Renee McGregor: “Orthorexia – When Healthy Eating Goes Bad” | Talks at Google

much for coming this afternoon, and thanks to Louise
and Google Food Talks for inviting me to speak. So I’m going to talk to you a
little bit about orthorexia. Any of you have any
idea what orthorexia is? Some of you are nodding. Some are saying,
no, not so sure. What would you say
orthorexia was? What was your idea,
what’s your definition? AUDIENCE: It’s an unhealthy
obsession with healthy eating. RENEE MCGREGOR: Yes. Pretty much. You’ve pretty much hit the
nail on the head, there. That’s exactly what it is. So yeah. I think it’s a really
interesting topic. It’s a fairly new term. It was only brought to
our attention in 1996, when Steve Bratman, who’s
a physician in the states, identified it as an issue
with a lot of his clients who were trying to be
healthy, but it had almost gotten to the point
where it was obsessive. So when you break
down orthorexia, it is basically the obsession
with being pure, of eating correctly, is the exact term. And I think it’s come
about because there are so many ideas around
what healthy is. So one of my questions to
you is what does it actually mean to be healthy in 2017? What are your thoughts? I ask this whenever
I do workshops. And I do workshops with schools,
with athletes, with coaches, with school nurses
a lot as well, because they do a lot of
work around disordered eating and poor relationships
with food. It’s really interesting
what comes back. So I’d love to know what
you think healthy eating is or what it means to
be healthy in 2017. AUDIENCE: Well, I think
it’s just [INAUDIBLE].. RENEE MCGREGOR: Yeah. I love the fact that you’ve
picked up on the term balance. We’ll go back to
that at some point. Anybody else want to
add anything else? AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. RENEE MCGREGOR: Yeah. And I think one of the things
I want to make really clear here is sometimes people get
the wrong idea about what I’m trying to promote. I am a dietitian, so I do
promote a very healthy way of eating, which does mean
majority eating lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains. I’m actually in line
with some of the things that you do here at Google. So it is what I promote. What I want to bring
to the attention here is that actually,
sometimes, in some people, we can get a little bit extreme. And when it becomes
extreme, it starts to affect your health
and your mental health, that’s when it
becomes a problem. And that’s what I’m
seeing more and more of, and so that’s what I
want to talk about today. So one of the challenges
I have as a practitioner is that there are so
many messages about food. I’m sure every single day,
you pick up your phone, you look at magazines, and
there’s always something new. What should we eat, who should
we follow, what should we do. And obviously, while I’m
a big fan of social media, I think it can do lots
of really positive things and gets really positive
messages out there, I’m also slightly nervous of it. Because I think it creates
influences that don’t always give us the right messages. So these are just a few. I’m sure you know
all of these people. And I struggle with this. Because on that
page, on that slide, there’s not a single person
who is actually qualified to give out nutritional advice. So from my point of view,
when you are putting stuff out on Instagram, or
you’re doing blogs, or you’re writing articles,
you’re writing books, even, actually you’re
getting some misinformation. And the problem comes not
to the majority of us. The majority of us can read
something and go, yeah, I’ll take a bit of that, but
I’m going to forget about that. That’s OK. The problem comes when
you or somebody that maybe is a little bit
susceptible to developing a poor relationship with food. And again, we’ll go through
what that would look like. So I guess some of
the big trends that have come out over the
last few years, eat clean. I think we all hear about that. It’s always hashtag #eatclean. That’s the big thing. It’s almost like
a badge of honor. I mean, the number of
athletes and clients that have come to see
me, and they’re like, I always eat clean. And they’re really
excited about the fact that they’re actually
saying that to me. And I’m like, OK. And they’re then really
a bit like, well, you don’t seem impressed. And I’m like, well,
what does that mean? What does eat clean
actually mean? Because from my point of view,
if I don’t follow your rules, then somehow it makes me
feel like I’m eating dirty, which I know I don’t. So for me, labeling
and terms and hashtags, while they’re
brilliant and useful, these things can
be really quite– they can be quite detrimental
to a lot of people. So eating clean, green
juices, superfoods, these are all things we hear
about all the time. And I am not for
one second saying that you shouldn’t
have a green juice, and you shouldn’t eat foods
that seem to be super, although I don’t ever believe
in a particular one food being super. It’s more about your
collection of foods that then gives you a balanced
diet and all the nutrients you need. In the same way, I don’t
demonize any foods. Because I don’t believe one
food group alone or one food is what is going to cause
you negative health problems. So some of the common
misconceptions. Sugar. Let’s talk about sugar. What do we know about sugar? What do we hear about sugar? Anyone want to tell
me what they– are AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. Like, when we hear
sugar, and [INAUDIBLE].. RENEE MCGREGOR: Yeah. Really, really,
