Is Diet Culture Dooming Us All?

As I touched on last week, I firmly believe in distancing morality from food. There are no good nor bad foods – there are just foods, and healthy and unhealthy portions, based on your current situation.

But as a dietitian, a so-called “expert” in the realm of nutrition, how can you NOT say that there are bad foods?!?

This infuriates people. The dieters. The gurus. The zealots.

There are CLEARLY BAD FOODS! Gluten, sugar, carbs, fat, dairy…

People love to give these labels and marry them to a specific ideology around food.

Here is the deal, and the shocking truth – people are different. What may be unhealthy for one person, could be okay or tolerable for another. Gluten, for example, can wreak havoc on someone with Celiac Disease, or a major intolerance… but to someone else, it may be totally fine.

Dairy – especially milk – causes me some super unpleasant side effects within minutes of consuming. While my wife can handle it.

People are different.

While there are some fairly universal truths when it comes to what we eat being a healthy option – vegetables are one – there are STILL outliers. Some people have terrible reactions to peppers, and onions. Some to broccoli (and no, that’s not a legit excuse to avoid eating broccoli if you can).

People are different.

Do you get the point yet?

What about donuts? And pie? And cookies? How can you say that those are not bad?

Again – context matters. What is bad about the dount? The donut itself isn’t bad. It’s frickin delicious. Eating 20 donuts per week…still not bad in itself, but probably not the healthiest decision. Eating a donut once in a blue moon, while being active and balancing your diet with mostly non-donuty foods? Probably 100% totally cool.

So by adhering and perpetuating the diet culture – which is only successful 5% of the time – where has it gotten us? Not very far. Yes, 5% of people who lose weight on a diet keep it off for more than 2 years.

So 95% of people who try to diet, fail?

No.

95% of diets fail people. 

Most diets out there make it so unbearable to continue forever, that after a year, maybe two – life happens and you start back to your old ways. You see, food is pleasurable. It’s not just fuel, or macros, or sustenance to get you to a weight that will make you happy. It is supposed to be enjoyed. We cannot deny that foods bring pleasure.

When these diets deprive us of entire food groups or put us on an insanely low amount of calories, then, of course, we are bound to give up. Who wouldn’t??

So how the heck are people supposed to lose fat, improve their health, or get super sexy 6 pack abs?!?!

Awareness. Acceptance. Time. Consistency. Patience. And Effort.

Awareness as to how you have gotten to your current state, and if it is a state of unhappiness, figuring out why you are unhappy. Will losing weight ACTUALLY make you happier? Solve the root of your unhappiness? If not, then don’t even think about trying to lose weight. Solve the root problem first.

Acceptance that you have gotten to your current state because of a cumulative effect of things you have an have no done over years and years. This is not meant to shame, but to just accept ownership of your decisions. You decided to stop working out for 10 years. You decided to stop cooking meals, and eat out all the time. You decide every morning to drink 800 calories from Starbucks. None of these decisions are inherently good or bad, they just are what they are – and they have lead you to your current point. Once you accept that YOU have gotten yourself here, you can also accept that YOU can get yourself out.

Time. It will take time. You didn’t get unhealthy from eating one “bad” meal. You won’t get healthy from eating one “good” meal. Go back to awareness. Why are you here? What got you to this point? Why is it important that you not be at this point? Dig deep. Find the real “why” that will pull you out of the bed each morning, and encourage you to realize that you don’t need food to cope with your stress.

Consistency. Again – one salad, one donut – won’t change much. You need to be consistent. But not OCD. If you give yourself time, you can be more lenient. Enjoy holidays. Enjoy birthdays. But maybe don’t celebrate every taco Tuesday with 4 margaritas. What you do the majority of your time, will lead you to become the person that is a direct result of your efforts.

Effort. It’s simple, but not easy. Most will give up when they don’t see 10 pounds gone in 10 days. Most will want 7 minute abs to be true. Most will want the supplement that their friend scammed sold them on to work now. Truth is, you still need to put in the effort. The effort is needed to move your body, break a little sweat, and challenge yourself occasionally. The effort is needed to not bring foods into your house that you know you struggle with. The effort is needed to not give up when you feel you are doing everything right, but the scale hasn’t moved in weeks (scale doesn’t mean everything – never forget that).

