As we focus on National Nutrition Month and the importance of making informed food choices, we want to understand more about what nutrition means to a dietitian. As a Regional Director of Clinical Partnerships for Selah House, I am passionate about helping clients connect to quality care, and as a Registered Dietitian and Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, I want to help people break the chains of the diet culture.
National Nutrition Month is the perfect opportunity for individuals to look at their daily nutrition patterns and consider where they are now and if they need help making balanced food choices. By balanced food choices I mean, considering food preferences, proximity to food, the time available to eat or shop for food. Balanced nutrition creates neutrality with food, so we are not operating in an environment of good and bad but instead wants and needs. Nutrition should be flexible and does not generally cut out food groups unless health conditions require it. It is important to always think about what your body wants and needs at that moment.
What is a diet culture?
We hear the phrase “diet culture” often, but what does it mean? Diet culture is an idea that we are inherently good for eating in a certain manner or to a certain standard. Think about how society tells us we should eat. For instance, eating clean means I am good, but if I am eating food that is outside of the limits of clean eating then I am bad. With this way of thinking, the diet culture, creates a morality with a manner of eating. For some, this manner of eating becomes an identity, such as “I am vegan,” “I am gluten free.” At some point, it can become an all-encompassing mindset. It is important to remember that restrictive diets do not incorporate food preferences and satisfaction, it is more shame based. And that way of thinking and eating can often lead to an eating disorder.
Variety and Moderation
We believe that all foods can fit into a nutritionally-sound meal plan including balance, variety, and moderation. This is important for everyone, and it means eating different foods every day versus restricting or limiting variety to a diet plan. All foods fit with variety and moderation. Variety means incorporating different colors of fruits and vegetables into your meals or choosing something different for lunch each day rather than reverting to what feels comfortable or safe. Moderation means listening to your body and preferences. Creating a sense of allowance results in moderation by pulling food from a pedestal and reducing the “feast or famine” mentality with foods such as cake or French fries. When you are not listening to your body and integrating food preferences, you tend to overeat.
What is intuitive eating?
At Selah House, we start by rejecting the diet mentality and eliminating the idea that there are foods that we can and can’t have. We practice Intuitive Eating, which has 10 principles that utilize internal factors to determine what we decide to eat, how much we decide to eat, and when we decide to eat. Intuitive Eating helps to eliminate the “should” and “should nots” of eating and eliminates diet culture telling us when to stop eating instead of our bodies telling us. This is a thoughtful process of what sounds good, how hungry am I, when is the next opportunity to eat. By helping clients eliminate the diet culture, they can create a peace with food and incorporates satisfaction. Food can be filling but not satisfying which can make us want to eat more even though we are not hungry.
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” – Proverbs 16:24