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Conquer Your Weight
Episode #17: Don't Eat Too Many Carrots or You'll Get Fat
July 13, 2022
In this week's episode, we are going to talk about our beliefs around food. What are the beliefs you have and how are they keeping you from achieving your weight loss goals?
Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: This is Dr. Sarah Stombaugh and you are listening to the Conquer Your Weight Podcast, episode number 17. Announcer: Welcome to the Conquer Your Weight podcast where you will learn to understand your mind and body so you can achieve long-term weight loss. Here's your host, obesity medicine physician and life coach, Dr. Sarah Stombaugh. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Hi everyone. Thanks for joining me today. Today we are going to talk about our beliefs around food. And we've talked about this a bit before in the context of the vacation podcast that I did or when I told you about throwing away my birthday cake. But I think that this topic deserves its own dedicated episode because it's so important for why we are struggling to lose weight. And I wanna share with you this funny memory because I'm sure you've had this experience that you have a memory that gets stuck in your mind and it's so distinct as if it happened yesterday. And I'm not talking about some traditionally big moment like your wedding day or your child being born, something that you would expect to remember. I'm talking about something totally random, some memory that stuck with you despite it really not being that big of a deal. And this one memory I have was back in college I was volunteering at an event at the Omaha Zoo and it was a summer camp for grade school aged children. And there were a few of us college students who had volunteered to help corral the children. And to be honest, I'm not even sure how I got signed up for the event because I didn't otherwise volunteer at the zoo. And this was just a one time thing, so it wasn't like ongoing or anything like that. But nonetheless, here I was at the event and the zookeepers were telling children about different animals and at one point a zookeeper had a bunny rabbit out and they were feeding it carrots and talking about all things rabbit related. And as the zookeeper was talking about food and feeding the rabbit, she made a comment how the rabbit couldn't eat too many carrots or it would get fat. And it struck me as such an odd thing to say, if the rabbit eats too many carrots, it'll get fat. And honestly, for the last like 15 plus years, I've been caught up on that comment. For one, it's hard to imagine getting fat for eating too many carrots, but obviously I'm thinking about the context of humans, not rabbits. 'cause what do I know about rabbits? Literally nothing like literally. So before I was recording this episode, I actually Googled what do rabbits eat and what should rabbits eat to which I learned that they eat primarily grass and hay and then some fresh vegetables. So eating a bunch of carrots certainly would be a special treat for them. And carrots have a bit more sweetness or sugar content of course compared to grass or hay. And so why wouldn't a rabbit get fat if it sat around eating carrots all day long? It probably would, and the reality is humans would probably also get fat if we ate too many carrots. Granted it would take a lot more carrots, but root vegetables like carrots have a lot of sugar and you could certainly overdo it. So here I am all of these years later and I'm still thinking about what was likely an offhanded comment by the zookeeper. But I think there's a valuable lesson to be learned, which is that just because we traditionally think of a food as healthy doesn't mean that you can't overdo it regardless of what you're eating, it's still possible to eat more than what you need. Of course you can overeat a healthy food. I'm still not sure how that comment landed with these like literally like eight and nine year old children saying that too many carrots will make a rabbit fat may imply that carrots aren't healthy or a good food choice. And I've been practicing medicine for seven years now and I've literally not once seen carrots make a child fat, but us adults are a different story. I've certainly seen adults overeating healthy foods, which leads me to tell you a little bit more about our beliefs about foods. A belief, as you might remember, is a thought that we have over and over again. Oftentimes these beliefs originate early in our lives. They might be things that our parents or our families taught us, and then over time, we might develop our own beliefs as well. A belief I commonly see with my patients is some variation of yeah, but that's a healthy food and they use that belief to excuse ignoring their hunger signals or overeating a particular food. And this belief has been propagated by a lot of people and by our diet culture for example, there's a program that starts with a W and ends with a eight watchers and they allow unlimited fruits and vegetables, zero points for fruits and vegetables. But what? Why? I mean sure there are plenty of vegetables that are low calorie or very low calorie. Certainly no one ever got fat from eating too much iceberg lettuce. It's basically crunchy water, but it seems like a really broad allowance to just group all fruits and vegetables together in that freebie category. Just the other day I was even struggling with this myself. I had bought and cut up a watermelon and I sat down with like the large serving bowl of watermelon cubes and I was honestly eating it pretty mindlessly because it was so good and it was so refreshing and it's been like 90 something degrees every day and I'm pregnant and it just felt so great to eat it. And honestly, I'm not even sure how I find myself or found myself in that position because it's a