Lara Metz, Nutrition

Lara Metz, Nutrition

“Food is so emotional. That’s why you can’t just talk about food. You have to delve into the emotions and the reason we’re eating and choosing foods.” Nutritionist Lara Metz joins Zibby to discuss how to change your relationship with food through mindfulness, the role family food culture plays in all of our lives, and why you should stop attaching labels to your food and your body.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Lara. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Lose Weight.”

Lara Metz: Thank you. I’m excited to be here. I’m following you. I love everything you’re doing. I love to share my passion and expertise, so it’s fun to be here.

Zibby: Awesome. Thank you. Tell everybody about how you got started with your whole career. Why did you go into this line of work? What drew you to it? How did you get here today?

Lara: Loaded question, but okay, I’ll share. Graduated college, went to University of Michigan, did not major or study nutrition at all. I came back to New York where I’m from. I had a random job, which was great, first job, fun, but kind of knew that was not going to be my passion or long-term career. I always loved cooking. I can remember as a little girl, always wanting to be involved in dinner prep and what we were eating. I, as I got older, loved reading cookbooks and magazines and thinking how I can revise recipes. When I was in college, I one hundred percent put on all this weight. I had never had an issue with my weight growing up. I’m tall. I just never did. It wasn’t something I struggled with until I went to college. All of a sudden, everything changed. I wasn’t, per se, overweight, but I definitely put on a lot of weight for me.

I didn’t know how to get it off when I graduated. I was trying all of these different programs, never really dieting, but becoming more conscious. I should’ve told you that in the beginning. Now I’ve got this job. I’m like, all right, I need to figure out — I was young. I’m twenty-one, but I knew I wanted to have a career. I knew I wanted to have kids. I wanted to figure out what I could do and be flexible. I was like, I love cooking. I want to be healthy. I’m trying to figure this out. I’m going to apply to NYU to be a registered dietician. I literally knew nothing about the program. I called. I met with someone. I applied. I got in. I basically repeated college for a year because I didn’t have any of the prerequisites. Then it was real training, three and a half years of school. I worked in a hospital, did all the training. That’s how it started. It wasn’t this lifelong dream. I’ve been in private practice for sixteen, seventeen years now, so it’s become a real thing.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, wow. Did you have a type of client in mind while you were in school and when you first got out? Did you have an expertise in mind? When you started accumulating all the knowledge, did you think, okay, this is how I can really make an impact?

Lara: It’s a great question. I knew I didn’t want to work in a hospital. As much as the clinical is fun and super interesting and you really can help people, I knew that I didn’t want to meet a new-onset diabetic and give them some education, meet them once, and I’ll never see them again. I didn’t feel that I would be able to make a big impact when someone’s first being diagnosed. I didn’t want to do tube feeding in a hospital. That wasn’t what I wanted to do, not that it’s not super important and relevant. I think I’m more of a people person. I prefer the relationships. I wanted to build relationships with my clients. I knew that private practice was for me so I could develop those long-term relationships. I have clients that I’ve been working with since day one that really do become a part of your life and come back. You might not see them for years. Then they pop back in. I like that. I wanted to be able to feel like I was really making a long-term impact.

I see kids all through adulthood, more kids now than ever, interestingly enough, more adolescents. I primarily focus on weight loss, but general health and wellness with families, family meal planning. I’m sort of obsessed with bringing people back to the dinner table as a family. I do a little bit of everything. I don’t focus on diabetes, per se. I can help anyone with cardiovascular disease or gastrointestinal issues or prediabetes, but really more general nutrition and health. I really do feel very lucky I’ve found my niche in what I do. There’s lots of dieticians and lots of dieticians who are doing great work. I focus not only on the food. Anyone that’s listening, maybe you’ve been to a dietician. Maybe you haven’t. Maybe you’ve read ten diets books. Who knows? Very often, it’s very food focused. I focus on the food coupled with behavior because I think that if you just focus on food, you’re putting a Band-Aid, very often, on what the real issues are.

Zibby: Do you delve into the emotions behind it, why we eat and the family-inherited stuff and all of that?

Lara: A hundred percent. When I meet with someone for the first time, I do a full intake. One of the questions I always ask is, what was food like growing up? We all know that that deeply impacts our adulthood and the choices that we make, and for those of us that are parents, the choices that we make as parents as well. I see a lot of that. I work so hard to work with parents right now to help them develop a family food culture. You’re probably looking like, what are you talking about?

