Being a competent eater instead of eliminating food groups.
When I was at the Circles of Change Conference to speak, Carolyn Hodges Chaffee MS, RDN, CEDRD shared the below graphic which is an example of what happens when your restrict yourself from the food you need.
Which got me thinking about how people today are so conflicted about how to eat. People are eliminating particular foods from their life under the guise of “i’m being healthy” and not realizing the impact it could have…increase in depression, obsessive & compulsive thoughts, anxiety, and uncomfortable GI side effects. And, it’s worth mentioning again that dieting is one of the top risk factors for ED development.
Every day (even outside of counseling clients) I hear someone mention how they are eliminating “x food group” from their life. And I get it. By eliminating a food group they don’t have to think. Having a black and white rule that says, “you can’t eat ‘x'” gives one a (false) confidence that they can prevent their body from being the size it’s meant to be and keep them from getting chronic diseases. Diet culture also likes to make people feel they are informed or taking care of their health if they are eliminating something from their eating pattern. My problem with eating patterns that eliminate an entire food group is shown in the graphic below.
Eliminating food groups may work for a bit until your primal instinct to nourish your body with all food groups takes over, causing you to overeat the food group or food you have been avoiding. What is more sustainable than eliminating foods/food group is becoming a competent eater.
Being a competent eater means…
- you can have oreos in your house and don’t have to eat an entire row of them in one sitting. You can have 4-6ish with a glass of milk and be satisfied. If you grew up in a home where you weren’t allowed to have certain foods, it may be tricky in the beginning to have ALL foods in your house without overeating eating them. You may feel you need the support of a non-diet dietitian to bring ALL foods back into your life in a nourishing way.
- you don’t feel insane around carbs because you eat all food groups at every meal and don’t villainize any of them.
- you don’t feel obsessive around certain foods because you are nourishing your body with meals and snacks throughout the day.
- you eat a variety of foods and allow your body to find the size that is right for you.
- you give yourself opportunities to learn. With intuitive eating, it’s like you are aiming for a target. Sometimes you land above the target and end up overly full. Other times you land below the target and aren’t fully satisfied by your meal. Instead of being judgmental, be curious about if you would like to take care of your body differently next time you eat at that restaurant or make that dish. Maybe you decide overeating added joy to that day and you wouldn’t change anything about it. That’s fine too, as long as eating isn’t your only coping mechanisms for managing stress.
- you delete My Fitness Pal from your phone so you can begin to shift from calorie counting (external control of what you eat) to listening to your body (internal awareness of what/how/why you eat).
Just a note: doing Whole30 or some other trendy eating plan doesn’t teach you how to be a competent eater. Those trendy eating plans just teach you how to restrict. Sure you may feel better if you are taking time to think out and cook meals with whole foods while on Whole30. But that doesn’t mean you have to eliminate other foods or that your body can’t process certain foods. (To read a great post on why Whole30 isn’t fabulous…go here.)
Cook some at home. Eat out when you have a craving or it’s convenient. Eat “fun” foods/desserts regularly (i.e. everyday) so you don’t feel deprived and therefore obsessed with them. Tune into the satisfaction factor. Notice when your intentions for eating shift from finding fullness to covering up a negative emotion. Boom. Those last 5 sentences sound way better than Whole30 restriction to me.
Something Robyn and I have talked about is that you still get the health benefits of eating fruits and veggies even if you are eating desserts and literally ALL other foods as well. Society puts out this message of your eating pattern having to be all or nothing, which is just ridiculous.
So what questions or thoughts do you have on this topic? Would love to get a good discussion going. I imagine some people have positive things to say about Whole30 and I’m open to hearing your thoughts since you let me share mine;)