If the Dietitian Says You’re Thinking About Food Too Much…

I am a dietitian, and I get paid to think about food and nutrition, so it is not without a little trepidation that I say a lot of you are thinking about food way, way too much. Some of you aren’t thinking about it at all other than what would taste good right now and what fried delicacy you’re going to eat for lunch today. That’s not ideal by any means; I’m not applauding your choices, but you already know and understand that maybe you should make some changes. I’m not talking to you today; we can delve into all of that some other day.

Get Real About Your Intentions
I’m concerned that we have gotten to the point that so many people are taking photos of their food and posting them on social media on a regular basis. I’m not talking about a picture of your birthday cake or the occasional photo of an exotic meal when you’re on vacation. I’m talking about your Monday night dinner or your pre-workout snack. I think that if you took a survey of everyone that you know, they would unanimously agree that they don’t particularly care about your organic chicken. I have never once woken up in the morning and thought, “I can’t wait to find out what so-and-so ate for dinner last night.” Your posting a photo of your salad does not make me feel closer to you, help to foster a better relationship with me or inspire me to make a salad. In no way does it shape my impression of you as a person. You know what it might do though? It might make me feel ashamed if I weren’t in a position to buy those same foods or if I didn’t have the time or the skillset necessary to prepare a similar meal. And you know what people who are ashamed do? Often, they eat whatever is close at hand and sabotage their wellbeing in a myriad of other ways. We need to start questioning the people who insist on doing this – “Why did you post a photo of your taco last night? I was so confused.” If you’re not confused, you should be, and more than a little concerned.

Stop Talking About Cheat Days
The kind of people that cheat is those who are on a diet. Everyone knows that diets don’t work, right? This isn’t exactly earth-shattering news. In 2018, no one should be on a diet, and no one should be cheating. You are not at war with food, your body is not the enemy, and every day shouldn’t feel like a damn battle. There are complicated parts of life that should be taking up all of our time and attention; whether to eat a piece of chocolate today shouldn’t be our most pressing concern. If you deplete all of your willpower by trying to eat a very strict diet that also photographs well, you will quickly become exhausted. There have been some fascinating studies done on the brains of dieters – they clearly give up quickly when faced with a test or challenge. They can’t focus on finding a solution for very long because they are so mentally fatigued from the constant tug-of-war between desire and righteousness. If you feel compelled to declare a cheat day, you are doing something terribly wrong.

Stop Worrying About the Dijon Mustard
No one ever got fat or died from the white wine in Dijon mustard. People do get sick from cycling rapidly between a diet of only vegetables and meat for a period and bingeing on Moscato and donuts at other times for years on end. That is a hazardous eating pattern and leads to the development of unfavorable conditions like atherosclerosis, fatty liver disease, diabetes, and gout. At some point, you have to get real with yourself about what you’re willing to let cause concern and fear in your mind. If you don’t have enough things other than food to be concerned or fearful about, let me know, and I will gladly provide a lengthy list for you.

There Isn’t Always a Conspiracy
You don’t trust the medical professionals, but you’re willing to throw a lot of money at someone with no formal education. You are refusing to take your prescribed medication, but you have no problem with taking herbal supplements of questionable origin. You don’t believe any peer-reviewed studies but will gladly purchase books and programs written by misguided “experts.” Let me make this very clear: you are quite likely lining the pockets of people who do not have your best interests at heart. Worse yet, the majority of them don’t have liability insurance, do not adhere to any code of ethics whatsoever, and do not have their products tested or certified by any governing body. If you want to explore complementary or alternative therapies, that’s fine – I do it often and have had some degree of success with many of them. But please don’t allow yourself to believe that these types of treatments are always better than conventional options or that the “establishment” is out to get you. Fear mongering is not an acceptable method of persuasion or education, and it is up to you to make this clear to the people swindling panic as science.

Your health is worth far more than gold; any wealthy person with a life-threatening disease will vouch for this. If your pursuit of health is damaging other parts of your life – causing a lack of self-esteem, isolating you from your loved ones, providing fodder for obsessive behaviors, or taking time away from more pleasurable pursuits, you have gone too far. It’s easy to slide down this slippery slope; we are inundated with information (some accurate and some quite the opposite) and opinions about our health 24/7. I look around, and I don’t see people who are much happier; I do not see a significant increase in good health. What I am seeing is a lot of people who now doubt themselves and their decisions based on this perception of what other people are doing better than they are. Here’s the thing, though – photos only tell a sliver of the story and “different” does not always mean “better.”