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What you eat and why you eat it can directly impact your mindset. The affects of food on your mindset can feel really complicated depending on where you are approaching the subject from. However, it doesn’t have to feel so overwhelming.
I have both been the person who eats only junk and the person who cuts out all the junk. I am currently the person who eats healthy most of the time, and snacks on junk sometimes. This is what works best for me. The truth is, none of us need the junk. However, the junk tastes good and so I indulge occasionally.
Food and diet and nutrition can all be somewhat touchy subjects. So, I decided to just jump right in to this topic and lay it out for you as best I could in a way that hopefully doesn’t offend.
Nutrition vs. Diet Culture
I’m going to start by talking about the difference between nutrition and diet culture. In the natural way of things, I think the pendulum is swinging back on this topic and I’m worried that there are people who equate the two as the same thing.
“Diet culture” has been rampant for a couple of generations now. Especially in the past 20-30 years, there have been mainstream diet after mainstream diet popping up everywhere telling us we all need to get skinny. And fast.
I remember growing up watching lean cuisine and slim fast commercials. Everyone has either been on or knows someone who has been on Weight Watchers, and Jenny Craig has been in the U.S. since the year I was born. I grew up in the time of “heroin chic” supermodels (don’t get me started on “heroin chic”, it’s a rant for another day.) I have seen and lived diet culture.
Nutrition is about being healthy. Nutrition is eating the foods that your body needs and remembering that food is actually just fuel. Making sure that your body is getting the correct vitamins and nutrients from the food you eat is nutrition. Eating healthy prevents illness and disease. It keeps your body feeling and functioning well. It is not about weight or size, except in the way that if you are eating the foods that are best for your body, you will naturally weigh less than if you are eating all crap.
The confusion is two-fold
One of the problems I have been noticing recently, is that a lot of diets designed specifically for losing weight/body fat are being marketed as healthy lifestyle changes. They aren’t brand-specific such as Weight Watchers, so they don’t immediately come across as “diets”. Once that started happening, the lines between diet culture and nutrition started to blur.
Before anyone gets upset, I don’t care if you have hopped on a diet, or changed your eating- plan, or adjusted your lifestyle to lose weight. Hi, I’m Rachel, and I’ve been there. What bothers me, is when it is a weight-loss focused lifestyle change being called a healthy-living lifestyle change. Weight-loss does not necessarily equal healthy-living.
There is another issue I have seen and this one I am still coming to terms with emotionally. That there are people who have been hurt by diet culture, and some are no longer able to separate in their minds, eating healthy from being on a diet. Since they are rejecting diet culture because it has hurt them mentally or physically, they equate eating a specific “diet” with dieting for weight loss. Because of this, nutrition can wind up be ill-affected.
I believe this second issue comes from the fat-shaming that society seems to have picked up and run with. Body size and weight somehow became synonymous with healthy in the mainstream culture. There are doctors who subscribe to this, by the way, that weight= health.
Fun fact: Did you know that the mathematician who created the BMI scale later said they regretted it? It is not actually a valid indicator of health. Also, due to there being many different body types it was not accurate at all. Oh, and yes, he was a mathematician who was not trained in biology or nutrition. Just numbers.
How does this all affect mindset?
Mindset is a tricky thing, and both diet culture and nutrition affect it. Of course, not in the same way.
Negative: Diet Culture
It is not the food in diet culture that affects your mindset (usually), it’s the message of it all.
- You aren’t good looking if you aren’t super skinny
- Curves are good, but only the right curves
- Eat the right foods at the right time of day, or you are a failure
- Don’t eat XYZ, ever.
The media is the biggest influencer in society right now, and they say that in order to be successful, wealthy, and beautiful, you need to be skinny.
This is mentally and emotionally damaging to anyone who is not. It’s also not true.
Along with the external messages, those of us who do hop on board the diet train often end up feeling terrible about ourselves. Whether because we have a hard time sticking to the “rules” of the diet, or because we aren’t losing weight the way we “should” be. There is a lot of negative self talk floating around when dieting is involved.
So, while I do not judge, I also don’t recommend jumping into a diet. (“Diet” in this sense, meaning a specific way of eating in an attempt to lose weight.) I can’t recommend it, as it can become detrimental to your mindset. And of course, that’s the opposite of what we are trying to do here.
What I do recommend is changing the way you eat to be more healthy. I recommend following the basic rules of nutrition.
What does that mean? Well, vegetables and fruits should be your new best friends, and the processed, boxed foods should be banned from your house. Should be, but like I said, I also indulge sometimes. The trick is to make it a treat. Just like if we have dessert 3 days in a row my son is asking for dessert on the 4th day, your own body will be wanting that sugar too. Once a day is not a treat, it’s a habit.
So why do I recommend focusing on nutrition? Well, it actually benefits your mindset if you eat well. From personal experience I can tell you that eating healthy helps clear your mind, and adding back in the extremely processed and/or sugar-filled stuff will cloud your mind.
This is something you won’t notice from eating healthy just for a week. Here’s a great way to test this out so you can see what I mean: cut out all of the junk for one month, then take time to notice how you feel. Then allow yourself to eat whatever you want for a week. Pay attention to how you feel at the end of the week. You will be amazed at the difference.
If you are interested in some of the science of it, here you go: your gut is actually called your second brain. Interesting, right? The gut is responsible for 90% of the seratonin (“the happy chemical”) that the body produces, and about 50% of the dopamine (“the feel-good hormone”). So, taking care of your gut and giving it all the good stuff, is definitely beneficial to your mood and mindset. (The health of your gut also influences your ability to hear your intuition!)
The ways food affects your mindset can be either positive or negative.
Focusing on weight loss, regularly forbidding yourself from eating things you enjoy, or over-indulging in sugary and processed foods can have negative affects on your mindset. Focusing on eating healthy most of the time with occasional indulgences in not-so-great treats, will instead have positive affects on your mindset.
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