Lately, I’ve been finding myself preaching more about self love, self care, and mental health than I am about nutrition topics.
I’m not a mental health professional, however as a Registered Dietitian, I have become more and more acutely aware of just how important mental health is to our overall health, wellbeing, and happiness.
Not only that, but without good mental health and a positive body image, it’s near impossible to maintain healthy nutrition habits.
So to me, it simply cannot be one or the other. Therefore, my approach to nutrition is holistic.
My approach includes finding the benefits of food as opposed to focusing on “too many calories/carbs/etc”.
My approach includes finding habits that work for YOUR lifestyle so that they make you happier and less stressed, as opposed to guilty, deprived, and anxious.
So how do these things all relate to self love?
Nutrition from a Self Love Perspective
As I mentioned above, mental health and nutrition have to go hand-in-hand. And one of the central concepts to having good mental health is self love.
Do you normally try to focus on all the things you dislike about yourself? I know you think that if you show yourself your flaws, you’ll be more motivated to make a change.
How has this worked for you so far? Probably not great. At least not for the long-term.
The best thing you can do for your nutrition is to make choices based on the fact that you LOVE yourself. Think about all the things you want for the ones you love. Health, happiness, fulfillment. So these should be important for yourself as well. Make nutrition choices that make you feel these things.
Will cutting carbs help you feel fulfilled or happy? Mmm, nope.
Will eating only candy all day help you feel healthy? Don’t think so.
Find a way to make choices that make you feel healthy, happy, AND fulfilled.
How to Make the Shift
This can be a difficult change to make. We’re so conditioned to beat ourselves up. To not settle for anything less than perfection. But this can really wreak havoc on our mental health, so here are some things you can do to start changing this around:
- Stop focusing on your weight. Focusing on your weight can lead to guilt and further insecurities (1) It can also lead to sneaking food in the middle of the night or when no one’s looking, and other patterns of disordered eating (1).
- Focus on the taste and other benefits of your food. These benefits may include: mood, energy, athletic performance, school performance, reduced risk of illness, and more (1).
- Stop labeling your treats as “cheats” (1). The idea that you’re “cheating” on your diet is setting yourself for more guilt and more “failure”. The words “cheat day” or “cheat meal”, or “I cheated on my diet and had a brownie”, all facilitate the good vs bad food mentality. They encourage feelings of guilt, insecurity, failure, and incompetence/inadequacy. None of these things will serve you. Ever.
- Put the concept of “weight” into perspective (1). Our bodies are always changing. From the moment we are born until we die. We tend to look for stability and for things to be static because this is what we feel comfortable with. So when our weight changes, we freak out. But it’s normal. If you are in your 20s or 30s, you will most likely NOT weigh what you did in high school. It’s ok. It doesn’t mean you “got fat”. It means that you went through some changes. Also note, that healthy habits are much better indicators of health than your weight. When the BMI scale was created, it was NOT meant to be a hard and fast RULE. It was just meant to be a guide. We were not supposed to look at a BMI of 27 and think “You’re unhealthy, lose weight”. That is not what it was created for. But that’s where society took it. Your habits will tell you if you’re unhealthy. Not the number on the scale.
What is “Healthy Eating”?
I may not be a believer in dieting. But I AM a believer in the fact that food and nutrition are ESSENTIAL to our health and happiness. So I want to make sure I also include a list of things you can focus on when trying to make healthy decisions!
Healthy Eating Is….
- Choosing foods from all food groups: fruits, veggies, whole grains, proteins, fats, and dairy.
- Eating a variety of foods.
- Choosing foods you enjoy.
Healthy Eating is NOT…
- Obsessing over calories, carbs, fats, or any other nutrient (1).
- Being stressed over your food intake or what to eat (1).
- Feeling guilty when you indulge in a “treat”.
- Trying out the next fad diet because someone tells you it would be healthier if you lost weight. NO NO NO!!!!
- Yo yo dieting
- Crash dieting
- Trying to “earn” your food by working out.
How You Can Teach Your Kids Nutrition from Self Love
We all want what’s best for our kids. There are so many well-intentioned parents out there who are so nervous about making sure the kids don’t have weight issues, that they inadvertently create disordered eating patterns. It’s not their fault. The diet culture makes us fearful and it makes everyone think that this healthy.
But the best thing you can do to help your kids is to not let food become stressful for them. That being said, I know you want them to be healthy, as we all do. Here are some tips that can help make sure your kids are healthy, both in body and mind.
- Make food fun! (1)
- Have them help you cook (1). Make it extra fun by playing music and singing while you cook.
- Have themed dinner nights that they can have fun helping with (1).
- Create fun names for certain foods (Examples: Green Monster Juice or Ants on a Log) (1).
- Involve them in decision-making. You should stay in control of choices most nights, but allow them to help out. You can also give them an occasional Kids Night where the kids all vote on what they eat and the adults have no say.
- Be a good role model (1). Ultimately, your kids are going to learn from you. So don’t talk negatively about their bodies, your own body, or anyone else’s body in front of them. In fact, even saying things like “you lost weight, you look so great” can send the wrong message. It’s always nice to tell someone that they look great, but make sure not to equate it to their body size. Talk about strength and energy, someone looking happy, etc. Also, don’t diet in front of them, and don’t demonize foods by telling them that they can’t have something because it’s too fattening, or even by saying “that’s not good for you”1. Even saying something the opposite like “this is so good for you” can cause kids to wonder, ‘what isn’t good for me?’ and inadvertently send the wrong message again.
- When teaching your kids about nutrition, avoid language that indicates something is good or bad. Use the words I mentioned earlier in the article- mood, energy, and athletic and school performance- to describe the nutritional and health benefits of food to your kids (1).
Improve Your Body Image
One of the things I’ve mentioned so far is to have a healthy body image. This does not mean, lose weight until you feel good. This means accepting and loving yourself at any size, and when choosing foods that are nourishing, doing so by coming from a place of self love.
Here are some tips for improving your self love through body image! (2)
- Make a top 10 list of things you like about yourself (nothing about weight or appearance). Read this list frequently and add to it often.
- Appreciate all your body can do: Sports and physical activity, laughing, carrying and birthing a child, nursing your child, thinking, dreaming, getting you places by walking or biking, etc.
- Wear clothes that make you feel good. Avoid wearing things that make you feel self conscious. Wear clothes that fit, regardless of the number on the tag.
- Surround yourself with positive people and be careful of social media messages.
- Do nice things for yourself like take a bath, go for a walk, get a massage or manipedi.
- Do nice things for others.
Spread the Love
If you loved this post, please share it with anyone you know who needs to hear it!
It is my mission to spread this message of self love and I’d love for your help in doing so!
Share it on Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram and tag me: @happilynourishedrd
- Weisenberger, J. (2019). Emphasizing Health vs. Weight for Body-Positive Thinking. Retrieved 8 October 2019, from https://www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/your-health-and-your-weight/emphasizing-health-vs-weight-for-bodypositive-thinking
- 10 Steps to Positive Body Image. (2019). Retrieved 8 October 2019, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/ten-steps