What the Fad?!
Oh diet culture, what a fun place to hangout – NOT! Society has corrupted the word diet and psychologically trained people to think it is some crazy way of eating that usually promotes weight loss. Diet has two different definitions when you google it:
- the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats
- a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons
See how different those are! The first one is simply stating that diet is whatever is consumed by the being, so whatever you choose to eat is considered your diet. Now the second one, this is where people get confused and think there needs to be some sort of fad followed because when they eat it has to be focused around a certain mindset or list of rules. These toxic mindsets always have a body image agenda and monetary attachment to them, such as a salad means you are eating “healthy” and cookies make you feel guilty. They don’t make you feel guilty they make you feel like you need to feel guilty because of the connotation attached. Nutritionally a cookie isn’t much different than white toast with jam which some might call a healthy breakfast. So we have to first stop thinking of eating as good or bad and just fuel our bodies with what it needs!
The good old American diet
As most of us know our food has changed drastically over the years – even our parents had access to very different food options, mainly less processed. Foods now can be full of fillers, preservatives, synthetic colors and artificial flavoring. America is known as one of the worst “diets” in the world because our food culture is based around fast food and large portions. Eating to be satisfied and eating to feel full are two completely different things. The food hype these days is so polarizing, centered around crazy over the top foods such as insane milkshakes that have a donut as a topping or a burger the size of your head, but just as soon you’ll see an ad for a green juice or age-reversing matcha. Fads give everyone this feeling like this is what they need to be eating to look cool and be trendy on social media. Of course trying weird things like deep fried oreos is fun but our fast food culture contributes to a skewed look at what a portion should be.
Since we are not necessarily set up for success I’ve tried to take a step back and understand food for what it is. Trust me I’ve been very much sucked into the media diets. Now that I understand food more, one motto I keep coming back to is ‘eat whole foods’. That means one ingredient, ex// spinach, chicken, quinoa. Of course it’s not always that simple. I don’t necessarily try and avoid food additives altogether but common preservatives to recognize are: Benzoic acid, Calcium Sorbate, Erythorbic Acid, Potassium Nitrate, and Sodium Benzoate. Preservatives are used to slow down bacteria and mold growth and they are mostly found in processed foods. The easiest way to avoid this is eating fresh food. Your almond milk doesn’t really need sodium benzoate especially if you are drinking 2L in 2-4 days. Opt for fresh made from a nearby cafe or DIY!
The diet world over seas is very different in many senses but if you have been to Europe you know it’s carbs, carbs, carbs, pasta, breads etc! So how do some of these people remain so slender and healthy? It is all about pure ingredients, the best they can get their hands on and classic preparation, passed down for years. I read this book called French Women Don’t Get Fat; it is about a French woman who fell victim to the American diet when she moved here for school, and how she made her way back to what she knew as a French woman. The French have been eating breads and pastas for years without becoming overweight. The secret? No guilt or over-indulging but eat for satisfaction. Focusing on quality, variety, balance and always fulfillment. This includes eating for hours with friends to enjoy their company, NOT to stuff themselves. I know it sounds too easy but the concept really comes down to dropping the stress around eating and listening to your body and what it needs.
Portion sizing is SO SO important and should be taught young. The “growing child” does not need to necessarily eat more than usual but instead should be encouraged to fill their body with better food to fuel it. In Europe you will find large portions but they take their time eating and appreciating the food, everything is slow, appreciated and allowed to digest.
Everything is Better in Moderation
Moderation is the key to life right? Well when it comes to food I truly believe it is. I mean if you eat deep fried oreos everyday they are definitely going to lose their charm. But total restriction of any food is likely setting yourself up for failure. The second we put something on the ‘no’ list or ‘can’t eat’ list we want it more! Unless you feel good about the restriction it will likely come with some major challenge and likely a break in the rule and then….guilt. There is so much guilt that can come with food and it is a daily struggle, we are constantly being bombarded with body images through social media that the mindset has corrupted our relationship with food. Food is essential to living and yes there are foods that are “bad” for you but it does not mean you are forbidden from them.
Making a choice to eat a certain way that is outside of just your health is very common these days. For example, a lot of people are restricting certain foods for their impact on the environment. This is a noble decision but you do have to remember your body is yours and you only get this life once, so make sure you are taking care of yourself first. Eliminating foods comes with the risk of eliminating certain vitamins and minerals so if you feel unwell after a diet change get some blood work done to make sure all vitamin levels are optimal!
The Exercise and Food Balance
Exercise and food seem to have a hand in hand relationship. While it is very important to exercise (yes you should be moving everyday they don’t need to depend on each other), you don’t need to “work off” last night’s dinner or “earn” tonight’s happy hour.
I know most people have heard of the 80:20 rule but it has been applied to so many different things, so let me explain. When you are looking at the health of your body or body composition goals the focus should be 80% on a clean diet and 20% on a few indulgences. Exercise should be something to enrich your body with and support your diet. Also from the flip-side- exercise requires a supportive diet to be effective. Food is essential for achieving any body composition goal. I call it a body composition goal because it is focused on how your body looks, whereas a fitness goal is what your body can do, like 20 push-ups or 3 chin ups or run 5 miles. Goals can be fun challenges but also aren’t necessary, it okay to just move your body without any expectations and enjoy the endorphins!
It really is food choices which influence how your body looks, your energy levels, your mood and how you feel in general. Your body needs fuel to function at an optimal level.
Eat The Rainbow
I love eating colorful, not only is it great for my body but it is fun and usually pretty Instagrammable 😉 There are so many naturally colorful foods available to us and it is crazy how yummy they all are. In the fall you get more orange and yellow through squashes, and in the summer you get more blues and red from all the fresh berries. Greens are the easiest to come by and of course so good for you. When you can find 4-5 vegetables you really like it makes eating them a whole lot easier. Salads, rice bowls, stir fry, smoothies, omelettes, and especially pizza can all be amped up with vegetables.
Listen To Your Body
If this blog post has made you a bit uncomfortable about your eating habits, start by evaluating your relationship with food. Do you restrict then binge? Eat processed food all the time because you crave it so you don’t want to restrict? Do you restrict your calories because you don’t workout? Do you try every fad diet with fluctuating results over and over again?
Now ask yourself… WHY?
There is a deeper meaning to all of our relationships with food and sometimes we use it to soothe or punish. Not necessary, and not fun. Moving past this can take some time and digging but it’s worth it. Reach out to a Dietician for support!
It can take a long time to find your equilibrium with food but once you get there you will find everything gets a little easier. Remember harsh restrictions always fail, you can’t retrain your brain in a day, and take care of yourself first.
I believe a healthy relationship with food is one of the best things you can give yourself in life!