Friday, May 10, 2019

"When I lose weight, I'll........"

Here's another post for "Nourish Yourself: Q&A"!  If you have a question for one of our nutritionists, please email us at!  
Q: I have a hard time moving past the thought of “I’ll do this when I lose ____pounds.” What are your thoughts about this?

A: Society falsely teaches us that our bodies are completely malleable to fit the “thin ideal”, we just have to work hard enough to get there. We are promised that once we get there, we can finally begin living. What is not emphasized by society, is that all bodies are  diverse and that no specific size equates with health or beauty. 

But why is this less emphasized? Perhaps it’s because we live in culture where the diet industry is a billion dollar industry, preying off of our insecurities and vulnerabilities. Or because our health care system is heavily weight biased and we are pushed to believe weight loss will solve any medical issue, even strep throat (because that makes so much sense right). Maybe it’s because these deeper routed conversations around our relationship with our bodies have the potential to be uncomfortable and take a lot of time. 

Whatever it may be, if you have ever found yourself having some of these thoughts and emotions, just know that you are not alone and it is not your fault. No weight determines when you can begin living your life. Don’t give it the power to do so. Live your life, unapologetically, in your beautifully crafted body and don’t for a second put anything you want to accomplish on hold because of the size of your body. 

Karlee Pinto, RD, LDN - is one of the two nutritionists/dietitians at The Awakening Center.  She will be co-leading "Sowing the Seeds of Recovery" a 6 week nutrition and process therapy group with Sheana Tobey, MA, LPC beginning June 10, 2019.  You can contact her for more information by emailing her at 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Vegetarian Proteins

I'm a vegetarian.  How can I get enough protein?
If you are a vegetarian you’re probably used to being asked, “Where do you get your protein from?”  Everyone becomes very concerned that you aren’t getting enough protein, but in reality, protein deficiencies in America are rare. Although meat is a standard protein staple in the American diet, many other non-meat sources can meet your protein needs. Protein is found in dairy products (cheese, milk, and yogurt), eggs, nuts, legumes, and in smaller quantities of starches and vegetables. The USDA recommends 10-35% of your daily calories come from protein. When broken down in day-to-day life, that can look like having 2 protein foods at each meal (eggs at breakfast, tofu at lunch, and a veggie burger at dinner) and 1-2 protein foods at snacks (such as yogurt or nuts). The flexibility of how to get your protein is up to you, but overall most Americans get plenty of protein regardless if they eat meat or not.
Protein has many valuable functions in the body – building tissue and muscle, hormone production, immune function, energy when carbohydrates are not available, and preserving lean muscle mass. And while there are some populations that might have higher protein needs – such as elite athletes, pregnant women, and older adults – society can certainly overvalue protein as the “ultimate” food group that you should eat all the time. This tends to stem from the same mindset that demonizes other food groups as being “bad”. Food does not have moral value. Eating more protein than your body needs is associated with its own side effects and medical conditions, as is the case with eating too much of any food group.  Finding the balance of all the food groups and eating them in moderation keeps your body and mind healthy and functioning at its best.
People choose to adopt vegetarian diets for many valid reasons, such as compassion for animals, trying to reduce their carbon footprint, or for religious reasons. Although a vegetarian diet can be nutritionally adequate, it’s important to be mindful of the intention behind following a vegetarian diet. Vegetarian diets aren’t necessarily more healthful or less healthful than an omnivore diet and restricting food groups can feed into disordered eating. If the goal is to lose weight or restrict certain food groups, it’s important to explore that with your dietitian and therapist.
Tori Davis, MBA, RDN, LDN - is one of the two nutritionists/dietitians at The Awakening Center.  You can contact her for individual nutrition counseling by emailing her at

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Fear of Carbs

Friday Food!  "Fear of Carbs!"

We're going to have a regular Q&A with The Awakening Center Nutritionists every other Friday on our Facebook page.  If you would like to  submit a nutrition question feel free to send it to 

Here's our first Question:  I am so afraid to eat carbs because everything I read says carbs are so bad for you. Why can’t I cut them out entirely?

