We are Eaters

I have always liked the idea that natural foods, plants and nature provide the best medicines for our health and wellbeing.  It makes the most sense as we are all connected to the world around us, right?  We can’t live without food.  Food needs the sun, atmosphere and soil etc. to grow.  Our bodies need what natural foods provide.  How long would we last without air?  We need to interact daily with others.  Like it or not we are all human, more connected and at the same time more vulnerable than we’d often like to think of ourselves as.

Well, I invite you to think about it just a little as you read this post, especially in relation to food and you as an eater.

Since starting my nutrition training I have been a fan and follower of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.  Their stated mission is to re-unite the psychology of eating with the science of nutrition.   I understand this to mean that you cannot consider the body’s needs without considering the needs of the soul.  ‘Soul’ meaning the individual person with their own unique body, needs, wants, experiences, emotions, senses, circumstances and responses to life.  My own observation [not judgement] with clients and people in general, is how our attitude to food and eating completely reflects our attitude to ourselves and life.

My experience is that some people view a nutrition qualification as a personal attribute.  As if acquiring this qualification has transformed one into someone who never lets an unhealthy food pass their lips … And, has now morphed into the role of watching and judging every bite others make, like the ‘diet police’!  Well, on both counts, that’s not me!  You may, of course, come across people who do take on and enjoy such a role.  No, I’m just like you but with an acquired knowledge and interest in the benefits of nutrition which I love to share.   I can be your guide, supporter or educator, but not your judge or savior.  I believe that healthier eating is a life-long challenge, a choice and a personal responsibility.  And, because eating is something you and I have to do each and every day, I see it as an ideal opportunity for growth and transformation.  That said, knowledge of food is for the mind but food and eating as an experience goes far beyond this to the very core of our being.

I came across this Instagram post by the_food_psychology_clinic in the UK.  It speaks poetically about how closely connected ‘eating’ can be to our thoughts and feelings.  For some it can often represent a huge internal struggle.   I have consent from the account owner to share it here.

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I eat because… I’m angry, I eat because I’m sad, I eat because I’m fat anyway (so what’s the point – I might as well be bad)… and have a brownie or five or 10 slices of cake, nobody will notice anyway… I eat because I’m lonely – I’m stressed at work – I’ve had a bad day Sometimes, I eat because I’m bored – I’m going to start my diet tomorrow, I’ll say – so I eat tons of chocolate and sweets…maybe I’ll start the diet another time diets suck – what’s the point – I give up I eat because I don’t get the attention I want – at least I can rely on cake to make me feel good today… But I don’t enjoy it anyway – this eating too much – I feel guilt, I feel pain, I feel shame…and yet I just can’t seem to stop -it is easier to put it off until another time – when I have more time, or less stress, or less work or more money to pay…. for a juice cleanse or a detox – maybe a nice retreat in Spain (I need a quick fix – I’m way too fat) it will be much easier this way Why is it so hard for me to be thin – I hate my body and life I’m a failure – I think to myself – every day But I like those two minutes of happiness I get – when I eat something tasty, something good and maybe I don’t want to give that up just yet because without food, I’ll have to deal with what really is not good in my life, in my world, in my heart, in my mind – and that scares me – to tell you the truth. I eat because… I’m hungry – but not for food that’s for sure Maybe I’m hungry for fun, for love, for companionship, for comfort, for a purpose – maybe I’m just hungry not to be fat anymore. #weightloss #weightstruggles #weightstruggle #weightstruggleisreal #slimdown #weightissues #fat #fatloss #weightloss #binge #bingeeatingdisorder #weightlosshelp #bingeeatinghelp

A post shared by The Food Psychology Clinic (@the_food_psychology_clinic) on

I’ve shared this because even though my qualification is the nutrition science bit and not eating psychology, I have found it is quite impossible in reality to separate the two.  I acknowledge everyone as an eater.  If we were purely physical beings, the knowledge of what to eat in the best interest of our health, would be enough.  Like how to put the correct fuel in your car….. petrol and a little oil in this one, but diesel and lots of oil in this other one.  The reality is we are more than physical beings and often our food choices are motivated by unconscious thoughts and feelings about ourselves.  The above Instagram post is about overeating but it could just as easily be about depriving yourself of food.  The point is, its really about negative thoughts and feelings wrapped around eating.  Yet, eating can be a joyous, satisfying, healthy, creative, not to mention completely necessary experience.

Have a think about what your relationship with food is?  Does it mirror how you feel and think?  If you recognize yourself in any of this, the knowledge of healthy eating will not be enough.  It might even become a stick for you to punish yourself with.  More bad feelings?  That won’t help!  The issue is not a lack of knowledge.  Practicing some mindfulness and self-inquiry around eating, or working with someone that has a greater understanding of eating behaviors, might help.

The food psychology clinic is UK based and you can make contact via the Instagram account. I am only aware of one Nutritional Therapist in Ireland who deals in this particular area of work.  Here: www.straightforwardnutrition.com

Finally, I can’t count the number of times people have told me stories like “Oh, so and so died…… and s/he was so into healthy eating”!  There is no promise of immortality in choosing to eat a healthier diet.  The point of dealing with food or eating issues is that you can feel better today, have a better quality life than if you didn’t and possibly live a little longer.  This is not without it’s challenges but it is within your grasp.  As human beings we know we are affected on many levels by factors other than by what we eat, but this is the one area where we can reclaim some personal power over our own well being.

