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Welcome back to The Financial Confessions! In our season 4 premiere, Chelsea talks with dietician and YouTuber Abbey Sharp about the biggest diet culture myths, what mindful eating actually looks like, and how to create a better relationship with food/

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Hello, everyone, and welcome back to an all new episode of The Financial Confessions.

It's me, your host, Chelsea Fagan, founder and CEO of The Financial Diet and person who loves to talk about money. And often, when it comes to talking about money in terms of the consumer decisions we're making, we're often talking about food.

For most people, outside of major bills like a rent or mortgage, insurance, things like that, food spending is going to be the largest category of spending in the average budget. And for many people when they're looking to change how they spend to change their relationship with money, they'll often start by changing some aspect of their relationship with food, and often things like dining out or ordering in. But especially for women, there's often a second layer of the spending on food, which is spending on diet culture, spending on wellness, spending on the desire to be in a certain body and the miracle products and cure alls and foods and clean eating that will help us get there.

I think most of the people listening to TFC probably know that a lot of the noise around how we eat to be the kind of person we're supposed to be is often junk science, a scam, just a marketing technique, or downright dangerous and unhealthy. But it can also be really difficult, especially when we're trying to change our consumer habits around food, and the way in which we're spending and eating the food on which we spend to really filter out the noise and focus on what's actually worth it. What's going to really deliver joy to us and be something that's worth spending on, but also be something that's good for us, that's not just self care in the very short term, this is really yummy in the moment but maybe doesn't make me feel good, and more the self care in the long term of this is a way that I can eat and feel good about indefinitely, not just for some crash diet period.

One of the most requested categories of person to talk to on TFC has been someone who is an expert and a specialist in this world, and we are lucky enough with us to have a registered dietitian and YouTuber who's made some fabulous videos on these topics. I've actually been a fan of her videos for some time, and we actually also interviewed her for our sister podcast, Too Good to Be True, in an episode about a particularly atrocious real housewife MLM that centers around some very, very scary eating and diet habits, which we'll get into a bit later. But before we dive into all of that, I wanted to welcome my guest today, Abbey Sharp.

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And I know I said a little bit about what you do. But I'd love to just get a little bit more of a view on what your philosophy is as a dietitian. Yeah, so I'm a registered dietitian.

I am all about anti diet culture you mentioned. It's so pervasive right now, and social media is not making it easier for people to navigate this world. And so I've really made a name for myself by calling out a lot of this problematic diet culture online.

It started on YouTube. And then of course now we're getting to TikTok. And so, yeah, I just think that there's so much misinformation that needs to be debunked.

There really is. And it's also, we've spoken about this a little bit on other episodes of TFC, but I think I would really like to talk specifically with a dietitian about this who really focuses on intuitive eating and being against diet culture as a concept. We're in a very weird cultural moment where I feel like body positivity is a huge part of the conversation, and we're sort of supposed to pretend as though we live in a weight neutral culture.

But obviously, the products and foods and supplements and regimes that are clearly geared toward losing weight are in many ways more popular and lucrative than ever. Yeah, absolutely. I think that we've seen a really big shift in the past five years or so, where the word diet has kind of become a bit of a dirty word.

And so we're seeing a lot of traditional kind of diet programs out there kind of rebrand themselves as kind of wellness or lifestyle wellness programs. So I'm talking about like WW, aka Weight Watchers, and then Noom is a really popular one right now. I always say that it's really just the same pig with a new coat of shiny lipstick on.

It's the same restrictive diet. It's still trying to kind of remove foods from your diet. It's still cutting things out.

It's still creating a bunch of rules. It's still creating distrust in your body. And ultimately, you're still trying to kind of change your body.

And so we see these trends come and go and kind of different nuanced language being used on social media. So for example, right now it's a big trend to be focusing on gut health or anti bloating. The reality is that a lot of these tactics to reduce bloating or improve gut health are really just to shrink your waistline.

They're just kind of, it's just a little bit taboo to now be talking about trying to diet or lose weight intentionally, rather than focusing on having a greater sense of wellness or being or quote unquote, "self care." Yeah, and it becomes all the more complicated when there are really kind of two issues at play that are I think often really important to separate. One being the ethics and animal cruelty and labor practices and sustainable economics behind the food that we're buying. Not wanting to support, for example, big agriculture, factory farming, things like that.

Wanting to shop more locally, wanting to support small producers, wanting to support ethical production standards, which in most cases just translates to extremely expensive. And kind of separating that out from what you're eating because of the actual health reasons. And one of the things that-- it's really interesting.

I feel like I've been trying to find my own way in this. And it's funny, in a lot of the research that we do for different videos at TFD, and this podcast that obviously you were interviewed for that we'll talk about, I'll do a lot of research on either very niche influencers or subcultures or things like that. So my Instagram Explore page is just pure chaos.

My algorithm has no idea what the hell I'm doing. So on my Instagram feed I will have, simultaneously, a raw vegan diet, where an influencer is showing what they eat in a day, and it's like 15 papayas and all this really intense stuff that I'm like that just seems insane. And then on the other hand, you have people who are doing the carnivore diet and they're like they eat nothing but butter and grass fed beef and all of this stuff.

And I'm like that also seems like it can't possibly be right. And yet both parties, if you look at their content, are really staking a very specific claim to this is what the body needs. This is what's good for gut health this is what's good for x, y, and z ailment.

And obviously, they can't both be right. But how do you even suss out who is at least sort of providing better evidence? Yeah, it sounds like your Explore page or your For You page is like identical to mine, because I also am kind of being fed all of these extreme diets.

