Food judgment: The problematic culture the diet industry built

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By JESSICA WILLIAMS | Nashville Voice

The year was 2014 and I was at my heaviest (at the time.) I was looking for answers to the equation so I began to search for resources. There was all this craze at the time about macro counting and how it would help to make a big difference in my physique.

So, I hired a trainer and began my journey on a dieting dream. Turns out, it was a nightmare.

I became so obsessed with counting every calorie. Measuring every piece of meat and carb I ate. Supplementing with shakes where there were holes in my diet. I was everyone’s nightmare, including my own.

This led me to a place where I judged others based on how they ate as well. The proof, to me, was in the pudding. I was shedding weight like no other and I was officially in the “in” crowd. “Fit” was my lifestyle.

It got so bad at one point, I was giving unsolicited advice to others about how they should eat. How much protein, how to measure, how to live their unique lives. I was officially a food judge.

Keto. Vegan. Paleo. Macros. Alkaline. These are all diet terms for those who have fallen into the culture. It is baffling, yet not surprising, that many are judgmental. Judging not only the way we eat ourselves but others’ dietary choices as well.

The Problem

Many diets are based in scientific research. They evaluate a population of people who adopt the habits and monitor the results. Oftentimes, these populations are taken from a small range of study subjects.

Let’s be clear…any significant lifestyle change will yield some sort of result. Take away a group of empty caloric triggers and you will make a difference in your body composition. That’s science.

However, what research doesn’t take into account is our unique DNA. What works for one person may not necessarily work for the next person. That’s why when you ask someone who was successful on their diet what they did and then go home and try to do the same exact thing, you yield different results. It can be frustrating and even discouraging, but not the effect of anything done wrong, it’s just wrong for your body.

There are many independent factors that determine the food style that will work for your body long term: current weight, activity level, food allergies and sensitivities, lifestyle, hormones and stress are all included in that. When trying to change the way you eat, taking account all these things is key because that will inform you on how to go about it.

For example, if you’re someone who doesn’t love to cook and has a demanding job that takes you away often, you may have to plan for a lifestyle revolving around eating out often.

Or you may have to find ways to get creative when you travel and/or work late so that you’re properly nourished.

Or if you don’t lead a very active lifestyle, you may want to evaluate where you can crowd out foods that are not being used for fuel and make more room for foods that are.

Or maybe you have a gluten or dairy or nut allergy/sensitivity, that requires a deeper look at the choices made as well.

All that being said, taking a food educated approach to your wellness is the best way to find what works for you. The classroom? Your own body.

So when trying to understand what your needs are as it relates to food, it is a multi-layered, time-consuming process. There are some streamlined methods of getting there such as Whole30 or other elimination diets that take away potentially triggering foods and slowly reintroduce them to make the process quicker.

However, it’s a slippery slope when doing any of these plans due to the “diet” nature of the programs.

If you already have an unhealthy relationship with your body and food, these are not good to take on as they can reinforce that negative relationship.

The Solution

So what IS the solution? Intuitive eating. And, not in the sense that social media has made it out to be, but REAL intuitive eating where you are completely aware of your own body and its unique needs and honor it. It is the acknowledgment that all choices aren’t going to be perfect but ensuring that eating is done in a maintainable, nourishing manner.

According to intuitiveeating.org, Intuitive eating has 10 principles. The common thread amongst all the principles is that you are in charge of your personal relationship with food and in that, you make the choices appropriate for your dietary needs and goals. There is little room for judgment by eating this way.

Mindful eating is another method to get there. When adopting mindful eating, it is less about what you’re eating, but how you’re going about it. It is about making choices that are well thought out and also in the time of having a meal, being present with the meal and honoring it in the same way you would honor your choices.

There are several layers to finding a mindful practice that works for you but you can read more about it here.

The two ideas separately are potent respectively. However, it can be argued that when put together, they make a huge difference in not only overall wellness but relationship with food.

By applying intuitive eating, the acknowledgment is placed on the foods that work for you and others that don’t, but also not beating oneself up when “subpar” choices are made. It’s all about understanding the body and unlearning diet narratives that involve negative connotations with foods and choices.

When paired with mindful eating, it makes one more conscious about the choices made AND how those choices are consumed. Instead of eating in the car on the run or by the computer sending emails, it encourages spending time with your food.

Hence, creating time in your day for meals and nothing else creates more intention. And in that intention, there is no room for judgment of self or others.

We all have things we want as it relates to our health and wellness. There are areas we all feel need improving. It’s important to remember that no two journeys look the same. What works for this person doesn’t have to work for the next.

By taking a little time to become more aware of our own paths, we make space to show more grace for the paths of others. In that, we become a bit healthier and happier.

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