March is National Nutrition Month – this is an annual food and nutrition education campaign that aims to teach Americans healthy habits around food and physical activity. As a dietitian, I should be excited…. But I’m not thrilled about the theme this year – “Put Your Best Fork Forward”.
As an anti-diet dietitian and intuitive eating cheerleader, I feel this slogan is too “diety”. Of course, it can be interpreted in many different ways, but when I investigated this year’s theme the first messages that popped up include “each bite counts “and “making small changes to your food choices adds up over time”. I liken this to the slogan “a second on the lips, forever on the hips”, which is absolute crap. These are not the “health” messages we should be focusing on and sending to our clients.
What do you think about when you hear the word health? What or who are you imagining in your mind?
Are you envisioning a thin person, working out at a gym, with six pack abs; who constantly weighs themselves, worries about every bite of food, and obsesses about their body? Or do you see someone that maybe doesn’t have time to hit the gym every day and isn’t constantly body shaming, but they have great relationships, a job they enjoy, a happy family and home life, and a sound connection to their personal spirituality?
The problem, is that most people would look at the thin person and automatically assume they are the epitome of health, because of the shape of their body and their diet “discipline”. This is unacceptable and disappointing.
So many people spend their entire lives fighting their body and food. This type of relationship with your body and with food is exhausting, extremely harmful, and can ultimately lead to major health problems down the road. My goal when working with clients is to help them change these dangerous behaviors and attitudes. We work together on eating more intuitively, or in-tune with what their body wants and needs, and I teach that every body size is acceptable and healthy. The health at every size approach includes four key principals. When individuals start to apply and believe in these principles they can truly feel set free from their struggles with their body and food.
1) Accept your body size and shape – instead of constantly fighting your body, realize how amazing human bodies are and appreciate all that your body does to keep you alive. Move in ways that make your body feel good and more vibrant.
2) Trust yourself with food and physical activity – learn to trust your internal signals. When you are craving a cheeseburger or you feel too tired or sore for the gym, this is your body telling you something. Enjoy that cheeseburger and practice self-care during your recovery day! Truly listen to your body and honor its signals of hunger, fullness, fatigue, and energy.
3) Adopt healthy lifestyle habits – adopting body kindness and rejecting the diet mentality is so empowering and can help you embrace healthy habits in other areas of your life – make plans with friends, volunteer at your place of worship, move in ways that make you feel good, and eat foods that are delicious to you!
4) Embrace size and shape diversity – human bodies come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Accept every one’s uniqueness and be open to learning from their beauty and individuality.
Adopting this health at every size mentality, embracing body kindness, and choosing healthy lifestyle practices are all crucial to making a difference in your own health. Refusing to spread messages that focus on dieting and removing enjoyable foods will help others in their body shaming recovery as well. I encourage you to listen to your body and put your fork in whatever feels and tastes right to you!
If you are interested in learning more about intuitive eating and body kindness I would love to help! Reach out at [email protected]