We haven’t failed at diets. Diets have failed us – because what we perceive diets to be are miserable, unsustainable and damn near laughable.

 

Would you like more guidance on taking back your life, learning to love food again, and getting life long results along the way? IF so —> CHECK OUT ONLINE COACHING***

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Stay healthy my friends,

 

Let’s Stop Calling Foods “Good” and “Bad”, Shall We?

I sat down in my office to get to work on some client check in’s for my online nutrition coaching. The first one I opened, BAM! There it was… “I need to call you, I am really struggling”.

I remember my stomach dropped. What was going on? How serious was this? Am I going to need to refer out to someone more suited for this kind of talk?

We got on the phone the next day and I was met with such a sigh of relief. Well, sort of relief.

This client explained to me that she was feeling so guilty about tracking her bad foods in MyFitnessPal because I would see it and shame her. This was our first week working together…

I explained to her that I NEVER shame anyone, especially for what they eat and only maybe for the sports team they choose to support…but the bigger point I made was one that I make often.

Food Carries NO Morals. It doesn’t affect our morality. It doesn’t change who we are as a person. Food is not good, it is not bad, and it doesn’t make us good or bad based on what we eat.

Food is food.

I say that this call was the only sort of a relief because she wasn’t in danger or anything, but this is something I hear all too often – people calling foods good or bad or making them out to be these magical unicorns or evil trolls….it’s food people, that’s all.

The more “power” we give to foods by labeling them a certain way, the more they will affect us at a psychological level. Think about the forbidden fruit story from the Bible. Eat whatever you want, but you better not touch that delicious looking apple! Well…thanks a lot, Eve.

When certain diet gurus or magazines need to make money, they criminalize one food while promoting another. This is usually from some sort of bastardized study that someone in their research department read, and said, “yeah we can stretch this”.

At the same time, you better bet there is a paper trail connecting them to the food or supplement that they are touting as the miracle food of the week.

Food is Food. Nothing else. Don’t give it the power that it doesn’t have, and you will realize that you are more in control of your food “addictions” and impulses than you think!

So what do we call foods then? You can’t tell me that eating Twinkies and HoHo’s is good for you…

If this is you reading this, you are right – I’m not telling anyone to go out and crush beers and ice cream (terrible combo anyways).

We have 2 categories of foods or two ends of the spectrum so to speak.

Calorie Dense and Nutrient Dense

Calorie dense foods are probably the foods that most would label as “bad”. Pizza, cake, ice cream, alcohol, fries, greasy hamburgers, cookies, donuts, etc.

These foods pack a ton of calories, in a relatively small volume.

Think Snickers bar here. Pretty small, and packs 280 calories, and not a whole lot of quality nutrients. That is calorie-dense. Not BAD. Not GOOD. But calorie-dense.

Nutrient-Dense foods are on the opposite end of the spectrum. These are foods that are loaded with fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and low in calories per gram.

Think vegetables, fruit, lean meats, whole grains. The foods usually labeled “good”.

Think broccoli here. A full plate = 200 calories. It’s loaded with vitamin C, fiber, and other great micronutrients. Then we have 200 calories of delicious peanut butter…roughly the size of a golf ball. #Sad

But now there is a twist…foods that are both.

Of course, there is a twist…calorie dense AND nutrient-dense foods do exist.

These are your healthy fats – olive oil, avocado, nuts, coconut oil…

Via VeryWellFit – check out the awesome nutrients of almonds! Also, check out how 24 almonds (this is not that many) is 164 calories. Calorie AND Nutrient Dense.

Again, check out avocados. Awesome fiber, and heart-healthy fats…but also 227 calories (or more if you are getting steroid avocados).

These are usually the culprits when people say “I eat clean, and still can’t lose weight!”

You see, you can eat “clean” all you want, but if you are in a calorie surplus…you will still gain weight.

Awareness is the key to success. I’m not here to tell you how to eat, what to eat, or what foods are good or bad. Everyone is different, and everyone has different needs. If you take the time to learn about this stuff, become aware, and make some small changes, I promise you can start moving in the direction that you want to.

Would you like more guidance on taking back your life, learning to love food again, and getting life long results along the way? IF so —> CHECK OUT ONLINE COACHING***

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Stay healthy my friends,