5 Reasons Kale Isn’t “Good” and Cupcakes Aren’t “Bad”

 
Stop giving food moral labels. 

Take a moment and think about this: have you formed judgments about certain foods?

Deep down, do you believe spinach is “good” while cookies are “bad”?

It’s hard not to form certain beliefs about food (even unconsciously) living in a world where we are constantly exposed to diets and meal plans and cleanses.  

The snap judgments we make about food can be rooted in many past experiences. Our parents can impart the notion that foods are acceptable or unacceptable by forbidding certain foods in the house and allowing others. Perhaps a diet plan you adopted allowed certain foods (“good”) and prohibited others (“bad”). Or maybe you’ve read some of the (often conflicting) information about nutrition out there, which designated which foods “should” be either sought out or avoided. Even the term “clean eating” implies foods that don’t make the cut are unclean or “dirty.”

Many think that creating and maintaining constructs around food can set us up to make healthier choices. In fact, the opposite may be true.

Here are 5 reasons why no food is “good” or “bad” and labeling food in that way can be harmful:

1. Labeling leads to shame and guilt if we eat “bad” foods.

By thinking of food as good versus bad, we set ourselves up for feeling either obedient or guilty based on what we eat. While this may seem benign when we’re eating only the foods that have been deemed virtuous, it invites feelings of shame and guilt whenever we perceive that we’ve veered into the naughty zone. Guilt (or the avoidance thereof) may help a person stick to a diet in the short term. But eating and living based on guilt and avoidance is detrimental to mental health and wellbeing in the long run (and we know that diets don’t work anyway).

You are not “bad” because you ate french fries.

You are not “good” because you ate a salad.  

A person’s self-worth is not tied to what that person ate in a day. We are all inherently worthy of love and respect, regardless of what we eat. Labeling food as “bad” can lead us to cast the same moral judgment onto ourselves when we eat that food. That’s just one reason to let the labels go.

2. Labeling leads to fear even when eating “good” foods.

Even by eating only foods on our “good” list, we set our minds in a restrictive mode and live in a state of fear of doing something “bad” based on what we eat. It’s like we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop; when the temptation will just be too much to say “no” to something “bad.” In contrast, finding food freedom means listening to our inner wisdom about what we want to eat and when; not leaving it up to labels and rules.

The notion that only “good” foods deserve to be eaten also conveys a message that eating must be justified and explained (i.e. food must be “good” to be eaten or a person should only eat if they eat “good” food). This is false. You deserve to eat when you’re hungry, and you are entitled to have a range of experiences with different foods whether or not someone deems them "good" for you. 

3. Labeling over-simplifies nutrition.

I think we can all agree there is a LOT of information about food and nutrition out there, but much of it is confusing and/or conflicting. Nutrition isn’t a simple matter of “good” and “bad." Research is constantly being done on the health implications of the consumption of certain foods. And foods can cause very different reactions in different people: The same food item may make one person feel awful and make another person feel awesome.

One thing is for certain: No food is “healthy” in isolation. No one food on its own provides all the nutrients we need. And any food can be unhealthy if consumed in excess. If a person were to eat nothing but kale (often deemed “good” or “clean”), that person would become sick and malnourished.

Balance is key.  Variety is essential.

Openness to trying new things, and discovering the range of foods that make you feel best (and continuing to be open to discovery) will allow you to establish confidence that you know what is best for your body.

4. Labeling gives away your power.

Who decides which foods are "good" and which are "bad"? These are often arbitrary labels given by an external source. By accepting these standards defined by someone else, we allow decisions about our health and wellness to occur outside of us.

No one knows what foods are going to make you feel great better than you do. Don’t give away your authority to make choices that will only impact you. It could be that a cupcake makes you feel joyful or makes you feel icky. It could even depend on the day. You are entitled to the freedom to make the decision that is right for you at the time.

