You really should eat whatever you want.
Someone made a comment on one of my Facebook posts this morning that while incredibly ignorant and uninformed, sort of brought up a point that I keep meaning to write more about.
Healthy eating vs eating for weight loss and why my advice is "eat whatever you want".
I shared this image of Mark Haubs, a nutrition professor who lost 27lbs in 8 weeks eating twinkies to prove a point – that is, weight loss is a matter of eating less calories than your body burns and contrary to popular diet rules everywhere, it doesn’t matter where those calories come from. You will lose weight if you are eating less calories than you burn. That’s not my opinion, it’s science.
My first statement in that post was to say that I am NOT advocating eating those things everyday – you will feel like garbage and likely be starving all the time – to which someone replied that I was stupid for saying it was a healthy way to eat. (facepalm)
As I said, it was an ignorant and uniformed statement – he literally didn’t even read what I wrote – but I do want to be clear about why I’ve gone from saying “if it’s not on your plan, it doesn’t go in your mouth” to saying eat whatever you want because I don't ever want it to sound like I'm advocating living on foods with little nutritional value.
To be clear, I still believe the meal plans I used to give provide the most healthy, body composition friendly options available and in an ideal world think that's how we "should" be eating. My opinion on their benefits have not changed, nor has the fact that eating for fat loss isn't the same thing as eating for weight loss - those are two very different things and ideally we should be, eating for health and fat loss.
We. don't. live. in. an. ideal. world.
And the reasons why people eat the way they eat are sooo complex that it's naive to just pass out meal plans or tell people what to eat and expect them to be able to do it. Because none of those little details matter at all when people can't stick to them and like all diets, meal plans, or "lifestyle" rules, people can't stick to them.
It doesn't matter how perfect a diet or meal/lifestyle plan is if you can't follow it.
AND I’ve learned WHY people struggle so hard to follow them.
Really digging into the science behind why for over 6 years taught me exactly why it doesn’t typically work very well to tell people what to eat to help them lose weight or encourage healthy eating and I’ve learned what actually does.
Back to the eating healthy versus eating for weight loss comment for a second. Whenever I make the statement that you can and should eat whatever you want when you’re trying to lose weight, I’m talking weight loss. I’m NOT talking about eating healthy and I'm not talking about changing body composition.
There’s a difference.
You can eat for weight loss and not eat healthy.
You can eat healthy but not be eating for weight loss. You can be eating healthy and for weight loss, but not necessarily for changing body composition.
Eating healthy doesn’t automatically mean you are eating for weight loss or fat loss and eating unhealthily doesn’t automatically mean you are not eating for weight loss or fat loss.
I’m speaking PURELY about weight loss.
I’m NOT speaking about eating healthy or fat loss. That’s an entirely different conversation that I we shouldn't even be having as long as so many people are struggling with food because again, if you're struggling to just do the most minimal basics (reduce portions), getting into the other details is an exercise in futility.
Why don't I talk more about eating healthy (or even really fat loss)?
Well, for one thing because everyone is already doing that and as far as I can tell, it's not helping very much. Every where you look everyone wants to tell you that their way is the healthiest way to eat -- but nobody can even agree on anything!
Vegans tell you animal products are evil. Carnivores want you to believe plants are evil. Keto and low-carb zealots tell you carbs are evil and create heart disease, yet scientists also say it's actually low carb diets that cause heart disease. Nobody can agree and while everyone is busy fighting with each other over what's actually "the right way" ...the world gets heavier, more confused, unhealthier and unhappier.
It's insanity that I want no part of anymore.
I'm here to help you learn to eat in whatever way makes YOU happy and feel good so your life stops revolving around the food, weight and scale obsessions and you can put the energy you're currently wasting on that war, in more productive places.
The majority of women I’ve worked with over the years are where I was when I first started and I’m speaking to them.