really good answer. And the thing is for me is
that I think it’s just been– it’s been blown out
of proportion as well. Because again, we have
bloggers and influencers who talk about refined sugar
free and sugar free cakes, but then you look
at the recipes, and they’re full of maple
syrup and coconut sugar, and that somehow is
deemed healthier. But actually, at the end
of the day, sugar is sugar. Whether it is molasses, honey,
white sugar, maple syrup. And one of my biggest challenges
to some of the bloggers– and I have been on stage with
one, but I won’t go there. Is that actually, at
the end of the day, you say that white
sugar is processed. Well, it’s no different to
removing the sap from coconut to make coconut sugar. It’s exactly the same process. There is no difference. So you cannot say that white
table sugar is processed and coconut sugar isn’t,
because they’re the same thing. Biggest thing about
all of it, though, is that they all give you
the same amount of energy per 100 grams, and they all
are used in the body in exactly the same way. The body cannot go, oh,
this is coconut sugar, it’s better for me, so I’m
going to use it in this way. It doesn’t. It just literally breaks it
down, uses it in the same way. If you eat any
product to excess, any product to excess
of what your body needs, it will get stored as excess. The only thing I
would say potentially, in defense of some of
these other sugars, is that things like maple
syrup, honey, they are sweeter. So potentially,
you could use less. Potentially. But that’s probably the
only thing I would say. So otherwise, for
me, whether you’re using white table
sugar in your cake, or whether you’re using
honey, it makes no difference. It’s still a cake. Enjoy it. Embrace it. Because actually,
there’s nothing wrong with having cake or dessert
every now and again. And that’s kind of what
I want to get across. I don’t– I get really cross
when I see people having a brownie, and they’ll
be, it’s brilliant. It’s really healthy for me,
because not only is it sugar free, it’s also gluten free. And it’s like, it’s
still a brownie. It still gives you the
same amount of energy. It’s still going to be
used in the body in exactly the same way. Actually, from my point of
view, if I want a brownie, I’m just going to eat a brownie. Simple as that. Similarly plant-based milks. Now, I get a lot of grief
about plant-based milks, because people seem
to think that I’m a real Nazi against them. The only reason I struggle
with plant-based milks is because they are
promoted in the wrong way. There’s nothing wrong with using
almond milk or oat milk or hemp milk, or whatever you want to
use, if you prefer the taste. But don’t kid
yourself that you’re going to get the same nutrients
as you would from cow’s milk. That’s the only
thing I would say. So I’m not anti any of them. I would probably say that
actually, for some people, the taste of almond milk
is better than cow’s milk. They prefer it. Great. But don’t kid yourself
that you’re going to get the same nutrients. This is particularly,
I find, with athletes. Because obviously, when
it comes to working in– the performance
athletes I work with, milk is such an
important recovery drink, because it’s the
right composition of carbs and protein. So if they then think they can
recover in the same way with almond milk, they don’t. And you can see from
the table that if you look at 200 mils of almond milk
versus 200 mils of skim milk, almond looks just pretty
much expensive water. So what I say to
people is by all means, use it, but don’t kid
yourself in thinking it’s got the same nutrients. A lot of the milks– I say milks. I have to do this, because
it’s not really milk, is it? But a lot of the
plant-based milks are fortified with calcium
now, which is a benefit. I did a talk two
days ago in Belfast, and there was a professor who
is very big on her bone health research. And one of the things
that she came– what she was talking
about is that actually, the intake of calcium is so
important for our bone health. And it doesn’t matter
how you get it, but it’s really important. If you are below par,
especially when you’re in your late teens,
early 20s, it can have a real negative impact
on your health in your 60s and 70s. So it’s a really important area. Gluten. I’ve already mentioned gluten. Again, I don’t have an issue. If people want to
be gluten free, that’s entirely up to them. What I find interesting
is that when I first qualified as a dietitian
many, many years ago, nobody wanted to be gluten free. Celiacs hated being gluten
free, because actually, there wasn’t an awful lot
of choice out there. And the foods out there
that were provided were really high in fat, really
unpalatable, and really high in salt, and nobody
wanted to do it. And now it just
amazes me that we’ve got so many different
options that people want to be gluten free
because they totally believe it’s healthier. There is no evidence in
any article you will read– a proper, credible
scientific article that is– that being gluten
free will benefit you if you don’t need to be. Obviously, if you have a
medical reason, then of course you have to follow
a gluten-free diet. And again, what I find
really interesting is that the athletes and the
clients I work with who do have to be gluten
free, they really moan. They don’t like it. They still don’t
think it’s fair. But at the end of
the day, I think it’s just been
highlighted as a kind of a “cure” for immune problems
and digestive problems. Often the reason why somebody