© Limelight Nutrition 2019

Gobble Gobble

Gobble, gobble says the turkey, as if it knows its fate this time of year!  I have to admit I love to gobble turkey.  My Grandfather and uncle had a small farm and reared turkeys for the Christmas market.  Every Christmas my uncle would arrive with a massive turkey that could barely fit in our oven.  But even before it got that far, it hung upside down from the roof of our lean-to conservatory for a day or two.  Its broken neck and blood-filled head with the odd un-plucked feather, was a curious and slightly scary sight for an urban dweller.  A scene that could have been a turning point to veganism, as the head came off and the gizzards were yanked from its belly, did not a vegan make!  Year in and year out my mother spent half the night preparing and stuffing a giant bird for Christmas dinner.  On waking Christmas day, the house was always filled with the aroma of stuffed turkey cooking in the oven.  Such a massive bird needed a head start on the rest of the day.

It seems apt that the spirit animal of the turkey symbolizes connection with Mother Earth and the abundance the earth provides.  It represents nourishment in our life, harvesting the fruits of our efforts, community, generosity and sharing.  This totem animal encourages us to honour our sources of nourishment, whether they are physical, emotional or spiritual. The turkey reminds us to develop a harmonious relationship with the land and our environment and consider them as foundations to our well-being and sustenance.  Turkey totem is a powerful guide to unlocking the fullness of life and feeling content with what we have instead of accumulating material belongings to seek happiness.

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Adrenal Fatigue… real or fake?

This week is International Stress Awareness Week. The World Health Organization is calling ‘stress’ the health epidemic of the 21st Century.   And yet, the medical profession is slow to recognize or treat ‘adrenal fatigue’ or ‘burn out’ as a real condition.

Introduction 

Persistent fatigue and tiredness are some of the most common symptoms that drive people to seek the help of a doctor.  Often the doctor finds it hard to come up with a diagnosis.  She may take your medical history, carry out a physical exam and do some blood tests.  Often this yields no explanation.    To complicate things further for the doctor, fatigue may be linked to thyroid dysfunction, anaemia, fibromyalgia, M.E. and various other conditions.  If he is testing solely for adrenal dysfunction, he’ll be looking for the extremely low ‘hypo’ or extremely high ‘hyper’ production of cortisol, for a diagnosis of Addison’s disease or Cushing’s Syndome, but anywhere outside of these ranges will not deliver a diagnosis.  Neither do the Endocrinology Society and other medical specialties recognize this condition.  Your doctor is in a bit of a dilemma.  At best, he may not think you are neurotic and may accept that your symptoms are real.   At worse, the doctor thinks you are depressed or neurotic and if so you may walk away with a prescription for anti-depressants.  This now becomes your dilemma because with no diagnosis there is no treatment.  But what if you do have adrenal fatigue, you are not depressed and there is another way?  We place so much of our trust and hope in our doctors, often they are in a position to help us and just as often they are not.  But here’s the good news, that doctor may not yet be aware that in other streams of medical practice namely ‘functional and complimentary medicine’, adrenal dysfunction is recognized and it can be tested and treated as a real condition.

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Are You What You Eat?

You would probably expect someone like me who has studied nutrition, to completely agree with the statement ‘you are what you eat’.  After all, my job is to convince you that you need to eat nutritious foods.  Eat healthy become healthy, it’s simple, right?  Sorry folks, I wish it was that simple.

But you already know this!   Every time you switch on the TV, read a magazine article or link in to social media, conflicting ‘truths’ abound as to what is good and bad food.  First fat is bad!  You should eat low-fat to avoid heart disease!  Now that’s wrong!  Now fat is good and you need full fat!  Eggs are the best source of protein?  What about the cholesterol … bad for you? Meat, is it bad or does it have a high bio-availability of protein and other nutrients that are good for you? And on it goes until most of us don’t know what to believe or who to trust.   I wish I could tell you I’m about to make things crystal clear but that would just be another lie.   I can tell you from my own experience though, that a good understanding of nutrition allows me to see through a lot of this apparent confusion for what it really is.  But even this knowledge doesn’t make the journey of implementing healthier eating any less challenging.

I have come to the conclusion that unless you are someone like Hugh Fernley Whittingstall, running a small holding, growing and making your own food and producing your own meat and dairy, there is no way to know with any certainty that what you are eating is healthy.  The Hugh’s of this world can ignore the media hype but the rest of us have very little control over food quality and its possible effect on our health.  We are in the vulnerable position of having to trust others.  People are unaware of the changing nature of food!  The egg of fifty years ago looks the same today but nutritionally it is very different.  In its purest form, eggs and most other natural foods can only truly claim their rightful status if they have been grown or fed naturally in a natural environment.

The Illness, pharma, healthcare including [gyms /health stores /alternatives] and food industries are big businesses that are busy selling ‘health’ in one form or another.  They battle it out in the public arena like the gladiators of old.  They need to win your trust to keep you invested!  But this constant stream of media sensationalism creates a great deal of fear and solves nothing.  Ongoing stress is a waste of your valuable energy and is NOT good for your health. Think about this for a moment if your health is their concern, what if by some miracle we all became well enough tomorrow not to need them – what would that mean for business?  There is a place in our lives for all of these services but see it also for what it is – business.  The only person that really cares about your health is you!  And, you are not powerless in this!  The good news is, looking after your health is a choice you can make at any time.  It will be challenging!   Our society is not currently set up to make this easy for you.  More good news – if you are reading this blog you are still alive.  What you are eating hasn’t killed you – YET 🙂  Read on if you want to find out how to keep calm and carry on in the face of forces outside of your control.  There is a lot you can do for yourself in the pursuit of better health.

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