Be Your Own Nutrition Expert
I find myself fascinated by this age of #lifehack and the quest for self-optimization. While this pursuit often skips over the (very) important first step, #selfacceptance, it is interesting to consider all the ways that we might target behaviors and daily actions to yield intended outcomes that help us be better. Often recommendations are made by “gurus” who try to convince us that they know (better than we do!) exactly what it is we should be eating to achieve our own personal balance. And with the rise in weight-related chronic health conditions, food intolerances/allergies, and a deluge of conflicting information about how to manage all of them, it’s no wonder people are confused and #nutritionhacks are popping up everywhere. People want answers, “what should I eat?”
As a nutritionist, I’ve bared witness to the repercussions of a 66 billion dollar diet industry, pushing frozen dinners and promises (lose 20 pounds in 7 days!) that has created fear and frustration around food, weight and body image. In an ideal world, we would move often, eat lots of fresh, whole, plant-based foods, when we are hungry, stopping when we are full. We would be our own nutrition experts and assess foods and diet patterns for the ways they do (and don’t!) help us thrive, now and for our future selves. Still, certain food patterns do seem to work better for some (e.g. I gravitate towards carbs, while others naturally seek out more protein).
So how do we find our answers?
It all starts with asking the right questions. Here are a few to start:
1. Can I sustain this eating pattern? Are meals fun and delicious? (Because they should be!)
2. How does this food (or meal) make me feel? Am I energized, clear-headed or lethargic, depressed, foggy, anxious? Am I crampy and bloated or is my GI system right on track? Approaching this systematically with a food journal can help here.
3. Does this approach push you to buy something (e.g. supplements, processed foods)?
4. Who is making the recommendation(s) and are they a credible source? What are the long term effects of this approach? Has its impact been well-studied over time (e.g. do eating patterns focusing on a lot of animal protein (namely red meat) have an impact on long term health, i.e. cancer risk)?
Sorting out these answers can take time, patience and a dedicated mindful eating practice but the payoff can be well worth it! My own personal journey and witnessing others on their paths has taught me just how important our general eating patterns can be in living a life filled with purpose, connection and growth. On Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, along with water and shelter, it’s the foundation on which we build our lives. Good food supports our energy, emotional, physical and spiritual health and ability to relate well to others - all necessary as we move along the path of self-actualization.
Seeking out the answers on how best to nourish ourselves may not be easy, but it could be the most rewarding journey we make.