who goes gluten free feels better is because
actually, when you change any aspect of your
diet, when you decide you’re going to
follow a new thing, you become more mindful
of what you eat. If you become more
mindful of what you eat, you get a balanced diet. And actually, that’s
what makes you better. That’s what makes
you feel better. It’s not necessary that you’ve
gone gluten free or sugar free or dairy free, it’s
actually that you’ve just become more mindful. And that’s something
that I hope– is a message I really
want to get out there. So what is the impact of this
kind of hashtag #eatingclean or where does it come into–
how does it become orthorexia? So orthorexia, as we
said, is the obsession with eating correctly. It’s with eating pure. And the problem is what might
start off as a really innocent, I’m just going to try make
myself feel a bit better. I’m just going to eat– just try and cut out– maybe cut out the takeaways, or
cut out the biscuits and cakes every day, or whatever it is. That’s fine. We all do that. I have weeks where
I go, my goodness, I’ve eaten so much chocolate. I really need to have two weeks
where I don’t eat very much. That’s normal. That’s not me being obsessive. When it becomes obsessive
is actually when you cannot deviate. So when you start restricting,
and you basically cannot deviate. And it starts to have
an impact on things like your social life. So sadly, I see lots of
people that come into clinic, and they think they’re
fit and healthy. They think that they’re
doing everything right. But they can’t join
in with their friends. And I personally find
that really, really sad. Because for me, food
is more than just fuel. Food is about relationships. It’s about networking. It’s about bringing
people together. And it’s so important. It’s kind of– when
I sit at a table, I can often spot someone
who’s got food anxiety because they’re not joining in. They’re so fixated on whether
they can eat this or not eat it, they miss out on
that real connectivity time with the people
you want to be with. I know when I’m– my job takes me all
over the country and to different
countries as well. And I really miss out on
that time with my friends. So the first thing
I do when I get back into the UK or back home
is organize a meal out with some friends. I don’t care what we’re eating. I’m just there
because I actually want to spend some
time with my friends, but it’s just nice to do
it over food and wine. So for me, that’s a
really important thing. So the problem we
have is once you’ve got somebody that’s following
these very strict food rules, they follow it
because it makes them feel very safe and controlled. It gives them something
to fixate on and focus on. But it can also then start
to create things like vitamin and mineral deficiencies. So if you go dairy free, and
you don’t replace it correctly, you will end up with maybe
a deficiency in calcium and also, potentially,
phosphorus. These are really important
for bone and teeth and also muscle contraction. So that can be a problem. You might– if you
decide to go gluten free, you actually might find you
don’t eat as much whole grain. Actually, whole grains are
really important for the got biome, and we all
are hearing loads more about how important
the gut biome is and how that can help
your mental health, and how that can also help
your digestive system. But again, people don’t
realize that these things are really important. So from my point of
view what people set out to think they’re
going to be healthier actually makes them
more unhealthy, and this is what orthorexia is. And the problem is they
can’t step away from it. They find it too difficult. So I guess the question is why. Why do some people– if we’re in a room
here full of people, not everybody in this room is
ever going to have any issues. Often people, like we
said earlier, well, why don’t you read
all these new things? You think, oh, I’ll
take a bit of that, but I’m not bothered about that. Like, if somebody said
to me that you can never eat chocolate again,
I’d be completely and utterly kind of distraught. But that’s just me. So why do some people look
for food as the answer? Well, it’s really about
your personality type. And again, I’m not
saying that everybody that has got this
personality type is going to develop
an eating disorder. Because in fact, when I was
writing the presentation, I was thinking,
that’s actually me. And I certainly
thought, I need to be really careful about that. But yeah. We know from studies
that generally speaking, it tends to affect people
who are high achievers. They’re very determined. They’re very self-critical. They do have an
obsessive streak in them. That’s kind of the
biggest element of it. And they’re very sensitive. So what happens
is that they have that kind of perfect framework
for where things can go wrong. And like I said,
not everybody will. And I think it’s
really important that I highlight that. You could have all those– like I said, you could have
all those personality traits and actually be completely fine. A lot of it is to do
about your experience. So as we go through
life, we all experience different situations,
different circumstances, and we interpret
that in our own way. It’s our perceptions. And it’s those
perceptions that can then start to create this
very negative mindset, and that’s where you
then find that people are looking for
something to help them make them feel better. And it’s much easier
to look at food, training, some other element. It’s much easier
to focus on that and go, well, if I
