What every woman should know about food and health. You CAN find joy!
This blog is for all those women who are just overwhelmed and confused with food advice. I’m writing this because working out what ‘being healthy‘ means, when there is just so much advice out there can be enough to send a woman into a state of imbalance. In so many ways.
1. The What of unrealistic standards.
As women, living in a western country, we are saturated with media images of slim, toned women, and are encouraged to strive to achieve this ourselves through various methods.
When our bodies don’t conform to these unrealistic standards, we tend to get upset.
We often feel guilty for not being ‘strong willed’ enough, and this can lead to some pretty discouraging feelings, as well as a tendency to eat more convenience food, and eat less nourishing foods, because the stress of high standards actually leads to a lack of motivation.
Lack of motivation to care, and motivation to nurture our bodies.
It’s a common phrase to say or hear things along the line of
“I’ll have to work that cake off this afternoon” or
“I better not, I’m trying to lose weight”.
We’re so incredibly conditioned to believe that both healthful foods and exercise are punishment to get our bodies to conform. To conform to standards set by unrealistic media.
One has to wonder where the joy is in all this, I mean, If it doesn’t spark joy then we need to get rid of it. Right???? (hats off Marie Kondo).
So what can we do?
What am I supposed to eat? How do I eat well? How do I nourish myself? How can I be more content with my body?
Do any of these questions ring true for you? Read on!
As a qualified Nutritionist who follows a Health At Every Size approach, and a method called intuitive eating, I see again and again the emotional rollercoaster that goes with the desire to change, in body shape or size.
The pressure to exercise and improve dietary habits most often comes from a desire to change our bodies. They really are used as tools for punishment rather than self care practices. But what if we, individually, made a decision, to let that go? What if we used food and movement to reward our bodies, rather than punishment for non-conformity?
2. The How of change.
The big question is then “How do we do that”?
Considering how we can nourish ourselves can be exhausting. There are just so many fads out there, and so many self-claimed nutrition gurus touting that their method of eating is a magic bullet to great health and a trim figure, but like anything, nutrition is different for everyone.
In the same way that our bodies are different, our metabolisms are different, and our skin is different.
We are all different.
These differences should be celebrated not punished!
There can never be a one size fits all approach to food, which is why focussing on your preferences, and what works for you, not that Instagram professional, or your best friend, is crucial.
Realistically, most of us know what foods are recommended to keep us healthy, so I wont spend too much time on that, but if you’re unsure, this is a helpful link http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/australian-dietary-guidelines-recommended-daily-intakes
“We are all different. These differences should be celebrated not punished”.
When you see advice, check where that advice is coming from, because often food advice comes from individuals not educated in nutrition science, who are sharing an opinion, rather than proven research. This can make food decisions unnecessarily confusing.
When it comes to food, there really are no rules. None. There are only recommendations.
Eating intuitively means that you eat according to what you need, not what you think you have to eat. And it also means eating to nourish, not to lose weight. This is a way of embracing the body you have. Nourishing it no matter what shape or size.
So how do we eat well when we’re busy and hormonal?
Nourishing ourselves can actually be quite simple, as long as we have access to nourishing foods we enjoy. Having access, means stocking up your fridge and pantry with all the things you need. Write lists, make plans, or fly by the seat of your pants, but do whatever works for you, so that you can eat regularly, and according to your hunger!
A woman’s cycle can also mean that food preferences change over the month. This is actually ok. In fact it’s very normal, and heeding those changes are very important to ensure you’re fuelling yourself. The less you restrict foods, the less you’ll crave them, which means that when you do really crave them, you know your body is sending a clear signal. So unless you have a medical reason, cutting out sugar is unnecessary. Enjoy a balanced diet, including some sweet foods when you need them.
3. Still feeling stuck? That’s normal.
So. If eating well is as simple as listening to my body, where does that leave me when I’m still not happy with what my body looks like?
Well, body image is a large and complex issue. The body positive movement is bringing to light the need to be happy in your skin, no matter what you look like, but media is still saturated with the ideal thin white woman, and that can feel at least, intimidating, and at most, destructive.
Because thin is not the normal. Diversity is the normal. And thinness doesn’t necessarily equal healthiness. And health has to be our aim.
Becoming aware that your body is an instrument. That your aim needs to be to strengthen, nurture and nourish the body you have instead of wishing for a body you don’t have, is a life giving perspective to have. Having this sort of mind-frame will also encourage you to live well to nurture, not punish your body. And including movement you enjoy, will help you maintain this perspective.
Changing our focus from healthy habits because we want to change our bodies, to moving and eating for enjoyment, because it has a smorgasbord of emotional, social, mental, AND physical benefits, could be the difference between punishing our bodies and rewarding them. This shift carries with it more self awareness, more enjoyment, and more opportunity to embrace and nourish both our bodies and our minds in a nurturing and appreciative way.
We can’t underestimate the power of caring for our bodies with compassion.
Not punishing them for what they aren’t, but rewarding them for what they are and what they relentlessly do for us each and every day.
Start by getting more comfortable with diversity, and acknowledge that comparison is the thief of joy!
*This advice is not personalised, but a general overview of healthy perspectives. For individual nutrition and body image advice, please contact Chaya @ BodyTruthNutrition.com.au