All blog posts from Dr. Allott are provided for educational and informational purposes only. As Dr. Allott is also a licensed medical practitioner, we must make it clear that nothing on the blog is intended to constitute medical advice, consultation, recommendation, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are concerned about your health, please seek appropriate care in your area.


Is this the Diet for Me? Is it for you?

Intention

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There is a lot of information on the internet and from our friends and family about new diets to try. There are systems such as weight watchers, Nutrisystem, and 30/10. There are diets that tend to be based on values: vegetarian, vegan, and paleo. There are also styles of diet, like the Mediterranean Diet and DASH; and there are diets based on convenience. Then we also factor in things like culture, economics, family traditions, personal preferences, personal health history, time in life, gender, exercise pattern and age. How do we know what is “right” for us?

So from the start, we can say that every diet is personal to the individual. What works for us when we’re 20 years old may not work for us when we have kids, a different job, or a change in where we live. “Diet” is not a box we stay in for life, it’s a dynamic choice that we make every day.

I want to start a discussion on how to know if your diet is working for you and if you make a change in your diet, how (and when) do you know that it’s a going to work for you.

One step that people often miss is considering their intention for your diet. It seems so obvious, but we actually use our diet for lots of things: to nourish our ourselves, for entertainment, to connect to family and friends, to drug ourselves in to a sugar coma, to manage our emotions, to celebrate. If we change our diet, we may be trying to change our intention about what our diet will do for us.

I believe the main goal of any diet, 80% of the time, should be nourishment, and to provide long-term and short-term health and mental clarity. Then, 20% is for celebration and connection. It’s natural to use food to manage our emotions - it works so well - but we should be working to diversify our options to self soothe.

What does it mean to have a diet that nourishes our bodies? It’s important to protect our power supply. This means that we need to meet our basic nutritional needs: Are we getting enough amino acid/protein, fats, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and – importantly - is there diversity in what we’re eating?

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When we make changes to our diets, we should have a sense of how the nutrient content might also be changing, and how the body will respond to that change. Our bodies work hard to maintain homeostasis. If we cut our calories, the body’s natural response is to slow the metabolic rate. This is why quick weight loss diets fail: cutting significantly back on calories signals that there is famine (which means we need to hold on to our fat stores), and it also exposes our brains to stress hormones which makes us anxious, irritable or not present to our daily lives, particularly if we have a history of trauma.

Social Interactions

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Eating food together is an ancient way of interacting. Depending on our jobs, families, and economics, we have more or less ability to be in control of what we eat. When we are changing our diets, we need to consider the impact our new diet will have on our ability to engage in social events. We also need to understand and be prepared to advocate for our dietary needs. Another way of thinking about this is how we can be responsible for our own choices, so that other don’t have to guess at what we need. We also need to have clear plans in place to handle holidays and special events, so that we can still enjoy the social aspects without having our diets derailed.

Personal History

In my clinical office, I often work with individuals who have significant trauma histories in their childhoods. An amazing study on the impact of Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) shows that individuals who have had a number of traumatic events in childhood are at risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. These disease risks can be lowered by our diet choices in adulthood. It’s helpful for individuals with trauma histories to have clear intentions for their diets. Restrictive diets rarely work, because the restrictions often get tangled up with feelings of being deprived. Instead, changing to a diet where they notice that they feel better (in their bodies and minds), and occasionally testing if a new routine is helpful, seems to be more effective because part of recovering from trauma is choice. Being forced - even by one’s own self - is just another trauma.

Shallow end, Deep end

Some people wade into pools from the shallow end and some just jump into the deep end. Generally, if you are going to jump all in to a radical diet change it is worth having some outside support, or a way of reflecting back an accurate picture of how the change in diet is affecting you.

What skills do you need to change your diet? How do you know if it’s working for you, and when should you check back in with yourself to be sure that it continues to meet your intentions? What if your needs or intentions change?

This will be the focus of September's Connectors Group webinar - register now to join the conversation.

Connectors Group

This Group is part of my online education for individuals and teams who want to improve their mental and physical lives. Research shows that when we develop healthy habits around eating, sleeping and moving our bodies, we have improved decision making, creative problem solving and health.

The Connectors Group consists of a wide range of people who are in positions to help other people navigate their lives better: mental health therapists, executive coaches, psychiatric nurse practitioners, supervisors and project managers, lawyers, teachers, and community organizers.

The group has been meeting on the 2nd Friday of every month, from 7:30-8:30 Pacific time, for over a year now. We cover topics such as:

  • Challenges and Q&A about how to successfully connect with friends, family and colleagues
  • How many of your buckets are full?
  • What makes anxiety worse
  • How to prevent colds and flus and how to feel better quicker if you do get sick
  • Using the EcoCycle to Plan for the New Year
  • How to interpret food labels - How do you know if something is healthy for you or not?
  • How the Mind, Brain, Body and Relationship work together to support our lives as creative responsive individuals who live in a rapidly changing world. 
  • Why it is essential to support our power supply (our Body): how and what we need to eat to have a stable Brain, a clear Mind, and connected Relationships
  • Open discussion about Mind, Brain, Body and Relationship connections

May's Connectors Group (on May 12th) will be lead by guest Dr. Miranda Marti, who will be talking about Estrogen: changing the brain and body from menarche to menopause. Estrogen heralds changes not just in the physical body but in mood and libido. It also has the power to shift focus for relationships and careers, and change the salience of what the brain finds rewarding and reassuring.  For some women, these natural fluctuations of estrogen throughout life are experienced with grace, while other women may find themselves driven wild or to despair.  Dr. Marti will discuss why this occurs and how we can support hormonal changes, whether they be monthly cycles or the perimenopausal transition, with ease.

Using the EcoCycle as a Tool to Plan for the New Year

Everyone has something that they want to change or start, but sometimes we get stuck because we want to get to the mature practice before we birth the change into our actual lives. We want perfection before we have process or we have a process that has become too ridged for dynamic change. In this webinar Dr. Allott shares a handout that has helped her and her clients better see where they are in the change cycle and take actionable steps to move forward.

Connectors Group Webinar November 11 2016

Download a pdf of the EcoCycle handout

Recommendations from the November 2016 Connector's Group

(1) If you have a robust inner critic and want more curiosity and creativity, check out this very thin but robust book called Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. It is a great book for learning to be in charge of the chatty brain. 

 

(2) Shannon Rude is a massage therapist in Seattle WA and a student of Kate Bowman, both of their websites are worth following. Shannon teaches individuals and group classes in the Seattle area. If you want a new way of relating to how your body moves, I suggest following their blogs and connect with Shannon when you are in Seattle.