Timi Gustafson, R.D.

Helping people to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

We Can Improve Our Eating Habits by Returning to Our Roots

November 25th, 2015 at 3:13 pm by timigustafson
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It is well known that when immigrants come to the United States and other parts of the Western hemisphere, they quickly adapt their eating styles to ours – especially the young. People from around the Pacific Rim, South America, the Middle East and Africa who were largely raised on fresh whole foods begin to prefer fast food and other highly processed ingredients, often to the detriment of their nutritional health and well-being. The consequences in terms of obesity and diet-related diseases can be devastating.

This is not a new phenomenon. As it happens, I just returned from a two-day conference that was organized by Oldways, a non-profit organization with focus on culinary and cultural diversity around the globe. Its founder, Dun Gifford, a lawyer, politician, developer and restaurant owner, became concerned as far back as the 1980s with the progressive disappearance of many culinary traditions in favor of what he called “techno foods.”

Why does your culture matter when it comes to your food choices, he asked. Because – no matter where you come from – it is not in your heritage to become overweight, diabetic, or develop heart disease and cancer, all the leading causes of death in the modern world. What we all should have in common as our birthright is, by contrast, a healthy heart, a strong body, extraordinary energy, and a long and healthy life – all of which we would be enabled to by access to nutritious and delicious foods.

Instead, many of us have lost their way when it comes to feeding themselves, and it affects those who adopt our lifestyle more recently the most. Part of it is a widespread ignorance and confusion about nutrition and nutritional health.

The conference I mentioned was titled “Finding Common Ground,” a meeting of many of the world’s leading experts and scientists in the field of dietetics. Although it was clear from the start that there would be (and will continue to be) different, and oftentimes conflicting, views on how and what we should eat, there was also a general consensus on a few basic ‘truths’ that could be shared by all participants. Among them were the desire that messages about diets should not be distorted or misleading; that some foods yield greater nutritional benefits than others; and that considerations about food consumption should include environmental sustainability concerns. The latter, as you may have heard, is a major point of contention in the upcoming release of the Dietary Guidelines of 2015.

In addition, there was agreement that reviving certain culinary traditions could indeed have the kind of positive impact the Oldways’ founder envisioned. For instance, much has been made in recent years of the advantages the so-called ‘Mediterranean Diet’ can provide, with its richness of mostly plant-based foods. But also many other cultural heritages from South AmericaAsia and Africa have much to contribute to our rethinking of what it means to eat healthily.

What it ultimately comes down to is not to get blinded by the endless onslaught of diet fads and latest “scientific discoveries,” but to focus on the bigger picture and discern what is tried and true, which we can often find by simply going back to our roots, says Sara Baer-Sinnot, the current president of Oldways. For this, we need to communicate clearly and effectively what constitutes healthy and sustainable ways of eating that all consumers can understand and live by, she says.

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Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com.  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).

Orthorexia – a Diagnosis in Search of a Disease?

November 23rd, 2015 at 4:56 pm by timigustafson
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I like to eat healthily, not only when it’s convenient and the opportunity presents itself, but all the time. I compromise if there are no good options, e.g. when I’m travelling. But whenever I have the chance, I go for the most nutritious food I can find. I’m lucky that I can afford a high-quality diet, but I also make it a priority among my expenditures. Does that mean I’m obsessed with my eating habits? Hardly.

There has been a lot of chatter recently in the media about ‘orthorexia nervosa,’ an eating disorder caused by fear of unclean or unhealthy food. Accordingly, it keeps those affected by it from consuming anything they don’t trust to be pure or beneficial to their health.

The observation that some people develop such a phobia is not new. The term ‘orthorexia’ was reportedly first coined by a doctor from California, Steven Bratman, some 18 years ago. He then described the behavior as a fixation on “righteous eating,” but thought of it along the lines of other eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia.

Following up on his descriptions, researchers discovered however that this might be a distinct behavior. They also noticed how remarkably fast it was spreading across different age groups, social classes, and body types as well.

The number of orthorexics keeps rising, according to Ursula Philpot, a dietitian and education officer for the British Dietetic Association’s mental health group who studied the phenomenon extensively from early on.

Most eating disorders are focused on food quantity and resulting weight issues. But orthorexic people can be overweight, extremely thin, or everything in between. Their sole concern is the quality of the food they eat and whether it is in accordance with their rules and restrictions. They may exclude any number of ingredients like sugar, salt, wheat, gluten, and dairy as well as products containing pesticides, herbicides, and artificial additives.

