In every initial session I have with a client we talk about their current and past nutrition approaches/habits and in almost every one of those sessions there is a TON of confusion around the best way to eat. I often get asked if a person can eat something or if x, y, and z is okay for their specific condition.
I understand why people ask about specific foods or diets because there is SO much information out there on nutrition; it’s overwhelming. How do you know who to listen to or what is beneficial?
I think it’s essential to learn how the female body works and what would best support our physiology. Then from there, you have to put your blinders on, mute people on social media, and trust the process Let’s dig into each of these areas a bit more and breakdown the confusion around nutrition.
Diets are a Short Term Approach
While a diet can seem like the right solution to a health concern, it’s important to keep in mind that we can’t follow a diet forever. It’s a short term solution to a long term problem. This often leads to stopping and starting your diet, but if we look at life, that’s not how it works. Our bodies don’t just stop paying attention and taking in information because we’ve decided we will start again on Monday. Our bodies are always listening.
This is why I recommend staying away from a diet mindset. I think it’s more helpful to learn specific principles that support health, energy, and hormone balance rather than a strict diet. You can apply principles every day forever and don’t need to be perfect to be successful.
Everyone is a Nutrition Expert
I’ll admit, I put this one in there for me (and my fellow RD’s). As someone who paid a lot of money to get an education on nutrition, human physiology, and scientific research, it’s pretty frustrating to see influencers on Instagram call themselves nutritionists and give uneducated advice. Advice that leads to food obsession, stress, and often hormonal havoc in the body.
If someone is giving you nutrition advice, make sure you check their credentials and that it is coming from a reputable source. Even doctors don’t get trained in nutrition and often resort to giving people diets because they don’t have the nutrition base. Dietitians, clinical nutritionists, Ph.D.’s in human nutrition, and nutritional therapy practitioners are all great sources.
That being said, you still need to ask yourself, does this apply, and is this realistic for me?
Diets are a Form of Identity
Many people feel very passionate about the diet they follow. It’s almost like a form of religion. This can be motivating and even inspiring, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there’s more to life than food and WAY more to life than dieting. If someone attaches their identity to their diet and makes you feel like you should too, or you should be eating the way they eat because it will solve all of your problems, you’re going to want to run in the other direction.
When we are so attached to a diet that we fear other foods or stress about it, the diet is doing more harm than good for our health.
There’s a Study for Every Diet
This is where I think the real confusion comes in. There is a research article out there for every diet you can imagine. And different people will interpret the research findings in their own way or even twist them to support their view. This is where we need to be diligent. Just because there is a study, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Most studies are done on men, menopausal women, or women taking hormonal birth control.
This is really important to point out because hormones change things. Estrogen impacts blood sugar sensitivity, and our metabolism increases during our luteal phase after we ovulate. Studies are also typically done for a short period when we need to consider eating in a way that we can maintain for the rest of our lives.
One other thing to consider is that many of these diets are only using markers like weight and standard blood work to monitor success. They aren’t testing sex hormones or cortisol. A lot of the time, people report feeling better on something like keto or intermittent fasting because their bodies are making more cortisol, which gives them more energy. This isn’t necessarily good for our hormone health, though, and isn’t maintained long term.
Last note on this, ketogenic diet studies do often monitor thyroid function and report that the diet does lower thyroid function while following it, but that it returns to normal after. This shows that it is a short term solution, and if we follow it long term, we will have slowed thyroid function. This just goes to show it’s important to look at the details and relate them to your life and future, not just this moment.
There isn’t One Perfect Way of Eating
There is no one perfect way of eating. I give my clients recommendations and principles to apply, and we adjust to what works for them. It can be challenging to do this with information you are getting from the media since it seems very one size fits all. If you try something and your gut tells you this isn’t working, listen.
We are Looking Outside for an Answer
The last but most important aspect of what makes nutrition confusing is all of the outside information we are taking in. While it is essential to understand the foundations of what makes up our food and ways to balance to support hormone health, we still have to listen to the feedback we are getting from our bodies. Especially when getting started with a new nutrition approach. I like to have people make changes slowly so their bodies can adjust, which is another reason why I don’t like diets because you tend to jump right in and make a ton of changes at once. That can be stressful for the body, and you likely won’t get the results you are working toward.
We get so much information from our bodies every day. Learning how to interpret this and make changes based on this is priceless and what I think is the key to a life long nurturing nutrition approach. Your nutrition needs will change throughout your life. Learning to listen to your body and understand what it needs allows you to adjust without feeling like you don’t know what to do and need to change your entire diet.
Check out my podcast episode on how to build a nourishing nutrition foundation to support your health and metabolism.
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