There can only be one highlander.
Sometimes, studying nutrition feels like searching for immortality. I know I'm guilty of pursuing a way out of my inevitable fate.
I REALLY struggled with this in my more "disordered" days with food. I have always considered myself to be a smart person, so it always really frustrated me that I couldn't just FIGURE it out. I used to spend hours hopping around the internet to every article I could find about "what to eat to live to be 100". Can cantaloupes keep you from aging? Can avoiding butter keep my heart safe? If I get enough Vitamin C, can I prevent cancer?
This a rough part of being human. We want so badly to be in control. We want a say in how many years we get.
On the other hand, nutrition is a "fledgling science" and for every study that proves that one food or nutrient is good for you, there seems to be another that says otherwise. When I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), I experienced this time and time again, learning over 100 different dietary theories from some of the most renowned nutrition researchers in the world.
This is why I have found great solace in intuitive eating.
Intuitive eating has shown me HOW to make sense of all the different information out there about food.
Intuitive eating has taught me (along with lots of research) that restriction and dieting can really hurt me in the long run. It's taught me that over-exercising and stressing about how many french fries I've eaten is not particularly great for my physiology. It's taught me that I can be healthy at any size and that every body is different. Intuitive eating has taught me how to LISTEN to my body and honor my body.
So, when fear of death makes you want to sign up for yet another diet, here's what I recommend:
1. Know that restriction is actually bad for you.
This is something that I talk about all the time. Calorie restriction slows down your metabolism and can physiologically set your body up for a binge of the very foods you're trying to restrict. This puts stress on your body.
Vacillating between following your meal plan 100% and 0% is actually worse for you than following it pretty well 60% of the time. Recognize that life ebbs and flows. Your diet, “lifestyle," or eating plan should learn how to roll with the punches too.
2. Stress is bad for you too.
I’m not going to spend a long time explaining this one. We know stress is bad. Bad for your heart, bad for your immune system, bad for your sex life, bad for your relationships, bad for your teeth, bad for your hormones.
Stressing about whether or not that cheeseburger could kill you could kill you. So, let it go.
3. Accept your body.
Shame will not make you healthier. Actually, in my personal experience, it's pretty terrible motivation.
So what if your healthiest weight happens to be 100 pounds heavier than Gisele's? It's YOUR body and you deserve to be loved and taken care of your whole life. If you have limited control on how long you have on planet earth, at least you should be grateful for the sculpture of cells that is you.
4. Accept your differences.
Joshua Rosenthal, the founder of Institute for Integrative Nutrition, is a big fan of the concept of "bio-individuality." This concept suggests that each person needs different nutrition. Certain foods work better with different bodies.
Tuning in to your body's individual responses to food and how it makes you feel is an important part of taking care of yourself and a powerful tool for figuring out whether or not certain foods are really the right ones for you.
5. Be grateful for today.
Gratitude cultivates presence. Presence nourishes mindfulness. Mindfulness is AWESOME for your health. But, it's also awesome for helping you maintain a sense of self. It can help you decide what you want to spend your time doing, how you want to feel and what you want to eat.
You are living your life right now, so instead of focusing sooo much on securing another 5-10 years at the end of your life, focus on being happy about today and really savor the present.