I’ve been an RD for just about twenty years, AHHHH!!!!! How did the time go by so fast?
Anyhow, all those years have given me plenty of opportunity to learn and develop as a dietitian, and I’ve truly established my style and my beliefs about food and nutrition, and how I believe we should be nourishing ourselves. I live and teach by certain principles, and I feel as though my clients and I are better because of them.
Here is my nutrition manifesto, my most important food and nutrition guidelines:
Eat a lot of plants.
Eat other things too, but eat as many plants as you can. And yes, that includes legumes, which aren’t ‘toxic’.
Don’t hold back from joyful events.
Eating and the company you enjoy while eating is a part of life that shouldn’t be missed. Even if you’re trying to eat healthily, understand that the company of others who care about you is important. By all means, limit routine lunches out and the more meaningless restaurant meals and events, but when good friends call, please go and enjoy. Life is short.
Eat what you love.
We should be eating food that we love. If not in large amounts (cake, I’m looking at you), then in smaller, less frequent doses, but never not at all. When you take something out of your diet forever, you’re probably going to want it more, and you’re more likely to feel shitty and deprived. It’s not an all-or-nothing situation: just eat less of some foods, but eat what you love.
Don’t starve yourself.
This one goes without saying. Severely low calorie diets are not only terrible for losing weight – talk about the rebound effect – they’re also terrible for your mental health. Please don’t, and if you do and can’t stop, please get help. Hurting yourself warrants serious intervention.
Don’t force yourself to eat what you hate.
On the other side of the ‘eating what you love’ spectrum, forcing yourself to eat kale or wheatgrass or quinoa or anything you hate just ‘because it’s healthy’ is completely unnecessary. There are millions of foods in this world. Choose ones you love.
Don’t implicate one single food or food type for everything that’s wrong in the world.
Certain ‘health professionals’ or celebrities may want you to believe that gluten/dairy/wheat/lectins/bananas/grains/soy/sugar or whatever else, are responsible for the breakdown of our health. They aren’t. No one food is going to extend your life; no one food is going to abbreviate it. It’s the combination of foods in your overall diet, along with your attitude towards food and eating, your activity level, stress levels, sleep, etc. that need to be taken into consideration for your diet and overall wellbeing.
Cast a critical eye on nutrition research.
Nutrition research is constantly evolving, but it’s also notoriously poorly done. That’s because no one wants to live in a controlled environment aka a lab, for years. So, researchers rely on food recalls (people lie), small sample sizes, rats (of which you are not one), and studies where results can be confounded in one way or another.
Unless something is announced multiple times in the mainstream press and is big enough to change official recommendations, take it with a grain of salt.
Get your nutrition information from credible sources.
Not celebrities, trainers who aren’t dietitians, many doctors, or anyone else who hasn’t taken more than a three-day nutrition ‘certificate’. Dietitians have more training than anyone who calls themselves a ‘nutritionist’ or ‘nutrition expert’ or ‘health coach’ or ‘nutrition and lifestyle coach’.
There’s a lot of crappy nutrition advice out there; check your sources (also, check what they’re selling: Anyone who has supplements or a diet to go with their advice is a RED FLAG)
If it was that obvious, it would have been discovered before/everybody would be at their ideal weight/cancer wouldn’t exist/we’d all be healthy.
People like to think that ‘Big Pharma’ is holding back the cure for cancer, or that certain serious diseases and conditions like diabetes or obesity can be cured by random household items or basic eating plans aka the alkaline diet. That’s just idiotic, people. Think about it: ‘Big Pharma’ people have parents and children and friends who, sadly, die of cancer too. There is nothing in your pantry that ‘cures’ cancer, and no one is hiding anything groundbreaking so they can make more money. Sorry.
The same goes for weight loss plans/shakes/supplements. If they worked, everyone would be at their ideal weight and obesity/the weight loss industry would cease to exist.
Buy what you can afford, not what celebrities swear by.
Gwyneth Paltrow may buy only organic produce and ‘Moon Dust’ for her smoothies, but you should be buying what you can afford. That means, think twice before anyone talks you into items such as expensive supplements, an organic diet, or fancy protein powders. None of that is important if their cost impacts your ability to buy other important things that you need in your life.
You don’t need much to be healthy, I promise.
Nutrition isn’t complicated. People are just making it that way.
Care for your gut.
We’re only hitting the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gut health, but we suspect that our microbiome aka gut bacteria, play a part in everything from immunity, to weight, to mental health, and so much more. Caring for your gut bacteria is simple: cut down on saturated fats, refined starches, added sugars, and ultra processed foods. Eat more fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and fiber. Try to integrate some fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, or kefir into your diet, and/or probiotics.
Remove shame from food, hunger, and eating.
Guilt and shame serve zero purpose in eating except for making you feel like shit about yourself. And that, in turn, can make you even more likely to continue the diet cycle.
Ditch the negative self-talk and diet behaviour and focus on nourishing yourself, physically and emotionally.
Set a good example.
For your kids, for your friends, for yourself.
Look at the long-term.
Please don’t look for quick weight loss plans or fad diets that claim that you’ll lose X pounds in X time. Look for a sustainable way of eating, one that you enjoy, one that nourishes you. The best diet is the one that works for you in the long-term.
Never say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend.
If you constantly say negative things about yourself, to yourself or to others, it’s hurtful. Many people do this and don’t even realize that it’s happening, and subconsciously, it destroys their self-esteem.
When you’re about to berate yourself about your diet (or anything), stop and ask youself: Would I say this to my best friend? My child? If the answer is ‘no’, you shouldn’t be saying it to yourself, either. Speak kindly to your body, and focus on what you love about it.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
It’s soul-sucking vortex of horribleness. You are YOU, with different genetics and life circumstances than anyone else on this earth (unless you have an identical twin, then you at least share genetics). You’re not supposed to be anyone else, you’re supposed to be you.
Be the best at it, and stop trying to be someone else.
You don’t know if they’re really happy inside. Everyone has their struggles. Work on yours.
Clean out your closet.
If you have a bad or negative relationship with food and eating, don’t blame the food. Look inwards at the real reason why you feel this way. I call this ‘cleaning out your closet’, because you’re getting rid of all the junky beliefs you’ve held for years. Find a professional who can help you do this.
Healthy-ish is good enough.
With all the different diets and eating plans out there, aim for healthy-ish. And if sometimes you go off the rails, know that we all do that. It’s normal. Don’t get down about it; get right back up and back to your normal eating habits. You’ll be fine.