And like you said, it's so confusing and overwhelming to the layperson to see this obvious juxtaposition between two different parties, or multiple parties claiming that they have the secret to good health. And I think what it comes down to is, ultimately, humans are unique. We're all unique.

Our nutritional needs are going to be unique. So often what we see being fed to us on TikTok or Instagram are these extreme kind of fringe examples of somebody thriving on a very unusually unbalanced diet. But that's not really how population health recommendations work.

And that's why we have those recommendations to eat a balanced diet, because we know that's the easiest and simplest way to meet all of our nutrition needs. And when we're focusing on just meat or just vegetables, it might on Instagram or TikTok appear that a single person is thriving on that way of eating, and they're making all these claims about how it cures that x, y, and z disease, or help them lose weight, or whatever the claim may be. But when we actually look at real research, real data on a large subset of people, not just an n of 1, we can see that balance really is the key to good health.

And I get that it's very confusing for people because they see these miracle stories and they want to latch on to it and think, oh, that's the key. If only I just eat only papayas, then I'm going to lose weight, or then I'm going to cure my inflammatory disease or my autoimmune disease or whatever it might be. But generally speaking, these are huge anomalies, and so more often than not, they do a lot more damage to the average person.

Yeah. And I also, I am personally, I'm a bit of a cynic about this stuff. And I actually, for some of the diets that I see out there, I actually don't think a lot of the influencers are following them in the way that they're saying they are, because I do think what gets the most attention on social media economies is, just like you said, the very extreme examples.

And I even just think from a purely practical standpoint, it seems so unlikely that this is how a person eats 24/7 and that they experience absolutely no repercussions. And the thing is, unfortunately, when it comes to-- and it's strange, too, because it's not a new concept that, for example, the before and after photo is often completely fake or manipulated. And this has been happening since the dawn of advertising, essentially.

But I do think that there is a weird perception when it comes to sort of the influencer economy that there's a level of authenticity to it that we don't expect from straight advertising, when in the case of a lot of these influencers, they are advertising. They're often selling products. They're doing sponsorships.

They're monetizing their audience. So it's strange to me that we don't treat it with the same level of skepticism. It's so true.

And I actually talk about this often on my platforms when I say, if you're out there and you're on TikTok, it doesn't matter if you have 10 or 10 million followers, if your content is public, you are content creator. You are responsible for what you put out there. People are going to potentially view that content and take it as gospel, especially if it's done in a convincing manner.

And yeah, I think that there is a lack of skepticism, because we just expect that this is an everyday person, this is a real person. And there's lots of evidence to support how kind of captivating and encouraging a lot of these anecdotes are. But that's not research.

And I think that a lot of people are distrustful of actual legitimate scientific research for whatever reason. Maybe they think that it's funded by industry or government, or have some kind of ulterior motive, and they feel a little bit more of a human connection to an individual story. But like I said, we don't actually know if that individual is telling the whole truth, what are their actual implications for their health, do we see their lab values?

Do we know what their actual health looks like beyond just the image that we see on TikTok or Instagram? These are all unknowns that we can't account for. And so I think it's actually very, very dangerous for the layperson to be putting too much stock into what they see online.

We aren't trained, critically, how to evaluate things that we see on social media. Totally. And I think one of the things that I've always struggled with the concept of intuitive eating, specifically, and I think this is often also something that I think people really struggle with when they're trying to change their consumer habits around food, because for a lot of people it means going out to eat less, ordering less takeout, ordering fewer prepared items, buying fewer processed snack foods, things like that, which are often the things that will cost the most and be the least nutritionally dense.

I think for a lot of people, it can be very difficult to make those changes and to switch to a concept of more intuitive and sort of holistic eating, because our intuitions themselves are not trustworthy in a lot of cases. We're very susceptible to not just the incredibly powerful marketing and the enormous convenience of things like delivery and packaged and processed foods, but also these foods are very much designed in laboratories to be addictive to the human brain. And for a lot of people, the decisions that we want to make and the things that we're gravitating toward are so driven by factors outside of our own bodies and outside of our own sort of baseline nutritional needs that it can become really, really difficult to even trust what we think are our intuitions.

So when it comes to wanting to really overhaul your relationship, not just with the food you're eating, but the way in which you're even buying food, what are some tips that you have specifically to overcome those factors of the addictive properties, the convenience, the marketing? Yeah, that's a really great question. And so this might be an unconventional way-- I know we're talking about how to also be budget conscious as well.

But one of the things that I find, if you're the type of person that is easily distracted by marketing in the grocery store, you see that new cool product and it's like displayed right at the eye level or it's in the bins or at the grocery checkout where you're kind of thinking, oh, that looks good, I'm just going to throw that into my bin. These are situations where I actually recommend that you do some kind of online grocery shopping. So there's a lot of grocery stores that do pick up for very low cost.

It's not even a delivery cost. It might be kind of three bucks. And if those three dollars are going to outweigh all of the potential money that you're spending on these unnecessary snack foods that catch your eye, that are not on your grocery list, that are not on your meal plan, that's going to save you a lot of money.

And so I know that when I shop on some of the apps for pickup, it kind of just-- the grocery app will serve me all of my kind of regular staples, so my bread, my milk, all the things I always buy. And it takes the guesswork out of it for me. And I know that if I want to find, if I actually need something, whether it's a fun food like chips or ice cream, I have to search for it.

