The health and wellness industry is at a crossroads. Evidenced by the growing rates of both obesity and eating disorders, women are simultaneously starving and overfeeding themselves, and it goes beyond food. They're starved for a more meaningful, purpose-driven life and overfed by media messages telling them who and how they should look and be. As a result, they're using food to punish or self-medicate. It's no surprise that, as a gender, our relationship with food has become severely damaged.
Every day I turn on the television, open a magazine or read an article on a popular wellness web site touting a new workout, promoting a trendy diet or spouting misinformed advice. I'm not surprised that many women feel confused, misinformed and overwhelmed. I totally get it and that's exactly why I'm on a mission to help women make sense of it all.
I whole-heartedly believe it doesn't have to be as complicated as we make it. The habits we've subconsciously cultivated through our adult lives have shaped our relationship with food, but with some awareness and mindful practice, we can turn the tides and learn to counteract a few common pitfalls with mindset shifts and healthier habits.
We live in a calorie-crazed world. A lot of the women I coach in my practice are in the habit of tracking their calories to exhaustion. No wonder. There are even apps devoted to this crazy-making habit. This is why calorie counting is one of the first habits I work with clients to break. The only foods labels I want them to read are the ones that list the ingredients.
The most successful eating plans don't hinge on calorie-counting, because when you eat a diet rich in whole foods and low in -- or better yet, devoid of -- packaged foods, calories are far less of a concern.
It all comes down to calorie density, the scientific term for the number of calories per pound of food. Calorie density is lowest for unprocessed plant foods. Filling up on plant foods keeps calorie consumption low, balances blood sugar, "crowds out" unhealthy choices, controls appetite and minimizes cravings. With this approach, you can eat more food containing fewer calories and potentially create healthy weight loss over the long haul.
The diet culture has exacerbated much of the guilt women tend to feel when it comes to food and eating.
A diet involves some kind of food restriction or calorie deficit. You might be successful with a diet for a period of time and even see results. But over time, your body will fight back, usually with a revenge binge on the food you were restricting. Diets are a quick fix and aren't meant to be a sustainable, long-term success plan. It's a known fact that 98 percent of people who lose weight on a diet gain it back.
Eating researcher Traci Mann suggests dieting makes it impossible to maintain weight loss with a one-two punch: it increases production of hunger hormones while simultaneously slowing down your metabolism. So while a diet may help you trim weight - at least at first - it can't instill new and permanent healthy habits, teach you how to eat for ultimate energy and prevention, listen to your body or understand your cravings. If anything, it cultivates an unhealthy relationship with food.
Making permanent changes requires a change in mindset and familiarity with your body, both of which a diet can't deliver.
If you've ever been berated or criticized by someone you knew, loved or respected you know how completely debilitating it can feel. When it happens repeatedly, you understand how damaging it can be. When we beat ourselves up for getting off track by not sticking to a diet, eating too many cookies or skipping a day at the gym, it has the same injurious effect. After awhile, you may even start to subconsciously rebel. It's cyclical.
This was my approach before my own transformation. With a mindset that life was what happened to me, my external circumstances controlled how I behaved and what I ate. After-work happy hours turned into hangovers, and my eating habits went from bad to worse when sugar became a stand-in for actual food i.e. cupcakes for dinner. At my lowest, messiest point, I was ready to take control of my life and put it on a new trajectory. In that moment, I decided I would place a much higher priority on my physical, emotional and mental well-being. When I let everything from there on out be guided by that intention, my entire life changed.
When you come from a place of forgiveness, love and self-care, a healthy lifestyle no longer seems like a chore, but a gift you give yourself.
Whether you've never learned how to build a healthy plate or are afraid of committing to a full meal, grazing is arguably one of the most damaging habits we can develop. In reality, grazing is mindless eating and not only can it lead to eventual weight gain, you also don't get to experience full satisfaction from food. You may have experienced this first-hand as I know I have. When you graze all day, by the end of the day, you may end up eating more than you would have had you just sat down to your meals mindfully, throughout the day.
Because you're not feeling satisfied, you're constantly looking for something else to eat - or at least thinking about it. Grazing can have an emotional element to it when it's not truly driven by physical hunger but rather emotional hunger resulting from stress, boredom or sadness.
Combat the tendency to graze by sitting down to a balanced plate for breakfast, lunch and dinner and choose snacks that contain both fat and protein.
Everyone has food noise. Where and how you got yours is part of your story and will ultimately play a role in your transformation. Sometimes that transformation requires hitting bottom first, other times you catch yourself before the fall, but regardless of the food noise you experience, learn to trust yourself to make energizing, nutritious and naturally slimming choices and let go of whatever negative thoughts you have about what and how you ate yesterday. Focus on how you can be good to yourself today.
Text adapted from Your Holistically Hot Transformation: Embrace
Healthy Lifestyle Free of Dieting, Confusion and Self-Judgment, ©2016 by Marissa Vicario. All rights reserved.