January 28, 2019
For the longest time I have wanted to bring onboard a nutritionist to support women in my groups, but it has been hard to find the right one. Someone who understands that losing weight isn’t always the motivation behind running for some of us, and also someone who isn’t going to feed us hype and half-truths based on latest trends or fads.
So….it gives me great pleasure to introduce Nikki Haggett resident nutritionist for Stop Dieting, Start Living.
This Thursday she is running a FREE webinar over on The Fat Girls Guide to Running Facebook Page, (sign up so you get a reminder) and she will be supporting women in the next cohort of Stop Dieting Start Living which starts on the 11th February.
Here is the first part of a two-part guest blog all about how to rest your relationship with food and your body for 2019…and it’s juicy!!
January can be a pretty intense month. We are bombarded with mixed messages around what kind of diet we should be turning to (cue the wonders of celery juice, the Fast 800, vegan, keto, paleo etc. etc.) along with the general discussion about whether we are setting resolutions this year or just doing “goal setting” instead.
Amidst all this noise, it can be hard to know what (if anything!) to focus on, particularly when you are trying to juggle general “food stuff” with a desire to fuel your body properly for your training needs.
I would like to offer you a different kind of “reset” for 2019, one that invites you to reflect inwards, rather than look to external cues, to develop an approach to nutrition that works for your unique body and needs:
1. Health is more than what we eat – If I was to draw you a pie chart showing you how much our nutrition really impacts our long-term health you might be surprised. Behind social & environmental factors, and access to good medical care, health behaviours in general account for less than 25%. Of that, only a proportion of health behaviours relate to what we eat. That’s not, of course, to say that we shouldn’t care about how we nourish our bodies (I am after all a Nutritionist!), just that with all the emphasis put on our diet we sometimes forget to look at the bigger picture. Reflecting on how you want to be proactive about your health on broader terms (including your mental and physical health) can help reduce the pressure to have the “perfect diet”.
2. There is no one optimum diet for human health – While the media might be touting a new “miracle” diet every week, nutrition research as a whole has shown that humans can be healthy on a wide range of dietary patterns, with some broad over-arching principles in common (i.e. plenty of fruit & veg, limited refined starches, limited added sugar & trans fats, emphasis on whole grain foods, with or without lean protein from fish or animal sources).
Therefore, I would invite to choose the dietary pattern that you prefer and apply these broad-stroke principles to that (whether that’s vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, pescatarian, Mediterranean, lower carb etc. etc.). Forget about what Susan in accounts is eating and tune into what feels right for you.
3. Flex your critical thinking muscles – We are often too quick to jump on the latest health headlines and forget to stop, pause, and probe a bit deeper. Women are often the main target of diet culture’s sneaky marketing tactics so I would encourage you to challenge things a bit more. Some questions to get you started –
• Does it sound too good to be true? Does it promise super-fast or unrealistic results?
• Does it overly demonise or celebrate one single food group/item (e.g. gluten or charcoal)?
• Does it use science-y sounding words to try and make it sounds more legit (e.g. detoxing or alkalizing)?
• Does it encourage black & white thinking (e.g. “all carbs are bad” or “high fat is the only way to go”)?
• Does the person recommending the dietary intervention rely too much on anecdotal evidence (i.e. this worked for me so it will for you too!)?
4. Be curious about your relationship with food – We have a relationship with food and it is often so much more complicated and nuanced than “healthy” or “unhealthy”. It can be many things – convenient, performative, relaxed, anxious, fun, controlling, ritualistic etc. Often our relationship with food says something about how we engage with ourselves and the world in general. Exploring this relationship can help you understand the connection between the messages you have internalised about yourself from your environment and the stories that you tell yourself about the type of person that you are. What were the food messages you got growing up (e.g. “always clean your plate” “I’m greedy”, “don’t waste food”)? What have you picked up from diets over the years (e.g. “carbs make you fat” or “eat little and often”)? Do you have any set beliefs around food that you hold strongly (e.g. “I’m addicted to sugar” or “I haven’t earned that”)? Be gentle on yourself (see point 9 below) but also probe whether these beliefs hold true for you any more or whether you would be better served letting them go.
5. Learn to honor your hunger and respect your fullness – We have learnt to fear being hungry. How many tips have you been given to try and over-ride your hunger (e.g. have a glass of water or chew gum)? Real physical hunger is something natural and a sign that we need to eat something – we wouldn’t ignore our body’s signal that we need to pee would we?! However, too often people are afraid that if they eat in accordance with their hunger then they will eat “too much”.
This brings me to the other end of the scale, fullness. Many people don’t recognise that they are full until they have gone past it and are feeling slightly uncomfortable. Practice tuning into the more subtle signs that you are hungry (before tummy growling stage!) and try and slow down during your meals, remove distractions, and explore what “just full” feels like for you. Its not about eating exactly to hunger and fullness all the time (because we eat for pleasure also) but learning to eat more intuitively can be a wonderfully empowering skill to reclaim.
I don’t know about you but I think these are excellent reminders for this time of year, tune back in next Monday for part 2 of this brilliant blog post.
If you would like to get to know Nikki, tune into her webinar this Thursday at 8 pm, and why not think about joining us both for Stop Dieting, Start Living an 8 week programme which is all about realising there is a way of looking after your health and happiness that just isn’t about “going on a diet”
The price goes up by £50 this Friday