I have to actually type it in rather than being kind of lured in by the marketing of a lot of these kinds of products that I see in the store. And I think that that's actually helped me quite a lot in saving a lot of money, and I've heard that as well from a lot of other folks who are easily lured in by that marketing. Yeah, I would also suggest, as an alternative to that too, going to the grocery store with just an envelope of a specific amount of cash and not bringing your card, so that you're forced to stay within a certain budget.

Because I do agree that a lot of these decisions are made very spur of the moment. And I do think that there's-- I think the other thing that a lot of people struggle with is really changing their own desires in a certain sense. Like I'm personally, and this is just my opinion.

I'm certainly no expert. I've always been very skeptical of the Whole30s of the world. We've done some videos that have kind of dived into the not so great science and data around stuff like that.

But in general, I do think that there's often more danger than there is benefit in doing these very, very radical crash diets that are often marketed as resets, detoxes, things like that, which also often part of the reason it's so frustrating is like they're also just mostly about losing weight for people after the holidays. Like they're not really about those other things. But where I do see some kind of a benefit is in people wanting to break the addictive cycles that they're in with a lot of these foods that are, again, very much designed to be addictive.

So I'm also interested in your thoughts about ways to change your tastes that don't necessitate these radical crash diets. Yeah. So here's the thing.

The research on food addiction is very complicated. At this point, there is a fair bit of research on the concept of food or sugar addiction. And at this point, they actually don't see that this is a true addiction in the same way that we would see like a drug addiction.

However, it is very, very normal and real to feel addicted to these substances, to those kind of hyper palatable ultra processed foods that you discussed are more expensive but also less nutritious. So let's talk about intuitive eating for a quick second, because I think there's a lot of misconceptions about intuitive eating, that, for example, it's just the hunger fullness diet, or if you start to listen to your body you're just going to eat all the quote unquote "junk." That's something that I hear all the time, that I can't eat intuitively. I have to track, I have to restrict, because if I don't, I'm just going to eat cookies all day every day.

Here's the reality. If you've been restricting for a long time. Yes of course, all of those kinds of quote unquote "bad foods" that you've been restricting or forbidden foods are going to be so overwhelmingly alluring to you that you cannot help but want to overdo it when you do give yourself intermittent access to these.

We have data on that. That is typically what happens. Restriction is the number one indicator of a future binge.

So what we see with intuitive eating is when someone has decided, OK, I'm going to give myself unconditional permission to eat all of these forbidden foods that I have previously told myself I can't have. Typically, you will overeat them. There will be a period of time where you just go hog wild because you've given yourself permission and you're almost playing catch up, because in your brain and in your mind, for so long you've been restricting yourself of all of these foods that you have deemed forbidden or you're not allowed to have.

And suddenly the floodgates open, and you're wondering, oh my gosh, am I going to-- is she going to lock me down tomorrow and I'm going to be back on the diet on Monday? And so there is that period where your body has to learn to trust yourself, your mind, and your actual physical body that tomorrow is going to be another delicious day. And what happens as you kind of move through the principles of intuitive eating, and you start to learn to reject diet mentality and honor your hunger and your fullness, and kind of respect your body and kind of reject the food police, et cetera, you are more able to collect data on how foods make you feel.

So you mentioned like these cookies, for example. Hyper palatable. They're delicious.

We have a tendency to overdo it when we get them. Well, when we start to eat intuitively, and we know we start to learn that tomorrow we can have cookies, we are able to better understand and hone in on the experience, the physical and emotional experience of overeating or under eating, and getting more in tune with our true needs. So we feel like, you know what, maybe eating a whole pack of cookies in one go doesn't feel so good.

And so if we're allowed to have another cookie tomorrow or the day after or whenever we feel like we would like a cookie, we're more likely to eat a more moderate amount that actually feels good to our body and be able to move on judgment free. It's well said. And I think there's probably a lot of value for people too to change their thinking in that way.

I've always personally been a little confused by the popularity of products, like for example the pints of ice cream that are only a few calories for the entire pint. I'm sorry, that ice cream sucks. It sucks.

It is like not even remotely close to being as good as actual ice cream. And there are snack, like there are chips like that, there are all kinds of desserts and snacks like that, where the concept is by making a really [BLEEP] version of the thing you want to eat, you're able to eat really large quantities of the thing. And for me, I've always kind of felt confused by the concept of wanting to stay in the rhythm of eating those very large quantities of the thing, and again, in a way that's probably objectively quite a bit less satisfying than the actual thing, rather than sort of aspiring to be at a place where you are able to just enjoy a smaller amount of the thing that you really do enjoy.

Yeah, and this is something that I talk about often. I always say stop trying to eat around a craving. When we eat around a craving we end up doing what I call the satisfaction hunt.

So you really want Ben and Jerry's ice cream, but you say, no way, I can't have that. I can't have that. Too high calorie, too high fat.

So then you eat like a pint of the low calorie ice cream. Now you've plowed through 300 calories, and that's still not satisfying. But you're like, I still can't have the ice cream.

So now you have a couple of yogurt ice cream bars, and then you've eaten those, but that's still not going to crush that craving. You still want the Ben and Jerry's. So then maybe you have a bag of chips, and you're like, oh, but I really wanted the Ben and Jerry's.

So by the time you actually get to the Ben and Jerry's to crush your craving, because you've been thinking about it over and over and over again. It's built up in your mind as being something that you really, really need because nothing is hitting, you've plowed through way more calories than had just had a mindful moderate bowl of the Ben and Jerry's that you actually wanted. And so, yes, I think that this-- this is classic diet culture, classic scarcity mentality.