cardinal rule of mine to never eat directly from the container. If I'm going to eat something, I portion out the amount that I want and I enjoy that, and I don't do it to be like unnecessarily restrictive or anything like that. I do it to be mindful because if I finish the portion and I'm still actually hungry, i'll portion out a second amount, but I don't ever eat from the container or the serving dish because as I'm sure you've done before, we've all had that experience of eating directly from the bag or the container and all the sudden you've eaten the whole thing or at least way more than you intended to. But nonetheless, here I was eating watermelon directly from that huge serving bowl and I ate y'all so much watermelon like I don't even know how much, like a lot, a lot. And afterwards I was physically uncomfortable because I ate that much watermelon and I'm not going to beat myself up about it. I had this experience and I'm going to allow myself to learn from it and I hope that you can learn from it too. This is a perfect example of how we let beliefs like this is a healthy food get in the way. Sure, it might be better to overeat watermelon than potato chips, but the reality is it's not good to overeat anything. I simply didn't need that much watermelon. I ignored my rule of not eating directly from the serving bowl and I ignored my hunger and my fullness signals and I ate way too much. I would've been just as satisfied if I had an appropriate serving size. In fact, I probably would have been more satisfied because I wouldn't have been physically uncomfortable afterwards. Sometimes we categorize the food as healthy, which allows us to blatantly disregard the actual content of the food. The most common example of this is something like a salad at a restaurant and we might take a huge portion of fried chicken and all sorts of vegetables and nuts and dried fruits and croutons and dressings, and we plop it onto a bed of lettuce and now all of a sudden we think we're having a healthy meal. And then we allow this belief of this is a healthy food to keep us from paying attention to how much we've actually eaten or how hungry or fool we actually are. Setting aside that example of quote, this is a healthy food, I want you to brainstorm other beliefs you might have about food or eating. And honestly, take five or 10 minutes to do this. Sit down with a blank piece of paper or in front of an empty Word document and just start writing. What is it that you believe about food? Let me give you some examples and then we'll walk through them. I shouldn't waste food. Finish your meal. There are starving children in Africa. They made this for me or bought this for me or brought this food just for me. You must finish your dessert or you must finish your dinner before you can have dessert. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Chocolate fixes everything. You deserve a glass of wine at the end of a hard day. There's always room for ice cream. It's normal to overeat. This is a celebration. Food is an important part of how we celebrate food is how we show love to each other. It's no fun to eat healthy food all the time. They're going to judge me if I don't eat this. One day isn't going to kill me. Being overweight runs in my family. It doesn't matter what I do. These are examples from my life and from some of my patients. I want you to stop and really think about these. Do any of these sound like you? What else do you believe that we didn't list here? Seriously, sit down and just write. I find most people can fill up a full page about their beliefs around food. If you haven't done this type of exercise before, it might take you a while to fill up a whole page, but I bet you can. If you pay attention to your thoughts over the next couple of days or the next couple of weeks, you'll see where these beliefs start to slip in and you really have to pay attention because usually these feel like cold hard facts. Oftentimes, we've been believing these thoughts our entire lives. The people around us believe these thoughts and we forget that they are just that thoughts, not actually facts. And beyond noticing your thoughts and beliefs, I want you to pay attention to how they're showing up in your life. Do these thoughts serve you? How are these thoughts getting in the way of your ability to lose weight? Let's talk about a few of these. Okay, so this one's my all time favorite. As you probably know, it's bad to waste food. This is honestly one of the most universal beliefs that we have. I've talked about it before in my episode about throwing away my birthday cake and my poor mother is still so appalled that I would throw away a birthday cake. And after listening to that episode, my aunt actually went out and purchased a cookbook for me called Small Batch Baking. And I have to admit, that's actually a pretty decent solution if you're the one who's baking this. That item, and I can't remember if I told you the story or not, but a few months ago I made cupcakes for a gender reveal party and I say party, but it was really just the four of us, my husband and I and our two sons eating cupcakes. And I had bought a box of cake mix like Betty Crocker cake mix, and it made 24 cupcakes and we ate four cupcakes and then I threw away 20 cupcakes and it probably would've been better to just make a small batch of cupcakes. And now that I have that cookbook, of course that sounds like a reasonable solution. But I will tell you, throwing away 20 cupcakes didn't phase me at all. And I will tell you, my mom, my biggest podcast fan is probably having a conniption right now as she hears me saying this, Hey mom. Um, and my grandparents who lived through the Great Depression are literally rolling over in their graves right now, but it didn't. I could throw away 20 cupcakes because it's not in line with the food choices that I have for