Today I want to talk about why nutrition is so confusing, and sometimes damaging, and then hopefully some ways you can improve your relationship with food.
To start, there is a problem with a lot of the nutritional advice we are getting.
In our pursuit of becoming all knowing, scientists play the role of Prometheus and they bring the fire of knowledge to man so we can improve but what has happened is that now we are beginning to see the blueprint of food we are becoming paranoid and overcautious about what we eat as though each bite of food could be calculated to it’s life extending, or inhibiting abilities and now instead of food being enjoyed it has become a prescription! It is either medicine or disease promoting, and such black and white thinking leaves out all the grey area that makes being a human so unpredictable and so unquantifiable.
4 BIG PROBLEMS
The following are 4 big problems I have noticed with nutritional info and the way we digest it.
1. NUTRITIONAL INFO KEEPS CHANGING- It’s hard to know what is nourishing when you’re told one day that foods like dairy are bad for you and then a few years later that science was wrong and that those same things are now good for you.
Oops! Science was wrong… again! But now it’s right. All hail the new science.
Where’s the disclaimer in that kind of advice for moderation, balance, individual preference and specific nutritional needs based on what helps you to function at your best? Well for one thing, you can’t sell individually tailored advice to the masses. That’s not profitable. You can however sell prescription advice to all and prey on what we value the most which is our mortality and youth.
2. WE ARE LOSING PLEASURE- We have lost the pleasure aspect of food and so more and more our cultural food that we each bring from different corners of the world is being pacified and reduced to a cauliflower pizza base under the guise of health. It’s not that some people don’t enjoy cauliflower pizza, it’s just that many don’t and the reason they are eating it is out of fear not out of desire or pleasure.
3. WE DOUBT OUR OWN JUDGEMENT- We begin to doubt our own judgements on food, trusting our internal signals less and less and handing over authority to health professionals.
Your eating experience has now been turned into a science. As though there is one absolutely straight path to the ultimate nutrition, and science is trying to identify all the wrong turns we can take and then eliminate them by convincing us to ban certain foods and only eat the other foods that keep us on the safe path. Food can therefore seem to be an issue beyond our capabilities. As though mother nature when giving things like dangerous animals bright colours or sharp teeth, or plants spikes and thorns, forgot to put a warning label on our bloody eggs. She could’ve at least made them a little more prickly like a cactus so we wouldn’t make the mistake of eating too many. Thankfully, modern nutrition has picked up the pieces where nature was just too damn lazy and given daily guidelines on how many eggs you can have until it’s mortally dangerous for you. This of course leads us to our next big problem…
4. ANXIETY- We have so much anxiety that unofficial eating disorders like orthorexia are emerging, where the symptoms start with a fixation with eating ‘clean’ foods, and are becoming more common because we are scared of everything that goes in our mouths.
Science has us bowing down to every word it says or every bit of pop-science that makes it into our mainstream. We are eating according to prescriptions but then yearning other foods and then punishing ourselves for having non-pure desires as though we were all under some religious doctrine and if we eat a non-prescription food we are all sinners and we must repent.
How do we repent? By restricting our food, purging through vomiting or over-exercising, and forcing more in to numb this catholic guilt.
SO I SHOULD JUST IGNORE NUTRITION?
So if nutrition is so confusing should you just ignore it? Well I can’t answer that question for you. Everyone is unique and keep in mind that a lot of our problems that come from dieting are fuelled by thinking in terms of black and white and so completely ignoring nutrition and keeping your head under the sand is perhaps another extreme at the opposite end of the scale that might not serve you. I mean nutrition has so many positives and so many could benefit from becoming more informed to make more empowering decisions that are nourishing and satisfying.
SO I SHOULD LEARN ABOUT NUTRITION?
But if you’re watching this then you’ve probably tried to find out more about nutrition and you’re still confused. Well, nutrition can seem confusing because we are confusing and none of us can take the same advice.
Your nutrition is complicated and is dependent on a variety of factors including things like lifestyle, exercise, genetics, mood, personal and family medical history and age, as just a few examples and as I’m sure you can imagine, there’s unlikely to be a fixed diet or way to eat for you for the rest of your life.
