Donut Day: And ways to strengthen willpower

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“I had two slices of pizza, three glasses of wine…and dessert 😳” a client messaged me the other day. She was upset. She felt like she’d failed. “That’s ok!” I wrote back. “That’ll happen. Making progress isn’t about sticking to a ‘perfect plan,’ It’s important to recognize the situation - were you stressed, what did you do/eat before going out, what went well and what can we do differently next time - and then look ahead. Be kind to yourself 💚”

So many women I talk to strive for 100% compliance. To achieve their health goals, they think they can’t have X [insert anything from hummus, bread, nuts to fries, donuts and pasta] because X is unhealthy.

A core part of my nutrition philosophy is grounded in maintaining moderation; anything - and everything - can fit into your ‘plan.’ The more we actively resist something we enjoy, the more we may end up overindulging in it.

According to the American Psychological Association, our willpower, or the ability to delay gratification and exert self control, may depend on what ‘depleting events’ we’ve recently encountered. If you’ve ever been in a hostile conversation with a colleague or resisted a freshly baked brownie offered by a friend, you’ve experienced a ‘depleting event.’ Another explanation for a dip in willpower? We’re literally depleted; our bodies, and brains, are primarily fueled by glucose. If we haven’t eaten in a while, we may be low on energy-boosting glucose and thus willpower.

One of my favorite things to do each week is get a vegan chocolate peanut butter and granola donut from West Town Bakery. My husband and I’ll take our dog, Dexter, on Sunday mornings and enjoy one donut each with a cup of coffee. While the donut is delicious, I enjoy the whole experience and it’s something to look forward to each weekend. Although having a donut everyday isn’t something I’d recommend as a dietitian, enjoying one (or two!) each week is 100% a-ok. Building it into a weekly plan helps me avoid feeling deprived and my willpower to say “thanks, but no thanks” to other treats is boosted.

So when it comes to our favorite foods, what can we do to strengthen willpower?


    • If you know you’re going to be in a stress-inducing situation, such as a work happy hour or birthday party, plan ahead. Check out the menu, find an item you’d like to have and then enjoy. Be intentional; give yourself permission to eat what you want - within moderation - and then truly savor the whole experience. Since that food or beverage is no longer “off-limits,” you may see that mindfully indulging may lead to reduced feelings of stress. This, in turn, may lead to less overindulgence (aka mindless eating).

      • Quick tip: Be the first one to order a drink or appetizer; this may help set the “health tone” of the table and prevent you from feeling pressured into ordering something you don’t want.


    • How many oranges would you eat at once? One? Three? A 12-ounce glass of freshly squeezed orange juice contains nearly 32 grams of sugar, equivalent to eating three medium-sized oranges, which we normally wouldn’t do in one sitting. With the absence of dietary fiber, fruit juice is more rapidly absorbed by the body. This speedy sugar-dumping process may result in dramatic blood sugar spikes, which can send our energy levels, and willpower, crashing. Instead of a glass of juice, focus on eating fruit in its raw, unprocessed form.

      • Quick tip: Throw fresh orange slices into 16 ounces of water and add a splash of fresh ginger juice for a twist on traditional OJ.


    • While it may sounds like a good idea to focus on changing multiple habits at once to drive positive change, studies suggest that this may deplete our willpower reserves; we’re dedicating energy to changing multiple areas and, as a result, spreading ourselves thin. Focus on one area at a time and find a health habit that supports this goal. If you want to eat more vegetables, for example, start incorporating a new vegetable into one meal a week.

      • Quick tip: Save time by using frozen spinach. Add to riced cauliflower, pasta and scrambled tofu for a simple nutrient-boost.


Check out my latest article

The best high-protein desserts, according to dietitians



Work-life balance: How getting rid of it may make us more mindful


Last month, I was listening to a fellow panelist talk about the myth of work-life balance.

General Assembly had invited us invited to speak about mindfulness, what it meant to us and tips for how to build it into a daily routine. He said that the creation of strict boundaries between work and life only pushes us further off balance when we fail to adhere to them. When we’re doing one and we feel like we should be doing the other, we may feel stressed and unfocused. Rather than see each activity separate, he suggested taking a more fluid approach, finding ways to integrate work with life and visa versa.

As a solo practitioner, building my business often flows over into my personal time, making the concept of a traditional working day virtually non-existent. Between client sessions, creating nutrition presentations and organizing events, I love what I do. And while it doesn’t always feel like work, sometimes it can be challenging to draw the line and ‘switch off.’

To help change this mindset from “I’m doing everything but nothing 100%” to “Ok, I’m making progress” I’ve started keeping a daily mini list. Using pen and a notepad, I pull it from my (much) longer to-do list. By being very intentional with what I want to accomplish that day, it helps keep me on task, focused and feeling less overwhelmed. Fun fact: this blog post was on my mini list for today!