Zibby: Yeah, what is that? What is a family food culture?

Lara: Another question I like to ask — people are like, what are you talking about? When you got married and had kids, did you talk about religion, how you wanted to raise your kids? Did you talk about schools, what schools? What kind of education were we looking for? Did you ever talk about what food was going to be like in our family? Are we going to be vegan? Are we kosher? Do we want our kids to eat all organic? Do we want to sit at the table for meals? People don’t talk about that. I think it’s a real miss. There’s this piece of the puzzle that really is missing when we don’t talk about that because then we’re all over the place. I want to help people. It’s not too late if you haven’t done this. You can always start now. I’m not saying that my husband and I sat down and had this deep conversation about it. It was more of an organic process. I knew that I wanted to be a family sitting at the table having dinner together. I didn’t grow up having that every night, and I craved it. I knew that I wanted to cook and get my kids involved in cooking. That was important to me. I knew that I wanted my kids to be involved in it. I wanted them to be involved in meal planning. I wanted them to grow up having this tool and being empowered to do so. I work with so many young adults who don’t know how to do this. They’re going to college. They don’t know how to pick out what they’re eating for dinner. It sounds so simple, but they just don’t know how because someone’s been doing it for them. Nobody ever empowered them to make these choices.

Zibby: You mean like, whose night is it to pick the meal type of thing?

Lara: Just having general discussions about it. What do you want to eat? What do you like? What sounds exciting to you? Yes, let’s go to the grocery store. Help us make dinner. Back to the family food culture, do you serve your food family style? Do you eat as a family? Do you serve your food family style, or is it plated for everybody? Do you have food rules? We don’t in my house. I don’t believe in rules in the house of when you can have dessert, when you can’t. That’s just not something that I grew up with or that I have in my home. These are conversations that just aren’t happening. They should be happening.

Zibby: One more thing about kids. Then I also want to talk about grown-ups. If you don’t have any rules, then what if — I have four kids. They all have different preferences. Some might do better with no rules. Some might need more structure. If I said you can eat all the chocolate you want, some of them might be able to say, okay, I’ve had this, and now I’m full. Some might not do that as easily. What do you do with that?

Lara: Very hard the more kids you have because they’re often very different. You don’t want to make one child feel that they are separate, that they’re different, that they have different rules than the rest of them. That’s really important because that will have lifelong, lasting impact, I believe. Everybody should be eating — I say that. Then I’m like, wait a minute. What did I do my house? In a perfect world — I think that if we look back and if we interviewed people thirty, forty, fifty, years and years ago, were these parents creating nineteen different meals in their house every night for dinner? I’m thinking probably not. We are living in a culture right now where we have empowered our children to get whatever they want. They don’t like fish? Then don’t worry. We’re going to make you chicken. You don’t want the peppers? Don’t worry. We’re going to give you broccoli. We’ve allowed this. I’m just as guilty of it. I really am. I don’t have a restaurant. I don’t want to be in the restaurant business. I don’t want to be a short-order cook. I’ve tried hard to get my family into a place where we find meals that everybody likes. If you don’t like it, then you have to make yourself something. I also found that if I’m making a cooked vegetable that not everybody’s going to eat, I always have a raw vegetable plate on the table because somebody will eat it.

Zibby: We do that.

Lara: I don’t even know if I’m answering your question. I have so much to say. This is about kids, but it’s really also about adults. I think that we’re living in a culture where everything is at your fingertips. Living in New York City here, or anywhere, you can get anything you want at the touch of a button. Our kids are being raised like that. They’re so used to, I want this, okay, you can have that. I want to go to Starbucks. Okay, go to Starbucks. You’re laughing because it’s true.

Zibby: I get it. We have a Starbucks day of the week so it can’t be on the menu all the time. Obviously, this is a position of privilege to even go to Starbucks regularly. To your point about different rules, just FYI, my mom would not let me eat all the cookies. She would hide them from me and give them to my brother. I’m sure she was doing the best that she could and whatever, but now I kind of overcorrect. I’m like, here you go. I will always keep in the house, and you can have it whenever you want. Maybe that’s not good, but I feel like so much of parenting is in reaction to whatever has been done to you.