control that, I’m going to feel so much better. When actually, what
they don’t appreciate is that a lot of the issues
are going on inside them. Because they are high
achievers, because they are people that always
want to do the best, they never know
when that’s enough. They never know when
they’ve hit that ceiling. And actually, they’re very,
very bad at accepting failure. And this is why I see
this a lot in athletes, because they are that very
driven personality type. They hate failing, obviously. Because to be an Olympic
or Paralympic athlete, you have to– you don’t need– you
don’t want to fail. But actually, the way I
interpret it with my athletes is do you know what? It doesn’t matter. You learn from every experience. So if you didn’t do
that well this time, let’s come, and
let’s reflect on it and work out what went wrong,
and then we try and fix it for next time. And these are the
things I’d love to be seeing in schools more. Because this sort of mindset
will develop in a school. When you think about
teenage boys, teenage girls, and the bullying and the
chastising and stuff that can happen, this is when
these things can be set up. So while that might not be the
time you develop your problem, if you are somebody
that struggles with your sense of self and
your sense of self confidence, a lot of these things will
be happening a lot younger. And it’s only when you
get to a certain point, there’ll be one particular
thing that will trigger it. But actually, the process
is started very early on. And that’s why it’s such a
difficult condition as well to help, because sometimes
the feelings and the emotions are so deeply ingrained,
it’s really hard to step away from it. And it’s much easier to focus on
trying to eat clean and be pure than actually deal with that
real negative kind of emotion that’s going on inside you. Because that makes you
feel uncomfortable. So I’ve already
said orthorexia is an obsession with being pure. And Steve Bratman was the
MD That identified it. So what I wanted
to do was give you a little bit of an
idea of what goes on in the mind, how it works. Because none of
this is intentional. That’s the other thing,
is that nobody goes out to develop an eating disorder. Because it’s really a
very miserable place. But a lot of it is
about just not feeling that you’re doing enough. You’re like, I don’t feel
like I’m performing my best. Well, we could probably
all say that at some point. Or we could probably all think
we could have done better. But it’s when you
start acting on it. It’s when you think, I need
to do something to change it. Everybody else around
me is so great. And it’s when you do
that constant comparison. And I always say to,
again, people I work with, especially the younger teenagers
that I tend to work with, there’s a lot of comparisons. And that’s another where
social media can really come into play is the well,
they’re prettier than me. They’re more
successful than I am. It looks like
they’ve got it all. I’ll tell you a funny story in
a minute, because actually, I went through something like
that, very similar, yesterday. But I’ll tell you
about it in a minute. But it was– but the problem is,
you can never compare yourself to anybody else, because
we are all unique. We are all individuals. And there is nobody else. There’s nobody else
like me out there. Well, I don’t think there is. But there’s nobody else like me. There’s nobody else like
yourselves out there. So comparing yourself
to somebody else is just a futile way of
making yourself feel worse. You can only actually
compare yourself to yourself. So whenever I start to doubt
things, which is quite often, I will think, well,
compared to a week ago, I’ve now achieved this. Compared to a month
ago, I’m on par. And that’s a much more
acceptable and more self-compassionate way, I
guess, of looking at it. So the problem is though, when
you don’t feel good enough, you’re searching for something
to make yourself feel better. And often, it– in orthorexia,
it’s very much about, well, if I eat better,
I’ll feel better. We’ve all heard it, haven’t we? And we see all the books. Eat this and you’ll
glow, or do this, and you’ll have loads of energy. We all see it. And of course, we buy into that. Because we’re looking
for an answer. The thing is, the
answer is within us. Because until you
accept yourself and be comfortable with who you
are, it’s really difficult to move forward from this. And this is why if you do notice
these traits or these symptoms or these emotions in people
you care about or even in yourselves, please try
and get some help early on. Because actually, the longer
you stay in this cycle, the more entrenched
these food rules become, and the more impact
they start to have, and the harder it gets
to step out of it. The harder it gets. Because the anxiety
of stepping out of it is just too
difficult to bear. So the way I tend to describe
it is that you’re almost sitting on a box of emotions. It’s like you’re
sitting on it so that you don’t let any of those
negative emotions come out. You don’t want to
deal with them. It’s like, absolutely. When you go through
recovery, you do have to jump off
that box, and you have to let the
emotions out, which does mean you tend to start
to feel very uncomfortable. Now, I suffer with
anxiety massively. The anxiety I felt as I
came off the tube and walked to the Google offices,
I cannot tell you. I do really struggle
with anxiety, but I’ve learned to manage it. Because I know
that it will pass. Because it does pass. But it’s really hard
