Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Discipline or Punishment: Is There a Difference?

One of the many areas in which there's overlap between parenting and weight management is in the area of discipline versus punishment. Most people see no distinction between these terms, perhaps in part because "parenting experts" don't, either. I recently did some Internet research for a presentation on parenting, and every site I found used the terms interchangeably.

That's sad, because there's a tremendous difference between discipline and punishment. Simply put, discipline is teaching, or coaching. Punishment is making someone feel bad, by causing pain, fear, or shame. My son once described punishment as "something you wouldn't want your kid to do to himself when he does the wrong thing." I couldn't agree more. Parents who use punishment are saying, essentially, "You've been bad, and now you deserve to feel bad. You deserve to feel pain, fear, and shame. If you don't feel bad, you'll never change."

Over the years, I've come to see dieting, or what I refer to as the diet mentality, as a form of self-punishment. The unspoken message of dieting is, "You've been bad, and now you deserve to feel bad. You deserve to feel pain, fear, and shame. You deserve feeling hungry, worrying about whether you'll get enough, feeling ashamed of your body. If you don't feel bad, you'll never change."

Frankly, I couldn't disagree more, whether the topic is parenting or weight management. My experience as both dietitian and parent educator has taught me that people, whether they're grown-up or young, are far more likely to change when they believe in themselves, and when others around them freely express their belief in them. It's not that different from working with other animals: If you want your dog to jump through hoops, you're better off giving it a treat when it does, rather than swatting it with a newspaper when it doesn't.

The difference between discipline and punishment is one reason I wholeheartedly reject calorie requirements, points systems, and other methods designed to control, restrict, and micromanage eating habits. Yes, it's good to know my estimated daily calorie intake is 1,600 calories, so I can decide just how much of In-N-Out's 800-calorie milkshake is a good idea. However, not eating when I'm still hungry, just because I've reached the "magic" number 1,600, is punishment, not discipline.

Of course, the flip side of punishment isn't discipline; it's neglect. We'll talk next month about permissive parenting, and its effect on weight management. For now, I encourage you to consider whether you're focusing on self-teaching and self-coaching, because those are the skills that make up self-discipline. If you've been using punishment to somehow motivate you, there's no better time than now to stop hurting yourself, and start treating yourself with dignity and respect.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Protein for Breakfast, Carbs for Supper...?

Remember the article I posted last month about how dieters who ate high-carb suppers lost more weight than those who ate more carbs at breakfast and lunch? Here's a related study: Scientists at the University of Missouri found that teens who ate a high-protein breakfast ate less throughout the day. Even more intriguingly, the researchers used fMRI scanning to demonstrate that high-protein breakfasts led to greater activation in areas of the brain that control food motivation reward.

Here's a link to a short article on the study:


For many people, the trick is finding high-protein foods that are quick and easy to prepare, but reasonably low in fat. I often enjoy a serving of almonds with a homemade banana muffin or two, cashews stirred into homemade yogurt and fruit, or Fruit Tofucotta. My husband is a huge fan of turkey bacon (don't laugh -- it's actually pretty good!), egg substitute, and soy-based meat products like soy chorizo (or soyrizo, as we call it). All it takes to increase your protein intake is a bit of planning and preparation. Bon appetit, and happy Monday!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Indian Chicken in Tikka Masala Sauce

My kids are doing a collaborative school report on India this month, culminating in a picnic this afternoon. We made our own yogurt over the weekend, and we'll whip it up into mango lassis just before we leave. Trader Joe's naan is among my favorites, and we're bringing both garlic and curry-seasoned naan.

Finally, we're serving Indian Chicken in Tikka Masala Sauce. The chicken is simmering in the slow cooker as we speak, and I'll be blending up the sauce as soon as I'm done posting this. The recipe is very loosely based on a recipe I found in Cook's Illustrated. This version is much faster -- the original took about two hours to prepare -- and it's much lower in calories and fat, too.

It requires just a small investment of your time to prepare the ingredients for the slow cooker, and takes less than a half-hour to put together. I serve it with orzo because my husband's blood sugars respond better to pasta than rice, but you can serve it over rice, cauliflower rice, or dish it up as-is and serve naan on the side.