Lara: A hundred percent. Think about yourself and all the moms out there. What are all of our food issues or body issues or whatever they may be? So much of it is — you said you’re overcompensating by giving to your kids. You were set to be deprived in that way. You felt it at a young age, being deprived. You felt that cookies were a bad food. In my practice, in my home, we don’t use words as good, bad. We don’t use words as fat or skinny. We don’t use words like that. We don’t label. Those words are forbidden. Clients come in every day, I already saw four clients this morning, every one of them labeled foods as good or bad. I said, we don’t label foods as good or bad. When clients say to me, can I have that? I said, you can have whatever you want, but you have to determine, how does that food make you feel? You asked before about the emotional. There’s so much emotional. Food is so emotional. That’s why you can’t just talk about food. You have to delve into the emotions and the reason we’re eating and choosing foods. Take that moment. Stop and think, how does food make you feel? How do you feel when you eat the bagel with cream cheese versus the apple? Most people would be like, I don’t know, I just eat it. I don’t know, I wasn’t thinking. Again, I’m very into culture and society. We’re living in this culture right now where there’s no — I think the pandemic was different, but I think we’re on the other side of this now. We’re just eating. We’re living. We’re eating. We’re not stopping. We’re not breathing. We’re not putting any thought into what we’re eating, why we’re eating. How do I feel when I’m eating? Am I enjoying it? I think so much of the enjoyment is taken out of food.

Zibby: It’s true. Everybody’s in such a rush. Do you still feed that love of cooking of yours? Do you manage to cook for your family all the time? If so, how do you work that into your busy schedule?

Lara: I’ve never more organized with food and meal planning than I was last spring during the pandemic because I had no choice. I wasn’t going to grocery stores. I was having my food delivered. I had to plan. I’ve always been pretty good about it. I am not a type A person. Many of the people listening to this might think, I’m the most type A person, everything in my life, except when it comes to food or except when it comes to feeding myself. The weeks where I plan, it’s great. The weeks where I have my groceries ready to go, it’s great. The weeks or nights when I don’t, then it’s like, uh, oh, even with me. Last night, I knew what I was making. I was out all day. I was like, okay, I know what’s in the fridge. I know what I’m making. I’m going home and I’m just going to get it done. Prepping is huge. Do you want to wash and cut lettuce at seven o’clock at night? I don’t.

Zibby: I don’t want to wash and cut lettuce, period.

Lara: Ever.

Zibby: I hate dealing with lettuce. It’s so stupid. I don’t mind cutting peppers and cucumbers. Any other vegetable, I’m fine. I think about that salad spinner that I used to have growing up. I’d rather order in a salad. It’s so stupid.

Lara: Cutting lettuce is annoying. It’s the kind of thing that if you want to have lettuce in your house because you want to be able to eat a salad and you don’t want the lettuce to rot in the back of the refrigerator, you need to prep. I always tell people, do your plan. Make your grocery list. Do your shop. Set aside time to prep before you’re cooking during the week.

Zibby: That’s smart. For people out there who may have put on a few pandemic pounds and are now coming onto the other side of this — also, there are so many different things. There’s so much culture now, anti-diet. Don’t diet. Diets are bad. You’ll never keep the weight off if you diet. There’s all this emphasis on body positivity, which is great. Then what if you have gained weight? It makes you feel bad. How do you not diet but still lose weight, not feel deprived, not have a lot of time, and accomplish these goals?

Lara: There is no one-size-fits-all diet program, lifestyle. We’re not robots. My clients will come in or a new caller will call me and say, how much do you think I’ll lose in the first two weeks? I’m like, I don’t know, you’re not a robot. I don’t know. We do need to lose this whole idea of diet because diet equals deprivation, equals maybe immediate success, but long-term failure. I do not believe in dieting. I really believe in looking at the person as an individual and trying to say, what am I doing great? What are my weaknesses? How could I take those weaknesses and take them up a notch? It’s not about what you can’t eat. It’s about the foods that you can eat and learning to listen to your body. I think that’s one of the biggest issues. If I ask you or anyone that’s listening, are you in tune with your hunger — when you begin a meal or end a meal, do you even know if you’re actually hungry, comfortably hungry, or end comfortably satisfied, or stop? Do you even recognize that?

Zibby: Are you asking me?

