I get a lot of e-mails and questions from you guys (which I love to answer), and thought it would be cool to include one in this week’s post.
QUESTION: Where should the line be drawn between being pretty healthy, and an obsessed freak? Like, what is really necessary to be healthy, and what is over the top? –Anonymous
ANSWER: Let me start by mentioning a semi-related article I just read about Hedi Montag’s numerous plastic surgeries, highlighting her “back scooping” procedure, where they suck out the tiny amount of fat that lives in your lower back, giving the spine “a concave look” (Ref 1). I was originally under the impression that our spines were ALREADY concave, but maybe I’m missing something here. At any rate, even though I fully support personal choice when it come to our bodies, I think this is another ridiculous attempt at achieving and promoting an unhealthy standard of beauty. Stories like hers make us insecure about how we look, and make it seem as if we must go to drastic, glamorous lengths to achieve happiness. Over 60% of our population is overweight or obese, but we also suffer from massive amounts of eating disorders. According to the SC Dept. of Health, one in every 200 American women is anorexic, and 2-3 in every 100 American women are bulimic (Ref. 2). There is an unhealthy obsession with food, body image, and weight from both ends of the spectrum in our society, and we really need to sit ourselves down and examine what factors are at play in our daily lives in order to be happier and healthier.
Now, I am no expert, and do not claim to be. But, since I was little, I was always taught that health and happiness are one and the same, and you cannot possibly have one without the other. Above all, I strive for balance in my everyday life. I try to approach all of my thoughts and activities with balance and moderation, especially those related to health and eating. Being “obsessed” with anything makes us stressed out, and being stressed out negatively impacts how we feel, what we eat, and how our bodies function. Interestingly, a disorder that has recently been brought to light deals directly with food obsession. “Orthorexia” is a disorder in which people are psychologically obsessed with food. The outcome? Uncontrollable thoughts about food, calories, and health consume their minds, and they can’t function in their everyday lives. These are normally not people who don’t eat; instead, they try to eat so ideally (their own understanding of perfection, whether it be organic, raw food, etc) that eating and food take over their lives. And, surprisingly, there have been deaths induced by orthorexia and chronic obsessive food thoughts (Ref. 3).
The trouble with changing our diets is that, unlike smoking or alcohol use, we need food to live. It’s in our biology to eat, be hungry, and crave foods. Additionally, eating is so much more than just fuel and nutrient–it’s a pleasurable, satisfying experience. Therefore, eating mindfully, taking baby steps toward healthier food and exercise choices, and thinking positively about ourselves can do much more good for our health than going crazy over exactly how many calories we ingest, or what kinds of foods we can or cannot eat.
Here are some tips on Mindful Eating from a psychologist named Susan Albers (Ref. 3). It’s a little preachy, but the intention is good– actively engaging ourselves when we eat is important for understanding our bodies and our habits, and can help us make healthy changes:
1. Shift out of Autopilot Eating: What did you have for breakfast? Be honest. Many people eat the same thing day in and day out. Notice
whether you are stuck in any kind of rut or routine.
2. Take Mindful Bites: Did you ever eat an entire plate of food and not taste one single bite? Bring all of your senses to the dinner
table. Breathe in the aroma of a fresh loaf of bread. Notice the texture of yogurt on your tongue. Truly taste your meal. Experience each bite from start to finish.
3. Attentive Eating: Sure, you’re busy and have a lot “on your plate.” It’s hard to make eating a priority rather than an option or
side task. If you get the urge for a snack while doing your homework or studying, stop and take a break so that you can give eating 100% of your attention. Try to avoid multitasking while you eat. When you eat, just eat.
4. Mindfully Check In: How hungry am I on a scale of one to ten? Gauging your hunger level is a little like taking your temperature. Each time you eat, ask yourself, “Am I physically hungry?” Aim to eat until you are satisfied, leaving yourself neither stuffed nor starving.
5. Thinking Mindfully: Observe how critical thoughts like “I don’t want to gain the Freshman Fifteen.” or “I’m so stupid, how could I do that!” can creep into your consciousness. Just because you think these thoughts doesn’t mean you have to act on them or let them sway your emotions. Negative thoughts can trigger overeating or stop
you from adequately feeding your hunger. Remember: A thought is just a thought, not a fact.
6. Mindful Speech: Chit chatting about dieting and fat is so commonplace that we often aren’t truly aware of the impact it
might have on our self-esteem. When you are with friends and family, be mindful of your gut reaction to “fat talk” (e.g. “I’m so fat!” or the “I’m so fat; No you’re not” debate). Keep in mind how the words might affect someone struggling with food issues.
7. Mindful Eating Support: Friends provide an enormous amount of support, but often it’s helpful to obtain assistance or a second
opinion from a trained professional. If you would like to learn more about mindful eating, or if you have concerns about your eating habits, call your college counseling center, student health center or consult the NEDA website www.NationalEatingDisorders.org for information and treatment referrals.
BE WELL, EVERYONE!
Remember, if you have any questions, suggestions, or want to show some love, e-mail us at NutritionFromAtoZ@gmail.com or FormSpring Us at http://www.formspring.me/NutritionWithAZ.