Just an idea so I hear, ordering the wings at a bar and nachos, and that kind of stuff.
Debra: Well yeah not stepping on any toes.
Debra: It’s okay to do that. I’m not saying that the food choice is the problem, it’s how much. Like if you’re hungry to start with and you go to a bar and do all of that then your body is going to enjoy the nourishment, but it’s really much more about stopping when you’ve had enough. And I don’t know but I find beer and wings to be very, very, very filling. But you’ll notice that a lot of people tend to be distracted and they’re watching the game or they’re just not paying attention and the next thing they know the food is good. They’ve eaten it all and they realize they were mindless. So it’s much more about trying to become more mindful in the moment.
SPP: I like that. I like the way you kind of discuss that because it can be the food or you realize the beers gone, and then you got to think about all the calories you just drank. So I could see how you could forget about that sometimes. I actually wanted to ask you about, I saw Mood Stability on your Web site and I wanted to see through your research, I mean you’ve been doing this for a long time. I know you have a lot of designations. You’ve done your homework. When it comes to mood stability do you think that society is kind of all this hyperactive disorder stuff, do you think that’s due to overconsumption of sugar and processed food and simple carbohydrates, things like that?
Debra: Wow we need a weekend. I think that there are many different ways to look at mood stability. And one thing is we have kind of connected our judgment. We’ve kind of contributed moral character to food choice so that there’s a good and a bad. And then we feel good or bad when we’ve done a certain thing, eaten a certain food, behaved a certain way with our eating. I think it does change our mood and certainly what we see on the scales changes our mood.
So we could look at it that way. But what I meant when I was creating my Web site was a couple of other things, and that was that there are foods that do kind of lend themselves to more mood stability. And that is we know that foods that are high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids, for example, are really nice when it comes to stabilizing the mood. But also if you get too hungry or if you eat mostly carbs and you don’t get enough protein and heart healthy fat that you’ll end up with more mood swings because your blood sugar is dropping and you get irritable and lethargic, or you could overeat carbs and also get lethargic.
So finding a way to feed yourself with that nice even like every four hour or so, nice high protein, heart healthy fat with some carbs that are primarily from plant sources and not as processed you’ll find yourself feeling much more leveled out and less labile, less up and down with your mood.
SPP: Yes I’ve got a couple of friends that are doing low carb or no carb diets right now.
SPP: And Chris and I both did that. When we were out in Arizona we just wanted to go a month to see what would happen if we cut carbs. Because you do lose a lot of weight but you lose water weight and you lose whatever else, I guess muscle mass, and that kind of stuff.
SPP: And you lose your mind.
SPP: Yes you absolutely lose your mind. I mean you go crazy. You get headaches.
SPP: And you just like you said have terrible mood swings.
Debra: Yes and you don’t have any energy. You feel like going to bed.
SPP: Yeah that was the thing we tried still going to the gym on a low carb diet and it’s like no. SPP: I think I almost passed out.
Debra: Well you have to remember the job that carbs have. I mean carbs have gotten a very bad rap. Carbs have a job to do and that is to give you energy. So you have to have them. You just need to in my opinion look at if you’re hungry in the first place, and if you’re mixing it up with some protein and fat, that’s heart healthy fat, and to try to make sure you’re in sync with your body. I mean you will have cravings for very specific foods sometimes and it’s because you have a very specific need that you actually do need energy. So you might crave a peanut butter sandwich. I don’t know, do you guys have cravings?
SPP: Oh all the time. And like you said, where carbs have gotten a bad rap when you think about fat, fat got one just as much because the name is fat so people are like oh I’m going to cut fat out of my diet.
SPP: And they try to do this low fat/no fat stuff and the processed and terrible for you, and again you go into those bad moods once again. But yes Chris has sweet tooth cravings and I love Chinese food for some reason.
Debra: Well maybe you want this spicy. Do you want this spicy that it offers?
SPP: Yes or the salt. All the salt and the spice I guess.
Debra: Well there is a therapist that I know. Her name is Anita Johnston and she would say “Well that means you’re trying to spice up your life.
SPP: I love it. He is.
SPP: Yeah absolutely.
Debra: So food could be an interesting doorway into understanding yourself.