So how can you know what to eat?
Well some solutions that I suggest to my clients are as follows:
1. FIND A DIETICIAN/NUTRITIONIST- This is the best advice I can give you. I am a food and body coach and personal trainer and even though I believe I have a firm grasp on my own nutrition and may include it in my vocabulary when conversing with clients, I’m not a nutritionist and so I always recommend if people are looking for information on nutrition that they find an expert. Someone who is going to liberate your eating experience and use great science and research to help you fall back into a relationship with your eating rather than fill you with more anxiety and rules.
Now that’s not a practical solution for many people. For whatever reason, perhaps finances or time, or access may be restricted, in which case what can you do?
Well I still urge you to consult your general practitioner before following the advice of myself or anyone else for that matter who gives nutritional advice on the internet, regardless of their credentials because you are unique.
Sadly however, we still live in a climate of weight stigma and many doctors can still be practicing weight discrimination. That’s not to blame them, only to highlight a reality and so it may scare you away from trusting them. My hope is that yours is progressive enough to be aware of this culture shift but if not then the following are some more potential options that I truly believe can help you if you’re at a loss for a solution.
2. EDUCATION- Now it would be arrogant of me to tell you that you just have to learn more to know how to eat properly. It’s again my perspective that nobody knows how to eat what is right for you except you, however, from my own journey I’ve found that the more I dieted and tried new ideas and the more people I listened to the more perspective I got on what I thought was right for me. That’s not to encourage dieting. Only to say that I acknowledge it as a part of my journey that with time I have learnt to interpret as empowering my relationship with food.
Educating myself on nutrition was my salvation but not because I finally discovered one amazing diet but rather it was learning enough that I finally began to relax around food and realised not to take it all so seriously but still had a grasp on what nourished me and made me feel good.
Of course, again, not everyone has the time, or even the will to learn and commit to so much learning. Not everyone therefore has the luxury of questioning everything about nutrition. People are busy. You are busy, and so more than ever in this world of rush we need to trust one another and believe that others have our best interests at heart. That someone, somewhere will reach out a helping hand to you asking nothing in return.
We are the great community and I promise you that there are so many experts and awesome regular people like instagramers and bloggers out there worth listening to who really do understand your struggle. Finding your place amongst your community can be tricky but once you do you’ll open up a door to a whole new world where many have trod the path and can help your way.
I don’t know about you or your journey but I use a weight neutral framework with my clients which means not focusing on losing weight loss but instead on feelings of health and well-being first. Some hot topic words that you might find useful and want to look further into based around my experience of what can really help people are things like Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size.
3. EXPERIMENT- If you have the desire and it’s not impeding on the safe-guard requirements established by you and your medical professional then experimenting with food might be something else you consider.
It’s about becoming your own scientist.
You might practice this by experimenting by introducing new foods into your diet or really tuning into if perhaps you’re eating too much of something that is leaving you worse off. How does more or less protein affect you anyway? Should you really eat a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables every day or is that just nonsense?
Why not be your own scientist and see for yourself? It’s amazing how often someone can tell you something is good or bad for you but you only realise it when you experience it for yourself.
Experimenting with food can be a great way to begin a journey of self-trust. It requires you to be brave as you explore a variety of foods, honour the feedback you receive, and leave your comfort zone.
From my own personal experience and that of my clients I share my advice with you like anyone else can and through the medium of social media all of us have the ability to make ourselves heard. My mission isn’t however for you to hear what makes me successful with nutrition and what quantities of which food you need to eat and at what time of the day. No, my mission is to help you find your own voice and make your own opinions.
The more you can investigate and learn from a variety of different sources and the more open you can be to hear each argument and not just stick with one belief system about food and exercise, the more perspective you’ll have and the more you’ll be able to tailor your nutrition to your own personal living experience.
Not that celeb on Facebook or the one who sells the same identical fitness programme to everyone for a handsome fee.
If you have any questions then please write to me in the comment section and if I can’t answer it the I’ll do my best to connect you with someone or another resource that can.