“Nutrition is so confusing, I don’t know what to eat!”
You want to improve your health with food. That should be simple, right? But then you crack open a couple wellness books and read a few health blogs and suddenly your head goes spinning:
Will going gluten free improve my energy?
If I drink celery juice will my digestion problems disappear?
Karen told me a detox shake fixed her hormones, should I try that?
Will keto or intermittent fasting make me lose weight?
Will GAPS, SCD, or AIP heal me? I just don’t know what to do!
If you’re overwhelmed by the health world, you’re not doing anything wrong.
Confusion and frustration are inevitable in a world where food is blamed as both the cause of every illness and the cure-all.
When the solution becomes the problem…
Every day, I help clients who have struggled with food problems their whole lives. Some of them have had eating disorders, struggled with binging, or tried every weight loss diet under the sun. Others have more food sensitivities than there are letters in the alphabet.
No matter what their food challenges, they share something in common: they look at other people who eat “normally” and wonder if that’s ever possible for them. They’re tired of obsessing about food 24/7, and want to spend their time and energy in other areas.
They want food to fix their problems… but food has become their biggest problem.
If that resonates with you, here are 6 general principles to consider.
1. YOUR BODY KNOWS HOW TO NOURISH YOU.
Life in all its splendor is Mother Nature obeyed. — Dr. Weston Price
In the 1930’s, a dentist named Dr. Weston Price traveled the globe to discover the secrets of the healthiest people. He went to the Inuit in Alaska to the Maori in New Zealand to the Masai in Africa. He found found that tribal people who ate the diet of their ancestors not only had perfect teeth, but had pristine health. They enjoyed lives virtually free of infertility, hormone problems, birth defects, and degenerative disease.
Most surprisingly, he measured the nutrient profiles of these traditional diets. These tribes ate wildly different foods based on their geography. Yet when Dr. Price looked at the nutrient levels, he found incredible similarities. These cultures all landed on the optimal diet for the human body not by measuring and counting nutrients, but because they LISTENED TO THEIR BODIES (1).
Here’s the good news: That same inner wisdom remains within the human body, and is within YOU right now.
Often, we need to get away from the noise of the nutrition world to hear the wisdom of our bodies.
2. NUTRITION SCIENCE DOESN’T HAVE A GREAT TRACK RECORD.
The moment you know that you do not know is the moment you open yourself to true knowing. — Eric Schiffman
In the 1950’s, nutrition researcher Ansel Keys popularized his theory that saturated fat increased the risk of heart disease. Although his research was sparse and cherry-picked, Keys’ Diet-Heart Hypothesis gained popularity. Political and financial influences, including the U.S. government, jumped on board to promote this problematic theory.
Soon, the United States turned en-masse to a low-fat diet. Even though fat intake dropped, the rates of chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease, climbed steadily. Decades later, we backtracked on 50 years of nutrition science, realizing we were wrong all along (1).
We’re repeating this pattern today, in countless and unforeseen ways.
For example, we clamor about the “obesity epidemic,” even though we have no research that obesity causes disease or shortens lifespan (although correlation exists), and no evidence that dieting for weight loss actually works. As with the war on saturated fat, the associations informing public policy and nutrition education are rife with financial bias (2).
Nutrition science often perpetuates myths long before it challenges those myths.
Can nutrition research be helpful to our health? Absolutely! But is it wise to put our faith in solely in mainstream nutrition science, when it has such a problematic track record? Nope.
3. IF YOU’RE SELF-MEDICATING WITH FOOD, CHANGE YOUR LIFE INSTEAD OF THE FOOD.
Rather than take away someone’s medicine, instead remove the conditions that make the medicine necessary. — Charles Eisenstein
We can turn food into a coping mechanism in a myriad of ways, including emotional eating, binging, boredom eating, anorexia, and other forms of disordered eating. Willpower usually fails to solve these issues.
Why? Unless we address the emotional/psychological/mental/spiritual conditions that create the need for self-medication, we’ll go back to coping with food or develop a different — but equally problematic — coping mechanism.
Clients come to me with food issues, but we work at larger level. Typically, I’ll talk to a client about food for only a few minutes, and spend the rest of our session addressing the life issues that make their food habits necessary.
4. PLEASURE IS CRITICAL NOURISHMENT AND OFTEN A MISSING INGREDIENT.
North Americans associate food most with health and least with pleasure. The French are at the opposite extreme: they are the most pleasure-oriented and the least health-oriented about food. — Karen Le Billon
Clients often come to me with an all-or-nothing approach to sugar and treats. “If I let myself eat one piece of cake, I’ll go off the rails and binge.” This approach hasn’t been sustainable in the long-term, because their willpower regularly runs out and leads to searing guilt and self-bullying thoughts.
