Are we taking healthy living too far? Is food controlling our lives?

A friend I work with posted an article on Facebook I think rang all too true for me.  The article was from Mind Body Green about whether we’re taking things too far with healthy eating.  It mentions 5 red flags of behaviors we may be doing in taking healthy living too far:

  1. You often feel guilty about food choices.
  2. You eliminate food groups.
  3. You’re controlled by food.
  4. You’re critical of the way other people eat (or at least hyper-conscious of it).
  5. You’re exhibiting depressive behaviors.

As a professional in the industry, I find we’re actually especially susceptible to this phenomenon. Truthfully though, pretty much anyone can fall into this trap.  There is so much information out there, but there is always a balance between what is enough vs too much. I feel it is part of my duty as a health professional to be at least familiar with the information out there. I’m not saying I am anywhere close to knowing everything about everything that’s out there. Let’s be real, people. I do try to make sure I’m at least familiar with or have heard of diet trends and research around food groups or types. That being said, as you start to broaden your knowledge base, you will find the research (and internet) is FULL of contradictions. I think there is always room for healthy debate, and I also believe this is why everyone should be exposed to information out there regarding your diet of choice, but understand both sides. Then, you can make an informed decision on why you’re avoiding gluten, not eating after 7pm, or <insert preferred method of eating>.

In meeting with clients, I pride myself in being able to have very real conversations with them on what is out there and helping them figure out what truly will work for them long-term. In between these live sessions, I am constantly looking at food logs, giving feedback and suggestions; we’re working through emotional/stress eating episodes, trying to combat behaviors we’ve built up over time, which is hard! Essentially, I feel like I am surrounded by food questions, food and behavior problems, and just FOOD all.day.long. It’s not necessarily a bad thing…I love food.  What I have noticed over time, I feel like some “food issues” are rubbing off on me that I never had before.  For a long time, I actually started to feel guilty about the way I was feeling and the somewhat disordered thoughts going on in my mind. I was/do feel guilty about food choices; I do sometimes feel controlled by food; I wouldn’t see I exhibit depressive behaviors but have definitely had some issues with disordered eating. For Lent, I actually decided to give up sugar, grains, and dairy. As an aside, I’m not trying to make the transition to be Paleo and know I will incorporate grains and dairy back into my routine after Easter…I miss my oatmeal…and weekend waffles!

When my co-worker posted this article, it was refreshing to read I wasn’t the only one who felt like this. Especially not being a Registered Dietitian by trade, I feared it was just my issue. I think we are all entirely too critical of ourselves in general and food definitely doesn’t need to be an area where we add to that critique!  Food should be about enjoyment and nourishment for your body, not a source of torture and guilt.  I talk to clients all of the time about not giving food too much power!  Making sure they are staying in control or getting that control back!  Well, guess what?? I need to follow my own advice.  I’ve been giving food way too much power and slipping into some really bad habits recently that I’m not liking. The important thing for all of us to recognize is that (a) it’s going on and (b) we can do something about it!  I don’t know why this article helped to spark that realization that we all “suffer” will some food issues…how could we not?  Our current culture and society almost makes it too easy for us to have some type of “disordered” eating.  There is always a “new” way of eating, “the best” things to put in your body, the “must have” eating plan for getting a flat stomach. Jumping from one thing to the next, without allowing our body to even adapt, let alone see if it does help us feel better, we end up feeling worse when we “finish” than when we started. So…

Let’s stop the trend.

Let’s start loving ourselves again.

Let’s use food as nourishment to make us a better version of ourselves!

I realize this is MUCH easier said than done, and I’m not going to pretend like it happens over night, but it starts with treating yourself well and thinking positive thoughts.  Take a moment before eating to ask if whatever food is going to nourish you and make you a better version of yourself. An idea from Michelle May’s book on mindful eating essentially says, you want to come out of meals feeling better than when you went into the meal.  With that type of guideline, it is so helpful to make sure we are putting good IN, so we can get good OUT!

What are your thoughts on this article? Does anyone find themselves constantly trying the latest and greatest craze but then feeling down about it and worse than when you started?

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