SPP: You know I’ve never looked at it like that. Because I did want to ask you when you were talking about cravings and things. Like Jon said I’m the kind of person that if somebody said “We’re eating Smores for dinner and they’re not bad for you”, I literally could eat an entire bag of marshmallows like hands down. And so sometimes I wonder like that’s my body craving it, but I think it would be very short sided to be like oh if my body tells me I want this I should eat it. So don’t you think there is a level of discipline or something? I think a lot of it comes to, like you said, being healthy and well rounded.
SPP: Some type of middle ground.
Debra: Yes. I mean the middle ground is exactly what I’m all about to try to get away from these extreme approaches and the swings. Dieting creates so much of a swing. And I was wondering when you were talking about the marshmallows, I mean a lot of people would have maybe a diet or restrictive kind of background where they were chronically avoiding something like marshmallows. Therefore there was a sense of deprivation so they would crave what they had felt that they could not have that they had been deprived of.
The other thing is my hunch is that if you did go for the marshmallows for awhile you would totally not want them anymore and they would lose all of the emotional charge that they have. So there’s lots of research on this. And if you just go for M&Ms after awhile you’re sick of them and they’re just a food. I want to create a t-shirt line that says “It’s just food.”
SPP: I see where you’re coming from I’ve never hit that wall. I’ve had to maintain some type of composure.
Debra: Like discipline.
SPP: Yes. I’ll literally eat a box of Tic-Tacs, two things of Mentos and a thing of Hot Tamales and be like hmm that was tasty. I don’t do that anymore because I’m a grown man, like this is not what dinner should consist of.
Debra: So the craving won’t go away.
SPP: It doesn’t oftentimes, but what I do honestly I’ve never thought of this until this conversation. The sugar craving thing oftentimes comes into play when I feel like I don’t have excitement in the immediate future.
Debra: So then it becomes like you’re using. I mean really what I encourage folks to do is to have a conversation with yourself about what it is that you’re wanting. If you’re not wanting food because you are physiologically hungry, then you probably want it for another reason. And to really become a student of yourself and do some looking into that say “What’s going on, what’s up?”
SPP: Yes no. I really do like that. I’ve never really thought of it like that for all the thought I’ve given to those types of things. And while we’re talking about cravings and nutrition and all that I wanted to ask about your diet.
SPP: What changes you’ve made and if you’ve always been conscious of the things you eat or if you had this kind of revelation?
Debra: Well it’s been a long time. I would say that I started changing my food choices when I was in Grad school studying nutrition. I mean it’s pretty hard to study nutrition and not start to listen to what you’re learning. Because I think for me it actually changes my preferences because I understand more about what the food is offering, what it supports in me, but I also truly 100% live by the way that I’m teaching my clients to eat.
And that is to listen to your body and trust your body, which is so very hard to do for a lot of us. Because I think bottom line we just don’t trust ourselves, but when you start to eat in line with your body it’s really not so much about food being good or bad. It’s you have a little something of delicious food. I think I’m more snobby. I tend to really want high quality food I don’t like things that are highly processed that’s for sure.
SPP: So what was your dinner today? If we looked into your snapshot of what your diet consist of what did you eat today?
Debra: I am a vegetarian so it’s going to sound really boring and classically like a nutritionist now that you’re asking me, but it was tofu and quinoa with vegetables and read wine.
SPP: Oh come on. Come on that’s too scripted. Come on. You had a Snickers bar. Come on.
Debra: I told you unfortunately you hit me at just the time that that’s what I want. And I love it, I love that dinner. SPP: You know and people who say that I commend you, but I think I would be really angry after that.
SPP: Well just because I would feel maybe unsatisfied, but do you feel like that’s something you have to go against your…
SPP: …intuition and eventually your body realizes like wait I’m on the right path. And then all of a sudden you feel much better.
Debra: I really do follow where my body goes. I mean if I have a craving for something like Chinese or Sushi or Italian I would definitely go have it, but I would probably only eat part of what they served me because I would know this when I was satisfied. I tend to eat every four hours or so and eat very high protein. I love nuts, I love cheeses.
SPP: For very high protein for a vegetarian what are good things to eat? Is it just a lot of beans? Debra: Probably nuts and cheeses.
SPP: Love nuts and cheeses yes.
Debra: Just all nuts and cheese and Greek yogurt. But I also eat fish so I’m a Pescatarian.
