Just tell me what to eat. If I had a nickel for every time I heard this phrase. And I get it. Nutrition is confusing! I’m trained to read and understand the research and I still find it confusing. Studies constantly conflict and then the media runs with misinformation from one small study and makes us all believe coconut oil is the miracle cure to everything. Until months later when the next study tells us actually it isn’t as good as we once thought. Meanwhile, you’ve been guzzling coconut oil in the name of health. How frustrating.
So it’s no surprise that people want a simple answer. And that’s why we look for diets. Now you might think to yourself – I don’t diet. Our conventional view on diets is weight loss diets – Weight Watchers, Atkins Diet, South Beach, etc. But in recent years we’ve started to shy away from these diets. Instead, we’re looking for lifestyle changes.
So we turn to things like Whole 30, Paleo, Ketogenic, etc. These lifestyle changes come with a clear instruction manual and a formula. Eat this, not that and get this – less bloating, healthier life, more energy, etc. It’s the answer we’ve been looking for. It’s a clear direction on what to eat for our health and as a bonus, we might lose weight (which if we’re being honest with ourselves is the outcome we’ve been looking for all along). But here’s the kicker. These are just diets in disguise. The weight loss industry went underground and served us up the same crap they have always been under the guise of “health”.
These lifestyle changes restrict your food. They tell you what foods are “good” and which foods are “bad”. They make you feel guilty if you eat off the plan. They make you feel like a failure if you can’t maintain the eating pattern. They are diets.
And even if you’re not following a specific lifestyle pattern such as paleo – perhaps you’re following your own food rules. These are usually made up from a number of sources. Things you’ve read in magazines. Things your colleague told you works for them. Things you overhead at the salon. Things you saw on the news. So you’re not on a diet – you just don’t eat bread, don’t eat past 7 pm, don’t eat starchy vegetables, and avoid fruit except berries in small amounts. I think you get the picture. You’re on a self-imposed diet.
So why can’t I give you a simple answer? Why can’t I boil down the nutrition evidence and tell you one way to eat for health? Because there is no one way to eat for health.
We are all unique individuals. We all have unique DNA blueprints that will respond differently to different types and amounts of foods. We all have unique taste preferences. We all have unique budget and time constraints. We all have unique cultural backgrounds.
The reason those lifestyle change plans or diets make promises and tell you there is one way to eat is because they are trying to sell you something! There is no altruistic intention of making everyone healthier. They are trying to sell you books, sell you meal plans, sell you e-courses and sell you on an idea that you’re not good enough as you are and you need to change the way you eat to feel better about yourself.
But do any of these diets actually hold that magic bullet? Nope. Diets are like a bad boyfriend. They make promises they can’t keep. They hurt you time and time again but lure you back with the promise that this time it will be different. It’s not your fault you buy into the diets. It makes sense you want structure and rules when you’re confused about all the misinformation but the truth is these diets just don’t work.
So what’s the one thing that will get you out of this cycle? Intuitive eating. It can be a big scary leap from the world you’re comfortable in. The one where you are given food rules to follow. Intuitive eating strips away those food rules and tells you to trust your own body. Trust the body that you feel has failed you in the past when in fact it’s the diet industry is what has failed you. The industry has played on your emotions and made you feel like a failure, but you’re not. You can trust in yourself and trust your body to nourish itself. It just takes accepting and starting with step one – Reject the Diet Mentality.