And when folks are in that rhythm of restricting, it's always going to be a recipe for a binge. It might not happen immediately, but it's eventually going to happen. And it can be very hard to break that cycle if we are still thinking about cutting calories or restricting or cutting out food groups, et cetera.

Yeah, I really agree with that. And I do think that, again, there's such a-- like one thing that we have a real tendency, I think, to underplay is how much of these sort of diet-- we're not calling them diet-- but sort of reimagined diet products are ultimately just a way to monetize things that otherwise wouldn't necessarily be monetized in the past. So for example, a keto diet.

Like now, there's an enormous amount of quote unquote "keto friendly" products that fill this need that even 10 years ago probably didn't really exist. And it's really interesting to me how I think a lot of people can look back at the very, very pervasive diet culture of the 1990s where I mean I think every mom in America was like SnackWell's cookies, and SlimFast, and all of those very high carb, low fat products that were very much dominating the culture. It was all about skim milk.

It was all about this very, very specific way of eating. And I think a lot of us sort of look back and we're like, wow, that was a scam. That didn't work.

That was bad for health. And all of those products were just so unnecessary and making money off of people's insecurities. And yet now because the paradigm has shifted to the opposite of that where it's low carb, high fat, we're now all of a sudden totally OK with the exact same dynamics.

Yeah, it is so ironic how we look back at the past and we're like, oh, that was like such a crock. But yet we're just repeating history. It's just like we're just we're rebranding.

Like the Atkins diet, for example, was in vogue back in the '80s, '90s, and now it's just kind of was rebranded as the keto diet, and suddenly it has all these kind of health proponents kind of supporting it. And so I think what it comes down to is that everyone's just looking for that holy grail. Everyone's just trying to find that secret, that magic tweak that's going to shift everything, and it's going to really tip the scales, literally, and improve their health and cure their disease and make them lose all this weight so fast and keep it off.

They've tried all these diets and then all these diets have failed, and yet that something else has to be the one that works. And it's so alluring, so it's very hard for folks to escape this because there is so much pressure on people to maintain smaller bodies. There's a lot of fatphobia just inherent in the medical system, in our society at large.

So of course, I have a lot of empathy for folks who just, of course, are going to want to lose weight. They want to change their body because society has told them that being in a larger body is not right. It's wrong.

And so I think that I have a lot of empathy for folks who do want to change their body and who are susceptible to all of these messages, and who are just constantly looking for that next kind of quick fix, that next magic bullet. But we ultimately know that it doesn't exist. And so what's going to work for one person is not going to work for another.

And vice versa. And so I always say the best quote unquote "diet" for you is the diet that you can eat and sustain for the rest of your life without feeling like you're deprived. And so that's why my personal nutrition approach, is kind of an additive approach to nutrition.

So rather than always focusing on what we need to cut out or take away or restrict from the diet, which as I said, we know is just a recipe for a binge, I like to focus on what we can add to the diet. So I created a model called my hunger crushing combo, which essentially is a non diet additive approach to healthy eating, where we're focusing on adding in a source of fiber, protein, and healthy fats to meals and snacks. And there are so many great benefits to this, not just for weight loss, but we know that fiber, protein, and fats are way more satiating than just refined carbohydrates alone.

So if we add those hunger crushing compounds to, let's say, white bread or white pasta, we're going to feel much more satiated for longer, which, again, very important for folks who are trying to manage their weight, and also those hunger crushing compounds are really, really important for stabilizing blood sugars and giving you kind of nice even energy levels throughout the day. And for me, the most important reason why I developed this concept was because I wanted to help people put foods on a morally equal playing field. So rather than focusing on foods being either good or bad or black or white or a full on cheat day or a full on clean eating day, we can have a burger but let's pair it with a salad, or we can have a slice of cake, but let's put some Greek yogurt and some berries and almonds on top.

So basically it's all about creating effortless balance. And that to me is the key to kind of a more streamlined and sustainable way of healthy eating. I love that.

And I feel very validated, because I am like-- I'm a child, truly. I need something, like I need a yummy food every day. I just love-- I just need my treats.

I'm a treat oriented girly. I just need it. And my big meal every day is dinner, and so I'll always have something really delicious at dinner, you know, cheese or fries or something that I really, really like.

But I always basically every single night have some very, very large dense plate or bowl of like vegetables or something. And my rule with myself, and this is the best rule ever, is that I can eat as much of the fun stuff as I want, but I have to finish the whole bowl of whatever the big salad or vegetable medley or whatever it is with like maybe some lean protein or whatever. And I find that if I have to eat that whole bowl and get all my nutrients in, that I don't even actually really want to eat that much of the other stuff, but I still get the taste of it.

And I do think that when it comes to those really sort of less nutritionally dense foods that are really palatable, like you say, but are not super satiating and they're not perhaps ideal for the body, there's also a real, for me anyway, a real level of diminishing returns in terms of the first couple bites are so fabulous and euphoric, and people who pretend that they're not are just lying to themselves. But at a certain point, it's just the 10th thing is not going to hit the same as the first and second. So I do really agree with the idea of you can have as much as you want of that thing, as long as you're giving your body what it really needs to sort of feel good throughout the day.