if you’re somebody who never allows yourself
to feel it because you’re constantly worried about what– it’s going to be awful. It’s going to be catastrophic. Because that’s what
the anxious mind does. It catastrophizes everything. And so you don’t
want to do that. But actually, the only
way to move forward is to be comfortable
with the uncomfortable. Similarly, when you
challenge negative behavior with behavior, that’s
when you change. But it’s all very–
it is difficult. It’s a long, long process. So obviously, when it
comes to orthorexia, when I’m working with
people, is trying to help people understand that
healthy eating is not just about what you put
into your body. It’s not just about what’s
on your plate at one time. It’s actually about
the collection, probably over two
to three weeks. So you have a few bad
days, it’s all right. It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It doesn’t mean
you’re a bad person. It’s just it’s a bit busy. It’s Christmas,
or it’s birthdays, or actually, you’ve
gone on holiday. That’s OK. It’s fine to relax. Because the norm is
that you normally probably eat really well most
of the other times, and then it all balances out. So I try and actually
really educate a healthy attitude to eating. Rather than healthy
eating, it’s actually a healthy attitude to eating. And I just think,
again, when we’re teaching in schools and even
in universities, where this is a really big problem, that’s
what we should be teaching and educating people. It’s not always about
the wheel, and this is what healthy eating is. It’s actually
about the attitude, because that’s what is going
to help people move forward. So my final slide really
is the biggest thing is trying to be comfortable
with who you are. And it really is
about self-acceptance. And for some people,
that takes time, and it actually
takes a lot of input. So the majority of
the people I work with, I work alongside a
psychologist or a counselor, because the two things
need to go hand in hand. Some people can
do it themselves. Some people can make it– can turn it around. But the majority, I’d say,
probably 90% of the cases I work with, it definitely
needs both nutritional and a psychological element. And sometimes more
psychological than nutritional. Any questions? SPEAKER: Thank you very much. That was really interesting. I’m going to kick
off, if that’s OK. RENEE MCGREGOR: Mhm. Of course. SPEAKER: So you touched earlier
about the younger generation. Now, as adults, I
feel that we can make a bit of a better
informed choice and research in the media and things. But with children secondary
school age, for example, how do you think the best
way is to talk to them about their diet
and to make sure that they can make
those educated choices, and they’re not being
influenced by the media. RENEE MCGREGOR: I think
one of the biggest things is teaching them through food. So one of the problems
we have is that when you look at secondary
school menus and things, and they’re not very good. Or they’re not foods that
they’re familiar with, and that can be a real problem. Because I’ve done workshops
with young athletes, and we’ve done
practical workshops where I’ve brought things
like mackerel and avocado and things. And some of them are like, well,
I’ve never seen that before. Well, what is it? Like literally had no idea. And you make them
into things that are palatable and easy to use. So I would never
get somebody who’s never had mackerel
to eat mackerel, because I think that’s
just quite harsh. But what we did was
we blended it up, and we made into
a mackerel pate. And interestingly, of all the
children that had never had it, probably only two were like,
no, I definitely don’t like it. But the rest of them
were really like, ooh. And they went
home, and they were like, I want have this again. So I think food needs to be
quite a big part of education in schools. Because I think
there’s a lot of– sometimes it’s like something
that you just have to do. You just have to give the kids. But actually, if we feed our
kids properly in schools, they’ll also concentrate better. We’ll get better productivity. Because again, we know that
if they don’t eat at lunchtime because they don’t
like what they see, then they’ll either
eat loads of sugar, which is going to make
them peak and trough, or they’ll just skip it. And the problem then is
these are the things that then start to create this
kind of negative relationship with food. Because if you do have
somebody who’s very vulnerable, and they start skipping
lunch if they don’t like it, that becomes a behavior. And that becomes an
acceptable behavior to them. The problem you then
have is that can then go into the other
aspects of their life. And before you know it,
you do have somebody doesn’t really know about food. So I think education’s
really important. But not just what you
teach in the classroom, actually getting in
there and getting the kids to work with
food, taste food, try different things. But equally, I think,
as I said, there needs to be a lot more on
your sense of self, especially as a teenager. I mean, it’s probably
one of the worst times ever when you’re a
teenager, isn’t it? Because everything is changing. You don’t feel great. You don’t look great. And we all know that
you will get through it, and you do eventually look fine. But at that point, it’s
really, really hard. And you’re so self-critical. And that’s something I would
love to do more of in schools is really look at how we promote
a positive sense of self. Because I don’t feel there’s