While some of these worries can be perfectly justified, orthorexic attitudes in the extreme can lead to malnutrition and other health risks. People who are already at a loss over the oftentimes confusing and contradictory messages they get from the media and the Internet may become paralyzed and end up with dangerous nutritional deficiencies, Philpot warns.

Modern society has lost its way with food, Deanne Jade, a psychologist and founding director of the National Centre for Eating Disorders in Esher, England, laments. People think they can eliminate entire food groups to lose weight and become fitter, while they swear by dubious functional foods and performance enhancers, she says.

Of course, the simple fact that someone – myself included – worries about food quality and safety does not automatically mean he or she is creating problems for themselves. On the contrary. Considering the unabated obesity crisis and rise of nutrition-related diseases around the globe, greater concern with our eating habits should be welcomed.

Also, compulsive behavior like orthorexia does not likely develop in isolation but rather occurs in connection with other dysfunctions. A person who feels compelled to rigidly follow dietary regimens and guidelines, does probably so in other matters as well. In treating such cases, more than the relationship to food ought to be addressed.

Beyond that, there is really nothing wrong with insisting on eating only whole foods, buying organic, or sticking to a plant-based diet.

“A lot of those diets are inherently valuable,” says Dr. Karin Kratina, a nutrition therapist and member of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Adherence can become problematic when issues like nutritional health and body image become moralized and fixations arise.

Unfortunately, that can happen to a lot of people, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.

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Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com.  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).

A Widening Gap Between the Fit and the Fat

November 10th, 2015 at 4:58 pm by timigustafson
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More people pay close attention to their physical health and well-being, and yet obesity rates and diseases stemming from weight problems continue to rise. While healthy eating and regular exercise have become commonplace among the educated and affluent, the less fortunate show little signs of improvement regardless of efforts by health experts and government policy makers to change their fate. In fact, studies find that the gap between the fit and the fat keeps widening.

Physical appearance has been an important issue in most societies throughout the ages, but today, how we look has become a reflection of how we live and visa versa, says Dr. Florentine Fritzen, a journalist and historian who studies sociological trends.

Being well-fed was once a sign of wealth, but poor people are now most prone to unhealthy weight gain and related diseases, while the well-to-do enjoy greater fitness and vitality, even longer life expectancy, than ever before.

Life presents itself very differently to these two groups. To which one you belong determines multiple aspects of your well-being, not just how well you eat, Fritzen says.

Your good looks also play a role in how society judges you. For example, if physical beauty and fitness are equated with hard work, discipline and success, overweight can then be identified with laziness and lack of self-control. If slim is thought of as healthy, then fat can be considered as sick.

Numerous studies have investigated how physical appearance plays out in the workplace. Just being overweight can hurt your career, according to Steve Siebold, a self-help coach, business consultant, and author of “Die Fat or Get Tough: 101 Differences in Thinking Between Fat People and Fit People.”
“Many employers look at obese candidates and immediately think, ‘this person failed in controlling their own health, how are they going to run a division,’” he warns.

More and more companies actively encourage their workers to stay on top of their health and offer wellness programs and other incentives, which in turn help them prevent productivity loss and lower healthcare premiums. But, as some have reported, there can also be a lot of pressure on those who ‘don’t measure up.’

What gets too often overlooked in all this is how much easier it is to stay in shape for people who have the necessary means to take care of themselves. What is feasible with a good education, financial security, access to supplies and services, a safe home and neighborhood, etc., can be a never-ending struggle without them. And that is not simply a matter of personal choices.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists a number of determinants that decide whether someone’s living conditions are beneficial or detrimental for his or her health. Only one of them is based on biological factors like age, gender, and genetic predispositions. Only one is based on individual behavior such as diet and lifestyle choices. All others are environmental and circumstantial in nature, meaning they are largely outside a person’s control.

To fully understand the existing health disparities and inequities among the public today, we must take into account the social and economical disadvantages that affect individuals or entire groups in ways they cannot easily influence but expose them to heightened risks, the agency says. To narrow the gap towards greater health equality, it urges aggressive investing in broader access to healthcare services as well as health education.

Obviously, we have a long way to go.

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Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com.  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).

Time Changes Affect Us More Than We May Think

November 4th, 2015 at 3:16 am by timigustafson
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We do it twice a year without giving it too much thought. Come spring, we turn our clocks by one hour forward, in autumn we dial them back again. It’s called daylight saving time, and it affects about 1.5 billion people around the globe. For the vast majority no particular problems arise from this, but time changes do affect everyone who is exposed to them in more or less noticeable ways.

