As a dietitian, I am constantly listening to individuals’ personal health & wellness journeys, or perhaps their desires/fears/hesitations to embark on the road to a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, oftentimes reflection can bring with it a stream of negative emotions and attitudes about ourselves, our past experiences, and ultimately, how all of that affects the way we look today.
I am always hearing comments like, “and that’s how I got fat”; “I never used to look like this”; “look at this picture of me 20 years ago and how skinny I was!”; “ he/she and I eat the same foods, but I gain weight and he/she doesn’t! It isn’t fair!”. Any of these sound familiar? The problem is, it doesn’t just stop at work – in a safe, private room where the only people are the client and myself. These types of comments and conversations have become commonplace in our world today, and because of that, we are all listening.
Have you ever gone out with a group of friends and suddenly felt awful about yourself because you had intended to enjoy a relaxing dinner and possibly order something other than a skimpy salad? A friend’s simple remark of, “I’m so disgusting today because I ate a piece of pizza,” or “I need to exercise for 3 hours tomorrow to make up for what I’m eating right now” can set at least one, if not everyone, in the group down a dangerous path of body shaming. This kind of talk is contagious. You might find yourself no longer enjoying the night because the only conversation you are a part of is the one trapped inside your mind in response to the one you have just heard. You find yourself silently wondering, “Did I eat healthy today? When was the last time I exercised? Am I gaining weight as we speak? What will the scale say tomorrow!?” I think it’s safe to say that we are all hoping for a fun night out – something we all need as a release from our daily stresses – but thoughts like these can serve as a roadblock to that goal.
So what is it that we can do to fix this? Whatever happened to a simple, casual dinner with friends where everyone orders what he or she wants, even if the person to the left of you is having a skinny grilled shrimp appetizer, and the person to your right is feasting on a Diet Coke? Well, I think a great first place to start is to let go of comparison. And believe me, this is easier said than done. I want you all to know that just because I am writing about this topic, it does not mean that I am suggesting that I never struggle with any of these issues. We are all aware of how we feel or think we should feel about our bodies on a daily basis, whether by the media telling us how we should look, by overhearing a conversation at the store, or by simply sizing ourselves up in the mirror as part of our morning routine; however, we must stop to realize that we are all INDIVIDUALS with our own unique bodies. When we do this, it becomes easier to understand that comparing, for example, a 5 foot 7 inch athletic physique to a cute 5 foot hourglass figure, makes no sense at all. In future blogs, I will further elaborate on why it is that a one-size-fits all image is impossible to achieve, but for now, I would like to describe what I hope to accomplish in this space.
I am a firm believer in educating people and promoting health and wellness based on sound scientific evidence, and of course, I will always advocate for a healthy lifestyle; however, I also believe in body positivity, and sometimes working on this has to be the first step on the road to wellness. Once you treat your body like the gift that it is, it will be easier to nourish it in a healing way. I want you to understand that food is medicine and much of the time we are feeding ourselves to get the nutrients that we NEED…but other times we are feeding it because of tastes or textures that we WANT, and that’s okay too! Yup the dietitian said it … giving into a craving is not the end all be all, and is sometimes better than ignoring it altogether! There is a balance to everything in life, and working on that relationship between our thoughts about food and how it will affect us holistically (physically, mentally, and emotionally) is just what I would love for us to work on. I want this so that we can EAT, DRINK, And Learn to Be MERRY while doing it!