I have loved diving into Laura Thomas’ book, ‘Just Eat it.’
It is an extremely thought-provoking book in so many ways.
Laura is a nutritionist with a PHD in Nutrition. However, she explains that despite all her education, she previously had very disordered relationship with food herself. Through embracing the intuitive eating approach, she now has a healthy relationship with food, and is passionate about helping others to do the same.
She feels strongly that the ‘diet mentality’ that many women have grown up with is very damaging, and she also believes that very often people working in nutrition are drawn to it due their own challenges with food. As someone with a nutrition background, and a keen interest in helping people with food it has been an interesting point to reflect on.
I have always loved food, and cooking, and in another life, I think I would have pursued a career in cooking from an early age. However, after several twists and turns in my early working life I decided to train in Nutritional Therapy. From a personal perspective I honestly never saw nutrition as a way of restricting foods. I think I have always thought that having greater knowledge would enable me to find the balance to eat and enjoy food without restriction, and I feel that is how I eat now.
However, I have clearly not been immune to the pervasive ‘diet culture,’ and as a teenager and young adult, prior to training in nutrition I tried several diets myself. I have also tried several ways of eating since my training, including eating a much more plant-based diet for a while, but I now view this as learning experience and believe we can all learn what foods suit us if we approach different foods with a curious experimental mind. These days most things are on the menu for me, although I will never eat anything I do not enjoy, and always encourage my clients to do the same. One thing is for sure we will never sustain a way of eating that we do not enjoy!
However, something I did struggle with for a while was worrying about what others thought of me when I identified too strongly with my work identity. What would they think if they saw ‘Healthy Harriet’ enjoying an ice cream with my family at the weekend! Thank fully, nowadays I am happy for people to witness my healthy relationship with food which does not involve rules or restrictions.
Part of my work still involves cooking up and serving healthy food, and in the past I definitely over-complicated that at times! However, my focus has always been on serving up simple, tasty, vegetarian dishes, and I still believe that I can’t go too wrong with that approach. I still feel that eating a diet rich in vegetables that you enjoy is the most important aspect of healthy eating. One thing that has remained consistently has been my passion for food- I love eating, and I believe like Laura that;
‘Food plays a very important role in our lives, but it shouldn’t be all consuming, and it shouldn’t be the least bit distressing.’
Laura has a very dark view of the dieting culture that is so pervasive through our society, and a big part of the intuitive eating approach is about ‘ditching the diet culture’
I imagine her strong views on the diet culture will resonate with so many women:
‘Diet culture teaches us we’re not good enough as we are. It teaches us that we need to control our bodies through rigid dieting, and over exercising….
… and that chasing the thin ideal is part and parcel of the ‘work’ of being a woman; its what we are socialised to do.’
She goes on to say that:
‘The biggest lie of the diet culture is that you will be happy when you reach this elusive body standard.’
I think most people would agree that dieting rarely works in the long term. Dieting supresses our metabolism, often leading to rebound weight gain. Also, restricting foods usually makes people crave them more. As a result people commonly fall off their restrictive diets, and are often left with a host of negative emotions such as shame, guilt, and anxiety.
I would hope that my own personal approach to food and eating can inspire hope that there is another way to eating other than getting stuck on the diet rollercoaster. The truth is we all have a set point weight.
As Laura explains: ‘When you let go of dieting and disordered behaviours, your body pretty much stays that weight without you having to micromanage food and exercise.’
Although I do share simple information on ‘what to eat,’ my most helpful role as a coach is more about helping people to start to treat themselves with kindness and compassion, and to simplify food and eating! I help people to recognise which foods they enjoy, and which foods give them energy and make them feel well. I also help them to start tuning into their own hunger and fullness signals so with patience and self-compassion they eventually find that elusive set point weight!
There is so much to discuss from this thought provoking book, that it is impossible to cover in one blog.
However, I would like to acknowledge the emotional component. If we can recognise that emotional eating is common, we can start to offer ourselves a little self- compassion. Real health is not about an ‘all or nothing’ approach. Sometimes emotional eating may serve us in some way, but it can be helpful to begin to recognise when it isn’t serving us, and to start to explore other ways of managing our emotions.
The starting point is always about awareness… If you have been stuck on the diet rollercoaster for years and lost confidence in your food choices and your relationship with food, it will take time and patience to take a different path. However just imagine what else might be possible when you do!
My aim is to help people achieve freedom with their food choices. I often I ask people:
‘What might open up for you when you achieve a healthier relationship with food and eating?’
And the response is often ‘freedom,’ and ‘more headspace to think about other things’
Laura sums it up brilliantly.
‘What could we achieve if we weren’t obsessing about food or our bodies? Could we be better parents, children, partners, or volunteers? Could we get that project off the ground or take up learning a new language or skill?’
It will take time, patience, and self-compassion but I promise you there is another way to live away from the diet culture. I would highly recommend Laura Thomas’ brilliant book for anyone who would like to read more.
However, if you feel you could benefit from a little support I would delighted to help you. Please feel free to click here to book a gifted 1:1 coaching session and find out more.