Those who travel across multiple time zones, of course, are intimately familiar with the phenomenon called “jet lag.” Flying to and from places located in different parts of the world can cause confusion to our biological clock, a.k.a. “circadian rhythm.”

Individual responses may differ, but sleep disturbance, tiredness, mood swings, lack of focus, and eating disorders are among the most common reactions. Similar, although perhaps less severe, symptoms can also occur in the aftermath of daylight saving time changes.

For most people, the adjustment period to a one-hour time difference is about a week, according to studies by researchers at Harvard University. The problem is that the transition is not always as smooth and seamless as we may think.

For instance, in the fall, when the clocks are turned back, which should give us a little extra rest, many people keep waking up earlier and/or have trouble falling asleep at their usual bedtime. In the spring, the loss of an hour may aggravate these effects even more.

We shouldn’t simply ignore the impact that even relatively small differences like daylight savings can have on our sleep and related behaviors, says Dr. Yvonne Harrison who lectures on the subject at Liverpool John Moores University in England. Her research, she says, suggests that even minor sleep disruptions can have a cumulative effect, which can result in sleep loss for extended periods of time.

Persistent sleep disturbances can also lead to more serious health problems, experts warn. One study from Sweden registered a spike in heart attacks occurring shortly after spring daylight saving time changes, while a slight decrease could be observed in the fall.

Chronic sleep deprivation and insomnia are on the rise worldwide, especially in cultures where busy work schedules and hectic lifestyles are common. The costs in terms of health problems and productivity loss are staggering

There may not always be easy solutions available when it comes to workloads and other demands in daily life, however, in terms of sleep hygiene, there is much we can do to make improvements by ourselves. How much sleep someone needs, of course, can vary, but experts say that on average seven to eight hours per night should suffice for most adults.

Besides quantity, the quality of sleep is equally as important. There are numerous ways to go about improving your rest, such as timing, creating a sleep-conducive environment, or inventing some special tricks to establish sleeping habits that work for you.

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Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com.  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).

Are We Wired to Deviate from What We Know Is Right?

October 29th, 2015 at 12:10 pm by timigustafson
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Most of what we achieve in life is based on compromise. Getting exactly what we want is rare. Usually it’s give and take. Conflicting interests make it necessary to bargain constantly. However, we also haggle with ourselves when no one else is around to limit our options – often unconsciously. As behavioral scientists tell us, even under the best of circumstances, smart and regrettable choices balance each other out over time.

For example, several studies have shown that after having made positive decisions, people often tend to come up with less desirable ones. This phenomenon has become known as the “licensing effect,” and has first been systematically investigated by Dr. Uzma Khan, then a professor of marketing at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and Dr. Ravi Dhar of Yale University School of Management.

The outcome of their research is rather breathtaking. In essence, they say that once we have committed a “good deed,” for example by doing something completely altruistic, we will likely act more selfishly in the aftermath. Or, if we have restrained ourselves from engaging in a certain indulgence, we are bound to make up for it later on. In a way, you might say, our nature keeps a constant balance between right and wrong, as if on autopilot.

Such shifts from one state of mind to another can be extremely subtle and hardly noticeable. What’s even more curious is that those who pride themselves in having great self-control often turn out to be the most vulnerable to these dynamics.

For instance, a study from Taiwan found that taking dietary supplements gave users all sorts of excuses for less-than-healthy eating behavior. Even cigarette smokers felt they were home free when they took a daily dose of vitamin C.

Other research showed that even self-professed health-conscious people had no qualms about indulging in notoriously caloric fast food as long as healthier alternatives like salad or fruit were listed on a menu as well.

They also routinely underestimated calorie counts when items they perceived as healthy were offered. In some cases, as little as a few carrot or celery sticks added to their meal could seduce study participants into thinking their overall calorie intake would diminish and they now had ‘permission’ to enjoy whatever they wanted.

Experts say the phenomenon of people taking actions that in essence cancel each other out is by no means limited to eating behavior. It has been argued that the introduction of seatbelts, bike helmets, and protective gear in sports has also promoted riskier conduct among drivers and athletes. But with diet and lifestyle choices, the risks are harder to determine because negative outcomes like weight problems, diseases, disability, and mortality only become apparent over time. And actions that do not lead to results we can recognize as cause and effect are more difficult to keep control over.

