Are you ready to Choose your Own Adventure when it Comes to your Nutrition?
This is a story about Diet Culture — how it seeps into our consciousness and affects perceptions as well as decisions around food, physical activity, and body image. We are inundated with messages all day long from social, print and broadcast media, as well as friends and family members about foods we should and shouldn’t eat! You can read on, and hear my thoughts on this matter, or stop right here. You have a choice right now to participate, or not!
Remember those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books? At key points in the story, you’re given options: “To follow the woman into the store, turn to page 43. To return home, turn to page 57.” It’s a cool concept that turns a story into a game. You passively enjoy the plot for a while, then dive in and make your move. These books remind me of everyday life and the many decisions we make. But in “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories, you are the audience and the author.
Every single day, in real life, we decide which food(s) to keep in the home; “what,” “when,” “where,” and “how much” to eat, and how much to move in our bodies. We choose language to describe our own bodies and body image as well as for others around us, including kids, parents and strangers. This is powerful stuff!
Here are a couple of sample adventures many of us experience and remember you are the Author of your own Story:
Choose your Own Adventure: Today, I’m back on my diet!
Monday morning: “Time to start back on that diet. I’ve been so out of control, especially this past weekend, and know I must reign myself in. I’ll be good today, I promise! I’ll get myself to the gym even if I feel sick and tired. I am such a horrible person for letting myself go like this!”
Choose your Own Adventure: Today, I honor my body!
Monday morning: “I’m hungry and feel like having a satisfying, nourishing breakfast. I know that toast with eggs and avocado in the morning always make it to easier to concentrate at work, plus I’ll be able to take that great Zumba class I love later. I’m not the fittest person in that class, but I sure feel like a badass!
Here are two different ways of authoring your story, and each will have a different ending. Let’s look at the first story:
You, on a diet!
It is easy to forget that we need fuel (food) to survive and thrive. Our brains and bodies need carbs, fats and many other food groups. This is a biological necessity. Did you know that when you diet, your body goes into a state of semi-starvation?
This has been studied extensively in the now famous Minnesota Starvation Project during WWII. Our government wanted to learn about the effects of food shortages and recruited 36 healthy young male conscientious objectors who wanted to help the war effort. These men were fed their normal diets for 3 months, then subjected to a reduction of food to create a loss of 25% of their body weights for 6 months, then finally re-fed to get back to their normal weights. The results were shocking; all became disordered eaters.
During the restrictive phase, these men had constant thoughts about foods and recipes, became easily irritated, had reduced stamina, low body temps, heart rates and libido. Several of the men had to drop out of the study when they became emotionally unstable — some binged, some purged, none of them could continue starving. When appropriate amounts of food were finally given back to all participants, these men experienced extreme hunger and overeating for long periods of time – some for up to 1-2 years to finally have their bodies trust that food would be coming at regular intervals.
This study demonstrates the effects of food restriction – or dieting – as we now call it! Here are the effects: low energy, anger, irritation, low sex drive, low body temp, low heart rate, reduced strength, obsessive thoughts about food and eating. Diets, in a nutshell, lead to food preoccupation.
Diets, for some, lead to frank eating disorders, just like some of the men in the Starvation Study. Food preoccupation can color your entire world view and influence how you speak about yourself and your body. This preoccupation will have profound effects on your children as well — they will learn that dieting and body dissatisfaction is the “norm” no matter what their body shape, size, or feelings about foods! This preoccupation will filter down into the next generation if we don’t catch it.
You, Honoring Your Body and Learning to Eat Intuitively!
Our bodies are miraculous and provide us with incredible amounts of information, if only we listen for it! Our bodies have internal regulation, which means they tell us if we are hungry, rather than relying on a set of rules (diets) written by someone else. Our bodies tell us if we are tired, if we listen for it. Our bodies tell us if we need to empty our bladder. Our bodies really tell us if we are full, if we are satisfied, if we are angry, sad, happy, disappointed, and a myriad of other emotions that we can feel internally, if we practice getting in touch with them.
This is called attunement, and studies show that becoming attuned to our body signals will help us to be more successful in maintaining healthy habits, as compared to dieting. Research on the failure rates of diets (95-97% of diets fail!), and the health improvements seen with intuitive eating, have made it clear that we need to tell ourselves a new narrative – a new story. With intuitive eating, we can be compassionate, gentle and kind with ourselves, and in turn, with our children and other family members.
You can craft your own story right now.
Your life is your choice, your design.
Ask yourself, who are the characters in your story, and what outside roles or influences (such as diet culture) will affect your story? How do you want to spend your time? How do you want to live? What do you do that brings you ultimate fulfillment in your life?
It’s your story, you get to design it. And the sky is the limit.
If you have chosen the dieting route, and feel that you are ready to explore a new way, check out my Introductory Online Intuitive Eating Course, Dipping Your Toes into Intuitive Eating. Here are more details if you think it can be helpful to you…
If you are looking for some one-on-one guidance writing your story… I would be happy to speak with you! Contact me right here!
Erica Leon is a Registered Dietitian and practices from a Health at Every Size (HAES®) lens. She is certified as an eating disorder specialist and is passionate about helping women at midlife, menopause and beyond to make peace with food and body image.
Erica is a highly sensitive nutrition therapist who takes the time to learn where you or your family are in the pursuit of health. Respectful of your individual needs and lifestyle, she will provide an honest assessment of whether or not you are a good fit to work together. Click here to schedule a 15-minute Discovery Call with Erica to let us know about your needs, and to see which of our Dietitians is the best fit for you!
Download our Free Intuitive Eating Guide and get off that Diet Roller Coaster for good!