SPP: Oh yeah.
Debra: And somewhat flexible.
SPP: The other thing is you talk about you want a world free of dieting. Debra: Yes I really do.
SPP: And I think that’s – it’s not just a noble goal I think it’s a really good concept. Because the diet in my opinion is something that was invented due to our ability to over consume, mass produced, awful food. Until recently, the Industrial Revolution perhaps, dieting was unnecessary. It was really what can I eat? So we’ve gotten into this culture of just so much dieting, so many different fads to be free of it. Could you talk about where that came from and how you think we might get there?
Debra: Well I really wish we would have started with that question because I could talk about that a long time.
SPP: Go ahead. Have at it.
Debra: I really feel like dieting is very harmful and it creates so many kind of reactions. I think what we do is we do these extreme kind of highly restrictive approaches and then we react to those and back and forth and back and forth. That’s where I think we have lost our minds in this country. I think we actually have a national eating disorder because people are so not normal. Normalized eating is when you eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re satisfied, a variety of foods, and the food itself is neutral. There is no moral character to a food choice. There is no good or bad. You just eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied.
But we have gotten all out of whack in our heads so much with rules and points and should and shouldn’t and boxes to check off. And through that I think we have become very disconnected from our bodies. So my work is about trying to become more mindful. And to me it’s just such a smart idea because you get to know yourself, you get to figure things out for good, you don’t have to sign up for anymore classes or programs. This is it. It’s the last stop on the diet train and it’s very sustainable, you can figure this one out, and continue to do it, and continue to learn yourself all along the way. It’s full of self-acceptance work. You can become more comfortable in your own skin, you become more powerful in your own life, you don’t advocate power to some other person who’s telling you what to eat. The only rules to follow are listening to your body.
Now that sounds very simple but it is not easy at all because we are mindless in our day. We don’t even take lunch. We go through the drive-thru while we’re doing errands, sit at our desk and continue to work in front of the computer. We don’t even taste our food.
SPP: I actually read, and I’m sure you’ve read it as well, but Michael Pollan wrote a book…
SPP: …”The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and he talks about the time spent in a day for preparing meals has gone from, I believe it was six hours to 20 minutes. I’m probably misquoting so I won’t finish that. But it was like this infinite decrease. And it’s astounding. And he talks about the exact same thing you’re saying, getting back to food is the connection to life and all living things so.
Debra: I mean basically the hallmarks of becoming a mindful eater are developing awareness of what you’re doing, because I think we don’t even notice this, we’re just kind of on such a basic autopilot that we aren’t even aware of how we eat every day. And we need to kind of savior our food, be present so that we can taste it, which means decrease the distraction, turn off the television, move away from the computer screen, and try to do it all with as much gentle non judgment kind of self- talk as possible.
SPP: Now I’m going to quickly change the subject because this was on the forefront of the news recently, but what is your opinion on the whole Paula Deen news that just came out where she had, I guess adult onset diabetes. Did you hear about that?
Debra: Yes I did. Yes.
SPP: Because I mean this is, I don’t necessarily want to call it an epidemic, maybe it is, but within the United States it seems like everybody is being diagnosed with diabetes. And for her I guess she sat on this news for a little while…
SPP: …because she’s known for a few years.
SPP: But you look at what she cooks on a daily basis on TV and it’s like, well just sticks and sticks of butter and all that kind of stuff. And I just wanted to see what your opinion was on the whole situation. And what you thought about I guess the timing of the release with now she’s got an organization that she’s working with and all that kind of stuff.
Debra: And pharmaceuticals.
SPP: Yeah and the pharmaceutical company that she’s partnering with yeah.
Debra: Well I think she is a case and point in that if you are doing the opposite of Michael Pollan’s work you’re going to end up with being high risk for some of these disease. I mean diabetes is a disease that comes from overly consuming. I mean if you are following your body’s satisfaction system it will tell you stop. If you eat something that has a lot of fat in it it’s very satisfying, so you eat part of it. If I have lunch and I get a veggie wrap and a piece of fruit and some yogurt, versus having a lunch where I go out to lunch and I have a pasta with a cream sauce, I am not going to be able to finish that pasta. I’m going to get full very quickly versus the veggie wrap I’m still going to want to eat. And then if I have the veggie wrap I’m going to want to have a snack in the afternoon.