Lara: Yeah, but most people don’t. Most people just are not mindful. What I’ve been talking about with most of my clients right now is recognizing that food is fuel, but it’s also pleasure. When you go on a diet, you don’t have pleasure in your food. You feel like you’re being deprived. I don’t want anyone to feel deprived. I want you to love your food, love yourself, love your body. Become more mindful. A byproduct of that should be weight loss. The number-one goal should not be, what’s the number on the scale today? Am I losing weight? It should be measure by, wait a minute, am I being mindful? Am I feeling satisfied? Am I feeling hunger? Feeling hunger’s a good thing. Most people don’t. A byproduct from learning all of that is losing weight. That doesn’t mean we don’t do weigh-ins in my office. That doesn’t mean I don’t ask people to keep a food journal and we don’t talk about food and I don’t recommend specific foods and the best packaged foods on the market. We do all of that, but it’s not only measured by that.

Zibby: What about sugar? What’s your two-second thoughts on sugar? I know that can be a downfall. Asking for a friend here. You can get very addicted to it. It feels an addiction. I know for me, like many other people, I look forward to my little sugar doses throughout the day. The thought of giving it up — I have done it in the past, cold turkey, no more sugar. After you get over it after whatever it takes, I understand you can get back into that state, but then it always ends. Then you end up back with the sugar thing again. What are your thoughts on that?

Lara: I think that kind of behavior, the all-or-nothing behavior, is the problem because it’s like, I’m not having it, and I’m being good. I started having it again, and I’m being bad, so I might as well just keep having it. I think that we do eat way too much sugar in our country, but I eat sugar. I do not eat artificial sweeteners, though. I do not drink anything that has an artificial sweetener. I do not drink sweetened beverages. I don’t recommend this to my clients, but I will eat a cupcake. I will eat a piece of cake at a birthday party. I love it. I enjoy it. That’s one of my indulgences that I absolutely love and adore. I love dark chocolate. You notice when you’re eating dark chocolate, really great, high-quality dark chocolate, versus eating milk chocolate, which does often have added sugar to it, you see the difference. I can’t stop with the milk chocolate, but I can stop with the dark chocolate. It’s about allowing yourself, giving yourself permission.

You’re not giving yourself permission, is my guess. You’re just eating it. Give yourself permission to enjoy the piece of cake. I always tell my clients, use a cup of hot tea as your anchor. If you use hot tea as your anchor and you sit down — how many people listening, I’m sure, have said, I’m not going to eat the cake, I’m not going to eat the cake, and then when nobody’s watching, you go to the kitchen late at night and you stand up with a fork and you start eating the cake? You didn’t give yourself permission. You sit down. It’s a very different experience than standing up eating it, feeling guilty about it. Just the last comment on this is really choosing the highest quality food that you can that are going to have sugar. When you stop eating all this processed sugar and this junky food, raspberries, these will actually taste sweet. They don’t taste sweet to the average person who is eating tons and tons of added sugar in their diet and drinking tons of artificial sweeteners. This should taste sweet.

Zibby: It’s true. That happened to me the last time I gave up sugar. Then all of a sudden, I was like, oh, my gosh, these strawberries are so sweet. I can’t believe it. Who knew?

Lara: Right, it’s nature’s candy. It’s so true, though. You’re right, some people do feel so addicted to it, but it’s too all or nothing. It’s about choosing the right — eating candy, just junky candy, there’s no nutritional value. You might have it sometimes. Great. I’m not telling you never to eat it, but you’re not getting any nutrition from that. It’s doing nothing for you except spiking your blood sugar. Then you’re going to have a crash and be hungry again, so trying to choose food that tastes sweet and gives you that satisfaction that you’re looking for but that are also going to give you some nutritional value and help stabilize your blood sugar a little bit so you don’t get that crash.

Zibby: My go-to right now is dark chocolate-covered almonds. What do you think?

Lara: I love that. That’s great, but how are you eating them? Are you standing up? Are you taking a handful and standing up and walking around? Are you running into the kitchen, taking another handful, going and getting on the phone? Are you plating them and sitting down?

Zibby: I actually, you would be pleased to know, I have these tiny little ramekin things, and so I pour a few in. Then I bring it up to my desk. Then I go back to work and have coffee and chocolate-covered almonds in the afternoons.

Lara: I love it. My only tip would be, be mindful when you’re eating them. If you’re on the computer — I’m pretending to type — and you’re doing this or you’re on the phone, were you mindful? Did you actually enjoy it, or all of a sudden, they’re gone and you’re like, wait, when did I eat those?

Zibby: It’s more like that.