enough of that going on, if I’m honest. SPEAKER: OK. Thank you. Any other questions? AUDIENCE: What is your
opinion on every diet that is based on calories? Meaning, I’ve been there. Like a year ago, I
spent three months on having a certain amount of
calories I could eat every day. I was weighing everything
that I was cooking, and I could only cook. I could not go out. I could not– It was like, feedback and
taking a step back on it. It sounds awful. But I’ve been there. And I’m wondering, what
is, as a dietitian, your perspective on this? There’s so many ways
this can go wrong. RENEE MCGREGOR: Yeah. So I actually very rarely
talk about calories when I work with my clients. Because you’re right. It becomes obsessive. Again, if you’re working with
somebody who is obsessive, as soon as you give them
a number or something to fixate on, it’s what happens. And at the end of the day,
the body is really quite– it’s quite an amazing– it’s very good at regulating. If you let it, it will
work for you really well. And that’s another big
message I would say to people is that if you just
listen to your body, it actually does tell you what
you need when you need it. It’s just that we’ve lost
the art of doing that, because there’s so
much information. For example, the sugar stuff. Everybody’s trying not to
eat sugar because we’ve heard how bad it is for us. But actually, there are times
when the body and the brain can only work on sugar. And so if you deprive
yourself, if you start to restrict yourself,
the body will work against you. So what I often find is when
people severely restrict their calorie intake, less
than what they need– now, everybody in this room will have
a very different requirement. But when they
restrict the calories to less than what they need,
the problem we then have is that when food
becomes available, the body will try
and eat to excess. Because it will say,
well, hang on a minute. I don’t know when you’re
going to feed me again, so I’m going to take on
as many calories as I can. That then sets up this really
negative cycle of oh my god, I’ve just eaten so much. I’m going to restrict again. And actually, what you need
to do in these situations is regulate your eating. So I tend to educate people
on getting the correct balance of carbohydrates, proteins,
whole grains, fruits, vegetables at meal
times and snacks. I’m not anti-snacks. I always have to eat every three
hours, otherwise I fall apart. So I’m not anti any
of those things. But it’s right for
you as an individual. Because if you are somebody
that say, does exercise an hour a day, your
requirements are going to be much higher than
somebody that just sits at their desk all day long. And I think this is where
we do get some problems. Because as dietitians,
we talk very much about moderation and
balance, and of course, that’s really boring. It’s not sexy. It’s not exciting. It’s just a dull word. And it is. But balance is about
what’s right for you. Now, I have to be
careful, because I then get people saying,
yes, but I don’t need to eat sugar then
ever, because that’s what balance is for me. But that’s not what I mean. Balance is– when I
say that, it’s actually about giving your
body what it needs, but also allowing yourself
to have the things you want. Because when you suddenly
go, I do want that, but I can’t have it, you set up
a whole new mindset going on, almost like a deprivation cycle. So it can go one
or the other way. You can either– you end
up– people who would just want that food, and that’s
all they could think about, and they’re going to
just eat loads of it. Or the opposite side to that
is where it causes anxiety. So I think in your
case, from what I hear, is that it became quite an– and if you stepped
even one calorie over what you were meant to
have, it became a problem. It caused you
anxiety, shall we say. Not made a problem. Now, this is why, also,
I don’t like trackers. I don’t like the
online food trackers. Because one, it’s
really difficult to get the right thing of what
you’re eating and make it work. The other thing is how does
that tracker know that actually, today, it might
be that depending on what’s going on for you
hormonally, depending on what’s going on for you mentally, that
day, you do need a bit more. The tracker can’t tell you
that, but your body can. So when I re-educate
people, it really is about helping them
to see that eating should be fun and enjoyable. And actually, the
balance is very much– my principle is
very much 80% the time, I try and eat as well as I can. Which does mean that if I then
want to have a glass of wine or a pudding or a
chocolate, then I can, and I don’t worry about it at all. And that I would
use for anybody, whether they’re doing
loads of exercise or whether they’re not. Because you can– it’s
proportional to what you do. Does that answer your question? AUDIENCE: It does. AUDIENCE: I have a
question about what you talked about earlier. You made a reference
to sugar and how your body doesn’t
actually know if it’s coconut sugar, white sugar. But is there something
in the science– and I’m asking you
as a nutritionist– is there something
in the science of how your body actually
metabolizes that? Because you do see that
some sugars are processed by your body differently, such
as raising your glycemic index, for example. Could you speak more to that? RENEE MCGREGOR: So yeah. I mean, obviously, some do
have a slightly different glycemic index. But if you look
at all the sugars that we’ve been exposed to,
the difference is minute. Because at the end of the day,
