How to Create a Healthy Food Plan That’s Free from Diet Culture – Part 1August 4, 2023
Part 2: 5 Steps to Breaking- up with Diet Culture For GOOD
In Part 1, in which we discussed the issues with diet culture, there was a small rant about early 2000s fashion and media trends. This is where we discussed the anatomy of adipose tissue (aka fat tissue.)
Now let’s look at a clear 5-step plan to break up with diet culture, while still moving towards health and wellness. This plan will focus on the “how” and not the “what”.
So, unlike most of our other blogs, we aren’t going to talk about what you should be eating, but rather how to approach and positively shift your relationship with food and your own body.
Step 1: Find Your Why
The are so many better reasons to eat well, other than fitting into a dress. Here are a few of my reasons why, just some of the things I experienced since changing my diet.
- More energy
- More focus
- No stomach pains
- Less anxiety
- Improved mood
- Better immunity
- Pain free periods
- Clarity of purpose
In my early 20’s, I took the subway to work every morning. Usually, I was lucky enough to get a seat. Of course, I didn’t have time to eat in the morning, so I would grab a coffee and bagel to go. Despite the caffeine infusion, I would be falling asleep, to the point where I would almost drop my coffee on the ground. Co-workers would ask if I was sick, but I wasn’t; I was just burned out.
I wasn’t taking care of myself and needed to make some changes. One of them was changing my diet. This changed my life. I no longer would come from work and want to just sleep or watch TV. This is when I decided I wanted to go to school to become a nutritionist.
There is no way I would have even thought about doing this before.
So, what are you missing out on because you are not taking care of yourself?
People talk about eating healthy, so they can be around later on. What about being here now?
Nourishing yourself can allow you to be more present in your own life. It can even help you with your mental and spiritual health. Have you ever tried to meditate when your stomach hurts and you haven’t had enough water? It’s really hard to focus.
Step 2: Find a Food Routine
It’s not a diet, it’s not a list of rules. Just a routine.
Something that brings structure to your day to ensure you are taking time for nourishment. I didn’t always do this until I had children, but you don’t want to be around kids if they’ve missed a meal.
So now we have a fairly set breakfast, lunch, and dinner time.
I also always have a few snacks on hand in case anyone gets hungry in between.
What to include in your food routine?
Well, that’s a topic for another day, the important thing is that it will be foods that will nourish you and also foods that you like to eat. Food is meant to be enjoyed. Don’t forget about water. Nourishment is not just about food. Drinking enough water in between meals is essential for health too.
Step 3: Learn to Eat Intuitively
So now that you have your basic food plan, time to throw it all away. Just kidding, but you do need to listen to your body and be flexible with your routine. If you’ve planned to eat lunch at 12 PM but you are really hungry at 11AM, go for it.
Just pay attention when you are eating. Try to slow down and savour your food. If you’ve balanced your meal well with some good healthy fats and protein, you’re taking your time and not distracted, there is no reason why you will overeat.
If you have deprived yourself from food in the past, you may have developed a fear over “not having enough” and feel the urge to overeat. On the other hand, if you have told yourself that feeling full is bad, that “full = fat”, then remind yourself that satiation is good.
Have some healthy snacks on hand, so if you need more, it’s there. Also learn to listen to your body when it comes to water. I do think that we ignore thirst cues sometimes and no longer recognize them. However, hunger and thirst are not the same, so yes drink lots of water, but not to replace food. We need both!
Step 4: Go Deep and Understand Your Relationship with Food
We’ve discussed the science; now for the philosophy. In yogic philosophy, our relationship with food lies in the root chakra. The root chakra is associated with the earth element. It has to do with our survival instincts, sense of security and family relationships.
So perhaps you may have a bad relationship with food because your mom was always on a diet. But let’s not forget that her grandmother may have had a very different relationship with food. Not having enough food is a problem all our ancestors faced at some time or another, and unfortunately it is something people still struggle with today.
People today and all throughout time have had this complex relationship with food, quite literally feast or famine. To top it all off, it is heavily tied in with any family issues and feelings of autonomy and control. For example, binge eating may be a way to soothe childhood traumas, but at the same time being overly controlling with food may be connected to feeling a lack of control in other areas of life.
If you struggle with both, you may find yourself in cycles of strict diets followed by binging (been there, done that). Feeling unsafe or feeling like the ground is unsteady beneath you can cause issues with your relationship with food. And we carry all of this energy and emotions in our root chakra.
