I think it’s safe to assume that if the title of this entry caught your eye then it’s likely you have at some point in your life (perhaps even now) struggled with maintaining balanced and healthy nutrition. I know I certainly have! It has taken me a considerable amount of time to recognise, deal with and overcome my eating difficulties.. but readers.. I encourage you to take heart. Over the years I have developed a key set of techniques which work well for me. By the end of this entry I hope that my research, personal views and proposed methods will provoke some life-changing thoughts and support you to do the same.
I want the Truth
Perhaps you’re not entirely convinced that our country has an issue with every day nutrition? That’s okay! It’s healthy to question people’s statements and opinions. Therefore before I delve into how to correct our dietary trajectory I would firstly like to take a moment to look at what our country considers to be an “average” daily diet (I hate and avoid using the word “diet” whenever possible – stay tuned to find out why).
From 2011 to 2013 the Australian Health Survey was conducted and over 12,000 adults (aged over 15) were asked to honestly record their intake over a 24 hour period. From this research several interesting facts were uncovered. Let me present you with two.
We lurve our carb’s:
Let’s be straightforward here, there’s no denying that we all adore our carb’s. As you can see from the graph below they make up 45% of an average Australian’s daily food intake. Now, without getting into the nitty gritty (and to avoid exploding hate mail as I know people can have VERY strong opinions on this), carb’s are not necessarily the devil in disguise. When sourced, consumed and managed correctly they are vital in our everyday functioning. The problem in this picture however is that just over a third of our daily carb’s consumed were found to be sourced from foods considered to be of little nutritional value (which also tend to be high in saturated fats, sugars, salt and/or alcohol!). The primary contributors to this were cakes, desserts, confectionary, alcoholic beverages, cereal bars, pastries, sweet and savoury biscuits, soft drinks and flavoured mineral waters. Some of those may surprise you as being carbtastic, some may not.
2. We opt to eat our just desserts instead of the good ol’ friendly veg:
Moi, Jodie? Noooo.. never! *sideways glance*The research found that the news for our daily vegetable intake wasn’t that crash hot either. Approximately 92% of adults surveyed were not eating enough vegetables, and only 49% were eating enough fruit for optimum nutrition.
So perhaps one or two of you are thinking “okay, so we’re all terrible people. I’ll just go on a diet?”
Why I hate the word “diet”:
Yep. Despise it.
From the Health Survey it was found that an estimated 2.3 million Australians said that they were on a diet to lose weight. This included 15% of females and 11% of males (think of it as 1 in 10 people).
So why does this term cause me such angst? It’s because I was a casualty to it for years. I tried everything from the Atkins Diet (which interestingly was the spark to years of anorexic tendencies as a teenager), to the Fat Free Diet, the Smoothie Meal Replacement Diet, Juice Cleanse Diet.. the list goes on. Sigh. What a rollercoaster!
The main problem with dieting is that the majority of us want a “quick fix”. Remaining ignorant of our everyday dietary issues and trying to slap a commercialised, beautifully presented dietary Band-Aid over a gaping wound is never a good idea. Yes, with commitment and following the specifically designed regime it is extremely likely that you will lose weight, but unless you begin to address and change some irksome habits all too soon you will need to undertake that drastic diet again to drop the weight you’ve regained celebrating your recent weight loss (now that’s a conundrum and a half, isn’t it?). Don’t do this to yourself my wonderful readers. You deserve consistent health and vitality. Please don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of well-designed programs out there, just be very cautious of the fads.
We as a Nation have “Food Security”:
What is that you ask? Well from a research and statistic point of view it means that nationally over the past year only 4% of people lived in a household that had run out of food and could not afford to purchase more. Furthermore only 1.5% of all Australians were in a household where someone went without food. If you have a look at the Food Security Risk Index below you will see that we are incredibly fortunate. Because of this we have the privilege of being able to afford “dietary extras” which so many other economies and locations simply cannot. Injectable donuts are simply just not an option for some. I encourage you to ponder on this for a few minutes.
Okay Crazy Lady, I believe you. Now What?
Your power lies in being informed. As I mentioned above ignorance may be blinded bliss but when your favourite shirt (the super cute one which makes your skin shimmer like spun gold) suddenly doesn’t fit anymore perhaps it’s time to scrub up on basic nutrition knowledge. I cannot stress enough that I am a nurse and not a dietitian/nutritionist so by no means am I an expert; I’m still learning too. So let’s look beyond our “food guide pyramid” and actually get empowered!
There is thankfully a plethora of free (yay!) online resources available which will help you understand basic nutrition (the difference between carbohydrates, fats and proteins). Here is my favourite website which breaks down each concept brilliantly:
Or if you learn best by listening and hearing check out this YouTube clip:
I also encourage you to gain knowledge (remember it equals power) about how to read food nutrition labels. They’re those panels which usually live on the back of the items we purchase (other than fresh produce of course!) and provide basic details on the food’s carbohydrate, fat, fibre and protein (etc.) content. They can be tricky to understand. Check out this site which breaks down each section and explains what exactly they mean:
Or once again a video clip for those who need it (warning: it’s super corny!):
With the knowledge gained from these resources you will begin to appreciate the basic nutrition needs of the human body and understand the food we consume in a different light.
