It probably comes as no surprise that there are many things that can affect our thoughts and beliefs about food. One of the greatest contributors is our inner circle. With ease of social media, we are likely even more influenced by others than ever. While we can’t control how others feel about food, they CAN have an impact and -- they DO. While you may not be able to change their thought process, you may be able to make shifts in your own thoughts/beliefs about food that in turn do help them based on the messages you send. March is National Nutrition Month and we are excited to be sharing information on all things nutrition – including tips on how to improve your relationship with food and help you navigate through the “spam” (see what I did there?).
Be Leery of Food Group Elimination.
We are plagued by all things diet/weight related on the internet. One of the things I see most often are diets that encourage people to severely restrict or eliminate food group(s). I always encourage everyone to be leery of anything that requires you to seriously cut back on or eliminate any food group in its entirety, as it is not necessary. When you lose a food group, you are at risk for developing a deficiency. If you need to eliminate certain foods due to food allergies, your dietitian can help you figure out what needs to be supplemented in order to make up for any food that requires elimination in order to keep you well. I always say “if we take this out, then we have to put something else in”.
I think one of the biggest barriers people encounter is not making sure that they have a variety of foods from every food group. We tend to focus on what not to put on the plate, whereas the emphasis really should be to focus on what to put ON the plate. This way of thinking is often a big shift for a lot of people. Unfortunately, this is not a common focus when scrolling through many social media feeds.
Filter Your Messages.
I often find that adults have difficulty sifting through the messages that they see about nutrition on the internet. As you can imagine, this must be even more challenging for children and teenagers. While you can’t control what your children and teens hear about nutrition at school, you can make sure you are sending appropriate messages. As the saying goes “actions speak louder than words”. Part of my job as a dietitian is to not only determine how a client perceives food and their relationship with food, but also to assess where those beliefs may have originated. Clients of all ages (starting at a very young age) can and do recall very specific messages that they received from their parents about food growing up. The messages are often not verbal messages as you may expect, but rather non-verbal messages that were/are observed. Take care to filter your own thoughts/beliefs about food to see if you may be sending the wrong message.
Challenge your Motivation.
The internet runs rampant with messages on how we should look and the main focus tends to be on achieving weight loss. What would happen if we changed our way of thinking? No matter what your nutrition goal is – if you are consistently chasing a number (be it up or down) you may find that this may not be as satisfying as it may sound. Any time I meet with someone, I really try to emphasize that there must be some sort of non-weight related motivation. A number does not really change anything, but a healthier lifestyle with more balance may help us live longer. Going out to eat and feeling like you are not plagued about what to have or not have may lead to being able to be a better friend due to being able to be in the moment and engage more socially. A more balanced lifestyle may lead to less stress and lower your risk of health conditions. A balanced pattern may help you be a better athlete or student. What messages about motivation do you see? Now, take a moment and think about what REALLY motivates you.
Whether you are sending or receiving messages, I encourage you to take a moment to filter through the information. Be leery of extreme approaches and always err on the side of caution. If you are having difficulty with navigating food situations, please speak with your healthcare provider.
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