Why Food and Exercise Aren't the Only Components of a Healthy Lifestyle
Drew Barrymore and Reese Witherspoon's celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder has a new book that'll change the way you think about dieting.
Kimberly Snyder calls herself a "nutritionist for the mind, body and soul." That might raise eyebrows for those unfamiliar with her popular Beauty Detox series, but the health expert has long practiced a holistic approach to tackling weight and wellness beyond calorie-counting and exercise. Snyder, who counts Drew Barrymore and Reese Witherspoon among her star-studded list of clients, details the mind-body connection in her latest book Beauty Detox Power ($19), out today. While she does provide 60 whole foods-based recipes, the book digs much deeper into understanding the intangible forces that make living a healthy lifestyle difficult for so many.
"Many diets say your body shape is determined by about 75 percent diet, 25 percent exercise," says Snyder. "But The Beauty Detox Power pulls a third factor into the mix. It’s time to turn your mind back on. Your thoughts are essential to your success."
Read on for more about the fascinating way stress plays a role in weight gain and why you should pay attention to mental health in order to get your dream body.
Why is it important to consider emotional well-being for seeing physical results in the body?
"That is because the emotional cannot be separated from the physical. We are complex beings, and all parts of us affect the other parts. Consider a process like digestion. Digestion is not just about what you ate—though that is important—but also your emotional and mental state while you were actually eating. Were you in a fight with your sister or friend? Did you have a stressful day at work and eat during a tense meeting or discussion?
The gut is the second brain. Your success hinges on using both of your brains, the one in your head and the one in your gut. They’re equally important. We all know how stress can affect our overall health, and the functioning of your heart. What’s lesser known is how it can affect our weight—but it can. Stress and other emotions can also effect your gut, which is sensitive and produces serotonin, and can also compromise digestion. It’s important to recognize that the role of the mind in cravings and our efficiency in digestion are very much as impactful as the foods themselves."
Why do you think so many people neglect emotional and mental health?
"Because it’s much easier to focus on what’s touchable or visible with the eye. We look in the mirror, and if we don’t like what we see, we fixate on that physical element. Part of The Beauty Detox Power is helping you understand how the things we don’t see, ie thoughts and emotions, and how they directly impact what you do see."
How does stress play a role in dieting?
"It plays a massive role. For one, the physiological effect of high stress is similar to eating junk food, just through different means. When we are stressed, we secrete abundant amounts of a hormone called cortisol. When our levels of cortisol are too high, we become insulin resistant—which leads to weight gain. Insulin resistance can also cause us to feel hungry all the time, leading to cravings, binge eating and other issues. So, managing stress is every bit as important as the foods you put into your body."
If you could pick one major tip for lowering stress levels, what would it be?
"Easy—meditation! I will go so far as to say that meditation may be the single most important habit you could ever develop. It’s one of the few tools that is clinically proven to reduce stress, even just minutes per day. One study at the University of Massachusetts found that meditation helped reduce stress—including cortisol levels—lowered symptoms of depression, improved attention and cognitive performance. Again, all it takes is minutes each day to realize these benefits, how amazing is that?"
Why do you think calorie counting is not effective?
"Numbers feel like they give you control, because they are things you can count, but then you start to feel out of control, because you start to plateau and they don’t work anymore. Numbers are oversimplifying, and we are complex beings.
I look around and see enormous daily struggle everywhere in trying to control weight from very rigid means, with calorie counting probably being the most unpleasant of all. There is so much frustration and wasted energy with women and people in general, energy that could otherwise be used to put towards creative endeavors. It pains me. It is my sincere goal to help others find freedom, the way I have.
Saying to yourself, 'I’m 45, I can’t drop the weight like I used to,' is working against you. Creating fear and stress around specific ingredients doesn’t work. These are the roadblocks that you might not even know are roadblocks. You’re thinking it’s all about what I put in and chew and swallow.
It’s time to turn our minds back on and create alignment between your thoughts, words, mind, body and soul, stomach, gut, the whole thing. When you align all these things together, that’s how you become really powerful and this translates into weight loss and visible changes in your body. It’s ultimately changing your whole thought about how you view the role of food in your everyday life. Sustainability is a critical factor of success."
What are other common ways you've seen people limit their results when trying to lose weight?
"We already talked about stress. That is a huge one that can lead to weight gain even in the midst of the best diet. But there are many other reasons we might not get results or hit a 'plateau'—and trust me, I know there’s nothing more frustrating than following a plan to the letter and seeing no results. The individuals I’ve seen succeed long term are those who take into account all factors that need to be aligned and blast through roadblocks to be happier and healthier.
Being out of control, which is rooted in frustration and fear, is public enemy number one when it comes to your weight, your health, your state of mind. One of the most detrimental feelings you can have when it comes to your weight, your health, your happiness, is feeling like you're not in control. I'm not in control over those afternoon cravings, I'm not in control of feeling bad because I just turned 50. These emotions will now have a big impact on your weight and your overall well-being.
The people I've seen have the most success are the ones that have embraced this notion of being mindful and aware of how their thoughts and their moods and their feelings are connected to how they eat. Just say, I've seen some people nail this and here is why they've nailed it.
The only way to get past emotional baggage is to become aware of it, allow yourself to be with it and then consciously release it. My book will help to create awareness and space around baggage and negative thoughts, so that you can start the process of letting go."
What would someone disillusioned by reading about and trying a ton of diets gain from reading The Beauty Detox?
"My approach is not a diet, but a lifestyle. You don’t want to have to bring a calculator to dinner with you. It all goes back to alignment. When you line up your thoughts, words and actions around food and health, it ceases to feel like a 'diet' and becomes so much easier! This approach works no matter how you eat. This is a complement to any type of diet you are currently following."
Recipe to Try: Raw Red Pepper Cream Cheese Endive Bites
"I don't consume or recommend consuming cashews on a daily basis, as they are rarely truly raw and I think there are far better beauty nuts out there. Still, cashews can be transformed into an undeniably delicious plant-based cheese alternative. This nut cream cheese pairs beautifully with the endive. Serve this dish as an appetizer or enjoy it as a snack."
1 cup non-roasted, non-salted cashews
1/2 cup diced red bell peppers
1 1/2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp filtered water
1 small clove garlic, peeled
1/2 Tsp sea salt
1 thick head endive, root end trimmed and separated into leaves (or 2 romaine leaves, cut into 6-inch long and 1 1/2-inch wide strips)
1/4 cup walnut halves for garnishing
1/4 cup microgreens for garnishing
1. Combine the cashews, red peppers, lemon juice, water, garlic and sea salt in a food processor or blender, and process until smooth. If you are using a blender, you might have to add a little bit more water to keep it going. Simply turn off the blender, add a little more water, scrape down the sides, pushing the contents into the middle, and then resume blending as needed.
2. Next, arrange the endive leaves on a large plate. With a small spoon, spread a small amount of the nut cream cheese on each endive leaf. Garnish each with a walnut half and some microgreens, and serve at once. Enjoy each blissful bite!