Friday, April 13, 2012

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Sorry for the long hiatus from blogging.  Things have been hectic with the start of the Spring Quarter, so it's been difficult to blog regularly.  However, I recently found this article, and I thought it would be a great way to reconnect with the philosophy behind this blog.  In the article, dietitian Michelle Neyman Morris is interviewed, and so much of what she said resonated with me and seemed so in line with the message I'm trying to get across here on Eat With Your Gut.  Here are just a few things I loved about what she had to say:
  • Ms. Neyman Morris' definition of healthy eating: "Healthy eating means nourishing yourself with a variety of foods, eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full, and also giving yourself permission to find pleasure in food and sometimes eating for reasons other than physiological hunger. It also means being mindful while you’re actually eating, as well as regarding where your food comes from, the people and processes that allow it to get to your table. Ultimately, flexibility around eating is paramount. While it’s important to consider sustainable food practices I think that can be another slippery slope to black and white thinking about eating that stresses people out."
    • There are so many things I love about this, I don't even know where to start!  First of all, I love that she talks about variety.  Healthy eating isn't just about eating fruits and vegetables and food items labeled "healthy" in the grocery store.  It's about eating a large variety of foods, even if that means including some empty calories in there every now and then.  Of course, I also love that she acknowledges eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're full-- it's such a simple concept, and yet so difficult for many people to actually follow.  She even mentions that it's okay to sometimes eat for reasons other than physiological hunger-- this is normal, and as long as you're able to acknowledge that this is happening (i.e. it's not done unconsciously) and it's not happening all the time, then it's fine!  She also mentions giving yourself permission to find pleasure in food, which is so right on for me. I feel like many people (and this was me many years ago) view food as the enemy, and feel that if they could just see food solely as fuel, then all their eating and weight problems would go away.  The truth of the matter is that we're humans, not machines, and eating isn't just about nourishing our bodies, it's also about the experience of eating, which should absolutely be an enjoyable one!  I also appreciate that she mentions considering sustainable food practices, but that going overboard with this can lead to black and white thinking.  This is something I've been meaning to blog about for a while now, so expect something soon! 
  • She talks about disordered eating as a "continuum":  "There’s a continuum of disordered eating in our culture, and make no mistake about it, much suffering is experienced by many who are not clinically diagnosed with a full blown eating disorder."
    • This is precisely the reason I wanted to pursue a career in nutrition.  I feel that so many people believe that their struggles with weight and dieting are normal and simply a part of life, when really they are suffering immensely inside.  I don't think this is acceptable, and I want people to reject the idea that this needs to be their reality and seek help for themselves.  By pursuing this career, I hope to someday be the person who can help these people to free themselves from this madness that they might have otherwise accepted as their fate.
  • She mentions some of the political influences and conflicts of interest in regards to nutrition education and information:  "You have to be a critical consumer of nutrition information. The food industry has a lot of money for lobbyists and unduly influences nutrition policy and nutrition education programs in this country. The USDA, while responsible for many of the nutrition education programs and guidelines on healthy eating (myPlate), is also responsible for supporting food industry. It’s not a subtle conflict of interest that I bring to the attention of my students. And if private industry is providing the nutrition message, it’s always good to ask, whose bottom line is being served by this information? Nutrition materials that promote high protein consumption, for example, may have a vested interest in touting the benefits of beef, or the “other white meat” pork. Or they may not; the point is to ask the question. You’re the expert on your body and how foods in varying amounts make it feel. I’d recommend never giving away your power to make critically informed choices that nourish you and that are aligned with your values."
    • I love that a dietitian, who was undoubtedly indoctrinated with USDA recommendations as a nutrition student and expected to pass it along to her clients, is questioning it all.  Sometimes I feel like I'm swimming upstream as I study nutrition, and it's good to know that there are other nutrition professionals out there who aren't ready to accept conventional wisdom as absolute truth.  This doesn't mean that all the information coming out of the USDA should be completely disregarded.  It simply means that it should be taken with a grain of salt, and that one should consider the context in which these recommendations are made.  As she points out, only you are the expert on your body and what foods make it feel it's best, so you're better off trusting your own experiences and perhaps doing some of your own research when making decisions about how to nourish your body.
I hope these ideas resonated with you as much as they did with me.  I feel like Ms. Neyman Morris' definition of healthy eating is exactly what I've been trying to say all along, simplified and beautifully phrased in just a few sentences!  Do you agree with this definition?  What is your personal definition of healthy eating?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!