We live in a society where many people tend to gravitate toward “black and white thinking” and extremes. The health and wellness industries are inundated with examples of extremism in many forms. Everyday a new headline pronounces a certain food as “bad and ruining our health,” while promoting another food and praising it’s “amazing benefits.”
The lists of proclaimed “superfoods” and “harmful foods” seem to change on a weekly basis- leading many people to be confused as to the mixed messages they are receiving. Since there is so much information out there, why don’t we just debunk a few myths?
MYTH 1: Food is just fuel.
You may have seen some of the popular memes floating around which proclaim that “food is just fuel.” Yes it is. But it is also joy, pleasure, and fun! Healthy eating is a pattern not a rule.
Food is a part of so many social and bonding experiences. Food does give your body energy (a calorie is a unit of energy, not something to be feared!). However, you also deserve to be able to enjoy and savor your food.
MYTH 2: Your nutrition is a reflection of your goodness.
We’ve all heard someone gripe, “I ate a brownie. I was so bad today.”
Food isn’t “good” or “bad.” The reality is that all foods in moderation can fit into a healthy diet. Further, what you choose to eat does not determine your inherent value or worth as a human being. The only reason to feel guilty for eating a brownie is if you stole it from the store.
MYTH 3: You shouldn’t eat after 7 pm.
The idea that you shouldn’t eat later in the evening is a pretty prevalent nutrition myth.
Our metabolism keeps running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Arbitrary rules (like telling yourself when to stop eating) create fear and a sense that you cannot be trusted with food. Consistently fueling your body every few hours- especially when hungry-will allow you to feel your best and keep you from needing rules like this one! So when your tummy grumbles before heading to bed, eat some crackers then rest easy.
MYTH 4: Chocolates/cookies are bad for your health.
We’ve all seen those “foods you should avoid at all costs” lists floating around the Internet. Desserts like chocolates or cookies are often considered to be “off-limits” by dieters or people who want to be “healthy.” However, the idea that you have to avoid desserts and sweets to be “healthy” is not altogether true.
There is no single food that will improve or worsen your health (unless were talking rotten foods – definitely stay away from that). All foods provide a different nutrient profile and serve a different purpose.
Further, mental health is an important part of one’s overall health. I think we can all agree that being terrified to eat a cookie is not mentally healthy. Rather than focusing on extremes and “food rules,” aim for balance, variety, and flexibility.
MYTH 5: You don’t need to diet, you just need to eat clean.
There are some people who agree that diets can be harmful (and don’t result in sustainable weight loss for the vast majority of people), but who promote the idea of “clean eating” as the answer to health and happiness.
But, eating clean is a diet, as is any other plan where you cut out food groups, limit foods that you love, or follow any other strict rules. Labeling foods as good (clean) and bad is not helpful and can end up causing harm when we impose these food judgments on.
At this point you might be feeling confused as to how you can work towards feeling great in your body and satisfied/nourished by your food choices. If you are struggling with chronic dieting and food fear, work to ditch the food rules and reconnect with your body’s innate wisdom. If you are having trouble doing this on your own, it might be helpful to reach out to a registered dietitian.
Real Life Nutrition offers real plans for real people. We do not believe in starving, minimizing, eliminating or punishing. You are YOUnique, you nutrition plan should be too.
If you want to stop the yo-yo dieting and being inundated by quick weight loss fads, Get Real With Jess. Let’s work together to be the best version of you!
After all, life is just too short for food rules, chronic dieting, and self-hate.