I follow lots of health related Facebook and instagram sites, and have noticed recently that many have stepped up the extremes in relation to what and when we should and shouldn’t be eating and drinking, and how we should and shouldn’t be preparing such things.
For example, one site implores us to avoid all foods starting with P (think pizza, pasta, potatoes, processed foods) and another begs you to eat all your veges raw. Scroll down a tad further and find another site touting that all white foods are bad (sugar, bread, potatoes) and a little further still to discover that you should never combine starchy veges with protein. One site tells us that if we eat the right breakfast, then we shouldn’t be hungry until 7 hours later. Another site tells us to avoid at all costs the 5 foods doomed to make you fat, and then another says to eat more fat if we want to lose fat.
What a minefield!!!
The problem with extremes is that it feeds (pun intended) our stinky thinking, also known as cognitive distortions, which becomes yet another way to beat ourselves up for not being good enough. The main cognitive distortions that are activated with relation to ‘food rules’ are:
- All or nothing/black and white thinking: We label food as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, right or wrong. This rigid thinking causes us to label everything dichotomously, without any room for greys, and you can see how easily it would be to feel like a failure when unable to stick to “good” eating 100% of the time
- Should/shouldn’t statements: these create food rules that we may ultimately end up breaking, which leads to guilt, frustration, resentment, and self-hatred
- Catastrophising: this is where we create the worst case scenario, for example, “I had some sugar with my coffee so therefore I have ruined my entire healthy eating plan” which usually leads to a case of the ‘stuff it’s’, with one ‘bad’ food choice leading to a total dismissal of healthy living
Of course the other problem that these “extreme rules” creates is confusion. With so much conflicting information on nutrition and healthy eating, it’s no wonder people are confused about what to eat, when to eat, and how to eat. Something we are all born with – intuitive eating (cry when hungry, eat until full) has been taken away from us and we are left no longer trusting ourselves about what, when and how to eat. I’m all for bioindividuality, a term I first learned through my health coaching course through the institute for integrative nutrition, where one person’s food is another person’s poison, and I also believe we need to turn the dial up on intuitive eating to get the balance back between nutrition (knowledge-based eating) and intuition (feeling-based eating).
I watch my beautiful dog Charlie (pictured above) and he demonstrates the idea of intuitive eating so well. He walks up to his bowl when he is hungry and glances at me (“feed me mummy”). I place some doggy food in his bowl, he eats until he is satiated, and then runs over to me and wipes his mouth on my leg, as if to give thanks. He doesn’t pull out a calculator trying to work out the calories in his bowl; he doesn’t check himself out in the mirror before eating trying to determine whether he is worthy enough of having a meal; he doesn’t look at a watch to check whether society deems it’s acceptable to eat at a certain time; and he most definitely doesn’t scroll through hundreds of snippets of conflicting information about nutrition before deciding whether to nourish himself or not.
Would you like some assistance finding a happy balance between nutritious eating and intuitive eating? You can email me here or sign up to my monthly newsletter to find out more information about the Health At Every Size (HAES)™ approach to health and wellness.