First off- I love each and every one of you. I don’t say this as a broad, blanket statement. I say this as a Nutrition Professional + Influencer who see’s the genuine struggles we’ve formed around food, nutrition, emotions, life, relationships, health, and wellness each and every day. From the 50+ DM’s I get every day on Instagram, to the 30+ emails I receive from you guys, to the phone calls, the client consultations, and conversations with close friends and family- please know from the bottom of my heart- I see you, I feel you, I hear you, I appreciate you, and I love you.
I recently listened to a podcast episode called, “When Wellness Isn’t Well Anymore”, by Nut Butter Radio, and it really struck a chord with me. So much so that I’m now dedicating a blog post to this topic because I KNOW it needs to be talked about. We need to create open conversation around this topic.
If you haven’t listened to the podcast, I suggest you check it out- but just to recap the episode so you know what I’m speaking about in this blog post…
One of the hosts on the podcast had recently gone to an Instagram Meet-up event in NYC to listen to a highly followed + famed Instagram Influencer who has 100,000+ followers. She described the Meet up with these words:
“The meet up is simple- wellness enthused individuals gather to listen while an Instagram influencer shares their story. The idea is that the attendees will learn from the influencers story and will get the chance to ask questions about healthy eating advice. The result was cataclysmic. Women sat in the room and listened to a nervous + restricted woman give tips on how she stays “healthy”. She advised attendees to cook all their meals at home, ensuring they had planned breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner at least a day in advance. She had lists of foods that were okay, and foods that were not, and preached to adhere to them in even the most dire of circumstances. She told those sitting there to restrict themselves from alcohol while going out by signing up for a 6am yoga class the next day- a self punishing reaction to drinking one too many of the clear alcohols only she had allowed. On Instagram, the influencer has over 100k followers that she talks and spreads advice to every day. She works at home, blogging and practicing her version of wellness as she sees fit. She told attendees at the event that by living this way, she’s regained control of her life… She works hard on enforcing regulations on her social life ensuring she sees friends once on the weekend and twice during the week, the remainder of her time is largely spent alone. She was preaching to them all how to have an eating disorder.”
There were a few beaming thoughts that came up in my mind while listening, and I wanted to share them with you all.
1. We have a fucked up idea of what “healthy” looks like. We all know and feel the pressure that is forced upon us from EVERY angle to look, feel, act, and simply be a certain way. As a culture, we have glorified the petite, small, “yogi”- like female bodies that roam the social media + model world. We have also glorified the “fitspo” women who follow IIFYM (if it fits your macros) and count EVERY.SINGLE.CALORIE. and macronutrient they consume just so they can look a certain way for a physique competition or because they’ve been disillusioned to believe chronic deprivation in all areas of life is worth society’s definition of beauty and strength.
We see adhering to these extremely strict dietary guidelines, lifestyles, and people as #goals, “inspiring”, and we might even cry over it because for most of us we just don’t (and probably won’t ever) look that way.
I want to remind you that society, social media, shitty men, bad friends, and hundreds of other sources are the reasons WHY we have believed this false lie. It’s not based on facts. Health doesn’t come from being skinny and depriving yourself. We have put our identity in our bodies, and made it a competition of who fits the “perfect” mold best- and unfortunately this mold isn’t meant for everyone.
I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of men + women I’ve worked with that have the “ideal” body and lifestyle, but are COMPLETELY hormonally fucked up, have lost their sex drive, lost their menstrual cycles, are dealing with long term effects of chronic stress, are riding an emotion rollercoaster daily, are ridden with digestive issues and anxiety, and have truly learned to HATE themselves. It’s heartbreaking to work with these types of people, but it’s SO incredibly common. Out of over 100 people, I have yet to work with someone who is 100% comfortable with their body. How sad is that?
We HAVE to stop glorifying other men and women. It’s time to take the images in our mind of what “healthy” looks like, and start paying attention to what healthy FEELS like.
When was the last time you appreciated the amount of fat on your stomach and hips that store long term energy for your body so you don’t get fatigued throughout the day? When was the last time you apprecaited the fat in your body that fuels your hormone system? When was the last time you thought about how amazing your feet and legs are for walking you through every damn day of your life until this point? When was the last time you ate a meal and were more concerned about how you FELT afterwards instead of WHAT was in it? When was the last time you looked at another person and thought about how much you loved them for their heart and soul instead of yearning to look like them?
We have to change our mindset + images in our heads of what healthy looks like.
2. There is a time and place for strict dietary protocols- but that time is not ALL the time. The pendulum of nutrition has swung so far in the opposite direction to the point that talking about gluten, dairy, or sugar in public will make white girls cringe. We need to calm the hell down about being so demeaning towards certain food groups.