5. Labeling assumes food has a purely utilitarian purpose.

Food is fuel. But it is also much more than that. Food can have cultural roots and family ties. It can evoke feelings, emotions, and memories. It is the common thread in many shared experiences.

Think of some of the foods that are often demonized. The “bad” label is commonly slapped on many celebratory foods or drinks: birthday cake, wedding cake, cocktails, champagne, Halloween candy. Now think of the occasions during which these items are typically available: birthday parties, weddings, holidays, celebrations. Probably NOT the time you want to be feeling shame and guilt around your choices!

Enjoy the moment. Let the labels go.

***

What are your beliefs about the relative merits of various foods?

How could you shift your perspective to make choices from a desire to nourish yourself rather than to control yourself or be "good"?

 

 

How to Ditch Dieting and Find Your Ideal Weight: The Top 5 Questions Keeping You Stuck

 

Here it is: The fourth and final post in this series exploring how to get out of a diet and deprivation mindset and find your body’s ideal weight without restriction.

These topics are near and dear to my heart, and I sincerely hope you found the last three posts informative and uplifting.

We covered:

Have lingering questions?

To conclude, I’ll take on the top five inquiries I’ve encountered that keep people stuck in the diet cycle: fearing certain foods, terrified of gaining weight, judging what they eat, and doing things just because they think they “should” but not feeling satisfied.  (If you have questions of your own, don’t hesitate to ask!)

1. In light of all this anti-diet information, why are diets still promoted?

Because money is powerful, my friend. The weight loss industry is valued around $60 BILLION. That gives them a lot of financial weight to throw around to make you feel inadequate and to upsell their products as the solution. Not only that, weight loss and pharmaceutical companies have been devoting a lot of money to lobbying efforts influencing policy: the weight loss message runs deep. The perfect storm occurs when we are exposed to an “ideal” in the media, our insecurities are exploited, and then we are promised the “solution” in the form of weight loss or some other body alteration.

Here’s the sad truth: no one else profits monetarily from your self-love. You don’t see tons of advertisements telling you to accept yourself as you are because then, no one gets paid.

2. But don’t doctors recommend dieting and weight loss for "overweight" patients?

Yes, but one must also consider the paucity of education physicians receive in nutrition. The majority of medical schools do not require aspiring doctors to take any special courses in nutrition, and practicing physicians often express concern that their nutrition knowledge is insufficient

It may be out of this ignorance that doctors continue to prescribe dieting for weight loss and we continue to be told that being "overweight" itself is a “health concern.” More and more evidence points to the conclusion that weight alone is not a reliable indicator of health. In fact, a number of studies show the lowest mortality rates among people whose body mass index (BMI) puts them in the “overweight” and “mildly obese” categories. (Don't even get me started on the limitations of BMI calculations...) “Overweight” people generally live longer than “normal” weight people, and the lowest life expectancy is among those defined as “underweight.” And certainly a bigger “health concern” is the effect of yo-yo dieting, which can play a role in heart disease, insulin resistance (pre-diabetes), higher blood pressure, inflammation, and, ironically, long-term weight gain.

3. Don’t people become fat by overeating? And can’t they become thin by eating less?

It’s not that simple. In fact, many studies show that large people, on average, eat no more than thin people. (Linda Bacon, Health at Every Size). It’s simply that some people are genetically predisposed to store fat while others metabolize calories more efficiently.

If someone has put on weight by binge eating or emotional eating, dieting is certainly not the solution. Rather, that person’s relationship with food and other emotional concerns need to be addressed first, and her or his eating habits will hopefully become more natural and intuitive through the healing process.

4. By tuning into your body’s hunger cues and gravitating toward whole foods, aren’t you just subscribing to another type of “diet.”

Nope. While eating the foods that feel best for your body may cause you to seek out foods prescribed by one diet or another, this way of eating will be coming from a different place. You’re listening to your body, not the mandate of an external authority on what foods are best. And, because you’re making choices that make you feel good, you’ll actually enjoy and sustain this pattern of eating.