Still, taking the long view may be the best strategy to maintain consistency with one’s goals. As a study from Switzerland showed, dieters who were more interested in developing altogether better eating and lifestyle habits had a greater long-term success rate in keeping their weight down than their counterparts who primarily focused on shedding pounds. In other words, they defined their actions in terms of how they wanted to live their lives, rather than by what they could accomplish in the short run. This way, they were better equipped to stay generally on track, even if they wavered on occasion.

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Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com.  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).

Overloaded With Information, People Give Up on Health Advice, Studies Find

October 24th, 2015 at 6:16 pm by timigustafson
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Nutrition counselors have arguably the lowest success rate among all healthcare professionals. We have plenty of repeat customers, especially after the holidays, but we are also faced with a large percentage of “drop-outs,” meaning clients who eventually give up on weight control, regular exercise, and improving their lifestyle choices. Some say, it’s not the people who are failing to heed our advice, but that the messages we give are failing the people.

study based on data from the Annenberg National Health Communication Survey found that conflicting or contradictory diet and health information in the media made recipients more likely to ignore or dismiss even widely accepted recommendations.

Participants in the survey who had the greatest exposure to inconsistent information expressed the most confusion about nutrition matters, according to Dr. Rebekah Nagler, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication and lead author of the study report.

“Greater confusion was associated indirectly with backlash against nutritional advice in general, as indicated by agreement with statements such as “Dietary recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt,” or “Scientists really don’t know what foods are good for you,”” she wrote.

Similar reactions were found with regards to the importance of exercise and the consumption of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.

In spite of the countless attempts to improve our diet, we are still seeing young and old alike ignore sound nutritional advice and grow fatter and fatter, laments Jane E. Brody, a columnist for the New York Times who specializes in topics of diet and health. But not only the food and restaurant industry influences unhealthy eating behavior, as it is often stated, nutrition science itself is to blame as well, she says.

“Let me know when the nutrition gurus make up their minds and maybe then I’ll change my diet. Meanwhile, I’ll eat and drink what I like,” is a widespread sentiment among would-be dieters, she says, quoting one of her clients.

One of the reasons why some people give up so easily on health advice may be that desired results often don’t come quickly enough. If it doesn’t work right away, there must be something wrong with a particular regimen or lifestyle change. But straightforward solutions are usually hard to come by.

One study found that oversimplifying descriptions in black and white terms – like “good for you” or “bad for you,” “healthy” or “unhealthy,” etc. – can also hinder successful weight management and adherence to better eating habits. “All or nothing responses to minor dietary transgressions” can frustrate the best of intentions, according to Aikaterini Palascha, a nutritionist and behavioral scientist at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands and study author. Dichotomous thinking in addition to rigid dietary restraints is often a crucial factor in people’s inability to maintain healthful diets and weight control, she says.

What makes most people deviate from good eating patterns is not so much that they are confused but rather that they are conflicted, says Dr. David L. Katz. We may want a magical formula for weight loss and other health issues, but no such thing exists. However, that doesn’t mean we are at a complete loss. To the contrary. Katz believes there is already sufficient consensus to take decisive action and make the necessary changes to overcome, or at least diminish, our current obesity crisis and many related diseases.

It is because this can involve some hard work and also some education that we may be tempted to let it all go. But that’s a decision based on how much we are willing to invest in our well-being, not a matter of confusion how we should go about it.

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Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com.  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).

Silence Please!

October 14th, 2015 at 5:29 pm by timigustafson
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According to the 17th Century French philosopher Blaise Pascal, “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Such a statement may sound a bit overwrought for most moderns, however, it is a well-known fact that ubiquitous exposure to noise is one of the great stress factors of our time. Unfortunately, even for those who seek it, silence is hard to come by.

To be sure, not everybody suffers from lack of quiescence. Most of us are now used to being constantly connected with the outside world, with our workplace, with family and friends. It can be bothersome, but it can also be addictive.

study by CNN found that most pre-teens and teenagers would rather be “grounded” at home than having their smart phones taken away from them as a form of punishment. Staying in touch via social media means more to these kids than almost anything else in life, according to the researchers who conducted the study.

Of course, craving for social interaction is not limited to young ones. Neuroscientists from the University of California, Los Angeles discovered in a recent study that the human brain is wired to be social, especially when there is little else to do that requires attention. “The social nature of our brains is biologically based,” they concluded.

Yet, experts warn that, although we may be social creatures, not having enough downtime to be by ourselves may have consequences we don’t yet fully understand.

The fact that people make (or have to make) themselves constantly available for interaction increases the risk of “burnout,” commonly defined as physical or mental collapse by overwork or stress, according to neurophysiologist and Nobel Prize laureate Thomas C. Südhof.