And I personally have found a huge amount of peace and success in that idea, because what I really find to be-- and this is where I want to talk about the pervasiveness of clean eating and wellness culture, which I find so bad for so many reasons. But I think one of the biggest parts of it is that in some ways, when you look back at the diets of the 1950s and 60s in women's magazines, where it's like you're going to eat cabbage soup for a week so that you can lose 10 pounds for your big dinner party, there was no pretending. They were like, this is to lose a bunch of weight.

It sucks. You might want to take some like phentermine or whatever, to help you not be hungry, smoke a ton of cigarettes. You can have as much gin as you want.

Like it was clearly like you are not healthy. Who cares about health. You just want to be thin for that party, and this absolutely sucks, and then at your party you'll be able to have foods that you want, and then you start the cycle again.

And obviously, that is a horrifying way to live. But at least it was honest. As opposed to a lot of these sort of wellness culture clean eating, where you're in many cases, like in the MLM that you talked about on Too Good to Be True, you're eating a similarly hyper restrictive nutritionally insufficient crash diet, but now you have to do it with the pretend veneer that not only is this an enjoyable and sustainable way to live and you just love only eating a handful of activated almonds and cabbage every day, but also that it's just about treating your body right.

It's not about losing 20 pounds over the course of a month. In a lot of ways, I find that even more frustrating and insulting than just the cigarette crash diet of the '60s. I am so excited to be teaming up with Nuuly once again for this episode of The Financial Confessions.

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Chime was the 2021 number one most downloaded banking app in the US according to Apptopia. Visit chime.com/TFC. The mom in particular that you talked about on this podcast, for those who don't know so we can dive into it, so on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which is one of the big franchises, there was for a few seasons a housewife named Teddi Mellencamp, who is notable for being the daughter of John Cougar Mellencamp, and her business, it essentially operates like an MLM.

But it's essentially a very extreme version of a diet program, where you are assigned an accountability quote unquote "coach" who essentially berates you via text message and phone call to stay under a very, very, very low amount of calories per day, often in the range of like 5 to 800 calories per day, where you have to send photos of the scale and updates about what you ate and all of these things. So obviously, this is a very, very dangerous thing, and you did a fantastic video about it. But I think part of the reason that it has not become as controversial as I think it should, and why it was allowed to even be promoted on the show-- there was an entire arc about following her to her little bootcamp with her clients.

That was treated as a legitimate business. I think part of the reason that we're able to see stuff like this prosper is because of that faux veneer of, oh well, this is a lifestyle, this is about wellness, this is about treating ourselves well. So I'm curious as to how you sort of adapt your response to this messaging when it's pretending to not be about weight loss, which I think is maybe easier to straight up refute.

Yeah, I mean, we rarely nowadays on social media see messaging that's straight up about weight loss. And when we do, it's often met with a lot of pushback. So a lot of influencers now try to hide it and rebrand it as being about gut health or anti bloating or just self care or wellness.

And I really try to help people become more critical about these kinds of sneaky ways of displaying diet culture, because wellness culture is just a sneaky version of diet culture, and it's very tricky for folks to unpack that. But it really comes down to intention and flexibility. So if you are, let's say, removing food groups or foods from your diet and it truly is coming from an act of self care and you are willing to kind of replace those foods with alternatives that are actual alternatives.

Not just like, hey, like the other day on TikTok or something I commented on someone who was saying if you have a craving for chips, just take a piece of rice paper and stick it in the microwave. I mean, that's not, to me, a legitimate replacement that's going to help support and crush someone's actual legitimate craving. But if you're removing foods from your diet because you have an intolerance or an allergy or maybe a religious or moral obligation for restriction, it's coming from a place of self care.

And I think that what people don't really think about much anymore is that health is not just the absence of disease. And so I think there's such a huge emphasis put on avoiding disease and kind of reducing your risk of all these chronic diseases and staying healthy, et cetera, that we lose sight of the fact that a lot of these behaviors that people are recommending or pursuing as a way to reduce their risk of actual disease or reduction in their health status actually puts their mental health at risk as well. And so we see a huge uptick in orthorexia, for example, which is a eating disorder described as kind of an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating.

And so what we often see with a lot of these influencers is cutting out a bunch of food groups just because or, quote unquote "gut health" when they have no necessarily legitimate reason for it. It just may be something that they heard they should do or that they thought they should do. And a lot of times, this can be kind of a bit of a cover up for an actual eating disorder.

And so I think we have to ask ourselves questions when we are removing foods from our diet and we're unsure if this is actually coming from a place of self care. So questions like am I constantly avoiding or very anxious about eating foods that are prepared by others? Are we kind of anything that's not being prepared for ourselves?

Are we obsessing over reading nutrition labels and obsessing over ingredients and worrying about things being toxic or poison for us, when there's actual no legitimate reason like an allergy or intolerance for us to be removing that food? Are we inflexible and unable to participate in social eating experience and things like that where foods are being served that maybe we didn't prepare? Are we kind of constantly worrying about losing control over not eating healthy or the implications of us slipping up or eating one of the foods that are not on our quote unquote "safe list?" I think these are questions that we have to kind of constantly be asking ourselves if we are embarking on a kind of quote unquote "wellness diet," because a lot of these diets are actually just kind of weight loss diets that are being repackaged and rebranded.

And a lot of them, if we are restricting, we always know that we will always try to rebel against restriction. So unless it's coming from a place of self care, and there's flexibility and that intention is in the right place not to kind of manipulate our body, then we're always going to be at risk of binging and getting into that kind of binge restrict cycle. Yeah, man, that rice paper getting microwaved, that is dark.