The best part? There are no hard and fast rules here! No particular food is off-limits. There is no need to secretly binge on Ben & Jerry’s with the lights off because you can eat as much as your body is craving.

5. Doesn’t being "overweight" or "obese" lead to [insert diseases]?

The causal link between "obesity" and various diseases has been exaggerated. “Many ‘obese’ people are healthy and don’t suffer from the diseases that we tend to blame on weight, and a considerable proportion of ‘normal weight’ people are prone to the cardiac and metabolic abnormalities that we blame on obesity.” (Linda Bacon, Health at Every Size).

It is more likely that the diseases we blame on "obesity" stem from poor nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle, and/or chronic stress. These factors may also cause some (but not all) people to gain weight. In other words, weight gain is likely a symptom of other causes that lead to the diseases we’ve associated with obesity. So it's those causes that should be addressed, rather than focusing on weight.

Again, dieting is not the solution: studies have failed to link weight loss to improved cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood glucose levels. For example, a review of multiple weight loss studies “examine[d] whether weight-loss diets lead to improved cholesterol, triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose” and concluded: “Across all studies, there were minimal improvements in these health outcomes, and none of these correlated with weight change.”

Using size as a proxy for health is a lazy and inaccurate approach that causes larger people to suffer social oppression and body shaming for no legitimate reason.

Let’s get a little more accurate for everyone’s benefit, shall we?

*  *  *

Now you may know all these things intellectually...

But when you truly embrace and live out a life free from dieting and restriction, you can start to get on with your life.

When you stop focusing on weight loss, you create space to find your ideal weight.

Let me show you how.  

Through my 1:1 coaching, I can help you:

  • Break negative thought patterns keeping you stuck in the same defeating cycles of restricting and overeating.

  • Start to love the foods that love you back: those that make you feel energized and allow you to function optimally.

  • Stop tying your self-worth to your physical appearance or eating habits.

  • Learn to embrace physical activity (which is far more crucial to longevity and well-being than your size), and move your body from a place of self-love not punishment.

  • Make health-promoting lifestyle changes because you want to, not because you “should.”

  • Find and maintain the weight that is optimal for your unique makeup.

Want to learn more about how I can best support you? Let’s find some time to chat! Click here to book a FREE 30-minute Discovery Call with me.

 

 

How to Ditch Dieting and Find Your Ideal Weight (Part Three)

 

You now know that dieting can be detrimental to your wellbeing and hell, diets don’t work anyway!

We’re now on part three of this series devoted to letting go of the diet cycle and finding the weight that is right for your unique self. A brief run-down if you missed the first two posts:

STEP ONE: Get the Facts.

There’s a fact pivotal to weight management that I find few people know about: the concept of “set point.”

Every person's body is pre-programmed to stay within a certain weight range (known as that person's set point). Your body is constantly working to defend your set point, in large part to protect you from starvation. This was great news for our hunter-gatherer ancestors who were unable to plan where their next meal would come from. No food for a day? No problem: the body would just slow down its processes and use as little energy as possible. Dieting mimics starvation, triggering the same reaction (slowed metabolism, increased fat storage,etc.). So if you’re on a diet and trying to drag your weight below your set point range, your body is going fight against the weight loss you’re going through misery to achieve. This is likely why more than 95% of dieters gain back any weight lost within five years. Not to mention that dieting can wreak complete havoc on your mental state. 

Not. Worth. It.

So what is your unique “set point”? If you can, think back to a time before you put your body through various diets; a time you were physically active and ate a balanced diet. Your weight naturally hovered around a certain number, right? Voila, that’s probably your set point!

But maybe you can’t remember a time you were diet-free. Or maybe you’ve spent a long time living a sedentary lifestyle or subsisting on fast food and Coke (no judgies, I’ve been there), so it’s impossible to discern what your natural set point might be. Sustained unhealthy lifestyle choices, as well as a pattern of yo-yo dieting, can certainly cause a person’s body weight to get out of whack. But you can get your weight back to where is supposed to be through Step Two!