There is DEFINITELY a time and place for avoiding certain foods if you are following a healing protocol and working with a professional. For example- if you have a serious autoimmune condition stemming from gut dysbiosis and need to avoid inflammatory foods for a period of time to promote healing- by all means skip out on the gluten, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, alcohol, etc.
This can easily turn into an obsession, especially for those of us who may have dealt with disordered eating in the past. Where do we draw the line between “healthfully, responsibly taking care of yourself” vs. “fucking insanity, control, deprivation, hypochondriac tendencies and orthorexia”???
We have to BE MINDFUL of our relationship with food. I’ve personally struggled with this fine line as I’ve delved into addressing my heart murmur, anxiety, panic attacks, etc. without medications- and you know what? You can very easily drive yourself fucking insane. I know there are some of you reading this right now thinking, “shit, that’s me”.
It’s a learning curve to find balance in your life in general, but especially with food. It starts with a kindness to ourselves and a mindfullness of knowing when we’ve gone too far. I guarantee you’ve heard a little voice in your head somewhere down the line that has said, “hmm.. are you being a little crazy and dramatic about your food choices? Loosen up on yourself and be careful or this could turn into a problem! Are you sure this isn’t just all in your head and you’re actually OKAY?”. LISTEN to that voice and think about it. Our intuition isn’t stupid or ill intentioned.
3. There is a serious lack of formal education from Instagram Influencers – One of the major things that pisses me off about Instagram in the health, nutrition + wellness sphere is that there are SO MANY accounts led by people who have NO formal or proper education of how the human body functions, what nutrition suggestions are appropriate, and how to be mindful so as to not send young women further down the rabbit hole of poor health + disordered nutrition habits. Influencers are not the only one’s to blame here, we as followers are too. We CANNOT take people’s advice as professional suggestions. My point:
- @shutthekaleup- Incredible momma, great advice, seems like a close friend – NOT a nutrition professional
- @paleomg- Badass chick, crossfit coach, freaking hilarious, INCREDIBLE recipe maker- NOT a nutrition professional
- @rachlmansfield- Adorable woman living a kick ass life in NYC, AMAZING recipe creator, NOT a nutrition professional
- @lilsipper- Personally struggled with some serious digestive issues, is hilarious, has great advice, NOT a nutrition professional
- …..You get the idea here, right?
Learning from someone else’s experiences + seeing what worked for them can be insightful, but this should NOT be in place of professional help and guidance. Being a nutrition professional that’s worked with 100+ clients in my first (not even) year of practice I can confidently say everyone’s body is SO incredibly different and complex. I highly suggest taking other people’s experiences with a grain of salt while you work with a professional on your own health challenges. Just because someone has 100k+ followers doesn’t mean that they know what they’re talking about, nor should it give them any power over what YOU should practice in your own life with your personal health + nutrition.
4.Unfollow the Instagram accounts and other sources that fuel your unhealthy mentality.
I had to do it. I HAD to get rid of unhealthy obsessions when I was in college struggling with a binging and restriction problem. No one was going to stop me from feeling guilty, shameful, and upset except for ME. I fully believe half the battle is getting yourself to a point that you’re FINALLY sick of feeling shitty and addicted to a certain lifestyle before you can truly let it go. Stop searching for “inspo” and motivation from all the wrong places and start letting go. Be responsible for your health.
I’m here to remind you it’s okay to give the middle finger to everything that makes you feel like you SHOULD. The next time you catch yourself thinking or saying, “I SHOULD have worked out today… I SHOULD have eaten a salad for lunch… I SHOULD weigh less… I SHOULD have done xyz…” ask yourself why? WHY SHOULD YOU? Where does that voice come from? There is no shame in doing and being exactly what and who you genuinely want to do and be.
My pastor and close friend shared with me this mantra this past year and it has quite literally changed my life:
“I don’t do guilt and shame”
Simple as that. It’s up to you to choose. I have personally chosen to not put up with other people making me feel shameful or guilty. Any time someone makes me feel guilty or shameful for something, I remind myself that I don’t do guilt and shame and I walk away from whatever it is that is causing that feeling. Don’t be afraid to protect your heart, your energy, and your emotions in order to get to where you want and need to be for yourself.
Be confident in yourself, trust your body, be patient, surround yourself with people who genuinely appreciate you and get rid of the rest without hesitation, LOVE your body for what it does and not what it looks like, seek help when you need it, teach other people how to treat you, and don’t be afraid to be unapologetically YOURSELF 100% of the time.