It’s Your Health and You’re in Charge


Welcome to closing thoughts on the 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines and Dr. Barbara Millen's lecture on the subject. Personally, I’m not keen on multi-part blogging and yet feel a bit light in the loafers about dedicated only two posts to such a complex topic. In my opinion, the U.S. Guidelines represent a critical pivot point in our nutritional landscape: embraced by the majority of healthcare providers and ignored by many hot diet trends. Hopefully this dynamic duo of posts will inspire you to do some litmus testing on your current food choices. If you missed the first post, take a few minutes to at least have a quick skim so you don’t feel like you’re playing catch up.

What Should be on MyPlate: 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines

Before we get into the nitty gritty with Dr. Barbara Millen's, Chairwomen of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, recent lecture at Santa Monica College called It’s Your Health and You’re in Charge, let's give a shout out to some new developments:

  • Farewell single diet plan. Make room for your Vegetarian and Mediterranean cousins.
  • Welcome to the spotlight dear red tomatoes. So sorry you were overshadowed by orange veggies in the prior guidelines. Yes, tomatoes are a fruit but the guidelines fudged that fact on purpose.
  • Hoorah for welcoming socio-economic, cultural and personal influences to the table. Hope to see a bit more guidance on these topics in the next version. AKA it's a bit nebulous.

On the flip side, here are four blind spots I feel are equally important to point out:

  1. Eating Psychology Professionals and behaviorists were ‘recommended’ to be on the 2015 Committee but when unavailable were substituted with Nutritionists. This means the guidelines tend to focus on eating as a calculated event instead of a nourishing experience. Yes, I did call it out to Dr. Millen because I couldn’t help myself.
  2. According to the guidelines, a macronutrient is a dietary component that provides energy including protein, fats, carbohydrates, and alcohol. Eh-hem, what about water and oxygen needed for the circulation of nutrients, metabolism, etc.? Simmer down, I hear the giddy wine giggles from here.
  3. The logic behind abandoning the food pyramid for the new MyPlate icon is a good attempt at making mealtime expectations more accessible, but seems to fall short on capturing fats and snacking. Don't you think?
  4. The guidelines are written with the intention of reducing obesity when the effects of chronic dieting and undernutrition also deserve airtime.

Let’s Break 'Em Down Mind-Body Nutrition + Dynamic Eating Psychology Style

Get your journal ready Ms. Head Honcho and give yourself permission to be vulnerable and honest. Reviewing the five 2015-2020 Guidelines isn't meant to put you in the hot seat. It's important, especially if you have any unwanted symptoms around weight, eating habits, mood, energy or digestive dis-ease. Your body needs you.

Guideline #1: Long-term Healthy Eating Patterns
Combination of foods and beverages you eat and drink over your lifetime.

What I love about this point: Promotes big picture thinking. Your body is less concerned about the after dinner square of chocolate. What’s more important is adopting a balanced eating plan that evolves with your healthstyle needs over a lifetime.

How to take charge: Write down your current eating pattern. Include what you eat, when you eat and how you eat (e.g., fast, slow, on the go). Make special note of things that may artificially influence your appetite like caffeine, artificial sweeteners or times you choose not to eat.

When things go awry: Chronic dieting, meal skipping and ignoring hunger cues interfere with your body’s ability to maintain balance. Eventually this can lead to weight gain, erratic eating habits, fatigue, mood swings and less than healthy food choices because your body’s over-hungry.


Guideline #2: Variety, Nutrient Density & Amount
Nutrient-dense foods are the core of healthy eating patterns. These include food rich in nutrients and low in solid fats with little or no added solid fats, sugars, refined starches, or sodium.

What I love about this point: Simple and uncomplicated. Your body automatically recognizes nutrient dense, whole foods. This body-kind approach enables you to efficiently digest, maximize your metabolic capacity and feel satiated longer.

How to take charge: As you compare the recommended eating patterns to your personal inventory, look for opportunities to better nourish your body or nurture your taste buds. This is a great time to slot in “I’ve always wanted to try” or “Why did I stop eating that” kind of foods. In general you'll want to look at the 1,800 - 2,000 calorie plans for your preferred eating pattern:

  • U.S. Style: 'typical' American fare.
  • Mediterranean Style: more fruits and seafood and less dairy than the U.S.-Style pattern.
  • Vegetarian Style: reflects eating patterns reported by self-identified vegetarians in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

When things go awry: Your body is always conspiring in your favor to maintain balance and harmony. When you're not getting the right nutritional fuel, you perpetuate imbalanced eating patterns. You can reach for foods out of the norm or have unexpected cravings as your body desperately tries to get you to make up the difference.

Guideline #3: Keep an Eye on Sugars, Saturated Fats & Sodium
Sugars means refined sugars or syrups. Foods high in saturated fats include butter, whole milk, and meats that aren’t labeled lean. Trans fats are in processed foods, like desserts, frozen pizza, and coffee creamer. More specifically:

  • Added sugars should be less than 10% of your total calories daily.
  • Limit your daily intake of saturated fats to less than 10% of total calories.
  • Keep sodium down to less than 2,300 mg daily.
  • Limit alcohol consumption to no more than 1 drink daily

What I love about this point: If you’re golden on the first two guidelines, this is literally a no brainer because it’ll fall into line naturally.

How to take charge: Consider that how you do anything in life is how you do everything. Instead of taming unwanted eating habits and cravings with your diet plan it might be time to renovate your lifestyle. Circle back to your inventory and make sure to include what you eat during Friday Happy Hours, emotional surges, stressful days, etc. Look for patterns, consider the root cause and brainstorm life hacks that can lead you to healthier food choices.

When things go awry: Filling your belly with processed food confuses your body. When your body’s confused, you feel like it’s always a case of the Mondays and you might be tempted to ask, “Why can’t I control my diet and eating habits? I know better.”

Guideline #4: Shift to Healthier Food & Beverage Choices
Replace typical food choices with nutrient-dense alternatives.

Dietary Intakes Compared to Recommendations. Percent of the U.S. Population Ages 1 Year and Older Who Are Below, At, or Above Each Dietary Goal or Limit

What I love about this: It’s not about elimination or bad/good food. Languaging may seem trivial, but our body is always listening. Keeping food free from the moral debate reduces stress, judgement and guilt.

How to take charge: Time to make some changes. Identify your assets, or those things you’re doing well as a foundation to build from. Next, slot in those new ideas you jotted down for Guideline #2.

When things go awry: Unnecessary stress for prolonged periods of time undermines almost every bodily function including digestion, metabolism, gut health, etc.

Guideline #5: Support Healthy Eating Patterns for Everyone
All means yourself, your circle and your community.

What I love about this point: The word support and concept of all. We’re all connected and have the power to be catalysts for positive change.

How to take charge: How does your tribe influence your eating pattern? 

When things go awry: Spending meal time and engaging in food related conversations with people who don't align with healthful eating can throw you off course or put you in the position of justifying your eating habits. Neither are conduits for long-term healthy eating patterns.

Congratulations, you did it! Now, what did you find out? Care to share in the comments below or join an upcoming Clarity Call. I'm sincerely proud of you because I know how uncomfortable it can be to lay it all out there. Oh, don't toss your notes. They'll come in handy again soon.

Jenn SchaeferComment