I would say the craziest one was when it was going viral on TikTok. It was like, this is a replacement for Coca Cola, and it was sparkling water with balsamic vinegar in it. And I'm just like, have a diet Coke.

Like if you want a Coke, they made Coke Zero. It's delicious. And it has no calories.

How about diet Dr. Pepper? That stuff is delicious.

I don't know. There's also, I mean there's a very-- I think the and you've spoken in your videos kind of debunking the entire concept of clean eating. And I think that there's a very slippery slope when it comes to avoiding chemicals.

And I think it's important to remember, and our hero Hank Green often likes to point out, everything is chemicals. You're chemicals. This is all chemicals.

And it's very sort of, I think, naively simplistic to reduce what is healthy or unhealthy down to the processes that things might go through. Because ultimately, like you said, if what you're doing is restricting, cutting out anything that actually satisfies you or that you enjoy, and it's just now a ticking time bomb to when you're going to break and sort of eat the thing that you want to eat, or you end up way over eating because you're not able to actually meet that sort of need, ultimately I think it just comes back to the same. Because ultimately, you can go really, really far out of your way to recreate very unsatisfying versions of foods, right?

Like you can have an entire pan full of shredded up zucchini with sauce on it and tell yourself I'm having pasta, but your brain is smart. Your brain knows you're not having pasta. Like at some point, you're going to want that pasta.

Or when people will do the videos of eating sandwiches that are made out of two bell peppers. And I love a bell pepper. It is not bread.

It's not even close to bread. That's salad. That's a salad.

It's a salad. It's a really hard to eat salad, basically. And so I do think that there are really diminishing returns to this obsession with being able to, let's say, identify every ingredient that's in your dish, or to sort of cut out these things that become really taboo.

And I definitely agree that there's got to be just a focus on have what you want. Just don't have a crazy amount of it, you know? Yeah, and we're talking about orthorexia, which is something that, like I said, we've seen it really explode as a result of wellness culture and this kind of infatuation with elimination diets or removing certain food groups or foods that are quote unquote "inflammatory," et cetera, or clean eating.

Really, orthorexia is like clean eating, essentially. It's like the disorder of clean eating. And so, like you were saying, these diminishing returns of something not really even tasting very good after having a whole bunch of them.

When we are restricting, we're just kind of, like you said, waiting to overeat when we get the chance. So I think that any time that there's restriction, we're going to rebel. So I wanted to, before I let you go, hop into our audience questions.

So these are just some quick hit ones. So I would say the most common one is some version of how do I eat intuitively when I have a strict budget I need to stick to? That's a great question.

So here's the thing about intuitive eating. It's a mind body framework. There's 10 principles.

And not everyone is going to be able to invest in every single one of the 10 principles equally or at every single point in their life. And so one of the, I would say, downfalls of the intuitive eating model is that it doesn't necessarily always take into consideration a lot of budgetary constraints. So a lot of people say, oh, it's just kind of like you can eat whatever you want.

But what if I can't afford what I want? And so I think what it comes down to is finding the tenets or the principles of intuitive eating that you can invest yourself in. So things like rejecting the diet mentality, or making peace with food, or honoring your hunger and your fullness cues, kind of coping with your emotions with kindness rather than always falling back on food for emotional eating.

And these are things that we can invest in regardless of what our budget is. And I think what we have to try to come to terms with is what are the foods that we can afford that we still truly enjoy? So I actually just posted a video recently on my YouTube channel where I shopped for my family of four for $50.

And I really focused on the essentials of what's going to feed my family so that I know that we are satisfied, that we are satiated throughout the week, but also try to leave a little bit of budget for a fun food in there. So I had my ice cream. And I want to make sure that was kind of part of my budget.

And so I know that that's not always possible for everyone. But I do suggest trying to find those little preferences, little things that will bring you joy food wise. Whether that's a specific little fruit that you love, or a specific pasta.

I think that there's absolutely ways for us to incorporate the foods that we love, even when we're on a budget. It doesn't need to be expensive. And one of the best ways to do that, of course, is to reduce our consumption of restaurant foods or takeout foods in favor of cooking at home more often.

And so if there's a particular like fast food burger or something that you love, why not try to recreate it at home? Make it a little bit of a project and get the family involved and have a little kind of fun family night. And I think that that's a great compromise, that you're still satisfying your cravings and you're still getting the foods that you are really going to satisfy you and satiate you, but you're able to still kind of maintain and be mindful of your financial goals.

On a similar note, we have a lot of people asking how can I shop ethically when I'm on a tight budget? Yeah, another great question. And I think that one of my big tips for this is to try to seek out local farmers who obviously meet your ethical values.

A lot of farmers, for example, who-- where poultry or meat-- are able to sell kind of like a large portion of an animal so that you can kind of keep it in the freezer and it'll last for a long time. And that tends to be a lot cheaper for folks than buying meat or poultry every single week. And in terms of shopping ethically in general, I always recommend buying more plant based proteins whenever possible.

We know that beans and legumes are definitely more inexpensive than relying on fish and poultry and meat specifically. And of course, also more sustainable for the environment. I would also highly recommend people look into joining vegetable produce co-ops.

Those are big ones, especially in New York City. There are also really good-- I forget what they're called. What is it called, like ugly veggies or something?

I don't know. Is it? Yeah.

There's also stuff that specifically sells things that are not store worthy. Like it's just like a tomato that looks weird and stuff like that but it still tastes the same. There are actually quite a few options for that.

