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We live in a culture that demands discipline and perfection at all times and in all aspects of our lives. When it comes to weight and diet, these cultural demands come face to face with our natural physiological mechanisms to create a perfect storm in which many people live: a constant cycle of guilt and self-hatred related to their body image and weight-control habits.
Burnt out from the endless feelings of inferiority, powerlessness, and despair, we become vulnerable to extreme nutrition messages presented with more confidence than credibility, opinions promoted as fact.
Unfortunately, we live in an information-at-our-fingertips world in which there is more information about “the healthiest way to live” than any one person could possibly consume.
“Carbohydrates are evil and why America is getting fat and dying early.”
“But fat is also evil and is what is making us fat and sick.”
“Don’t forget animal protein causes cancer, heart disease, and early death.”
“So basically, you should eat lean vegan protein power. But wait, you can’t eat processed food so that’s out.”
Because of the desperateness of our situation, even highly intelligent people often fall prey to extreme nutrition messages presented with an air of authority, but without any basis in truth.
We present ourselves as easy targets for companies, like Beach Body, which prey on our insecurity and desperateness to be free.
They invade our social media with inaccurate and misleading messages telling us to spend vast amounts of money on their programs while handing over control of our health to salespeople, who not only have no true nutritional training, but who are also not acting in our best interests because they benefit most when we see rapid results (which tend not be healthy or sustainable) and must rely on their products and programs.
We want to be perfect, so we start adopting the commands of these internet and salesperson pseudo-nutritionists.
Before long, the physical effects of taking this advice generally begin to show themselves in a variety of nutrition deficiencies which cause reduced energy and vivacity. But more significantly, our psychological health takes a severe hit.
We grow more despairing as even our most extreme efforts fail to release us from food’s power over us.
We start to beat ourselves up because we aren’t “disciplined” enough to stick to the magic diets. Combined with the psychological effects of restriction of the typical diet, such as irritability and depressed mood, we end up suffering and become more desperate to escape the cycle, which makes us more susceptible to the false nutritional advice, which feeds right back into the cycle.
The most dangerous aspect of the cycle is that as our despair grows, we become more and more convinced we are at fault.
This become more and more harsh with ourselves, seeking out any extreme solution with a preference for those that claim to help us overcome our “lack of self-control.” So we go from being vegetarian to being HFLC vegan to being gluten-free.
We avoid carbs, then fats, then proteins, and we either continue growing weary of the ever intensifying highs and lows of dieting, or we end up falling into an eating disorder such as binge eating disorder, bulimia, orthorexia, or anorexia as our bodies cry out almost irresistibly for as much fuel as possible in an effort to protect us as we grow to demonize all types of food so much we are too afraid to eat anything and end up restricting.
Does the cycle sound familiar?
The good news is there is an escape. I will not lie and say it is easy, but I will tell you it is 100% possible and 100% worth it.
The key is to realize there is no such thing as a prescription for the perfect diet.
Nobody else can tell you what the healthiest diet for you is, especially not a pseudo-professional, someone with ulterior motives, or a teenage girl on YouTube who offers her diet as the magical solution to all your diet woes.
Rather, the healthiest diet for you can only be found by you; although the aid of a professional, registered dietitian who takes an intuitive approach to eating (perhaps using the money you would have spent on a $5 daily shake and meal plans by someone whose only nutritional training comes from a company trying to sell you their products) can be a helpful guide in the process.
The healthiest diet can only be found when you reconnect with your body’s natural signals.
Start honoring your body’s cues, rather than fighting its cries for fuel, and start living, moving, and nourishing mindfully and intuitively.
Sometimes, it means realizing eating more fruits and vegetables is not always better: there is such a thing as too much of a good thing and each of us has to find the balance that makes us feel most alive.
Sometimes, it means discovering one piece of chocolate satisfies us deeply, but a whole chocolate bar or a giant piece of chocolate cake too early in the morning makes us feel groggy or queasy.
Always, it means tuning into your body and realizing the healthiest diet of all is the one your body will ask you for naturally!
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Elizabeth currently holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is planning to work towards becoming a licensed clinical social worker. Elizabeth feels blessed to have been surrounded with support during her journey with depression, and she is passionate about using her experiences and education to bless people in the same way she was blessed. She hopes that as a contributor to Libero, she will be able to provide very practical support.
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