STEP TWO: Tune into Yourself.  

Respect your hunger signals, move your body, identify and seek out the foods that are nourishing and make you feel good, and let go of trying to control everything. Discovering how to eat and move intuitively and with your highest self in mind will lead you to your natural, ideal weight (and if you need help with this discovery process, I would love to support you!).

Now let’s address the elephant in the room:

What if your set point is troublesome to you? What if you can’t seem to come to terms with the size your body wants to be: you think you should be smaller? Even if you have an intellectual understanding that diets don’t work, it can be difficult to give up attachment to a goal weight that your body just isn’t meant to sustain. How do you get past this point?

STEP THREE: Challenge Societal Standards & Create Your Own Values

First, don’t beat up on yourself if you’ve internalized the thin ideal: it is completely understandable in our size-obsessed culture where we are constantly fed the myth that our worthiness is dependent on the lightness of our being.

The link between thin and all other good things is ubiquitous. We rarely see anything else. Think about the body sizes you have been exposed through in media depictions that are supposed to mimic real life (movies, TV shows, etc.): There is a glaring absence of body diversity in the stories we see. And the less conventionally attractive characters we do see are usually there playing a side role or for comedic effect, not in the leading role. [Edit: I tried to find a stock photo depicting diverse body types to accompany this blog post and was hard-pressed to do so, reinforcing my own point!].

In real life not everyone has a body that is meant to be super lean, and that is more than okay.

Why do we accept society’s skewed standards and try to change ourselves with diets and “detox cleanses” and exercises we hate instead of challenging the unrealistic ideal? Rather than seeing diets for what they are (deprivation and misery with a failure rate over 95%), we construe the failure of our diets as evidence of a personal failure, reinforcing the belief that we are unworthy.

It’s time to say enough.

You can be a champion for body acceptance by taking on a new outlook where you refuse to measure your worth by your waistline.

It starts with accepting yourself entirelyyour body includedwhere you are right now.

If this seems too hard, know that I’m not asking you to be head over heels in love with your body all of a sudden. Perhaps there is an aspect of yourself you absolutely despise right now. That’s ok! You just need to be open to making peace with those feelings and not letting your body image demons control your life.

It's a process. I certainly still have days where I catch my own reflection, take note of a wrinkle, or tummy roll, or a varicose vein and think: “man, that isn’t ideal.” But the difference is that these thoughts no longer ruin my day like they used to. I now know how to snap myself out of the negativity and get on with life.

Life doesn’t begin five pounds from now. It’s already happening. While you’re obsessing over wishing you were thinner or wanting to change your [insert body part], the world is still spinning.

Only by accepting where you are now, can you make the most of the time you have on this earth.

The world needs more of you. You have something special and unique to offer (something no one else has), and you’re depriving everyone of that magic if you’re obsessing over your weight instead!

You are so much more than your body. Your unique perspective, kindness, integrity, courage, authenticity: these things mean so much more than whether you wear a size 2.

Societal standards be damned: you can define your own worth.

And baby, you are worthy.

Want to continue on this journey? My Three Steps to Spark Body Confidence mini-course will give you the first foundational steps to rocking a body you love. You’ll learn what to do when body-conscious thoughts arise, how to how to stop those self-sabotaging thoughts in their tracks, and a new way to view your body in a positive light: through a lens of gratitude and appreciation. Click here to find out more.

 

 

How to Ditch Dieting and Find Your Ideal Weight (Part Two)

 

Looking to end the defeating diet cycle and find your ideal weight without deprivation?

If you read Part One in this series, you now have some insight into why dieting can make a person feel kind of awful, both physically and mentally (if you didn’t read last week’s post, catch it here). Our bodies do not respond well to deprivation, and limiting our caloric intake can lead to obsessing about food, binge eating when food is available, social isolation, and even depression.

