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How To Stop Food and Body Shaming

Posted in: Sports Nutrition  on Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A balanced approach to nutrition means that you mindfully consume the right amount of calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients in your diet. The body needs proper nutrition to function optimally as poor nutrition can lead to disease, fatigue, infection, fogginess, poor performance, and a host of other undesirable symptoms. While the focus here is on food consumption, it turns out that your ability to effectively eat the rights foods has a lot to do with mindset.

“Our thoughts are far more powerful than any food we put in our body,” shared Featherleaf Dunigan, Scottsdale, Arizona based certified holistic health coach and RAW chef. “Once we align our thoughts with what we love about ourselves, we naturally begin to shift our awareness and make better choices about what we put into our bodies.”

Dan Stein knows all too well what it’s like to struggle with accepting himself and balancing his nutritional needs for optimal health. For years he battled an eating disorder, which at times caused him to feel debilitated and depressed. “It began as an exercise addiction and when working out 4-5 times a day didn’t help me reach my body goals, I figured I was eating too much. I slowly began restricting food until eventually I was eating between 500-800 calories a day on average,” said Stein.

Stein recalled how the disease was lonely and all-consuming, stating that the experience can be very dangerous and potentially life-threatening for people going through it. Stein’s family convinced him to see a doctor and he was diagnosed with having 20 of the 21 signs of starvation. It was at that point that he realized he needed help and committed himself to seeking knowledge on how to properly nourish the body.

“Food is fuel,” said Stein. “The body needs nutrients and food to function. Most people don’t realize that their body is burning calories even at rest.”

Stein recovered from his disease and is now an advocate for healthy, balanced nutrition and living. He suggests to others struggling with similar issues to face their fear, educate themselves, seek help, and not be afraid to lean on others. Taking baby steps to slowly change your habits will make a big difference in the long run.

According to studies done by Wade, Keski-Rahkonen and Hudson at the American Journal of Psychiatry and cited by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, up to 30 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder at some time in their life. These include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorders. This epidemic is far reaching and it’s important to address these issues early in order to effectively manage the illness. While Stein’s case is more extreme, countless people struggle to find a balance between eating the right amounts of food to properly nourishing the body and appreciating their body exactly where it is at.

Below are four strategies to help you develop a healthy relationship with food:

Quit Obsessively Counting Calories; Instead Focus on Nourishing the Body

When you set out on a transformation journey, first pay attention to your body and how it feels. Rather than thinking about depriving the body of food, focus on how to nourish the body. Whole foods that contain protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, nutrients and fiber all aid the body in proper functioning and promote optimal health. Dr. Michelle May, author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle and founder of AmIHungry.com mindful eating programs and training, encourages people to eat fearlessly. “All foods can fit into a balanced diet using the common-sense principles of balance, variety, and moderation. When you enjoy the foods you love without guilt, you’ll notice that they begin to lose their power over you and that your urge to overeat them diminishes,” said May.

Make Regular Meals a Habit

You are more likely to overeat and binge eat when your body is deprived of adequate nutrients. Eating a well-balanced diet helps cravings substantially decline, making you less likely to feel the need to overindulge. This starts in the morning with a healthy breakfast. Breakfast is an opportunity to refuel your body after not having eaten all night long and a healthy balanced meal can jumpstart your metabolism as well as provide energy and focus to start the day.

Karleen Dirmantas, professionally trained Le Cordon Bleu chef and competitive age group athlete currently training for Ironman Kona, said nutrition is an important part of her training program, but it wasn’t always that way. “I’ve always been an athlete, but in my 20s I lead a very unhealthy lifestyle,” shared Dirmantas. A self-professed sugar addict, she realizes the importance of focusing on balanced eating and said that beginning each day with a healthy breakfast was how she started to change her eating and drinking habits.

There are countless, easy-to-make choices for breakfast, including meals such as low-fat cottage cheese with melon and Ezekiel bread, scrambled eggs and oatmeal, Greek yogurt with berries and nuts, nitrate-free deli turkey in a whole wheat pita with cheese or quinoa, and unsweetened almond milk and berries. Dirmantas’ breakfast of choice is oatmeal, a hardboiled egg and fruit.

Allow Foods in Moderation

When we label foods as bad or completely off-limits, we deprive ourselves, which often causes future rebound effects of over indulging. Moderation might mean eating less overall or reducing unhealthy foods in your diet, but it doesn’t mean things are permanently eliminated. Whitney Jones, IFBB Fitness Pro, National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and Owner of AZ Pro Physiques in Gilbert, Arizona, has trained countless individuals and helped them develop healthy lifestyles. She tells her clients it’s important to be realistic with their food options and recognize that too much restriction sets you up for future failure. “Mentally we need to know it’s OK to have food cravings and to allow treats in moderation,” said Jones.

Keep a Food Journal

After becoming familiar with how it feels to feed the body foods that nourish and energize, keeping a food journal can be extremely beneficial. In addition to tracking the food you consume, it should also include the feelings accompanied with day-to-day living. “It’s not just about identifying bad habits,” said Jones. Many people have food allergies and sensitivities and this can be useful in recognizing those. If you eat something and consistently feel bloated, lethargic, depressed, or experience other physical ailments that could be a sign that the food is not optimal for nourishing your body.

Furthermore, if you restrict food and notice a lack of energy, motivation, or dramatically changing moods, that can also signify your body is not getting what it needs. In addition, keeping a food journal helps those, especially who are prone to over indulging, identify how much they are actually eating, and whether those foods have a positive effects on the body.

Learning to adopt a healthy approach to nutrition can take a while, especially for individuals who have struggled with accepting their bodies over a long period of time. Be patient and seek out resources who can help. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

If you suspect there is a chance you might be struggling with an eating disorder, get help by calling the National Eating Disorder’s confidential hotline at (800) 931-2237.

The All-Star Line Up
Try incorporating these items into your diet to maximize optimal nutrition.

Oatmeal or Quinoa Start your day with a complex carbohydrate that won’t immediately spike your blood sugar. Complex carbs give you sustained energy thoughout the day. Oatmeal is good for your heart and quinoa is packed with protein!

Nuts While higher in calories, these protein-packed snacks will keep you fuller longer. Nuts contain healthy fat, which the body needs for optimal functioning. Other good options for healthy fat include avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil.

Eggs Eggs are easy to prepare, high in protein and excellent for building muscle. An added bonus to eating eggs is that you can hard boil them and take them on the road in a cooler with an ice pack.

Dark Leafy Greens Greens are high in fiber and help keep your digestive system in check. Additionally, they are filled with minerals and nutrients. Collard greens, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, and turnip greens are great in salads or juiced.

Green Tea If you drink sugar-filled beverages, switching to green tea can make a tremendous difference in your health and your waistline. Green tea is rich in polyphenols, a free radical fighter, and has also been said to boost metabolism.

By Kim Miller & Shannon Dougherty