Almost anywhere I go as a Dietitian, I hear peoples concerns about food and their bodies. There is an overwhelming amount of information out there, and so much of it is misleading.
I really hold a lot of compassion when I hear peoples confusion, concern or even fear that has been created by the culture we live in today. It’s such a shame to see it get this way.
So I decided to answer a few common questions I get asked. If you like these Q&A’s then let me know, I would be more than happy to continue writing them.
Also note that this is general information. It’s best to speak to a trusted Non-Diet Dietitian for more personalised advice or even assistance unpacking some of these thoughts.
What are the best diets to follow??
There is no such thing as a perfect diet. Only you can really appreciate if your food and lifestyle habits are serving you. Some useful questions to ask are:
How is the way I’m eating impacting my social and emotional health?
Do my meals feel satisfying?
Where are my food beliefs and rules coming from?
Intentional efforts to lose weight such as dieting may appear ‘successful’ in the first 6-12 months as weight loss is achieved. However, after this time period and due to no fault of the individual (regardless of whether they continue to follow the diet or not), at least 95 per cent of dieters regain the weight they lost and often more.
Such an act of rigid dieting in the name of “health”, especially for people who are chronic dieters (e.g. yo-yo dieters) can often spiral into a range of health problems including slowed metabolism, low energy levels, nutrient deficiencies, gut health concerns, risk of osteoporosis, and increased risk of heart-disease to name a few.
- What do you recommend instead of following a diet?
Firstly to address why we don’t encourage a diet plan…following a diet usually means following a set of rigid rules decided by someone external. This may be a health professional, your Doctor, Dr. Google, a celebrity, a family member or friend or even a colleague. Following such a rigid way of eating not only is unsafe as mentioned earlier. It is often difficult to maintain (due to life naturally not being so rigid and structured) and takes away autonomy from the individual to determine foods they might enjoy or find satisfying (physically and emotionally).
So as an alternative instead of relying on food rules from external sources for the rest of your life. We aim to support you to re-connect with your innate wisdom on how to care for your health and well-being. One practice that Dietitians at Glow Group Health and Wellbeing support clients with is Intuitive Eating. This is a set of of 10 principles developed by Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elise Resch designed to empower individuals with skills to build a positive and respectful relationship with food and their body.
- Can you write me a diet plan?
As Dietitian’s it is probably safe to say that we are the most qualified health care professionals to write a diet plan that adequately addresses your energy and nutrient needs as well as meet your goals and preferences. However, this is not necessarily appropriate or particularly useful for everyone. Diet plans are often rigid and restrictive and do not allow much space for intuition or just general thoughts and feelings associated with changes to the day. These plans also often lead into obsessive thoughts over the foods that do ‘not fit’ in the plan.
Instead for those people who crave structure, we collaboratively develop a meal guide that allows for variety, flexibility and ‘fun’ foods whilst also supporting people with their health goals.
- What are your top foods that I should avoid eating?
Short answer is that there are no top foods to avoid, nor are there specific foods to eat more of. Unless you have an allergy or medical reason for eliminating a particular food, putting certain foods on a forbidden list is unhelpful and unnecessary.
In today’s culture of dieting it is easy to find ourselves commenting on whether a food might be “good” or “bad” for us. We have become accustomed to this black and white way of thinking about food without realising the harm this can have. As a consequence of placing such a moral value on food, we then transfer such values onto ourselves. In other words, food is either good or bad, and we are good or bad based on what we eat. Creating a toxic relationship with food and our self-worth.
It is very common for adults and children to find themselves feeling out of control around those foods that they have decided they are never allowed to eat or have around the house. This is what is known as the ‘forbidden fruit effect’, the more we tell ourselves we can’t have a food, the more we crave it. It’s simply human nature to rebel and defy ‘rules’.
Our roles as Dietitian’s is to help you unpack these beliefs around food and help you understand that nutrition science is not black and white.
- Are carbs bad for you?
Carbs have a reputation in diet culture for being “bad” which is simply a shame. As discussed above, no food is straight up “bad” for you and in fact carbohydrates play a vital role in our day-to-day survival.
Carbohydrates are digested into sugars for our organs to utilise as energy. These sugars provide our body and brain with its number one and most easily accessible source of energy. Allowing us to nourish our vital organs and muscles and perform our daily physical and mental tasks.
Carbohydrates, particularly in the form of wholegrains and cereals are a rich source of micronutrients, such as B vitamins, magnesium, folate and iron. They also contain a range of fibres that can support healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels and act as prebiotics which feed those microbes in our large intestine that improve our ability to absorb nutrients and maintain healthy immune and cardiovascular systems, to name a few.