So much of our intake is linked to our emotions:
This goes for you too chaps, soz!
I’m not referring exclusively to a “he/she dumped me” breakdown (was I the only one who pictured a incoherent blubbering individual eating a whole tub of triple chocolate ice cream?). No, instead I’m speaking about the daily nuances which tip us toward reaching for biscuits on our little lunch break instead of a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts. Perhaps you’re like the old me and it’s a stress management technique (something is making me feel all sorts of twisted and worked up so I’m going to eat something which makes me feel “happy”) or a way to celebrate your achievements (I got a promotion at work – it’s COOKIE TIME baby)? I found an Eating & Mindset Mentor named Leanne Marie Ball who beautifully captured comfort eating in a brief video. Please, if nothing else take the 14 minutes of your day to watch this:
On a side note this brilliant woman offers Binge Eating support. Whether you identify with this difficulty or not I encourage you to have a peek at her free (yay x2) resources as they are fantastic for building healthy attitudes towards food in your everyday life. Her website address is:
Can we stop being so touchy feely now?
Perhaps your eating isn’t emotion fuelled but part of energy conservation? I understand what it’s like to have made it through a killer day at work and the idea of sitting down for Mi-Goreng 2 minute noodles just seems so much easier than preparing a five star grilled salmon and steamed greens dish.
Identify what/when is the crunch time moment for you and prepare for it:
Whatever the cause is for the consumption of less-than-optimal food goods you need to be honest with yourself about it. This means that you will need to be truthful and aware of what your eating habits are for the next few days. I suggest downloading a food diary app (there’s no denying we all keep our phones with us) so that you can record accurately and eliminate positive bias (in other words you fudge the results to make yourself think “It’s not that bad..” – do me a favour and go try on your favourite super snug shirt again). I did this not too long ago and was surprised with what I found.
From keeping this food diary you may discover certain times of the day when you begin to consume more sugary, salty or fatty foods. I personally know that when 3-4pm hits my body starts craving something sugary and I need to incorporate my learned techniques to prevent an all-out chocolate bender. Once you’ve identified your moments of demise you can begin to put plans in place to overcome them. If you simply cannot bring yourself to cook a healthy meal at night then I strongly encourage you to do a week’s worth of meal prep (in other words on a Saturday or Sunday cook yourself dinner for Mon-Fri and place it in the freezer). Yes it requires effort. But so does trying to deal with heart disease after a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits. Choose your battles wisely.
We all view food in a different way. Some of us grew up in families where celebrations were 95% sugar-filled foods and 5% actually referring to the cause of the event (oh, that’s right, we better sing Happy Birthday, hey?). Others may have been raised in a family where food is used as reward and consequently something you should earn. Whatever may be your view I encourage you to think about it and record it. I’m not asking for a thesis, simple dot points are perfect for this. When I first did this activity I recorded something similar to:
Food has more control of me than I do of it.
The wrong foods will make me fat.
The whole nutrition concept is confusing and feels insurmountable.A tad depressing, hey? The good news is I took the time to follow the above steps I’ve discussed and have corrected my views and attitudes toward food. My thoughts are now as follows.
Food is fuel for my body.
If I nourish my body with optimal fuel it will do exactly what I ask it to.
Balance and variety is vital.
I am not a failure if I give into temptation.So how did I manage that transition? Here’s a few techniques that I found that made a world of difference and also may work for you:
Find a positive mantra and repeat it to yourself every time you sit down for a meal:Yep. Talk to yourself. All crazy like. Mine was something similar to, “I am in control of what I eat. I am not a victim to an unhealthy lifestyle. I respect my body and therefore will nourish it.”
Whenever you’re stressed and you go to eat STOP and ask yourself these questions:
- What do I need more than this ….. (chocolate, chips, etc)?
- What is the problem that I am not dealing with?
- What is an alternative comfort than food?
- Enjoy the positive emotions associated with good food choices, when you resist temptation or start seeing results:Celebrate the achievement! Tell yourself that you’re kicking ass! Go you sexy superhuman you! Yeah! Surely I do not need to mention here that it should not be with food.. beach walks, watch a movie, high five a stranger, hug a dog.. the world’s your oyster. Let’s leave it there:
Well readers, what I originally anticipated to be a short’ish entry has turned into something quite meaty. I will wrap things up here so that you have enough to muse on but not feel overwhelmed by.
If anyone wants to chat about these concepts and ideas by all means don’t hesitate to send me a message. I have dozens of other tips and tricks which will help move you in the right direction. Not to mention we at AIP will happily cheer you on from the sideline. You got this!
Stay healthy, happy and full of life Possibler’s!