It’s a trendy thing for the media to do - to pinpoint certain macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, proteins and turn it into a low-fat diet, low-carb diet, high-protein diet, you get the drift.  We always seem to be reading about why we should prioritize one macronutrient over another. When I was growing up, fat was the enemy. Most snacks were morphed and modified to be lower in fat. Even foods that never contained fat to begin with were labeled “fat-free” as a marketing ploy. Since trends eventually lose their spark, it only makes sense to slowly start shining this bad wrap on another macronutrient, right? Once it became evident that making foods fat-free or low-fat did not live up to its hype, the media decided to turn against another macronutrient. So now carbs are the enemy…but fat is okay again?

It’s confusing and frustrating right? Who do we even believe anymore? I think carbohydrates started to carry some stigma when the paleo diet grew popular. Carbohydrates were demonized as the media spread messages that they caused weight gain and bloating. Although these messages are trendy and appealing, there is little to no evidence to support these claims. In fact, this nutrition myth is very problematic as it leads to disordered thoughts and behaviors around eating and potentially inadequate nutrition.

Carbohydrates are our body’s primary source of fuel and because of this, they resist storing carbohydrates as fat. It would not make sense to store that preferred and valued energy as fat. Carbohydrates provide us with quick energy as they are digested and transported into the cells quicker than any other macronutrient. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which then travels through our blood stream to supply energy to our brain, muscles and nervous system. Our brains are actually not able to store glucose; therefore, they need a constant, reliable supply.  If we do not give our bodies enough carbohydrates, it will begin to break down protein in our muscles, tissues and organs to use as energy. This is why low carbohydrates are not sustainable and can cause increased stress on the body. For optimal functioning, your body requires 50-60% of its total daily intake to come from carbohydrates.

We can agree that all of our bodies are different. What works for one individual may not be best for you. But one thing that is certain and consistent across the board is that all of our bodies require carbohydrates in order to flourish. The media will continue to tell you otherwise simply because it’s trendy and seductive right now, but don’t give in. Don’t fight what our beautifully instrumented bodies are innately born to do.

Karlee Pinto, RD, LDN - is one of the two nutritionists/dietitians at The Awakening Center.  You can contact her for individual nutrition counseling by emailing her at  

Monday, March 11, 2019

Self-Care During Busy Times

Lovely Vase and Cup of Tea by Jamie Paterno

By Mary Claire Schibelka
What do you think of when you hear “self-care”? Painting your nails? Getting a massage? Journaling? For a long time, I rolled my eyes at the thought of doing these things. “I’m way too busy for self-care,” I thought. Regardless of how many people told me about the importance of self-care, I never looked at it as a necessity. Instead, I actually believed that doing things to take care of myself would only take up more time in my schedule, hence making me even more stressed out.
            Ironically, it wasn’t until several months into my internship at The Awakening Center—when my schedule became busier than it ever has been—that I discovered the power and importance of self-care. Part of this came from taking an honest look at myself and realizing that my current self-care plan (or lack thereof…) wasn’t working. The other part came from reassessing what self-care actually meant to me and questioning whether or not that definition was flexible. What I learned is that self-care doesn’t always have to mean going to a spa or taking a luxury vacation or doing a Pinterest-worthy art project. Those things are great, but when life gets busy, they aren’t always practical. Sometimes, self-care is more about looking ahead, asking yourself what you really need, and then setting yourself up for success.
Planning. One of the most important self-care strategies I have discovered is planning ahead. Using a planner allows you to take what seems like an overwhelming list of things to do and organize it into shorter lists of what you need to tackle on a day-by-day basis. When you take on a busy week one day at a time, it suddenly seems much more manageable. Plus, planners can be great outlets for creative energy if you’re an artistic type. Check out Target, Amazon, and even discount stores like TJ Maxx for cute stickers, markers, and other supplies.
Routines. Not a morning person? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s easy to opt for sleeping in and then rushing out the door in the morning. However, I think most would agree that this usually just ends up making us more tired. A morning routine, on the other hand, sets the tone for a positive and productive day. Your morning routine can start off small, with only one item on the list, like making the bed. By completing just that one task, you’re starting off your morning with a feeling of accomplishment, and this can be very energizing. The same is true for nighttime routines. Just like morning routines help us feel more awake, nighttime routines tell our bodies that it’s time to wind down. This leads to a more restful sleep, and again, a more energetic morning!
Sleep. Since we’re on the topic of sleep anyways, now would be a good time to talk about the importance of it. Sleep is so beneficial to our bodies. It’s restorative, it’s relaxing, and—in all honesty—it’s often a much-needed break from the business of our days. I’ve learned that sleep works best when it’s structured. Our bodies love rhythm. When we stick to a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, our bodies start to naturally fall into the pattern, and we can then reap the benefits, such as more energy and a better mood, throughout the day. Of course, there are circumstances in which we might need more or less sleep, like when we’re sick or during finals week. Remember to listen to your body and give yourself some grace when this one gets difficult.
Preparing. Remember when we talked about planning? This is where it really starts to come in handy. When you have a layout of what your week is going to look like, it’s much easier to figure out what you need to do and when you have time to do it. For example, if you have class at 8am on Tuesdays, and you know you’re not a morning person, it might be helpful to do tasks like showering or putting supplies in your backpack the night before. Also, if it’s difficult or exhausting for you to cook throughout the week, advance meal-prepping can be a great skill. If you have a dietitian, talk to him or her about how to prepare balanced, easily stored meals that fit your meal plan.
Schedule in fun. In the past, whenever I’ve gotten exceptionally busy, the fun activities on my to-do list were always the first to go. I believed that I could do those things only when I completed all of the other requirements. The problem with that philosophy is that when you cut out time for fun, the quality of all your other work suffers. You’re more likely to feel drained, distracted, and resentful of everything else you have to do, so you don’t do it as well. However, if you intentionally schedule in things like hanging out with friends, watching your favorite TV show, doing yoga, or whatever else it is you love, you approach your other obligations with more energy and passion. Next time you find yourself feeling guilty for taking time out of your busy schedule for fun, think of it as an investment, and then notice how it impacts the rest of your tasks for the week.