they are all simple sugars. So they all affect your
blood sugars in the same way. So yes. Things like honey,
for example, might have a slightly less glycemic
load than table sugar, but we’re not talking enough to
make the difference that we’re being told. I think that’s the thing that is
really important to understand is that the messages we’re
getting about being sugar free and only eating
honey and only eating maple syrup et
cetera, et cetera, they’re not significant
enough for it to be that– to make that change. AUDIENCE: I have one
more question, sorry. Going back into your 80/20
rule that you just spoke about, is there danger in people
creating morality around food then, being like, oh,
this is part of that 20. Or oh, this is part of that 80. I can eat freely for it. Do you see that that could also
be an obsession or something, like a trigger in itself? RENEE MCGREGOR: That’s
a really good question. I’ve never seen that, because I
don’t ever really spell it out. It’s kind of how I tend– I don’t sit there
going, oh well, I’ve eaten really well for
80% of the day today, so now I can have my
piece of chocolate. I don’t do it like that. I kind of look at it overall. So I tend to sort of know that
actually, I do that naturally. I don’t have to think about it. It’s just what I do. And so when I work with
people, I very rarely use percentages or
numbers, because I know that then that
becomes obsessive, and we’re trying to
move away from that. It really is about– it’s actually more about
that attitude to food that I try and really work on,
that kind of behavior change. Mhm. AUDIENCE: Thank you. I think just take to go back to
your question about calories, what I find really interesting
about calorie restriction is that my flatmate does it, and– I know, it’s a whole thing. But she will have her certain
amount of calories for the day, but she’ll eat
whatever she wants to make up those calories. So I might eat way, way,
way more calories than she– not way, way more. But more calories, but it’ll
be through lean protein and whole grains or whatever,
whereas somebody else might need way less calories,
but it could all be crisps. So I what I find
really interesting is the idea that when
you restrict yourself, we talk a lot about the
stuff that you’re not getting the nutrients. You’re not getting. But does it also
work the other way, that you might be getting
too much of something? Like people who aren’t eating
any sugar, dairy, or grain. They’re obviously not
getting those things, but are they getting too
much protein and too much other nutrients because
they’re trying to make up for what they’re not eating? Too much of the good stuff. Is that possible too? RENEE MCGREGOR:
Yeah, absolutely. I think the whole
thing about balance is that if you increase your
intake of any other food group, you displace something else. So one of the things
I really struggle with when I’m
working with athletes is because they’re
trying to be healthy, and they’re eating
loads of vegetables, they don’t get
enough carbohydrate. They don’t get enough
energy in to be able to perform because
they’re trying to be good. And so that’s what I mean. It’s trying to get that balance
for everybody as an individual. So yes you’re quite right. Because the thing is,
again, everybody’s body will always be trying
to reach energy balance. So no matter where you’re at,
whether you’re at the weight you want to be, or
whether you’re not the weight you want
to be, your body will always be working
towards getting energy balance to basically maintain
where you are at. So that’s why often,
when you do decide to go to a very
restrictive diet, you can probably do it for two
or three days, unless you’re very extreme and obsessive,
and then you suddenly go, yeah, I can’t do this anymore,
because I’m just exhausted, and I’m hungry, and I’m
going to eat that burger or whatever it is. And you almost go to
the opposite extreme. Because the body’s always
working against that. It’s trying to keep you alive. Remember that. That’s what the body’s
innate thing is, it’s trying to keep you alive. So when people do
restrict calories, it will slow down
other processes. So the thing I see a lot
is it’s those silent things you don’t see. So for example, when somebody
is on a very restrictive diet, and they restrict
their calories, the body slows down
the digestive system. So that can have a real
impact on how your body works in that respect. In females, it will
reduce estrogen. So menstruation will stop,
because the body’s going, well, hang on a minute. I can’t– there’s no way I can
fall pregnant and reproduce now, because there’s not
enough energy in the system. So it doesn’t necessarily
affect your weight, and that’s what’s
really interesting. It’s because the body will
actually slow everything else down to keep you alive. So it will– you’ll find
you can’t concentrate. You get cold. You can’t really think straight. It’s all those different things. You can’t sleep. That’s a big one. And that’s something that
people don’t always realize. That actually, when you
restrict your intake, the body’s doing everything
it can to work against it. So quickly, one thing to
pick up on though that’s really interesting
is that you’re right. Some people don’t change in
weight, and they stay the same, and they might not
eat the best way. They might literally
make up their calories through McDonald’s
burgers or whatever. Their choice. But that’s not good
either, and that’s not what I’m promoting either. It really is about if