Indian Chicken in Tikka Masala Sauce

Indian Chicken Ingredients:

2 cups water
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 tablespoon bottled minced ginger
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Tikka Masala Sauce Ingredients:

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
2 teaspoons bottled minced ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon sugar (or sugar substitute)
1 cup plain non-fat yogurt


Combine water, garlic, cumin, coriander, and cayenne in slow cooker. Add chicken and cook on HIGH for 6 – 8 hours, or on LOW for 8 – 10 hours, or until chicken is tender.

Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger, red pepper, tomato paste, garam masala, and sugar in blender. Blend until onion is almost pureed, but still visible. Put sauce in a large skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, for 10 - 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Add yogurt, and stir until combined.

To serve, place chicken on hot cooked rice, cauliflower rice, orzo, or potatoes, and cover with sauce. Or, serve chicken drizzled with sauce and offer naan on the side.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Self-Worth, Weight Management, and You

In addition to working as a dietitian and teaching dancEx classes, I also teach parenting classes. For many people, it's a stretch either way. Participants in my parenting classes often wonder (aloud) if I'm qualified to teach them. Clients and students with whom I interact as a dietitian or dancEx instructor are sometimes surprised to learn I teach parenting classes.

In fact, there's a surprising amount of overlap. Parents are typically the most influential individuals in a child's life, and that influence extends to every element of weight management--body pride, eating habits, stress management, hydration, sleep, exercise, and so on. If parents do a good job, children grow up believing they are worthy of self-care, and develop the skills they need to connect with their feelings and meet their needs, coach themselves through challenges, and generally maintain a healthy relationship with their body.

Unfortunately, parents don't always learn these skills as children themselves. One of the areas where people really seem to struggle is in the area of self-worth, which is described by child psychologist Stephen Bavolek, PhD, as being made up of two components: Self-esteem, or the belief that one is lovable, and self-concept, the belief that one is capable. 

What I've observed is this: When we're children, we look to our parents to answer those all-important questions about our self-worth: Am I lovable? Am I capable? If parents have the skills to do so, they teach their children they are noticed and loved, simply for being the unique individual that they are. They also teach their children they are capable and appreciated for the things they do.

But what happens when parents don't have this skill? For many of us who struggle with weight management, a chunk of that struggle is directly related to poor self-worth. What seems to further complicate matters is this truth: As children, we need our parents to help us develop self-worth. However, as adults, our self-worth is up to us.

It's a simple observation, but it's rife with consequences. For instance, because there's a distinct break between childhood and adulthood, it's easy for people to intuit that since there's an endpoint to what parents can do, there must be an endpoint in adulthood, too--that is, a time and place when self-worth is "done." And that's simply not true...not if we want to continue to grow and develop as human beings.

So, the question becomes: How are you doing with parenting yourself in this area? Do you appreciate yourself for the unique person you are? Do you love yourself, not for the things you do, but for the individual you are? Do you recognize and appreciate the things you do for yourself and others, or do you minimize them? Perhaps most importantly, where and how can you make a positive change to better support your self-worth? When you are confident that you are lovable and capable, it'll spill over into every relationship--including your relationship with your body.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Life-Size Barbie Gets Women Talking

I received my first Barbie on my sixth birthday. Did playing with Barbie and her friends have anything to do with the body image issues I've had over the years? It's hard to say. I do remember wishing I looked more like Barbie, with her hourglass curves and long legs. I didn't quite want to look like this, though.

I love that Galia Slayen has created this life-size Barbie. I'm hopeful that her efforts will inspire even more accurate, appropriate recreations of the female form. Perhaps those efforts will inspire Mattel to consider developing a Barbie that's more realistic. I'd also love to see Barbie dolls with different body types, rather than one body with different heads.

In the meantime, I hope that Slayen's work will get women thinking and talking about how we're portrayed in media, and how we interpret it. 

Here's a link to an article published in Today Magazine about Galia and her life-size Barbie:

Life-Size Barbie Gets Real Women Talking
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