There is no one size fits all approach to nutrition. Unfortunately, in our current diet culture, we are led to believe that every solution is a magic bullet. The result is that we end up thinking that nothing works for us. We begin to think all food is bad – either because it is bad for us or it tastes bad.
This of course leads to more anxiety over, and often because of, our nutrition.
It’s a highly emotional and polarizing issue, one where there are many silent victims – those who continue to suffer from unhealthy habits, disordered eating, or food insecurity. We come to fear food because we are led to believe that meat is murder, carbs are deadly, or fat is bad for our hearts.
We have developed a first world scarcity mindset around food, and it’s causing turmoil on our mental and physical health.
It’s really not about the “what” we’re eating that is causing problems, it’s more about the why. It’s our relationship with food that’s often broken. And in order to fix that relationship, we need to shift away from the restrictive, toxic, and “scarcity” mindset of our current diet culture, and instead develop a healthy and abundant relationship with nutrition. Doing so requires us to look at the three F’s.
Have you ever taken a road trip? Have you ever tried to take a road trip without putting fuel in the tank of your car? You won’t get very far, will you? The same is true for your body. Whether you want to perform at work or as an athlete, making sure you’re getting enough fuel is one of the most important things you can do.
Of course quality of fuel matters. If you want to be a high performance machine, high performance fuel is important, but a common and tragic mistake is assuming that we need to restrict in order to be healthy. This was a mistake I made when I first started training for triathlon. I thought that I had to train at high volume AND count my calories. The result was a painful lesson of low mental and physical energy, weakness, and moodiness (“hanger”). It wasn’t until I increased my caloric intake, focused on feeling constantly satisfied (never really hungry, never really full) with healthy foods that my performance began to improve.
Everything that we put in our mouth serves a function. That function can be to provide nutrition, provide energy, cure boredom, experience joy, or more (or any combination of those). The key is that we understand why we are eating at any given time, without judgment and without shame. It is absolutely okay to eat for pleasure. It is absolutely okay to eat for nutrients. It’s okay to eat food that doesn’t necessarily taste good so that we can get proper nutrients. And it’s okay to eat food that’s bad for us when we want a treat, as long as we are able to find harmony. Be intentional with your nutrition choices, and find the best rhythm that works for you.
Here, too we tend to fall into the restriction trap. Many diets, including keto or low fat diets, restrict entire necessary macronutrients. While some may disagree with me, carbohydrates serve a purpose, and therefore they need to be considered in our nutrition choices. Again, consider creating a healthy, abundant relationship with food instead of bringing a mindset of scarcity and restriction to your diet? Of course we should limit our intake of “junk” food – highly processed foods, or foods high in added sugar – but I’m of the opinion that you can’t get enough natural foods in all macronutrients. Seek abundance. Seek to be never overly hungry and never overly full.
Yes, feel. A lot of times we tend to associate guilt or shame with enjoying food. Eating a piece of chocolate? “Oh, I’m so BAD!” Meanwhile, we associate feelings of disgust with eating things we would say are “good” for us. What if instead we allowed ourselves to enjoy the treats because they do serve the purpose of instant joy? What if we acknowledged the discomfort of eating something healthy and enjoyed the fact that it was filling us with energy and nutritious sustenance?
These things are not mutually exclusive. Doing both help us to develop a healthy and abundant relationship with food. This doesn’t mean that we should always strive to eat food that provides immediate pleasure. That will lead us to likely neglecting the food that serves us nutritionally. The goal is to be attentive to it, striving to consume most of the abundance of food we eat to satisfy our long term health and longevity, and reserving some for immediate joy (enjoy the donuts!).
If you can learn to create a healthy and abundant relationship with nutrition, you can begin to feel energized again. You can avoid the diet culture traps that lock you into believing that each diet is the magic bullet, and start to learn about your own body. You will begin to understand what nutrition protocol works for you and start to own it. We will stop fearing the foods we put in our mouths, and start to celebrate feasting again.
So develop a healthy and abundant relationship with nutrition. To quote Michael Pollan, “eat food, mostly plants, not too much…” and because we get trapped in a world of restriction, I will add not too little.
If you would be open to discovering how you can rise above fear and realize your ultimate potential, reach out to me for a free strategy call. I look forward to hearing from you!