Food is fuel, but we abuse food beyond imagination.
We treat it like a commodity rather than a necessity.
We rely on it to make us feel better, we restrict it to punish ourselves, or ‘save’ calories for ‘treats’, we make choices based on ‘cravings’ rather than on what we need to thrive!
Every time you eat you are making a choice to either put toxins into your body, to put your liver, kidneys and digestive system under pressure, to rob your body of much needed vitamins and minerals or build your body up, to nourish and provide it with the raw materials to make you feel and look better and create an environment conducive to health.
Every time you chose to eat or you skip a meal you are helping or hindering your health, everything you eat or don’t eat today is paving either the road to sickness or the road to health for tomorrow.
We have been ignorant to to the power of food to heal for too long, where has that gotten us?
The low fat movement has lead to the highest obesity rates in history, the highest incidence of type 2 diabetes we have ever known and the burgeoning of cardiovascular disease- the very thing low fat living was supposed to solve!
Your body is an intelligent machine, far beyond our comprehension. It has delicate feedback systems that tightly regulate our temperature, our fat stores, our blood glucose levels, but our modern diet tends to disrupt these feedback systems. Low thyroid function caused by iodine deficiency reduces our metabolic rate and in turn our body temperature. Those with a low functioning thyroid suffer from weight gain and generally feel cold. Too much sugar in the diet cause glucose to be converted into triglycerides and stored in our adipose tissue, swelling up our fat cells and causing leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone released by fat cells that helps to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger. The idea is the more fat cells we have the less hunger we feel because our body knows it has lots of energy in storage, but this isn’t the case, and research indicates that Leptin resistance is a major contributor to obesity and binge eating. Insulin is a hormone responsible for lowering blood glucose levels in the blood, but just like leptin, we can become insulin resistant. If we persistently consume foods high in sugar or simple carbohydrates, the beta cells of our pancreas secrete insulin at an alarming rate so that eventually our cells become resistant to the insulin signal and we are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes!
There is an abundance of food available that has no place in our body, that no way represents what’s found in nature. Frankenfoods as they are known in the industry. To digest and eliminate these your body has to use its reserves of vitamins and minerals leaving most people rife with deficiencies and low level inflammation. For example, for every molecule of sugar we consume it take 54 molecules of magnesium to process it- I remember hearing this in A level chemistry and being mind blown!
Food is essential to life, and of course we should get some pleasure out of what we eat but we shouldn’t be using food to either fill a void or restricting it to the point of starvation. It is a delicate balance. Moderation is the buzzword of the moment and in theory it is an excellent idea. The problem is that moderation is extremely difficult to achieve and adhere to. To reach the point where you can eat all things in moderation you first have to go through several processes – it doesn’t happen overnight, but then nothing worthwhile ever does! When I see clients who crave or binge on certain foods, they have to start by cutting those foods out completely because they are effectively addicted and addiction knows not of moderation. After the initial period we can then re-introduce the once problematic foods in MODERATION. Similarly, if someone presents with a severely restricted diet we spend weeks (months even) incrementally increasing their calories, so that we can get them up to a healthy level without piling on the body fat.
Both of these strategies, or any other for that matter, will only work if you stay in regular contact with your coach or nutritionist. If left to your own devices in the first few weeks (which are always the toughest when trying to change behaviour) you will binge, or starve, or fall into old routines – trust me I’ve seen it time and again:
Those that succeed are those that stay in daily or weekly contact with their coaches or nutritionists. They are there to help you and answer questions, they are there to guide you to make the correct decisions, there are there to ‘Check-in’ regularly to ensure you are on track and find out if not, why not, and finally they are there to ensure that a year from now you are autonomous, reaching your goals, and having a healthy and fulfilling relationship with food.
Moderation is the goal, intuitive eating the holy grail, but you have to work at it, and with all the false information in the media, with all the ‘broscience’ in the gyms and misguided government recommendations, you will need guidance.
Make sure you choose wisely!
Naomi McArdle MSc
ISSN PGDip Sports Nutrition Student