myself and my family, and it's taken me a lot of work to get to this place I was raised with the same belief that you were. It's bad to waste food. Years ago, I would've eaten them even if I didn't need them. A year or two ago, I might've eaten a couple of extra and then I would've saved them, and then they would've gone bad, and then I would've thrown them away a week later, but I wouldn't feel quite as bad about it because now they were bad and stale. So of course I had to throw them away. But now when I have the choice of throwing away 20 cupcakes or eating 20 cupcakes we don't need, I'm gonna throw them away. We're talking about literally $2 worth of Betty Crocker cupcakes, and I know I can see your brain exploding. I could have given them to my neighbors, but they don't really need them. I could have given them to my nanny, but she's working on weight loss too. I could have frozen them just to eat them at another time when we didn't need them at that time either. But is it really fair to burden other people or my future self with those cupcakes? If I were faced with the exact same 20 extra cupcakes today, I would do the same thing. I would throw them away, and if your brain is freaking out right now, stop and ask why. The 20 cupcakes were already made. What was the best thing to do with them? Certainly next time I could use the small batch baking cookbook and I could make a smaller batch. But I'll tell you right now, even if I made six cupcakes, I would've thrown away two. Or imagine another situation where you're not in control of the baking. Maybe you've had a party and you have too many leftovers, your friend sent you home with leftovers. Imagine a situation where you found yourself with food that you don't need. How do you want to handle that situation? Especially when those foods don't serve your nutritional goals for yourself and your weight loss plan? Ultimately, you can still keep the belief it's bad to waste food. I still have this belief in a lot of circumstances, and I use that to help me plan my meals and buy the appropriate amount of groceries for the week. If you're someone who loves to over prepare food for an event, maybe it means that you prepare one or two less dishes or you might prepare foods that are going to meet your nutritional goals so that eating the leftover so that eating the leftovers doesn't turn into an existential crisis of do I waste this food or do I blow off my food plan? You can simply eat it without any guilt because it already meets your nutritional goals. Let's take another example. Food is an important part of how we celebrate special occasions. Stop and think about this one. If you have that belief, what does that mean? Does it mean that a holiday is an excuse to eat whatever you want? Does it mean that you overeat? Does it mean that you ignore your food plan because you're afraid that people will notice if you're eating differently? Does it mean that everyone else is eating something? So it's okay if you do too? Stop and really get clear about how this plays out for you. You get to choose how you show up in every situation in your life. If you want to ignore your food plan and overeat and you feel great about the decision, great, please do that. My goal for you is not to restrict yourself or to feel miserable. My goal for you is to feel 100% empowered to be in charge of the situation and make decisions that serve your needs. Because what my patients usually tell me is that they went to an event, they ate foods, that they didn't serve them, they overate, and then they felt terrible about themselves afterwards. What celebration is that? If you're beating yourself up after the event instead, is it possible for you to show up to the family holiday meal and choose foods that serve your body and your goals for yourself? Even if there's an entire spread of food, of foods that aren't on your food plan, are there some foods that are on your food plan? If your favorite bread rolls are on the menu, can you have one instead of having three? If someone offers you food that you actually don't even want, can you say, no thank you, or I've been well served? Think through the last time you were in a situation like this. What did you actually do? What do you wish you would've done differently? Play out the situation in your mind. Go to your next celebration with a game plan and stick to that game plan. All right, one final thought. Example for today, one day is not going to kill me. Nope, you're right. It's absolutely not. One bite is not going to kill you. One sip is not going to kill you. One meal is not going to kill you. One day isn't going to kill you. The problem is when we start using this thought process over and over again and not in a loving or forgiving way, but as an excuse to actually ignore our plans for ourselves. We eat one thing off our meal plans and we let it totally derail our entire day or our entire week. We're always planning to start our diet next Monday. If you ate something you weren't planning to or something that wasn't on your food plan, don't bury your head in the sand. Look at it head on. How would you handle that situation? Next time when we stop and look at our beliefs, it can be one of the most powerful tools to see why we're making the decisions that we do, and then to stop and question those beliefs. Bring some curiosity. Are your beliefs serving you? And if they're not, that's where you know you have work to do. If I can support you with this work in any way, please out reach, reach out to me via my website at www.sarahstombaughmd.com. That's S-A-R-A-H-S-T-O-M-B-A-U-G-H-M-D dot com. Thank you so much for joining me today. If you've enjoyed today's episode, please subscribe. Leave me a rating or review wherever you listen to podcasts. I look forward to seeing you next week. Bye-bye.
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