And lastly, also one thing that I would check out is, I think, a really underrated way to shop ethically is to just reduce food waste. So often, even if it's not the most high quality product, if you're buying things that are about to be thrown away from the store, like often it will be like bakery products are going to be very discounted the next day, all of these things. Like what you're doing at that step, because often a lot of these stores are not even able to donate the foods-- this is a horrible regulatory issue in the United States-- but a lot of times what you're looking at is simply food that's just about to be thrown away and completely wasted.

And I think a lot of people don't realize genuinely how much food gets wasted in the US. I can't remember the exact statistic off the top of my head. I don't know if you know, but I think it's around like 50% of food gets wasted in the United States.

So at this point, just working on minimizing waste is already a huge step in the ethical direction. I agree. And just to add on to that in terms of minimizing waste, it goes back to that meal prep, meal planning, and sticking to your list when you go to the grocery store, because I often find that sometimes we see something at the grocery store that we have no plan for.

We don't actually know what to do with it or how to cook it or have an actual recipe in mind when we grab it. And we end up kind of bringing it home and then just like sits and rots in the fridge. And so you really want to make sure that you've got your meal plan ahead of time so you know exactly what ingredients you're going to need, exactly what you're going to do with them, exactly what days you're going to do it with them.

And having that plan in place is a really important way to not only reduce the food waste that you bought, but also reduce the likelihood that you're going to end up calling for takeout in a panic because you don't know what you're going to have for dinner. Absolutely. And it's also worth noting, and we talked a lot about this in our episode last season with our guest from the war on cars, so much of consumerism in the United States is we're shopping with these large cars that can transport a ton of product.

We're putting them in homes that are way bigger now than they were even a few decades ago, that are much too big for the families that we have and for the needs that we have. Our kitchens are designed, outside of really, really small spaces like we have here in New York City, like our kitchens are designed to hold an amount of food that a family couldn't even manage to eat before it perishes. And we often-- if you go into the average suburban standalone home in the United States you look in their kitchen, chances are you are going to see a pantry that is stuffed to the gills.

You're going to see a refrigerator that is full of things that are about to go bad, that will not be able to be consumed in time. And I do think that challenging yourself even to-- if you try to just go one month where you don't throw anything away without having used it, that in and of itself is a pretty radical act for the average American consumer. Oh yeah.

I think that would be a fantastic goal. And if that means doing smaller shops more often throughout the week, I think that that's another great, great plan too. Yes, it takes a little bit more time.

But if it saves you the food waste, because you actually know what you need as you need it, doing two grocery shops in the week, two smaller grocery shops as opposed to one, where you aren't quite sure what you're going to be able to use before it goes bad, I think that that's another great way to reduce that food waste as well. Are there any diets that you believe can be used in a healthy way, such as Weight Watchers? I think I can't paint all diets with the same brush, because it really depends on each individual's unique relationship with food and how they relate to their body and their food when they are put on a restrictive diet.

And again, we have to call all these what they are, whether they're Weight Watchers, or Noom, which have been kind of marketed as lifestyles or wellness diets now, they're still weight loss diets. They're calorie counts trying to restrict your calories and manipulate your body. And so that's ultimately what they are.

And if you are a type of person, and of course, there are these types of people who can have a structure, who can have a meal plan, who can reduce the calories or even count calories loosely, and have it not influence their relationship with food, not obsess over it, still have flexibility, but to be able to use it as a guideline, so that they kind of know how to meet their nutrient needs-- for whatever reason, maybe they are unable to truly tune into their hunger and fullness cues-- then I think that any of these diets can be used for specific individuals without negatively impacting their mental health. Because that's really my main concern. It's like is this going to put your mental health in jeopardy at the expense of trying to improve your quote unquote "physical health." And so I think that we need to kind of weigh that those pros and cons for each individual.

It's a risk benefit analysis for every single person. So there's not one diet that I think is great. And there's not one diet that I think is bad.

I think that some people will thrive on a keto diet, and some people will thrive on a raw vegan diet, and some people will want the structure of calorie counting or point counting and something like Weight Watchers or WW. And so I don't want to necessarily pooh-pooh any specific diet, because I acknowledge that some of these things work for people. And they can still find joy, they can still go out and enjoy a meal with family and friends they can have that flexibility.

But it's when we become inflexible and when these behaviors start to really cloud our ability to just enjoy everyday life and they become obsessions, and it just really takes too much mental energy and it's too much of a mental load, then that's where I think that they become dangerous. I think that's really well said. And I will say, you know, listen, now I'm not going to get in a fight with any of you guys ever about this on Twitter.

But I have done basically a version of intermittent fasting for the past seven years, almost. Six years, six years. I love it.

It's like the thing that's totally changed my life. I like genuinely don't ever think about food anymore in any kind of like particular way. And I just love having a really big yummy meal at the end of every day and getting to eat whatever I want.

And that's just me. And some people are out on Twitter and they're like, it's disordered eating. I really disagree with that, but whatever.

I don't really care about that. But what I will say is often we try to go against what is really natural to us to do what we're being told is the quote unquote "healthy thing." In my case, even as a child, I never liked eating breakfast. I was never hungry in the mornings, and I always was like I would sometimes not eat it and sometimes force myself to.

But for a while, I was really of the mentality of breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Which is a marketing campaign. It's actually not based in science.