What is the root chakra? If you have ever received acupuncture, you may be familiar with meridians. These are the energy lines that run up and down the body in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In Yogic traditions, there is a similar concept known as Nadis. The energy centers where these Nadis converge are the chakras. The main chakras going up the spine are the most well-known and the first one, Maladhara, is the root chakra. It is our base, our foundation. Here are some quick ways to help balance your root chakra:
- Touch grass, walk barefoot (carefully), hug a tree, get your hands in the dirt.
- Try root chakra focused yoga practices or guided meditations.
- Practice gratitude, gratitude reminds us of what we have and makes us feel more abundant.
- Give thanks for your food, it doesn’t have to be out loud or a religious prayer.
- Keep blood sugar balanced. This will tell your body via your hormones you are safe, and you have enough food. See other blogs on blood sugar balance and cortisol balance.
- Address childhood traumas, fears, and repressed emotions. This one is outside my scope as a nutritionist, so check with a licensed therapist.
If discussing chakras and tree hugging is to woo-woo for you, you can look at it a different way. Do you remember learning about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? What was at the bottom? Our physiological needs, including food and water. Food is a basic human need and if we feel that it isn’t being met, it may be difficult for us to move up to the next level of needs: feeling safe, love and belonging and eventually self-actualization.
I don’t think it just has to do with having enough food, but our overall relationship with it. So, whether you want to approach it from a spiritual or psychological perspective (or a bit of both), understanding your relationship food is an essential part of any health journey. Spoiler alert: it’s not about the food but what it represents: life, fulfillment, control, satisfaction, security, safety.
Step 5: Ditch the Negative Self Talk
Ditching negative self-talk also refers to your internal dialogue. It can be a difficult habit to break, while we try to think positive, those annoying ANTs come along (automatic negative thoughts). Mantras can help to counteract them.
Using “I am” statements will also help with your root chakra:
I am safe
I am safe in my body
I am enough
I love my body
I love my body therefore I take care of it
Food is good, food is nourishment
Come up with your own to say out loud, in your head or write them down. You can even write notes to yourself.
Put post-it notes on the fridge or bathroom mirror. If this is what you need to do to change your thinking around food, then DO IT!
We’re talking about undoing years of negative thinking towards your body and food. So, flood your brain with so many good vibes towards yourself that there will be no room left for negativity.
Looking to the Future
Changing the way we think about food and our body will not only help ourselves, but also future generations. Wouldn’t it be nice if we no longer had eight-year-olds going on diets and worrying about their bodies?
Perhaps we cannot control everything our children are exposed to (especially as they get older), but we can definitely control what we say and how they see us treating ourselves.
Yes, we have a big health and nutrition problem in North America, but we’ve come up with the wrong solution, one that only focuses on the superficial and not the root cause. And yes, we may need to eat healthier, but we can do it without the guilt, shame, and unrealistic expectations.
While we have somewhat moved away from the weight loss obsession in the early 2000s, there are still echoes of it in today’s health and wellness industry. Now instead of calorie counting, we have intermittent fasting and ketogenic diets. Instead of reading nutrition facts, we read ingredients.
Now I am all for staying informed about what goes into your body. Especially if you have food sensitivities or allergies, but if we embark on a health journey without first breaking up with diet culture, we may find ourselves falling into old habits. Meaning, we are still using food to manage our emotions, or restricting food to make us feel more in control, and/or binging to self-soothe.
Even healthy diets can be emotionally unhealthy if done for the wrong reasons. This is what true holistic health means – it’s not just about the food, or drinking water, exercising, or even meditating. You also have to fix your relationships, deal with past traumas, learn to love yourself.
However, it’s hard to do all that when you’re hungry, so you can start by making yourself a good healthy meal today. It doesn’t have to be 100% organic and have kale and quinoa, but make sure it’s got some vegetables, some protein, and something that will be filling. Add some good fats such as olive oil, grass fed butter, nuts or seeds.
Add flavors you enjoy; put some love into it. Don’t eat it to achieve some far-off goal, eat it to nourish you right now. Before you take your first bite, take a deep breath, give thanks then dig in.
You did it!
What will you do next?
If you want to work with a nutritionist who won’t focus on your weight but instead be compassionate about your food struggles, click here to set up a no-cost 10-minute discovery call.
Prior to embarking on her journey to becoming a Holistic Nutritionist, Kirsten Colella (like most of us) had her food demons. She made some changes and in 2017, Kirsten graduated from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition with high honours. Shortly after graduating, Kirsten continued improving her relationship with herself and became a certified yoga instructor. Now, Kirsten lives on a farm with her family. She prepares a wide variety of farm-to-table meals and shares her delicious recipes, colourful food pics and health-promoting food ideas on our Instagram page @essentialbalanceholistic .