Pulled from other panelists and my own experiences, here are three ways build mindfulness into your day.


    Whenever I used to take our dog, Dexter, out for a walk, I’d bring my phone. I’d call and book an appointment, look up a new restaurant or scroll through IG. While perhaps efficient with my time, I was distracted and didn’t feel refreshed when I returned home. Now, unless I feel like I need it, I’ve stopped taking my phone on our walks. Stopping multitasking means more time to connect more Dexter, appreciate my environment and take a mini mental break.


    While a weekly massage would be amazing, self-care can be practiced in small ways. For me, that means setting some time aside each week for workouts. It also means saying ‘no’ to some social activities. I find that saying ‘yes’ is less painful and often the easier route. When I say ‘no,’ I’ve found that a) no one really cares why you can’t do something or go somewhere b) my work time is more focused and c) my friends are my friends even when I say ‘no’ sometimes :)


    I love to clean. I find sweeping or scrubbing super relaxing. Having a clean, organized physical space also helps to clear my head; I’m better able to stay focused on the task on hand. Every few weeks, I’ll pick a different space to clean out and reorganize - I’m always surprised by how much stuff has accumulated! I organize items by ‘linking’ them to others to help me remember to do something. For example, keeping Dexter’s tiny toothbrush near his treats as a reminder to brush his teeth after treat time. Or keeping a small cutting board with my dishes to make cutting a piece of fruit or veggies as a snack super simple.

"So bassiccc:" When nutrition facts aren't enough


Last week I had a client looking for help with inflammation.

After taking his health history, I began our session focused on weight loss. Excessive visceral abdominal tissue (aka belly fat) secretes high levels of substances known as pro-inflammatory cytokines1. While some of these cytokines have a protective effect, pro-inflammatory cytokines are released by cells in response to infection, inflammation and trauma2. So, to me, it naturally made sense to start him on a weight reduction plan.

It turned out he wasn’t happy with this approach. A few days later when I followed up, he said he was going to take his nutrition concerns elsewhere because the “diet was so bassiccc.” At first I was upset because 1) criticism is tough 2) I’d lost a client 3) I felt like I had misguided someone. After thinking about it though, though, I don’t know what I would’ve done differently. Except for messaging. Perhaps if I’d focused on how this approach could lower levels of inflammation, we’d have both ended up on the same page.

In our fast-paced world, we’re all looking for a quick fix. I suspect that’s what he was looking for and while I don’t think there is a “one size fits all approach,” there are some “bassiccc” nutrition principles that we should be following.

So, call it what you want, but here are a few simple strategies that’ll help you get moving toward better health.


    Fiber plays a double role; not only has dietary fiber been shown to support weight loss, top sources such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds are rich in phytochemicals 3. These powerful plant-based substances are associated with lower levels of inflammation 4. Women should be aiming for 25 g of fiber per day; men, aim for 38g/day.

    + Opt for fiber-rich fruits and vegetables with a skin (berries) vs. a peel (banana)
    + Ask for double veggies on a sandwich or pizza
    + Add grated veggies to recipes including, pasta dishes and baked goods.


    Protein takes more energy for us to breakdown than refined carbohydrates, helping us to keep us full and our hunger at bay. Depending on activity level and body composition, we need ~0.8 grams/kg of protein/day, meaning a 150 pound person needs 54 grams per day.

    + Add plant-based proteins such as edamame, hemp seeds and tofu to boost your intake of anti-inflammatory foods.


    Sodium, a core ingredient in table salt, is most commonly found in highly processed, refined, canned and packaged foods. Not only does it stimulate our appetite, studies suggest that a high sodium intake is positively associated with inflammation 5. The current recommendation for the average healthy adult is 2,300 mg/day of sodium, equivalent to 1 tsp. of salt 6.

    + Look for “low sodium” products
    + Dilute spreads by blending in plain dairy-free yogurt
    + Eat potassium-rich foods such as bananas to help offset sodium in the body


    When we go for a period of time without eating, ghrelin, our hunger-stimulating hormone, starts to kick in. Secreted mainly from the stomach, it signals our brain that it's time to eat. Ghrelin works on a cycle; levels build before we eat and drop after a meal 7. This happens naturally about every four hours so regularly eating stabilizes hunger levels.

    + Stash a packet of nuts in your bag
    + Store fresh fruit on the counter and pre-cut veggies at eye level to make them easy to grab
    + Track your meal timing in a food log


    Underlying stress is a key our trigger for giving in to cravings. When faced with a stressor, our adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol; cortisol may increase our motivation to consume calories in the form of sugary, high-fat foods 8. Give yourself a break; restricting food choices and telling yourself “I can’t have this” is exhausting, leading us to overindulge when our stress levels are maxed.

    + Plan ahead and enjoy a treat on a regular basis