HAVE YOU FALLEN VICTIM TO DIET CULTURE?
Take a breather if you will, and reflect on your most recent diet. Odds are it began with a blaze, and simmered out into stubborn sparks just as quickly. Most likely seduced by sayings like “slim down fast,” or “lose (x) lbs in (x) days with ‘this’ quick fix.”
Hate to break it to you — and the yo-yo diets that keep calling you back — but the route of quick-fix gets you nowhere; in the gym, kitchen, or in life. The regressive codependency on restrictive regimens keeps you trapped in a rut of too little, too much and never enough.
Unfortunately, the diets that dominate our world date back well before the mantras made mainstream by the likes of Atkins and Southbeach. These bogus belief systems interweave themselves into the fabric of our socio-economic divides, social stigmas and, albeit, social media culture. Intentionally pulling on the proverbial puppet strings of people around the world.
In a journal published by the Social Issues Research Centre, Anthropologist Robin Fox says of fad diets “… they are all nutritionally suspicious, but are used like any other fashion; to show how with it we are… food fashion thrives on change.”
THE DIET’S SOCIAL IMPACT
Diets — and their profoundly profitable culture — prey on what you think you don’t have while ringing you dry of anything that you do. It’s a money hungry industry, hellbent on keeping you hungrier for the next quick fix.
According to these celebutante diets, you are either eating too much or not enough. You’re not not consuming the right protein, and woefully lacking in “macronutrient” stability. Sugar is replaced by ‘shoulds’ — and the science is just as scrupulous.
Carbohydrates are the devil, and the masochistic concept of ‘calories,’ act as a cardinal counterpart. Either way, you’re wrong, not losing weight fast enough and are left to wonder “why even try.”
Food as an entity has been used for centuries to connect and celebrate human beings. “We are not only what we eat, but how well we eat,” said French Anthropologist Claude Levi Stauss.
Decadent foods were reserved for grand occasions, and guests of grandeur. It was used to show hospitality, wealth and served a purpose far greater than basic physiological needs. The food you consume was a direct reflection of you.
Food is more than a fiendish frenemy. It’s an opportunity to connect, share and be present with your body, much less other human beings. Connected with centuries-old spiritual practices, blessings, and festivals, what we consume is compounded with more of our culture than we think.
Food is nourishment that’s evolved from basic survival sustenance to seductively supersized entrees. Which has yielded unprecedented numbers in obesity, diabetes, mental health and autoimmune conditions.
And we wonder why the quick-fix-fad-diet is wielded like a weapon. . .
Nutrition and ‘diet’ have become synonymous with one another, though their purposes couldn’t differ more. Your nutrition is in direct relation to your physiological needs for survival. We’ve heard it a hundred times, “calories in, calories out… eat your veggies etc.” Nutrition is the total comprehensive balance of your meatsuit’s needs on a biological level. Meaning the nutrients necessary to breakdown, rebuild, and repair your body day to day. A diet, serves to manipulate your caloric intake, and nutritional needs, manipulating your metabolism and energy production, to change your external experience. It all serves a purpose, but this balancing act is a delicate one.
From Keto to South Beach, Atkins to the master cleanse, no stone has been left unturned when it comes to telling what ‘not’ to eat and how ‘not’ to live. Serving up platters of empty promises, swearing to deliver a life ‘worth’ living, and a body ‘worth’ admiring.
So… what do you think about exploring a strategy that makes sense… for you?
Believe it or not, your body is actually smarter than you are.
It knows exactly what you need, when, how, and what it’s going to do with it. The disconnect, however, is our very human attachment to an excessively indulgent sensory experience of cravings and desires that neglect our body’s individualized needs.
Having personally fallen prey to eating disorders, over training, and obsessive dieting, it’s imperative we acknowledge that there is no perfect formula. Less is not more, and you really are one of a kind. A ubiquitous diet is an illusion. It simply doesn’t exist. What does, however, is a seemingly superhuman capability known as: Intuitive Eating. Which is busting down the barriers of ball-parked macros, and restrictive regimens.
The greatest discrepancy between nutrition, and dieting, is that someone or something outside of yourself, knows what your body needs, more than you do. And we can collectively agree, that makes… no fucking sense.
Intuitive eating is an alternative way to comprehend — and consciously act upon — the needs of the body by learning how to discern your intrinsic dialogue. Bonding the body’s natural processes of communication between systems, known as interoceptive awareness.
THE NERDY BITS
Interoception is responsible for the sensations, and internal communication, that transpire and coalesce between neural pathways. Referred to as the “8th sensory system” it’s responsible for sensing signals such as: thirst and hunger, heart and breath rate, itch, arousal, muscle soreness, pain, as well as emotions like embarrassment, shame and sadness, and social cues.