The pressure of always being within reach can become a form of chronic stress that affects how our brains function. Over time, this may lead to lasting damages. To counteract it, he says, we need regular brakes and time out to recover.

In addition to the onslaught of social demands, the sheer fact that most of us live in noisy environments makes things only worse. According to studies by the American Psychological Association, noise pollution plays a role in numerous health issues, including learning disabilities among children. By contrast, researchers found that when “quiet time” was introduced in selected schools, students found it easier to concentrate and had better peer relations.

Naturally, not everyone can decide to tune out and escape his or her world on a whim, even if nothing else would be more welcome. Finding a truly quiet spot for relaxation, meditation, or simply a short nap may be difficult. But there are other solutions. A walk in a nearby park after work or an afternoon in the woods or on a beach can do wonders.

Much of what we experience also depends on our attitude. Does that phone really have to be on 24/7? Can answering those e-mails wait a bit longer? What if you’re not up on the latest news?

Letting it all go for a while may be a better choice. Besides, most of what you missed out on will still be there when you get back.

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Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com.  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).

For Healthy Aging, Less Is More

September 9th, 2015 at 12:41 pm by timigustafson
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Several recently published studies on aging all seem to lead to the same conclusion: when it comes to diet and lifestyle choices, older adults are well advised to practice moderation. Whether it concerns weight management, physical activity, or alcohol and tobacco use, health experts urge people to consider their limitations and changing needs as they approach their senior years.

One such study, led by researchers at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), found that gradual calorie restriction in mid-life could help lower the risk of many diseases later on. The findings confirm what has previously been shown only in animal studies, namely that reducing food intake could have a positive impact on aging and longevity, thereby supporting the message that weight control becomes ever more important in the second half of life.

Similarly, experts recommend age-appropriate behavior when it comes to exercise. While physical activity is crucial for healthy aging – as it is for good health in general – there are limits to what people can endure as they grow older. Of course, much depends on a person’s individual fitness level, but certain precautions should be observed regardless. The good news is that even smaller doses of regular exercise (emphasis on regular) can produce significant benefits, not only for the aging body but, equally as important, for the mind. As studies have shown, even less strenuous activities like walking, bicycling, or swimming can help improve heart health as well as cognitive abilities. But for seniors, trying harder may not necessarily lead to better results.

It has often been suggested that drinking alcohol, particularly red wine, may be beneficial for the heart. To be sure, those claims are not beyond dispute, and the jury is still out on what alcohol actually does for people’s well-being other than make them feel good. What is well established, however, is that consuming high amounts is dangerous and can have enormously detrimental consequences in multiple ways, including for aging. As it gets older, the human body becomes increasingly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol and is less able to handle its toxicity, according to research. That is why the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends for seniors no more than one glass of alcoholic beverages per day.

It goes without saying that avoidance or cessation of tobacco use is a good idea at any time, but, again, it becomes a more pressing matter at an advanced age.

Most of the studies mentioned reaffirm other findings of the past. For instance, according to the guidelines for healthy aging by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all adults over the age of 50 should be conscious of their changing health needs. Dietary choices should depend on activity level and other factors like eating styles, food sources, and so on. Following a regular exercise regimen can be instrumental in slowing down the natural aging process, but age-related limitations must be taken into account. Some lifelong pleasures and habits like drinking or smoking may no longer be tolerable. Counseling and other support measures for cessation may be helpful.

Another topic that is often not considered enough is the psychological component in all this. If those guidelines and recommendations are perceived only as restraint or deprivation, they will be hard to adhere to. Old habits, as the saying goes, die hard. As we grow older, we all experience losses and are forced to let go. For this, it is of great importance to see the larger picture and appreciate the immeasurable value of good health, without which nothing else matters.

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Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com.  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).

The Calm Years

September 1st, 2015 at 6:01 pm by timigustafson
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Much has been written in recent years about the blessings of life after work and parenting. Aging baby boomers were told that the best was still to come if they only kept dreaming big. What was traditionally considered a time of well-deserved rest and leisure now became “the power years,” where people could finally realize their true potential. But clearly not everyone has bought into this concept. There is a new yearning for rest among today’s older adults, although not quite in the same way their predecessors envisioned it.

In his latest book, titled “Gelassenheit” (calmness), the German philosopher and social critic Wilhelm Schmid advocates a return to a state of mind that is free from excessive stress, depression, and unrealistic expectations.

