I realised quite quickly into my practise as a nutritional therapist that mostly people knew what they should be eating. I was confused as you can imagine, why come to me if you know you should be eating healthy foods. I was even more confused when they could identify those healthy foods. Why come to me if you can identify what those healthy foods look like. To say I was dumbfounded to learn that a number of those coming to see me knew more about nutrition than I did, if they knew what to do, why were they sat in front of me. Because simply they weren’t doing it, they didn’t really need a nutritional therapist they needed a psychologist I realised, and as I sat nodding and mirroring back my clients issues, I was told how much I understood. What I did understand was that you can have health on a plate and still not be healthy, you can be really ill in fact and be slowing moving yourself into a hole of no return. It wasn’t just what they were eating, or how they were eating it, it wasn’t about what they were drinking, it was what they were thinking that was the real problem and that I believe is why the diet industry is still booming, and so many yoyo themselves through life, slowly losing energy, vitality, and the will to live!
I believe that if you don’t get the balance right, and that means right for you, that this will leave the dashboard of your body lights on, flashing that something is wrong, but with little will to change things. I see so many people who believe they are comfort eating their way to oblivion and feel that they have lost control of the food they are eating. Often this isn’t about the food, it’s about what is going on in either their relationships, their personal life, their job, career, finances etc. that are driving them to need to comfort themselves. Their only way of exerting control is by controlling what goes into their mouth, they start to go on cleaner and cleaner diets, becoming stricter and stricter, often eating less and less. When they find it’s not working I tend to see them as their last resort. I’m like the last option, I’m lucky mostly they will do anything by that point, but often the hardest bit is enabling them to understand that food isn’t the issue, it’s what they are thinking about what the food means, or think about their life and themselves that is.
At first, they find that stricter dieting resolves the problem, the application of will power at the beginning of anything is high, the excitement that things might be different means that we will apply most things to ourselves tirelessly at first. They lose a little weight, feel a little bit better, and have more energy. Then slowly this amount of effort put in without true motivation towards long term change means the restrictive diet falters, as the other issues that are making the diet and health a casualty come to the fore. It was never about the food or the diet, it’s a casualty of the war being waged internally in the mind over other priorities in life.
Stress is by far the biggest factor, driven in a variety of ways but mostly by what we think, and believe about our situation, stress can be a killer, as well as highly disruptive to health, and I find for my clients the hardest thing out of the Eat Drink and Think grouping to manage. Easily distracted mostly we focus on the things we can control and will make us feel good controlling.
Our society is dominated by dieting, so that is inevitably where we turn, because so much advice is hinged on this, and the way we should look, another form of control in many respects, and with that pressure we then exert it on ourselves because when we look good we now associate it with feeling good.
Everyone loves the comments on how good they look now that you’ve lost some weight. But the scales that most people use to measure on the route to health success don’t tell the whole story and often leave my clients feeling worse, not better, their lives dominated by did I lose that weight today. The rest of their day can end up ruined because the scales had apparently gone in the wrong direction with no real understanding that the body composition may be changing leading to a weight increase that indicates a positive rather than a negative. Our health and diets have become dominated by our weight, rather than our health, we stay focused on eating more healthily until the weight loss has happened, and rather than reviewing the dashboard of the body, watching, listening and then acting to change things for the long term. We now need devices to tell us what is happening, and what to do about it, so distanced are we from our body, when in reality we can see or feel it if we take the time to.
Our health isn’t about our weight, it shouldn’t only be focused on when the clothes are too tight or we’ve been shamed into changing. Health is a set of small daily rituals that with practise leaves us in a place of vitality, and it’s a simple incremental change with those habits that gives us the health and vitality that makes us happy, not the scales, not other people. Good or bad health is simply about what we Eat Drink and Think.