How’s that for a bold statement? There are plenty of problems with the health/fitness/nutrition media, and I could go on at length about any number of them:
- Jillian Michael’s and other TV personal trainers who use an “awfulness based coaching” style that demeans and belittles clients while pushing them into unsafe physical exertion.
- Tracy Anderson’s claim that women shouldn’t lift more than 3lbs.
- Dr. Oz, period, but primarily the way he enthusiastically promotes every snake-oil weight loss “magic pill” solution to hit the market.
- Dr. Mercola’s stance on vaccines causing autism, on obesity being caused by “not fasting enough”, how drinking from a garden hose might be the most dangerous thing your kids do all summer, etc. etc. etc.
I could go on. And on.
What is the biggest problem?
Quite simply: fear.
We are constantly bombarded with new quasi-scientific studies claiming the new demon in nutrition is here and how it must be avoided at all costs.
- It’s saturated fat.
- No, it’s gluten.
- No, it’s sugar.
- No, it’s artificial sweeteners.
New diets, super-foods, and special ingredients hit the market every day, contradicting the last headline and further confusing us with fear:
- Himalayan salt is awesome! Oh wait it causes mercury poisoning.
- Eating “healthy” means a low fat diet. Or is it a low carb diet?
- Don’t eat carrots because they contain too much sugar.
- You better eat Paleo or else you will be chronically inflamed and at higher risk for every disease known to man.
- If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, it probably causes cancer.
It’s hard not to be paralyzed by this fear – I see it in clients all the time. We trap ourselves into a story that defines what “clean eating” means, and then we judge every food choice against that story. We can never attain this perfect clean eating standard, so we feel dejected from our failure. We say things like “I have been good all week” or “I had a piece of cheesecake last night – I was so bad!”. We let this fear control us, and we swirl into self-loathing judgment. Suddenly I am defined as good or bad because of what I eat. I am completely controlled by food. This is a short path to disordered eating, my friends.
Eating doesn’t have to be complicated
I think we intuitively have a pretty good sense of what a balanced diet should look like. Balanced. Some of this, some of that. Everything in moderation, including moderation.
Try to stop overthinking food. The biggest red flags in nutrition, in my opinion, appear when we start talking about eliminating a food or entire food group forever. If you haven’t had red meat in ten years because you think it causes heart disease, I think that’s a problem. Not because I think everyone should eat red meat, because you’re probably salivating over the thought of a great rib eye right now.
What’s the best way to provoke your inner rebel, by the way? Go on a 30 day “sugar detox”. You’ll be crawling the walls for a half-chewed candy corn by day three, and it won’t be due to “physiological addiction to sugar”. It’s because you just told yourself you CAN’T HAVE ANY.
Just eat food. Make food choices you are proud of, and if you want ice cream for dinner, just be proud of that choice. Own the decision and move on.
Don’t fear food
I’ll say it again: just eat food. Take a step of this crazy carousel of judgment and comparison. Start watching your thoughts and the words that come out of your mouth. Change your internal dialog from “I shouldn’t eat this because it’s ___” to “do I want to eat this? Will it serve me in some way?” This is just a first step, and it’s a very big one. Stop judging your food choices.
I can help you take this step, and the steps that follow this one. Learn more here.