Okay – I’ve had it. Enough is enough. I am putting flowers in my hair and protesting the Diet Wars that seem to be gripping the world. You can send me as many white feathers as you like, but I am bowing out. I am happy with my existence and to hell with those who are pushing their dietary power play upon me.
Because lately it seems every time I open my instagram or facebook feed I am confronted by a new way of eating that is so much better than the old way. Or someone trying to debunk or degrade someone else’s views on wellness and how to achieve it. It’s a blood bath out there.
“Eat more coconut oil”.
“You’re eating too much coconut oil”.
“Get your calcium from milk”.
“No, milk must be raw to be healthy”.
“Are you kidding – you get your calcium from greens”.
“Have kale with every meal, juice and snack”.
“DON’T EAT KALE RAW – ARE YOU NUTS?”
It’s enough to make your head spin.
This new conversation doesn’t just scare me but it saddens me. Food is turning into an exercise of obsession, control, comparison and (at the root of them all) fear. And I feel that social media is driving this food confusion, and it’s drunk at the wheel.
The most recent example has been a headline grabbing spat between the King of the Paleo, celebrity chef Pete Evans, and well-known Aussie dietician Susie Burrell. Susie posted an image on her facebook page recommending a certain breakfast drink as a good option for children. Pete disagreed thusly sharing his opinion on his Facebook page. She slung a snarky article back after receiving some fairly savage abuse from Pete’s tribe (Peleibers?). They got into a gluten-free bun fight and it literally made worldwide headlines and confused/enraged/irritated everyone, even though they both raised really valid points.
Susie argued that Pete wasn’t qualified to share advice about health which indirectly (and I am sure unintentionally) implies that you need to be a qualified dietitian to promote healthy choices or to make your own.
And Pete squashed Susie who was really providing just a best-of-a-bad-bunch scenario for people that still choose to consume packaged foods.
And both of them were probably defensive due to the constant barrage of diverging opinions that they cop on the daily regarding what the perfect nutritional formula is.
And regardless of who you side with, I think we can all agree that this sort of bickering is doing nothing to empower us to take control of our own health. Because at the moment it all seems too damn hard.
We have to eat every day for the rest of our lives: lets not make every mouthful a war! Food – and the life that surrounds it – is to be enjoyed.
Before I continue I’d like to point out that this article is not about what way of eating is right or wrong. Do you know why? Because there is no right or wrong way of eating. Within reason. Subsisting solely off donuts for example, is not ideal; though I am sure someone has made it work somewhere (in fact his name is Homer J). But as long as you eat a diet predominantly made up of whole foods then you are probably going to do alright.
- Japan is a nation of long-lived people who have a diet that is heavy on rice, seafood and soy.
- Inuits largely exist off a meat-diet including whale blubber, seal and caribou.
- Sardinians (another region renowned for its measurably longer lived people) live off pork and red wine.
- Mexicans devour high fat calorie diets packed with corn, beans and avocado.
- The Massai in Africa traditional include cow blood in their (extremely healthy) diets for Pete’s sake!
Traditionally, though the diets are very different, when they are made of whole foods the people that consume them thrive. And given that we are all the same species of mammal it could be argued that we could all make most diets work for us.
“Healthy” is not a one size fits all.
What we eat is not the point here. The point is that beating ourselves up about what we eat is certainly not the answer. Beating others up for their choices ain’t either. And I am concerned that we are passing on some really disordered behaviours to the children and teenagers that are watching us intently.
Not to mention our peers. I cannot tell you how many women I have spoken to recently who mention feelings of inadequacy because every single meal that they eat isn’t a plate of biodynamically grown vegetables foraged under a full moon by chanting vegan virgins.
The Dogma Free Diet
So how do we stay resolute yet informed about nutrition in the face of so much goddamn information and opinion?
It’s simple: we stop caring about guilt-loaded diet dogma and we tune into our own intuition.
Since I have forced myself (partly out of stubbornness) food has become so much more enjoyable and health has become so much easier. Here’s a few tips;
Turn inward and actively learn
It’s a pretty brilliant problem to have really, that we are given too much information. We can extrapolate what we want from the universes of available data and play.
Continue to read and absorb and develop and nurture your knowledge about wellness and nutrition. The knack is to not just blindly adopt. Question. Try different ways of eating. Experiment with foods and habits.
I will use the example of Paleo-ism (as it’s totes trendy, ammiright?). When you remove all grains from you diet do you feel energised or drained? Does it make you thrive and feel empowered or does it leave you so stressed out that you end up throwing the towel in and eating an entire loaf of bread with a 100% crouton side salad? How do you feel?
Learning isn’t just reading. Learning is understanding not only a concept but where you fit within it.
As I spoke about over here stressing about what we eat literally disables your digestion. Honestly if you are sitting there cringing and crying about eating a bit of chocolate how do you think your body is going to assimilate that? I’ll give you a clue; not well!
We need to enjoy what we are eating to stoke our digestive fire. It’s why our mouth waters – our bodies are literally getting primed to dissolve and absorb food.
So while you shouldn’t be drinking salted caramel by the vat just because it makes your mouth water you should also not be existing solely off spirulina paste on a dehydrated carrot because of it’s sainted health merits!
Remove limitations, forgive yourself if you eat “bad” food and if you are going to eat something – savour it.
If Social Media makes you feel shit… unfollow it!
It’s not just the perfect diet that social media is pushing upon us; we’re also force-fed a cultural ideal of beauty. Tanned women with mile-long legs are very attractive, yes, but they certainly aren’t the only representation of beauty. So if you are not 6 foot tall and tanned and all you see are celebration of that, it is possibly going to get a little disheartening.
When I first joined instagram I noticed a drastic decline in the opinion towards my body. “Why don’t I look like everyone else with their perfect lithe yoga bodies” I thought. Then I realised that the everyone else I was referring to were literally supermodels. If you hung me upside down from the ceiling for 6 years feeding my only wafers I would not achieve a body so long and slim.
So I changed my focus. I unfollowed poor ol’ Miranda Kerr (I bet she noticed I was gone too) because I realised I didn’t look at her for any other reason than her physical appearance and that’s also kinda icky. Instead I started following people that encouraged me to love my curvaceous body. I followed interesting people that inspired me. I’m talking @climbfree, @clarebowditch and @yummololaberry.
If you feel bad every time you look at something – stop looking at it.
And my promise to you.
I promise that what you find on these blog walls will always be positive and dogma free.
My mission is to empower myself (and anyone else that will listen) to listen to their bodies, eat real food and fall in love with good vibes.
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Are ya with me? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!