His prior publications on happiness and love were reasonably successful, but his latest oeuvre quickly became a bestseller, which shows how much of a nerve he hit, and not only among his primary target audience.

Schmid says that we gain – not lose – as we grow older, not just in terms of experience and wisdom but by learning to discern between what’s important and what isn’t.

Our busy lifestyles, overloaded work schedules, countless activities, and insatiable appetite for the next big thing make us restless to the point where we get stressed out and lose sight for the meaning of it all. And yet, it is almost alien to us to forgo something that seems to offer itself as an opportunity. To regain a stage of calmness and peace of mind, he says, we have to learn to sometimes let go of things, even when they are within our reach.

Of course, not everyone is capable of calmness, tranquility and inner peace as a permanent state – nor is that necessarily a desirable goal. Some people seem unfazed no matter what life throws at them. Others are nervous wrecks almost from the day they were born. But nobody is condemned to a particular form of being. We can all change and find ways to become more the person we want to be. That, Schmid says, is the gift of aging.

There is much we can do simply by lowering our expectations. Over time, we have developed unbelievable expectations of what life should have to offer. Entire generations have been told from early childhood on that they will be able to achieve anything they want, if they only put their mind to it. False promises like these must necessarily end in disappointment.

Eventually, as we grow older, we have to choose between becoming bitter over our failures and shortcomings or making peace with our reality. If we succeed at the latter, a state of calmness, serenity, and even genuine happiness can emerge.

Ultimately, Schmid suggests, we should not idealize the “successful life” as it is often defined in terms of material wealth but rather accept our entire existence in all its multiple facets. If we only consider either the positive or the negative that happens to us throughout our lifetime, we cut our perspective short by half.

Calmness, by contrast, requires acceptance of everything without judgment or exclusion. It enables us to see more clearly not only from where we have come but also where we will be going next.

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Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com.  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).

Nutritional Health Most Valued Among the Young and Affluent

August 13th, 2015 at 12:42 pm by timigustafson
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You would have thought, “the older, the wiser.” But when it comes to diet and lifestyle choices, today’s young people seem to be doing better than any living generation before them. In a survey conducted by Nielsen, an international market research company, it became apparent that consumers in their 20s and early 30s have the greatest interest in the nutritional quality of their food as well as how it is produced and how it impacts the environment.

Asked if they were willing to pay higher prices for quality food like fresh, organic, and minimally processed items, nearly half of Generation Z members (younger than 20 years of age) responded “yes.” By comparison, only about a quarter of Millennials (born after 1980) and Generation X’ers (born between 1965 and 1979) said so.

Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) remain outliers, as they have been known for throughout their lives. They control 70 percent of disposable income and still drive in large measures the growing demand for more health-promoting products, including foods that are functional in preventing age-related decline, according to recent studies.

Changes in people’s relationship to food are taking place not just in the developed world but globally. Concerns over food quality and sustainability of current food production affect consumer behavior also in Asian and South American countries as their citizenry becomes more affluent and better educated. And there is a growing distrust in places where information about domestic products, including foods, has often been found less than trustworthy, according to the Nielsen report.

What is changing everywhere is not only that people are becoming more interested in personal health matters but also how they define what is “healthy,” researchers discover. They are not only concerned about their own wellness but also that of their children and grandchildren as well as the planet they are going to inhabit.

For this matter, it is no coincidence that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has for the first time in its history included studying the environmental impact of food production and consumption in its recommendations.

So, can we hope that in the face of our pandemic obesity crisis, with its barrage of related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, people will finally alter their diet and lifestyle preferences? Perhaps not yet to the extent that is necessary. But it is already evident that food producers and manufacturers pay close attention to these fledgling trends, as cautious as their responses may seem at this point.

And this is not limited to big companies that dominate the market today. Almost daily new startups in the food and food service industry emerge, building their business model on what they perceive as consumer demands they must meet to survive. Those, of course, will vary time and again. But they all should be embraced as long as they lead in the right direction.

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Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com.  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).

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About timigustafson

Timi Gustafson, RD, LDN, FAND is a registered dietitian, health counselor, book author, syndicated newspaper columnist and blogger. She lectures on nutrition and healthy living to audiences worldwide. She is the founder and president of Solstice Publications LLC, a publishing company specializing in health and lifestyle education. Timi completed her Clinical Dietetic Internship at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an active member of the Washington State Dietetic Association, a member of the Diabetes Care and Education, Healthy Aging, Vegetarian Nutrition and the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition practice groups. For more information, please visit http://www.timigustafson.com

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