Lara: Actually, if we’ve learned anything from this pandemic, I hope it will remind people to slow down. More and more people have been working from home. I hope people will slow down and remember to breathe. Breath is so important. I sound so hokey, but it’s so important that we breathe. I forget to breathe. You need to breathe. You need to take a moment of calm before you eat.

Zibby: Okay, maybe.

Lara: No, truly. Breathe for a moment. Don’t look at the computer for two minutes. Don’t look at the computer. Drink your tea. Eat your chocolate. You’re like, I’m done with Lara now.

Zibby: No, not at all. You are right, of course, in everything you say. When you’re talking about higher quality foods, sometimes with the kids when they want a bagel or something for a meal, I’m like, you know you just ate a pile of flour. Pasta or something, I’m like, you just ate a big bowl of flour. If the ingredients were in front of you, do you think this is going to sustain you for the whole day? You need some protein in there. Get something else. At least for me, sometimes I can trick the kids and me into understanding it better by breaking down the ingredients and kind of visualizing what they’re actually eating. The pancake is so great looking or whatever, but I don’t know. That’s my only — .

Lara: You can make pancakes that have protein in it. You can get the kids making them. I can give you recipes. There’s products on the market. A lot of this is confusing for consumers. There’s so much misinformation out there. You go to the grocery store, you shop online, it’s confusing. It’s confusing even for a dietician because there’s so many products out there. How is the average person who’s not trained supposed to really know what to buy and what’s healthy? The food industry is tricking us. It’s low fat. It’s organic. Just because it’s organic doesn’t mean that it’s good for you because it can still be filled with organic gums and stabilizers or sugar or whatever it may be. I think asking yourself or asking your kids, how do I feel after this meal, how’s my energy? it’s a good question.

Zibby: Excellent. If you had some parting tips for other people who are just not feeling good in their bodies, what can they do?

Lara: I think you need to take a moment. First, you need to take out a pen and paper. Write down one thing you love about your body. That’s number one. We have to start off positive. One thing that you really love about your body, okay, great, check. Ask yourself, are you drinking water, good old water? We need to hydrate. Our bodies are fifty to seventy-five percent water. When we are dehydrated, our bodies often think that we’re hungry, but we’re really not. We’re just dehydrated. With all the mask wearing, it’s harder to drink water. Now the mask mandates are loosening, but it has been harder to drink water when you’re out. Are you drinking enough water? Then ask yourself, let me think pre-pandemic, what did I do differently during the pandemic in terms of food? Maybe, were you on that banana bread bandwagon that most people were on in the first three months making every different iteration of banana bread that you could and eating it and it was delicious?

Are you eating because you’re stressed? Are you not preparing? Those of us who just aren’t prepared end up making poor food choices. Are you waiting all day and banking all of your calories for later in the day? Are you eating your first meal at three o’clock? That’s a problem because your metabolism has stalled. Then by the time you have your first meal, you’re ravenous. You make a poor food choice. You’re likely to overeat. It’s a great question, but there’s not one answer because everybody’s different. Everybody has a different relationship with food. It’s really doing a self-reflection on, what is your relationship with food? Don’t try and tackle everything in one day. Pick one goal to work on, truly, one goal. Once you’ve kind of made progress with that first goal, choose a second goal. Otherwise, you have these grand ideas. You think you’re going on a diet. You’ll set yourself up for failure. You’ll likely gain it back and feel worse.

Zibby: Excellent.

Lara: A lot of information.

Zibby: No, it’s great.

Lara: It’s not dieting.

Zibby: I get it. It’s great information. It’s great advice. It’s actionable and not overwhelming.

Lara: Personalize it. We talk about personalized medicine. Personalize your own journey. This is your own journey with food and your health. Personalize it. It doesn’t matter what your friend’s doing. It’s what will work for you.

Zibby: Okay. Chocolate almonds, here I come.

Lara: By the way, I promise, today when you’re eating your chocolate almonds with your cup of tea, you’ll be sitting down. You will be mindful. You’ll be focused on those. Let me know how it goes.

Zibby: I will. I’m envisioning the selfie I will take of it. Thank you. Thanks, Lara, for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Lose Weight.” If people want to find you and follow you and all that, how can they do that?

Lara: I’m on Instagram, Lara Metz Nutrition. I have a website, I would love to hear from you. Ask me questions. Call me.

Zibby: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Lara: Thank you. Thanks for having me. This was fun. Bye.

Zibby: Good, I’m so glad. See you soon. Bye.

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