Food is the essential of life. Without it, life does not exist. Yet so many are living in a state of constant battle with food. I am not just talking about those with diagnosable eating disorders; I am talking about the vast majority of people out there! The world has begun to view food as the enemy. Something that is deserving of conquering or taking control of, rather than cherished and honored for the nourishment and necessity it plays in our lives.
Your relationship with food is developed through life experiences and has very little to do with food itself. So why do most diet plans, nutritionists, nutrition “coaches” and anyone proclaiming to give nutrition advice focus solely on the food? And worse yet, compound the emotional struggle by making food the center of your life in the name of fitness or health?
We need to take a close look at what is being offered out there in the name of nutrition guidance and get some truth put into the mix!
Macros are all the buzz! “What are your macros?”, “Can I macro EAT?”, “Does this food fit into my macros?” Anyone who has read the book The Zone or worked with a program designed for athletes is now teaching everyday folks how to figure out their macros! While there is clear value in understanding macro nutrients and ensuring you are getting enough of them, the overuse of teaching people to use macros is full of negative consequences.
But before we discuss the downside, let’s take a look at the benefits:
- You learn the 3 basic types of foods your body needs to thrive
- Following macros requires you to weigh, measure and log your food so you will learn about portions
- You will probably get a fairly good balance of all 3 macro nutrients, rather than only eating 1 or 2 different macro categories
- You get a good idea of your caloric intake but again, this is due to the food logging that is necessary
Now let’s take a closer look at the downfalls of counting macros.
- Focusing on macro nutrients does not take micro nutrients into consideration.
- A small serving of french fries versus a large serving of broccoli may have the same macro makeup but they are far from comparable in micronutrients. A leading health issue in the world is micronutrient deficiency which focusing on macros does not address. Food quality needs to be addressed long before you worry about how much of it you’re eating.
- The necessity to weigh, measure and log your food.
- The awareness you gain from this is unbeatable BUT it is not sustainable for a lifetime. Short periods of weighing and measuring while you are in the initial stages of learning to eat quality foods is essential, as is a check-in from time to time to see how your portions check out. However, nobody who wants to look good, feel good and stay free from disease should have to weigh and measure their food everyday!
- It perpetuates a battle type mentality with food.
- While “flexible dieting” sounds so appealing because you don’t have to feel guilty if you eat a cupcake because it “fits your macros” this mindset alone is a problem. True fulfillment in nutrition means removing guilt from food altogether.
- It is a strong trigger for those who suffer from eating disorders.
- The practice of weighing and measuring often causes an even further food obsession. If you do not suffer from an eating disorder you may not be aware of how prevalent they are but I encounter clients on a weekly basis who have or have had in the past a form of eating disorder. Asking them to focus this closely on food is highly damaging to their psyche.
In summary, there are benefits to using macros as a tool to build awareness around food when you are first starting your journey or if you are training and eating for something very specific. I use macros in my own practice but not until someone has laid the ground work on eating quality food first. And I do not use it at all with those who suffer from eating disorders. Relying on macros for the long term will only perpetuate a struggle with food and is unsustainable for the vast majority. I would describe following a macro based program as only slightly higher order than following Weight Watchers, with the same ill emotional effects.
Bottom line, it makes eating right much too complicated!
When should you eat breakfast? How many meals should you eat per day? How long should you wait between meals? Should you fast? Should you not eat after 7pm? Should you eat carbs for breakfast or late in the day? The list of questions around food timing is overwhelming!
Food timing again is one of those areas that CAN be beneficial to some and there is science to back some of it up BUT again, it is causing the vast majority of folks to focus on the wrong things. People are concerning themselves with what time they eat breakfast but they still consume processed foods several days per week. Bottom line, if you want to look good, feel good and stay disease free you do NOT need to focus on timing your food.
So what do you do if you want to improve your nutrition?
Stop making it so complicated!
We are living in a time where everyone wants to make the basics too complicated and remove the work from the things that actually require work. Here are my tips on how to free yourself from making food your enemy.
- Grocery shop, chop and prepare your own food! This is essential but unfortunately takes a little work which most try to avoid BUT the truth is you cannot have nutritional fulfillment and health without it. I have provided the tools for you in EAT.
- Eat in a quiet state. Sit down, chew your food and pay attention to the way your food makes you feel. Proper digestion and absorption of nutrients requires eating in a calm state. If you are eating on the run, you are damaging your gut.
- Start your day with meat and nuts. It sets you up with sustainable energy, provides healthy protein and fat, as well as important minerals like B12 and iron.
- Focus on micronutrients. Start incorporating vegetables and a few fruits each day. No matter how much you eat, if your body does not have adequate vitamins and minerals, it will feel dissatisfied.
- Start honoring your body. It is the only thing you actually own and without it, you do not exist.
The more specific your goals (think athletes, sport, body building, etc.) the more specific your nutrition needs to be. For the vast majority of you, whose goals involve looking good and feeling confident, you do not need food to be the focus of your every thought!
There are a world of foods out there to enjoy! It is time we get back to the basics. Life is complicated enough without making food part of the problem. Nourish, thank and respect your body with food!