There are literally tens of billions pieces of content, books, websites, gurus, diets, rules, advice, etc all telling what we're supposed to be eating. We're adults and we're not stupid. I think it's pretty safe to assume that at this stage in the game, most people have a fairly general idea of what's supposedly healthy and what isn't -- even with all the arguing and name calling that happens in the world of nutrition science.
The problem isn't that we don't KNOW, the problem is that we're not doing it and the question of WHY that is, is being almost completely ignored.
I’m speaking to all the women reading what I share who may keep trying to "eat healthy" but keep failing and falling off track and struggling to "stick to it" only to ultimately end up spending much of their lives punishing themselves for not being able to “follow the food rules”.
I know this because I was one of them and I’ve been working with others like them for almost a decade.
I’m speaking to the women who are where I was. I’m not speaking to the minority who already care enough about their bodies to want to make healthy choices for it. I'm speaking to the majority who don't.
I’m speaking to the ones who are jumping on one stupid (healthy or otherwise) fad diet after another, falling off it and then hating themselves and eating crap for weeks or months until they’re ready to “start again”.
I'm speaking to ones who live with the non-stop negotiations in their head every time they see a dessert tray.
"Oh my god that looks soo good, I sooo want that. But ugh, I'm trying to be good today - don't do it. But it looks so good, just a little bit won't hurt. But you can't stop at a bite, you know you can't. This time I will, promise. No you won't, you never do. Yes, I will... just a bite." ...repeat the caving happens or the food is gone.
I don't care how "healthy" the diet is, that's not a healthy way to live (mentally or physically) and yet millions of women are living like that their entire lives because of the weight loss industry.
And most are gaining weight over time as a result.
I'm here to help them learn how to care and to WANT to eat with their health in mind and the FIRST step in learning to eat healthy when you’re living this reality is to learn to care enough about your body that you want to make healthy choices for it and the only place that can start is with losing the food rules.
You have to start allowing yourself to eat whatever you want so that mindless eating, overeating and/or bingeing have a chance in hell of stopping and you have to stop berating yourself for “screwing up & eating bad all the time”. Now, I know that some people in the low carb world claim that we binge because of the nutritional make up of certain foods. Sugar is addictive for example and we cannot possibly eat ANY of it and exercise self-control because of it's addictive "I need to have more, more, more" qualities but that is simply not true. (< click that link for why) Worse, it's a message that makes the cravings and overeating worse.
So, that’s the first step.
When done properly, this gives you the space to notice when things don’t make you feel good and begin actually wanting to make choices that do.
It’s the beginning of a simple, step-by-step process that may take time but is absolutely required.
If you’ve been punishing yourself with dieting or restriction or food rules or over eating and bingeing you will never begin to turn it around until you lose the labels and give yourself permission to just eat what you want.
The first step is to stop punishing yourself and that starts with giving up the food rules and learning that you can eat whatever you want. (yes, I know I repeat myself -- I want it to really sink in ;) )
The next step is to begin to notice that some foods make you feel better than others, learn to make choices based on how they will make your own body feel and understand why you're eating what you're eating and when you're eating. I help my clients more in depth with this process and teach them how to WANT to make more nutritious food choices but that can't happen until the food rules disappear.
Admittedly I’m no genius, but I can recognize when something isn’t working. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that has been forcing food rules and restrictions literally down our throats for generations yet we're just getting progressively heavier. Telling people what they're supposed to be eating and when is NOT working.
I also have the guts to call it out and work to change the status quo when I see what does actually work long term.
If you're already a healthy weight, happy with your body and eat in a way that makes you feel happy and really good -- that's wonderful. Carry on, none of this applies to you.
But if not, if you're struggling with your weight, bingeing, emotional eating, dieting, your body image, or even if you just know someone who is, there is hope for freedom but there's about a 98% chance you'll never, ever find it while you're trying to willpower your way to never eating the twinkies (or whatever) again, because you're following someone else's rules and not trusting your own body. You have to learn to trust yourself to eat whatever you want - only then will the things you actually want to eat, start to change in more health promoting ways.