            Beginning a self-care plan can seem like a daunting task. It requires intention and dedication, and at times you may wonder if it is worth it. But take it from a former skeptic like me: When you invest in yourself, it becomes much easier (and more fun) to put forth energy into everything else. I encourage you to start slowly and choose just a few things you can implement today. Little by little, add more strategies to your self-care repertoire, notice the benefits, and above all, don’t forget to thank yourself.
Mary Claire is a graduate intern therapist at The Awakening Center. She will graduate from Northeastern Illinois University in August 2019 with an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and will become certified as a Licensed Professional Counselor.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Still Contemplating January

Yes, I know it’s February, but we're still orienting to the new year.
           January Fun Fact: January is named for Janus, the ancient Roman god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces because he looks to the future and to the past.
            Janus fits in nicely with the month of January; New Year is a natural time of self-reflection. When we look back at last year, we can see how we intuitively want this year to be different, to be better. However, most find that by mid-January they have already broken and abandoned their resolutions. Usually that's because they made their resolution from a harsh, critical, and judgmental Part. Additionally, the resolutions may be vague or feel very demanding and perfectionistic, have no workable plan, and are not sustainable for the long run. For example, “Get healthy,” “Get organized,” “Be perfect!”
            What if we tried a different approach? Have you heard of SMART goals? SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Let’s rewrite one of the aforementioned resolutions, engaging Wise One Within and using curiosity, compassion, clarity to create a workable plan. 
            Our SMART goal resolution says, “I will eat a vegetable with dinner, three times a week.” I'm sure you can see how that's very specific. It is also measurable—you eat a vegetable or you don’t. It’s achievable to eat a vegetable with your dinner. Realistic? Yes, you are able to do this. And timely? We said we would do this three times a week.
            Because of the way this resolution is worded, we know exactly what we are trying to achieve, and it gives us some wiggle room for those days when vegetables are not available. We don't expect ourselves to be perfect. 
            Your perfectionistic or critical Parts may not like what I have suggested. These Parts may want to force us to change even though the way it has tried in the past has not worked. Our Wise One Within knows the wisdom of trying something new, and something is better than nothing..  
Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC
Amy is the Director of The Awakening Center, which she founded 25 years ago! She is the author of Healing Part by Part: An IFS Guide to Recovery from Eating Disorders. For more information about her book click here: