Are you there? Are you looking to live forever? Are you looking to be the healthiest version of you? It’s kind of a funny one, this quest for wellness and it’s a trap that many of us fall into.
I’m going to start with a story reminding you of where I’ve come from.
A twenty-something year old, living a very unhealthy lifestyle, diagnosed with IBS, maintained an unhealthy way of living for many years and gets diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Feeling eternally tired, emotional and bloated felt normal. As someone who has autoimmune conditions, I read enough to know there could be other conditions that would follow and I wanted to change my life so I could do all thing I wanted to do.
And so I went on a quest….a quest for answers and results. And most of the places I went to, conventional and alternative medicine pointed me in the direction of food…or least thats what I heard.
Everyone talks about how food is medicine, so often we start on a journey with food, and we go on these really rigorous, really restrictive diets to support ours health. And though we may feel better in the short-term, in my lived and professional experience it’s short lived. Personalised nutrition is just that, it’s personal to you and your life and changes with you as you change….that’s why the generalised plan doesn’t work for the majority of people.
You see, the thing with these “wellness diets” – these trends and fads – is that as they’re supposed to be helping you, they may actually be creating more problems.
When you’re fixated on “food is medicine” and the belief that it will work for me, we ignore what else is going on. Things like the rapid weight loss, the appearance of psoriasis, our hair falling out, our mood, the loss of our ability to socially interact – those other things are not really registering on our radar because we are being so regimented with sticking to the strict rules of our wellness plan.
In hindsight, the cause of my own condition was multifactorial and there were so many different things I needed to change in order to transform myself. One of the books that I found really helpful on my own journey is called “Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World”, self-guided CBT programme.
A second book was even more influential, The Art of Breathing by Danny Penman, I was drawn to the simplicity of what it told my frazzled mind. This book took me on my journey to becoming a breath coach, along with being hugely influential in how I was living my life.
People often ask me what changed for me, and my response is: “Everything changed.” Could I put a finger on what it was? No, not anymore, and that’s why it’s a journey. One thing I do know that isn’t part of any of my story is The Wellness Diet.
Why “the wellness diet” has a negative effect on health and wellbeing
The diet industry cleverly rebranded their mission into what Christy Harrison (you can follow her on her podcast https://christyharrison.com/foodpsych) has so aptly described as “the wellness diet”. Here is a quote from Pixie Turner, a nutritionist: “Our obsession with being healthy and living forever has driven us to push our bodies to the absolute limits, but still, every year, we’re being told how unhealthy we are as a population globally.”
So, what’s happening?
I studied economics at one stage in my life. I’m interested in figures, and I still love to go back and dip my toe into that world. So, a 2021 Deloitte report, along with a not-for-profit group, Europe Active, estimated that in the European Union, the fitness sector alone caters to more than 54.8 million consumers, generates €18.9 billion in revenues, employs 750,000 people, and incorporates up to 63,000 facilities.
What’s more, the post-pandemic value of the global health and wellness industry is expected to reach $7.7 trillion.
When I delved further into the figures, I discovered that the money being spent on preventative and supportive health care is minimal compared to expenditure on wellness and ‘diet’ foods.
Yes, it’s important to focus on the food you consume. Yes, it’s important to focus on your fitness efforts. But it is also important to remember that when it comes to your overall health outcome – how you feel and how you function – diet and exercise only accounts for 15 percent of that, so there’s a whole other 85 percent to consider, which may or may not even be in your control.
How the quest for wellness can lead to disordered eating
It’s been well documented to date that focusing on food, calories, and weight is a serious public health concern. Disordered eating has been described as ‘a range of irregular eating behaviours that may or may not warrant a diagnosis of an eating disorder’.
An eating disorder is diagnosed according to narrow and specific criteria, by the right professionals, but what it does is excludes a majority of people who may be struggling within this disordered eating space. Because a lot of people will struggle, we then begin to view this as a normal way of behaving. We may even be applauded by the wrong types of people for doing so.
Disordered eating is not classified according to the American Psychiatric Association – it is a description rather than an official diagnosis. But like everything, it exists on a scale and can impact our quality of life minimally or it can create serious health problems.
So, what does a disordered eating pattern or relationship look like?
What disordered eating looks like
The harm that can be caused by disordered eating is real. We may not even recognise it when we’re in the middle of a disordered eating experience.
Some of the key signs to look out for are:
- Frequent dieting
- Skipping meals
- Trying intermittent fasting in the name of health
- Chronic weight fluctuations
- Rigid rules, routines and rituals around food and exercise
- Feelings of guilt and shame before, during and after eating
- Preoccupation with food, weight and body image
- Feeling of a loss of control around food
- Compulsive eating
- Using exercise, food restriction and fasting to make up for bad foods
- The quest for wellness
If you regularly fall into any of the above routines, it may be impacting your gastrointestinal tract more than you know. Gas, bloating, cramping – maybe it wasn’t the cabbage you ate. Rather, maybe it’s your eating patterns. Perhaps disordered eating is creating anxiety or depression within you. Maybe it creates serious physical, mental and emotional stress.
For all of these reasons, it’s really important that you become aware of the signs of a disordered relationship with food, and disordered eating patterns.
The three-step ladder out of the wellness trap
I want to share with you three tips, that you can use right now to support yourself.
- Work on releasing that fear of food.
Start your journey of making peace with food. Jump on to the Intuitive Eating website and get familiar with the principles of intuitive eating are about. If you feel good eating your breakfast at 10am, and you know you’re getting your full fuel needs in any given day, that’s an eating pattern that works for you. So, get in tune with what your body needs and work on reducing the noise created by those rigid food rules that instil a lot of fear around what you’re eating.
- Learn to manage your thoughts.
Your thoughts are really influential on how you act on any given day, and they give you the result of what you do. If we’re thinking we’re bad for eating food, we feel bad for eating food. And our body feels bad. Free up some space for some fun for yourself. Work with someone who can teach you how to manage those thoughts. As I’ve shared with some clients this week, your mind is kind of like an Excel spreadsheet – it’s only as efficient as the data you input. We hold some very unhelpful data in our mind, so work on getting some new, positive data in. Put new colours in the spreadsheet this month! There’s no need to feel guilty or to ‘start again’ on Monday.
- Get the support you need.
Finally, if you find that you recognise some of these disordered behaviours within you, and you notice that they’re impacting your life in some way – be that big or little – reach out and get the right support for you. Choose a health coach who’s talking about this, because as they work with you closely, they will be the ones there to guide you and show you that you may need some further support from the right individual. They will also be the ones who can work with you to allow you to build your relationship and your trust with food. They will spot any relationship with food that is harmful for you. They will be there with you, guiding you, as you work through unlearning some very unhelpful behaviours and relearning how to feel more at ease as you go about eating every day.
True wellbeing is just a click away!
This month, I want to invite you to join my newsletter. I truly love being on Instagram. I’m not one of those people anymore – I used to be – who dislikes it anymore; I have found a wonderful community. But I am always fighting against the algorithm and people with bigger followings and bigger reach, and therefore my information isn’t always seen by the lovely people who choose to follow me.
I know you might be worried about subscribing to another source and wondering if you’re going to get anything from me. But if you’ve every worked with me before, you’ll know I probably give you too much! And if you’re here, I know that at some level, we’ve connected. Somewhere along the line my story rings true for you. How I speak, speaks to you someplace and there is a part of you that wants to make a change. So, rather than a subscriber email, I like to think of it as a club. If you join the club, you’ll miss nothing of the ramblings, the information, the thoughts and the musings that I bring to you all. I give more of myself in there – giving more to you – because I truly believe that we need to have this information so that we can make the best choice for ourselves.
I like to be really open and honest in my newsletter, and I give lots of tips and tricks that I may not be able to share within the fast-moving world of social media. And because mindfulness was such a huge part of my journey, I share exercises, breathwork, mindset questions, studies and blogs that I found interesting or useful.
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Essentially, by becoming a subscriber you can work more on supporting those four bodies that I often talk about: social, emotional, physical and mental health. So, I do hope that you will click today and come and join me on my mailing list, so that you can get the best from me!
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