They also find themselves overeating “allowable” treats, be those keto-friendly cookies or stevia sweetened pudding (“They don’t taste great but it’s the closest I allow myself to get to dessert,”).
This pattern tends to occur with those who don’t trust pleasure elsewhere in their lives. Often, they’re denying themselves relaxation, play, sensuality, and/or creative expression without realizing it.
If we fear the pleasure food brings us, then we make food choices with willpower — an entirely unsustainable approach. I teach my clients to make food choices based on Pleasure Navigation, and help them bring more pleasure into all areas of their life. This opens the doors to healing one’s relationship with food.
5. EATING TO CONTROL WEIGHT TENDS TO BACKFIRE.
No matter what you weigh, dieting is ruining your metabolism and your ability to listen to your body. Caroline Dooner
It’s really hard to have a healthy relationship with food when you’re using it to change your body size or shape.
Dieting is when you restrict the type or amount of food you consume to lose weight. This includes low-carb diets, keto, and intermittent fasting when pursued with the hope of weight loss. Contrary to conventional wisdom (again), dieting rarely improves health markers, weight, or body acceptance.
In fact, literature shows that many people gain back more weight after diets, because eating under our appetite automatically slows metabolic rate. 95% of diets fail, not because the individuals did something wrong, but because their bodies did everything right. Sensing a famine, our bodies hold onto weight and trigger obsession about off-limit foods (3). When we pit our willpower against our bodies’ evolutionary wisdom, our bodies win.
So what’s the alternative? How do we achieve food peace, health, and body satisfaction without restricting food?
We can achieve all those through intuitive eating, which is what I teach my clients. This approach allows us to tune into our bodies wisdom. Binging disappears and eating becomes a relaxing, easy experience.
Weight loss may or may not happen, and it’s not the goal. I know, it can be scary to relinquish control around our weight. But have you ever truly been in control of it? Haven’t you tried cutting out carbs enough times to realize that it’s never been sustainable and it never will be?
6. THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO IMPROVE HEALTH.
When one is pretending, the entire body revolts. — Anais Nin
Clients come to me to heal their relationship with food, and many of them tell me the same thing when we first talk:
“I feel like I’ve tried everything. It’s not working, and I don’t know what to do next.”
Some of them have tried every diet under the sun to lose weight. Others struggle with autoimmune symptoms, digestive problems, and food sensitivities no matter how they tweak their diet.
In both situations, they’ve tried everything within their present paradigm… but they haven’t tried out a new paradigm.
Those struggling with their weight haven’t tried a paradigm where they learn to trust their bodies and eat intuitively, instead of chasing weight loss. They also haven’t tried an approach that focuses on emotional literacy skills, so food doesn’t have to be a coping mechanism.
As for those who struggle with food sensitivities, they haven’t tried a paradigm where food obsession is the problem, not the solution. They haven’t tried out the belief that food doesn’t fix everything.
Some data suggests that health behaviors and genetics account for only a quarter of health differences between people. Societal/community influences, environment, and medical care have the biggest impact (4). This means societal and policy change is needed, as well as a consideration of other lifestyle changes within our reach.
I help my clients make the life changes that allow them to achieve healing that was impossible within their old paradigm. Those changes can include speaking their truth, accepting their body, finding their purpose, breaking off toxic relationships, prioritizing fun and play, healing sexual trauma, and ditching chronic busyness… to name a few!
These routes can, sometimes, be much more effective than an extreme diet. But it may feel more familiar to do the diet because that only requires you to change your pantry… not your mindset.
If you’re in the place where you feel like you’ve tried everything but you’re still stuck, then it’s a good indication it’s time to try new instead of trying harder.
GROUP AND PRIVATE COACHING TO HEAL YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD
As a Body Connection Coach, I help men and women who’ve struggled with food issues their whole life. After working with me, they finally trust themselves around food. They’re able to focus their energy elsewhere and feel a weight lifted from their shoulders.
No matter how fraught your relationship with food, it is possible to eat normally, feel confident in your body, and be relaxed around food.
If you’re interested in my support, you can apply for a free breakthrough call with me.
On the call, I’ll get clear on your situation and give you a step-by-step action plan to heal your relationship with food.
I look forward to talking with you!