Last week, I made a harmless, leisurely visit to my local Barnes & Noble for some book perusing, coffee sipping and secret inspirational gems. I don’t often venture out of the (Historical) Fiction/Biography/History section, but I thought, ‘what the heck’, to the health section I’ll go!
I was immediately overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information in this massive section. Everything from southern barbecue cookbooks, to vegan pledges, to Michael Pollan wisdom, to how plants are killing us all, to the spread of hidden disease, to how to raise your children the “right and healthy”way. I mean, I have a pretty solid head on my shoulders regarding health and wellness and I was completely overwhelmed. And this is just at the bookstore. Multiply that by like 10,000 and you’ve got the online blizzard of semi-credible food and health advice accessible to everyone in their living room.
So this got me to thinking, how does someone with little to no nutritional or health training sort through all of this and find the real gems? I talk to dozens of people every week about this very thing, and there is often a common thread for each one of them:
Finding balance in their health is the most important thing.
There is a fine line between not making enough change and making too much change. When it comes to food, I’ve known a few people to go just a little overboard, resulting in an unfortunate bout of something called Orthorexia. This is a relatively new phenomenon and something I’ve seen my whole life but never knew there was actually a name for. Orthorexia is the term for folks that take dieting and food perfection to the extreme – obsessively looking for the purist, highest quality food and fixating their dieting strategies on things that are exclusively “pure”. Unlike other food imbalances, orthorexia is a fixation of quality of food instead of quantity.
From my experience, going overboard on food fixations is generally fueled by fear (of health consequences), misinformation (about what food does in the body) and rigidity (of making “bad”choices about their food). I can totally understand this – and here’s why:
- Fear: Health “professionals”online and in books often like to use scare tactics to get people to start their patented diet (like this absurd website, for example). They know that some health conscious people are often going to have a knee-jerk reaction to strong health language and fear that if they don’t make these changes right away, something horrible will happen to their health. (As an added bonus – check out this video from my friend and nutrition professor, Camille Freeman, on how to intelligently analyze websites like this.)
- Misinformation: The above website is a clear example of misinformation. What also happens when you google or search for health advice is conflicting information like this and this. There is an abundance of information out there to both promote and negate every single diet available. Without a solid informational foundation to stand on, the common person is likely to fall victim to obsessively looking up new information before they truly understand how their body works, and how food influence their body and health. This is the beginning step to making informed choices about health and food.
- Rigidity: Have you ever read Surviving Whole Foods? It’s a hilariously accurate look at what it’s like to make a trip to the health food store and be completely judged on your foods. Not only do we deal with the judgements around “we are what we eat”(which I don’t personally agree with), we seem to confine ourselves to a very restrictive set of rules that exclude a ton of foods without adding in other alternatives. I hear all the time “I’ve been bad this week”with food or associated guilt with eating this or that. We’re really losing sight of a bigger picture here.
So what does conscious health balance mean to me?
- Being informed and open minded about new health information (and being discerning at the same time).
- Asking for help when I feel like I’m struggling or not feeling well
- Knowing that community, professional life, personal life, spiritual practice and joyful time is also just as important to health as the food I eat.
- Feeling healthy and satisfied at the same time.
If you need some help or direction on how to make the first steps to changing or adding to your health plan, email me to set up a free 30 minute consultation at Ellwood Thompsons on Thursday evenings between 5:00-7:00. Sometimes a gem of perspective can be just the inspiration you need to make small amazing changes!
Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN HealthCoach@EllwoodThompsons.com