5 Diet Lessons From This Year’s Oscars

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I’ve never missed an Oscars telecast. I split my time between New York City and Los Angeles, so I frequently see movies being filmed, and I have friends who work in “the industry.”

But the real reason I tune in is because movies are my great escape from the challenges of every day life, and I love to root for my favorite films and performances.

However, I’m always wearing my nutritionist hat, and during this year’s ceremony, five lessons stood out that often come up in my private practice work with clients:


Mistakes are OK

There were more than a few hiccups on Sunday night, from jokes that fell flat to the cringe-worthy Jaws theme music, and Jennifer Lawrence’s endearing trip up the stairs. But I loved that it wasn’t perfect, because nothing in life is, and mistakes really are learning opportunities. When my clients slip up, we talk it through. By figuring out what they would do differently if they had a do-over, we’re able to address triggers and put solutions in place, so they can avoid the same pitfalls in the future. For example, one client felt like she ruined a “perfect” day of eating by getting out of bed in the middle of the night and scarfing an entire bag of her husband’s potato chips. Turns out, she was skipping the whole grain at dinner, and after adding back a small scoop of quinoa or wild rice, her late-night carb cravings went away.

The saying ‘you can never be too rich or too thin’ is flat out wrong
Well, at least the too-thin part. While scanning tweets during the Oscars, I saw dozens about how scary-skinny a number of the celebs looked. The really frightening part is that the camera truly does add ten pounds, so you can imagine what some of these women look like in person. Sadly, the slender Jennifer Lawrence has been quoted as saying that she is “obese” by Hollywood standards and that she would “rather look chubby on screen and like a person in real life.” Unfortunately, being underweight isn’t unusual in show business, and it can create a number of health risks, including a weakened immune system, hormone disruption, heart, lung, digestive and fertility problems, arthritis, osteoporosis, fatigue, poor concentration, sleep disruption, hair loss, and depression. When my clients set a weight goal that’s too low for their height, or show me a photo of an emaciated actress and say, “I want to look like this,” I explain that being underweight means that important tissue is missing from your body–not just fat, but muscle, bone, and organ cells, which make these systems weaker. In addition, when too few nutrients show up for work each day, the jobs they do just don’t get done, which prevents your body from functioning optimally. That’s why being underweight isn’t sustainable, which is why you may see a celeb’s weight fluctuate, and why others become addicted to substances they’ve used to control their appetite or weight. Let’s not emulate this trend.

Skipping meals can make you cranky
I feel like this post is all about Jennifer Lawrence, but she was the woman of the evening, and her “Is there food here?” and “I’m starving” comments on the red carpet made her even more likable. I hear, “I’m too busy to eat” from a lot of clients, which can lead to not only gnawing hunger, but also brain fog, irritability, and rebound overeating later. If you literally don’t have time to sit down to eat, nibble on portable, nonperishable finger foods and aim for a balance of “good” carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats. Easy options include seedless grapes or grape tomatoes, whole grain crackers, organic soy nuts, or roasted edamame, organic jerky, and nuts or seeds. To keep your metabolism revved and blood sugar stable, don’t let over five hours go by without eating, or at the very least sip on a smoothie made with a carb/protein/fat ingredient combo.

You have to work at it
I’ve been married for a long time, longer than Ben and Jen, so I was touched by Ben Aflleck’s thank you to his wife for working on their marriage. The truth is, it is work, and acknowledging that is very loving. Anything in life that’s worthwhile, that you’re in for the long haul, requires effort, continual evaluation, and fine-tuning. When I work with clients who are trying to lose weight for good, I remind them that weight is a side effect of one’s relationship with food. Working on that relationship–to acknowledge the challenges, face truths, create solutions, and strive for balance–is what ultimately leads to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and like marriage, the rewards are well worth the effort.

Celebrate your successes
Glitz and glamour aside, the Oscars are really all about acknowledging and celebrating accomplishments. In my work, I believe this is vital. Whether your goal is to lose 10 pounds or 100, or maintain your weight but improve your health, relish every achievement. Each day, I ask my clients to acknowledge what went well. If you call a friend instead of turning to Ben & Jerry’s, make a healthy, delicious meal you’re proud of, or go for a walk instead of getting sucked into a TV trance, recognize it. First, these things are each big deals, because change is difficult, and small successes snowball into big results over time. And, patting yourself on the back creates positive emotions, and builds a sense of empowerment and confidence. Few people in history will be credited in as grandiose a way as the Academy Awards, but we can all “win” at improving our personal health.

What are your thoughts on these “lessons” or what was your favorite part of this year’s Oscars? Please tweet your comments to @CynthiaSass and @goodhealth

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.

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