Now what if I told you diets don’t work anyway? You’d be pretty mad right? If you experienced any of the above-mentioned misery, it would be quite infuriating to be told it was for naught. When I look back at the grief I caused myself to be X pounds lighter or to try to address [insert perceived “issue” with my body], it makes me pretty sad and, frankly, pissed off. 

So go ahead, get angry. Because I’m telling the truth: Diets don’t work in the long term.

If they did, why would we be sold so many of them? Why would we try one, have it fail us, then be told the next one is the answer? Don’t you think we would have gotten to the bottom of what "works" by now?  

“Not one study has ever shown that diets produce long-term weight loss for any but a tiny number of dieters. Not one.”  (Linda Bacon, Health at Every Size)

The key is in the phrase “long term.” Sure you can lose weight for a few months by restricting your calorie intake and exercising like a maniac (shows like “The Biggest Loser” exploit this potential). But it is highly unlikely you’ll be able to keep the weight off through dieting. The statistics don’t lie: Somewhere between 95%-97% of dieters gain back any weight they lost on their diets within five years, and often gain back more. 

Why don’t diets work?

Here’s a fact that is hard for many people to digest (it was for me at first): Your body is essentially pre-programmed to live at a certain size, known as your “set point.” Some people are biologically prone to live in bigger bodies while others have naturally smaller frames. No one questions that humans fall on a spectrum of height (some are shorter, some taller) due to factors outside our control. The same principal applies to weight: There is a weight range that is natural for your body given your unique genetic makeup, bone structure, hormones, metabolism, and other factors.

Your body fights to defend its natural size: If your weight gets below your set point range, your body is going to do everything in its power to try to get it back, including by slowing your metabolism, increasing your hunger cravings (especially for high-calorie foods), and decreasing your desire to be physically active. On the flip side, if your weight moves above your set point, your metabolism revs up and you may feel an urge to get moving.

That said, your body has a much stronger drive to hold onto weight than it does to let it go. This is because there is an evolutionary advantage to storing fat (to protect against famine or times of starvation), but there is not as strong of a benefit to being lean. (If you’ve ever wondered why it seems so much easier to gain weight than to lose it, now you know!)

The concept of set point impacts the “success” of dieting: As soon as your body weight dips below your set point range, your body starts fighting like hell to get back there. But this is a good thing: Your body is working properly to protect you and make sure you survive!

Now, all of this information is not to say that your current weight is necessarily your body’s “ideal” weight or set point. Our bodies (and our body weight) can get totally out of whack through unhealthy eating patterns, a diet of processed “food” lacking in nutrients, a sedentary lifestyle, or by—you guessed it—dieting.

Finding and maintaining the weight that is right for you can be done, and you can get there.  

That brings us to Step Two: Tune into your body.

By listening to your body, respecting its hunger and fullness signals, and identifying foods that make you feel good, you’ll be on target to find your body’s ideal weight without dieting.

Of course, this is easier said than done, especially if you can’t remember the last time you let yourself eat whatever you wanted without feeling guilty. Do you sometimes eat until you’re practically sick, feeling too stuffed to move? I can relate, and that is a classic symptom that you are out of touch with your body’s signals.

So how do you tune back in? Let’s start with an action step:

This week, take note of when you feel the desire to eat. Ask yourself: do you want to eat because you are hungry? Or is the desire to eat linked to experiencing an emotion (stress, boredom, sadness, etc.)?

If you’re hungry, honor that biological urge! Stop fighting your hunger signals and trust your body to tell you what it needs.

Remember: it’s a process. But the good thing is, you don’t need to go through it alone! As a health and wellness coach, I specialize in helping those who have lost touch with their bodies to tune into what they need. I would love to support you as you embark on your diet-free life.

Want to learn more about how I can best support you? Click here to book a FREE 30-minute Discovery Call, and let's chat!