I remember at the onset of my eating disorder (before being hospitalized) my parents found a dietitian to work with me, not yet knowing I really needed to work from the inside out. The dietitian was a calorie counter - and so was I. As you can probably imagine, this was incredibly toxic and destructive for a number of reasons, and ended as quickly as it started. Even though I eventually recovered physically from the ED (put on weight and maintained it) - I was still very rigid when it came to food.
Fast forward to when I finally realized this way of living was neither helpful, healthy or accurate. And oh by the way, incredibly unenjoyable.
The reality is, all the rules and strict meals plans can lead to disordered eating habits and can cause long term health consequences like hormonal, metabolic and definitely mental. So for me, the dieting nonsense that was going on only furthered my bad behaviors and terrible relationship with food. I was surviving rather than thriving, and it was NO fun.
In order to THRIVE it's important to let go of everyone else’s f-ing rules (this is not an excuse to eat an entire pizza), learn what works for you (this can be tricky- I can help!), and trust yourself to make sustainable change.
When I work with my clients (while they’d certainly like me to) I do not write the rules for them. I help each one of them identify the needs (nutritional and otherwise) that are specific to them and I provide them with information and tools so they can make the right decisions for themselves. I empower them to begin to trust themselves to intuitively make better choices rather than following a set of rules.
To that end, the work I do is NEVER calorie focused. EVER. Sure we talk portions and specific food groups (this is important stuff), but calorie talk can be mentally destructive and very rigid, and it just isn’t an effective strategy…and here’s why:
- Calorie counts of food (labeled & unlabeled) are pretty imprecise (up to 25%);
- We don’t absorb all of the calories we actually consume (everyone is diff here & foods are diff too)
- How you prepare food changes its calorie load (cooked or raw)
- People aren’t great at eyeballing portion sizes (duh)
Strict meal plans have their place, but they are supposed to be temporary - not something you rely on for the long-term. Not to mention, they aren’t sustainable (or fun).
If you want to eat better, you don’t have to get weird about it. You definitely don’t need to measure or weight (or count) every ounce of food you consume - you just need to start to reframe your approach. Rather than think of foods as “good” or “bad”, think in terms of the quality. How can you make that meal or snack a little better?
Understand what foods provide energy, repair your body & give you proper nutrition, and gain awareness around what foods may cause issues such as fatigue, bloat, indigestion, etc. We all have different goals, and while some may want a slim bod, others could care less about big guns and abs of steel and just want to know they are eating healthy.
Ask yourself…is what I’m consuming adding value to me, nourishing me, and fueling me? Or is what I’m choosing to nosh on completely stripped of nutrients and going to leave me feeling terrible later?
Think about what you are doing now and how you can improve. Start there.
Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean you are doing everything perfectly, it means that you are consciously making choices and positive changes that move you in the right direction.
Think long-term. What do you want to happen over the next few weeks, months and years? What does that look like for you, and is what you are doing now getting you closer to that in a sustainable way?