Interoception is, in layman’s terms, the internal dialogue between brain and body, that allows for the physical being to communicate across a vast array of processes and elicit the proper responses.
Increases in interoceptive awareness have shown declines in disordered eating behaviors, greater regulation of emotional responses, self acceptance, and an overall increase in positive self image.
Research is flooding the mainstream to support the synthesis of interoception with dietary practice, known as Intuitive Eating. A phenomena that has research dating back to the 1950s, investigating the impact of interoception.
Researchers used ‘a biofeedback blip’ to manipulate autonomic (fight or flight) responses, and test the subjects capacity to sense, regulate and reduce emotional response, based on the subject’s interoceptive awareness.
They discovered that we humans do, in fact, have the power to regulate our fight or flight responses, if we are able to train our internal communication and awareness.
Spawning a slew of research that didn’t reach the mainstream until the 1980s. Just in time for supermodels of the 90s to sport heroine-chic, and cocaine-lean, as the seasons latest trend.
In 2018, Interoceptive awareness skills were tested via therapeutic training called ‘mindful awareness in body oriented therapy’ or MABT. These techniques are used to aid in emotional regulation, train internal body communication, and hopefully, increase the overall quality of life for its subjects.
If interoceptive awareness is poor, lacking, or non existent, it causes a disconnect in the dialogue between the signals received and the body’s state of being. Resulting in, what is believed to be, the underlying causes of anxiety, post traumatic stress disorders, eating disorders, inability to regulate emotional expression, autism disorders and more.
The positive effects of training interoceptive awareness are apparent on a neurobiological level. When we integrate that, with the skills of intuitive eating, you have a nutrition plan that delves deep below the surface, balancing your metabolism, and emotions, while increasing your awareness of your body’s internal processes and needs. Pretty cool… huh?
THE FINAL INGREDIENT: INTEGRATION
The human body has kerfuffled philosophers, and physicians alike, for generations. Partly due to its perfect complexity in structure, and partly due to a human being’s uniquely immense capacity for empathy and emotional acuity.
While the intricate inner workings of the body are nothing if not intimidating, some things aren’t as complicated as they seem. Let’s connect the dots between you, and you by checking out the Gut Brain Axis.
The Gut Brain Axis
The gut, brain and heart, all communicate via — what’s known as — the Vagus Nerve. It’s responsible for the communication between your brain, and your emotional / physical being, via the central and peripheral nervous systems. It communicates between all conscious and subconscious functions.
This one nerve travels from the base of the brain, through the heart, gut, and out through your reproductive organs.
Your gut consists of millions of microbiota, which collectively make up the “microbiome.” A system of microorganisms that live within your intestinal lining, responsible for proper motility, digestive functionality, and the production of approximately 90 percent of your serotonin. To top this microscopic masterpiece, the microbiome also has 150 x more genes than the human genome.
I’ll say it again… It is literally smarter than you are.
The communication between the gut-brain-axis is contingent upon your ability to put into practice the intentional steps behind intuitive eating. Here is a quick guide to start integrating your internal world, and your external objectives.
10 STEPS TO INTUITIVE EATING
- Keep a journal that tracks What you are eating & how much, When, and How your body is physiologically responding. (Be specific, not emotional shifts, bloating, mood changes, sluggishness or energy boosts etc.)
- Observe which foods yield an inflammatory response, and which seem to agree well, make note of mental / emotional clarity
- Lay out your meals / snacks in accordance with the energy being asked of you for the given task / activity
- Put a strong — but flexible — routine in place, in which meal times are set aside (away from your workspace, preferably in the sun if you can) and honored.
- Limit simple carbohydrate consumption, along with processed foods, dairy and gluten products. You can add some back in later, but it’s better to start with a fresh slate.
- Choose HIGH quality ingredients, produce, and protein sources, simply because your body is deserving of the very best.
- Aim for micro-nutrient rich meals that vary in food selection. Your body is smart and it will adapt. Keep it guessing by keeping it interesting, and don’t be afraid to get creative!
- Delaying your first meal, somedays, might feel great because it allows your gut to work through stubborn / stagnante nutrients and make a clearer pathway. Sorta like unclogging a pipe.
- Allow for a healthy amount of indulgence, AND honor your personal promises and boundaries
- Do it for you… no one else.
In taking the time to understand your internal, and external, world you undeniably increase your quality of life. Dieting shouldn’t be difficult, and your nutrition plan shouldn’t nag at you. Eat well because you aim to be well. Select foods that resonate with you because you care enough to discern the difference. Ultimately, take ownership of your one-of-a-kind experience that has yet to be explored.