But this idea that one must eat three square meals a day, that one must have this very specific routine around eating that was very unnatural to me, but that was what was being sort of purported to be the most healthy way to do things. And it took me a while to say, oh, well, why don't I just lean into what I'm already sort of wanting to do anyway and find something that I can adapt to for the rest of my life that sort of fits into that. And I do think for a lot of people, if you start from some sort of abstract idea of what the healthy thing is and sort of try to contort yourself into doing that, I think that's often the most dangerous thing.

As opposed to what do I already like to do? What are my habits already? What's my lifestyle already?

And what are ways to just improve upon what I'm doing? Exactly. And I think that's why it's so hard, because everyone's trying to lean into one way being better than another way.

But ultimately, that's just never going to be people's reality. Not everyone's going to have success on intermittent fasting, because a lot of people-- some people like to have breakfast and they're going to miss that. And for others, like you said, they're not breakfast eaters.

It just feels natural to them. It's satisfying. It reduces their need to think about food all day long, because they just have fewer eating episodes.

And if that's the case, in my opinion it can help enhance a sense of food freedom. And so this is where it's such an individual thing. And people on the internet don't like individual things.

They want rules. They want hard, fast, black, white rules. Ain't that the truth.

So you have time for just a quick few more here. Oh, this is a really good one. What is the single most harmful food diet trend you've seen blow up on TikTok?

Probably the carnivore diet, which is really popular right now. I can think of-- there's a couple. It's like those two ones, the carnivore diet and the raw vegan food diet, both of which I think are just asking for major nutritional deficiencies.

I don't think there's any way around that. And I said, of course, there's always going to be the rare anomaly, the person who can somehow thrive on that. But we don't know what the long-term implications are.

We don't know what their blood work looks like. We don't know how they actually are feeling, or what they're actually eating when they're not filming a TikTok. So ultimately, I think, just based on all of the evidence that we have on nutrition, we know we need a balance of macros, we need fiber, and we need protein and healthy fats, et cetera.

So I think that those are the two really scary ones for me, just because I think they're so likely to cause actual real harm. Yeah. They're both really, really terrifying to me.

Also, first of all, just what a horrible life to live, on both ends of that spectrum. Just a dreary life. Life is hard enough.

But also in both cases, like a lot of the influencers that I personally see on my feeds that are really gaining a lot of clout with these diets are people who've lost enormous amounts of weight through doing this. And every time I see these videos, I'm like, oh, this is like you have created an extremely maladaptive way to allow yourself to achieve this feat of massive weight loss, and have created a sort of nutritional prison for yourself in which if you're ever eating something outside of beef jerky and/or raw watermelon, you're sort of on a one way train back to whatever your life was before. And I really do think that it should be a lot more controversial than it is.

Like I don't think that we should have the level of tolerance that we do for people who are putting out these really, really dangerous habits. Yeah, yeah, and we really don't. Most people who are viewing this content are just, unfortunately, and as to be expected, not equipped to be able to critically analyze a lot of the stuff that they're seeing out there.

I think I'm going to start a new reality show where we just put a raw fruitarian and a carnivore in a room, just let them go a couple rounds. Let them fight. They can't both be right.

I love that. I would watch that. Let them fight.

That would be the ultimate debate. So as a last question, I hate cooking, hate meal prep, but know I need to get into both. Any tips for getting started?

Great question. So I also hate the traditional kind of Pinterest style meal prep, where you see all of-- you make this meal, and then you divvy it up into four or five containers for the week and eat it all week. I don't want to do that.

That's a lot. And I don't enjoy that. My kids do not enjoy that.

They don't want to eat the same thing every day. So my take home for folks is on the weekend or whatever you day you have off, take like just an hour of your time to make one whole grain, one protein, and one vegetable. So whether it's like roasting some veggies, or even just like chopping up raw vegetables, cooking a big batch of quinoa or rice, cooking, like grilling or baking up some chicken breasts or some tofu.

And so what you get is the building blocks to build out different meals. And so you can switch it up. You can make a salad one day.

You can make a stir fry one day. You can put something in the soup. You can have it on a sandwich.

So you've got lots of different options to switch things up, so you don't feel like you're eating the exact same thing every day. It really doesn't need to be complicated. You can kind of get into the rhythm of just this is what you do.

You get home from the grocery store and you just do a quick hour of prep. Well said. Also, I say this every time, but every time I post a food item on my Instagram, because it's just me and my husband and I cook a lot, everyone's like why do you make so much food?

Like who's eating all this? What do you do with all this food? I'm like, how many times do I have to say this, guys?

You just put it in freezer safe Tupperwares and freeze them. My freezer is just frozen foods that I cooked. What?

Like how is that complicated? For sure. If I'm going to cook, I'm going to cook as much extra as I possibly can, because there's no sense in me cooking half a pack of pasta one day and then just letting the other half just sit there.

So I might as well just cook the whole thing, use it in a soup or a stir fry or something. I can freeze it. Whatever it is, we have options.

So you might as well, if you're doing the work, just do it for more than one day. Also, it's way cheaper to cook things in large batches. You're paying so much more when you cook small portions.

Anyway, freeze almost everything you can figure out how to freeze pretty well, but especially soups and things like that. Well, as I knew it would be, it has been such a pleasure, Abbey. If our audience has loved this conversation and they want to see more of you, where can they go?

If you want to check out my YouTube channel, I'm at Abbey's Kitchen. I'm also on TikTok and Instagram, @abbeyskitchen. And my blog is abbeyskitchen.com.

Wow. You really got that domain on lock. Well, thank you so much for joining, and thank all of you guys at home for tuning in, and I will see you next Monday on an all new episode of The Financial Confessions.

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