The long battle with defining and labelling what may or may not be ‘healthy’ is fraught with opposing philosophies that often require a deeper look into the basis of recommendations. While there is no one size fits all approach, there are some favorites in terms of broad recommendations that have stood the test of time. You may have heard about long term or longitudinal studies which is a term used lend weight to research that goes beyond the results that may be expected with short term eating patterns. I can say that in all my years of practice I have never had a client ask for short term results – i.e. “I want to lose a lot of weight for just a short amount of time so that I can spend a lifetime gaining and losing weight.” So, for just a moment, let us take the focus off any specific weight goal. In a comprehensive nutritional assessment, weight may be used as one of many measures. I encourage clients to consider some of the following: energy, strength, fit of clothing, ability to engage in activities, relationships with other people, laboratory values, overall dietary intake, blood pressure, blood glucose (sugar), and our relationship with food within our daily lives.
If you had to compare your relationship with food to a movie, which movie would best describe your relationship with food? Is it a Nicholas Sparks movie that stands the test of time where we consider food our one true love? Is it a Steven King movie where we feel powerless against a force of evil? Are you swirling down the path of countless “documentaries” that all claim to provide you with that one true ‘miracle’ that some villain has kept from you? I enjoy a good movie but there are ones that will become classics and favorites while there are others that should be taken as the fictitious creations they represent. How we view our relationship with food does play a role in many of our food choices. One of my challenges is helping people remove the guilt, morality, and judgement of our food choices. I remember giving in to a craving for taquitos a couple of hours before my triathlon swim training. I was much slower and did not feel as much energy on my swim. I know my meal had an impact. The important thing for me was to move on and enjoy the day (and the meal). The lesson was that while I made a choice to have something that wasn’t ‘healthy’ it was still something that I could enjoy but just not on any future race days. Even if I did perform poorly on race day, I remind myself that I don’t have a Nike sponsorship on the line.
Imagine if you gave yourself the freedom to adopt a healthful lifestyle that included foods that you enjoy, foods that your body needs, and foods that you never thought could be a part of a healthy lifestyle? Yes, this would exclude any items that would be harmful for any physiological reason which is where individualized nutrition therapy would play a role. Before me one day was a woman who made the decision to not have cake on her birthday. She is a home baker and loves cake. When I asked her why she did not enjoy a piece of cake, she responded with her truth that she would not have a ‘piece of cake’ but she would ‘eat the whole cake’ if it was in her home. Solution – order yourself a slice of cake when you eat out or just buy a slice of cake to take home. I am aware of late night emotional eating that plagues many hardworking people. But the addition of guilt and judgement may have changed that bowl of ice cream to several bowls of ice cream.
The message: Healthy food relationships are not tied to morality, strict rules, judgement, or fear-based principles. Is your relationship with food in a good place? Does it nourish you or does it abuse you?