So if you look at the system of eating something very high fat, if you’re really listening to your body you can eat it, but if you’re stopping when you’re satisfied you’re not going to eat very much of it. But you have to be awake.
SPP: No it’s so true. I’m having these moments of revelation. Today I ate a food truck in D.C. and it was so good And it was like pretty good fresh cooked kabob and everything, but he gave me so much food that I felt like oh my God I have to eat it. And I felt, I have a good metabolism like I’m pretty active, so I never think of how it’s going to affect me in terms of weight. I’m not really worried about it, but in terms of mood it clearly does. For two hours I had to go get coffee and it was just this miserable.
Debra: You were tired.
SPP: Yes. And all I really had to do was eat half of it and eat the other half four hours later and I would have been fantastic. Debra: Exactly. That’s it. That’s it.
SPP: I don’t know never occurs to me. But I was also the one that was told you better clean your plate when I was a kid so.
Debra: Right. And when you pay for something you don’t want to waste it. I mean a lot of people have a hard time with the idea that they can either throw food away or save it to later. I meant it’s just not as good. I mean as a leftover I hear lots of excuses about that concept of only eating part of what you’re served. And I’ve been asked so many times by servers in restaurants, was everything okay? Was the food all right? If you leave food people are uncomfortable. We’re used to cleaning our plates.
SPP: No that’s interesting. I never thought about that, the server thing.
Debra: Yes. So you have to kind of stick up for yourself. If you say No thank you I’m not hungry people look at you really strangely. SPP: Of course you should be hungry you’re American aren’t you.
Debra: But it’s food come on.
SPP: I wanted to kind of finish this off with something that I know all of our listeners would be anxious to hear. Just kind of your general advice, if you had somebody come in and they said “I only have a few minutes”, what are the best things you could tell me in terms of what should I eat? What should I be conscious of when I’m eating? Things like that? What would you tell them?
Debra: I would tell them there are just some basic rules to follow that are just something I want to think about. One is as you’ve heard me say over and over again, try to follow your body. Try to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied. When you want to eat something and you want to kind of go through this self-discovery process and become more aware of yourself just simply ask yourself am I hungry from my stomach, yes or no? And if you are hungry for other reasons then try to take a minute and talk to yourself about it. What’s really going on.
And I think it’s really important to kind of setup some structure so that you don’t go long periods of time. So many people tell me that they just don’t eat all day and then all of a sudden they realize they’re really hungry at night. And then overeat at night and that’s a system. The next day they don’t eat that much and they overeat at night again. So to try to eat every four hours or so usually works. And to try to make sure you have protein and one really nice formula as kind of protein and produce together. So that would be like peanut butter on an apple or low fat cheese and fruit or yogurt, which had carb and protein in it so you don’t have to do the combination.
SPP: That’s a really cool piece of advice actually. I think people don’t have very good attention spans, myself included, but that’s one I can remember.
Debra: What the protein and produce?
Debra: And that’s one of the things that’s going on with our culture is that we like to boil down things to those little sound bites and when it comes to eating that just doesn’t work. There are layers and layers. So you can start with one of those little cute tricks and see if you can make a difference, but not getting too hungry and trying to feed yourself as you go through the day. And I have to say activity, being active, finding a way to play, and move your body. I don’t like to use the word exercise just like I don’t like to use the word diet. So to find a way that’s fun for you to be more active also is essential.
SPP: All right well great. And also I know we’ll put it on our Web site, but your Web site is www.bodyandmindnutrition.com. And it’s great I definitely recommend people check it out to learn a little bit more about what you do and the things you believe in, which can only benefit you. Is there anywhere you’d like to lead our listeners or anything that you would like to plug?
Debra: I don’t know if you can go to my Facebook page. You can go to my Facebook page through my Web site, but there are a lot of wonderful blogs out there about intuitive eating and mindful eating. And you can find those. I post regularly about those concepts and the folks that do most of the work around mindful eating and intuitive eating would be posts you can find on my Facebook page.
SPP: Okay great. Yeah I found your Facebook page so I think anybody can check through your business or things like that. So again we really appreciate you being on. It’s a fantastic topic, one that I’m extremely interested in, and try to make strides in the right direction every day.
Debra: I can tell. I can tell you’re really paying attention.