you eat the right things, if you base your meals
around whole grains and complex carbs and lean
proteins, you will feel full. You will feel better. But that also
means there is then room for those little
indulgences if you want them. I think that’s the message
I’m trying to get across. AUDIENCE: Hi. Earlier, you were talking
about alternative milks. What about something
like goat’s milk? Is that as good as
cow’s milk, or is that– RENEE MCGREGOR: Yeah. I mean, goat’s milk is
fairly similar in composition to cow’s milk. So if I’m honest, when I work
with somebody that really, realistically, can’t
have milk, just has a lactose intolerance,
or a dairy intolerance, or dairy allergy, then you
have to find them something, because you need to
get the calcium in. Some people, goat’s
milk will work. It comes down to the protein
or the sugar in the milk, depending on what
the problem is. So for some people,
goat’s milk is fine. Sheep’s milk is good. For other people,
even those, there’s so much crossover
with the proteins, that if it’s that particular
protein that they can’t digest, then you have to find
another alternative. So in some cases, it’s soy. But we also know there’s 40%– for people with severe
dairy allergies, there’s 40% crossover. So a lot of people that can’t
have dairy can’t have soy. And that’s where it
becomes problematic, because then you do end
up looking for something like almond or oat. And like I said, I don’t have a
problem with people doing that. But what annoys me is the
marketing that it’s on par. Because nutritionally, it’s not. So you just have to make sure
that you get your nutrition from somewhere else. That’s all. AUDIENCE: Hi. I have a lot of friends who
swear by intermittent fasting, just eating two meals a day
and then starving for 15 hours. And that’s something
that I don’t believe in, and I don’t feel
in the right place to tell them that they’re
starving themselves. But do you have any specific
advice for this area? I know a lot of the
ideas you say contradict that this is good for you. So just [INAUDIBLE]. RENEE MCGREGOR: Again,
intermittent fasting is one of those ones that’s
been really– it’s been around for a long time, but it
became its heyday probably a couple of years ago, with
the 5,2 and that kind of thing. I’m going to say, I do
use intermittent fasting in some athletes,
but not in the 5,2. Because I don’t
believe in two days a week where you eat only 500
calories, because your body’s just not in a
happy place at all. But what I do sometimes
do for athletes where I need to hit a particular
body composition or weight, and it is giving them
a rule, unfortunately. But it helps when you do it for
a very short period of time. But what we would do is actually
the intermittent fasting, where they eat for eight hours a day. So say, between 12:00 and 8:00,
and then they’ll have 15– they’ll have the
16 hours of fasted. Because we know
scientifically that’s quite a useful way of
helping athletes meet weight. But with anything I do
like that, it’s monitored, it’s supervised, and it’s only
done for a very short period of time. So with your
friends, doing the– if they’re doing
two meals a day, and that’s all they’re
doing, for a start, that’s not intermittent
fasting, that’s just fasting. Because intermittent
fasting would mean they do it intermittently. So they’d have some days
where they eat well, and other days where they
eat very restrictive. I think what’s interesting
is that when you look now at the data that’s
coming through, the people that were very
big advocates of the 5,2 are struggling to maintain it. It’s not sustainable. Because you then have
two, maybe three days a week where you
can’t actually focus. You can’t actually concentrate. You can’t be productive. Because your body won’t
be on 500 calories a day. So it’s hard when
you’ve got friends, and you’re watching them, and
you want to say something. And I think the only
way you can sometimes do things is give them
some sort of tangible data, like did you notice that
you made a mistake there? Or did you notice that
you haven’t got your– you’re really tired. Or you’re actually
really irritable, and it’s not much
fun to be around. I mean, you have to be careful
how you say that, obviously. But it’s that kind of thing. I mean, there are often
opening conversations I have with a lot of my clients. I don’t go straight
in there and go, you’ve got a problem with food. It’s very much about asking
those open questions, like what’s going on with you? Why are you following that? Where does that come from? Because it’s really
important to hear why. Because that’s
something that they feel very passionate about, and
you don’t want to belittle it. You want to encourage them
to open and talk to you. So as a practitioner,
building trust with my clients is the first step. And then after
that, you can start to then really tackle some of
the what’s going on for you. Because you’re
probably find that, again, there’s a reason why
your friends are doing that. That they are trying to
maintain a certain weight or be a certain way
or look a certain way. Where does that stem from? What’s that about? That’s kind of how
I’d go about it. AUDIENCE: Thank you. SPEAKER: Any more
questions from anybody? No? Thank you so much for coming in. We really appreciate it. Renee’s going to be staying
and signing copies of her book as well and also joining
us up in the cafe. So if you’d like to purchase
a book, please do let us know, and she’ll sign it for you. Thank you very much for coming.

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