We are living in a day and age of extremes − extreme violence, extreme weather, even extreme sports (the 200 mile is the new 100 mile?!). There are also extreme forms of dieting. Some people have a horrendous diet, laden with fast fried foods and sugary soft drinks. On the other end of the spectrum you have those who are up-to-date on the latest nutrition fads, in a constant state of detox and eating “clean.” Some people swear by low carb high fat and others preach high carb low fat.
As a dietitian, part of my job is to help people find an eating pattern that meets their goals whether it is to lose, gain or maintain weight, to be a fitter faster runner or to improve overall health parameters. With so many social media outlets at our fingertips it is easy to get caught up on what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ as defined by health fanatics on the internet. I have even found myself unfollowing some people on Instagram because their constant postings of squeaky clean meals left me feeling bad about myself and guilty that I ate my salmon burger on a white bun instead of a sheet of roasted seaweed.
Here are 3 things that I want you to keep in mind when you find yourself getting caught up in the diet drama on social media:
1. The diet you choose, whether it’s whole food, plant based, paleo, gluten-free or vegan should be one that complements a healthy lifestyle without sacrificing your peace of mind and happiness. You don’t want a diet that needs your maximum amount of will power as it is limited; you draw from the same pool of willpower for every stressor in life. Be realistic. Sometimes after a hard trying day the only thing that will do is some dark chocolate gelato − and that’s okay!
2. A lot of my clients say that just want to be healthy. How is your blood pressure? Are your cholesterol and lipid levels within healthy parameters? Can you run a mile or two without being out of breath? Then you are healthy! Having a 6-pack does not necessarily equal healthy. It is also important to remember that genetics matter; everybody’s ceiling is going to be different. If you want to lose more weight than your body’s set point, you risk losing muscle mass, bone density and nutrients, which is much more worrisome than not having a thigh gap.
3. For the most part eating healthy is common sense: eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, limit processed foods and exercise every day. The problem is that common sense messages like this are not provocative enough to sell books and gain followers. Remember that just because one person has success with a particular diet, doesn’t mean you will too. You have to find what works for you and that is ultimately a diet that is sustainable, nourishing and satisfying.
Relax. Eating doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t require willpower and it certainly doesn’t have to be extreme.