Happy National Nutrition Month(R) !!!
Oh, you didn't know? Ok, maybe that's just a holiday for those of us in the nutrition and dietetic biz.
If this is your first time hearing about national nutrition month(R), it's an annual education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 1980. Each year there is a theme to promote some aspect of healthy eating. This year, The Academy decided to keep the focus broad and highlight the overall mission of the campaign, "to increase the public's awareness of the importance of good nutrition and position registered dietitian nutritionists as the authorities in nutrition."
Stop. Do any of those words in that mission statement jar you a bit? How about...importance, good, and authorities? Yep, those are the ones that jump out at me too.
While all well intended, those words are problematic when used to describe food and the professionals who are trying to help people find a balanced,
un-obsessive relationship with food.
For example, the words importance and good when applied to food, give the food hierarchy and morality. Food is fuel, energy, pleasure, joy, satisfaction, and so many other things in our lives independent of moral value. The word authorities when applied to professionals working in the field of nutrition (or health in general for that matter) becomes problematic because again, it elevates those professionals to being superior over you and your body.
No one has an authority over what your body needs to live its best life. No. One. Your are the expert and have the authority on your body!
It's interesting that not long after this month long campaign launched, a new form of disordered eating was also born.
Orthorexia Nervosa - an obsessive fixation on eating healthy, clean, pure - was first coined by Dr. Steven Bratman in 1997. While there is still no clinical diagnosis criteria in the diagnostic and statistical manual as of the 5th edition, this form of disordered eating is rapidly on the rise as our culture continues to be infatuated with the thin, young, and health ideals created by the diet and wellness industries.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), the warning signs and symptoms of orthorexia include:
Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and nutritional labels
An increase in concern about the health of ingredients
Cutting out an increasing number of food groups (all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, all animal products)
An inability to eat anything but a narrow group of foods that are deemed ‘healthy’ or ‘pure’
Unusual interest in the health of what others are eating
Spending hours per day thinking about what food might be served at upcoming events
Showing high levels of distress when ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ foods aren’t available
Obsessive following of food and ‘healthy lifestyle’ blogs on Twitter and Instagram
Body image concerns may or may not be present
Now, it's possible to want to improve your eating habits, enjoy eating healthy foods and not have orthorexia. AND at the same time, it's helpful to check in with your self about your motivations for doing so...
Asking yourself, "do I value eating healthier foods from a place of self care, based on my bodies intuition or am I trying to live up to an unobtainable standard of health? What foods truly are healthy for my body and in what quantities."
The final piece to add is balance. If you value eating healthy foods and generally taking care of yourself the best you can, then balance is essential.
When it comes to foods, balance means getting in fruits and veggies most days, but also knowing you'll be ok if you didn't have time to do the prep or fresh produce wasn't in your budget this week.
Balance means adding in some protein, carbs, and fats at most meals and snacks while noticing how you feel if any of them are missing.
Balanced means enjoying some whole foods along side some easily accessible packaged foods that may fit your lifestyle better on any given day (including those with added sugar!)
Balanced means enjoying all the flavors sweet, salty, savory, spices, mild, aromatic, etc that appeal to you.
And more importantly, balanced means allowing for flexibility in food choices so you can participate in life with the people who matter most!
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Talk to you again soon!