Emily Marshall is a non-diet, weight-inclusive Registered Dietitian, passionate about helping people improve relationships with food, break the diet cycle and find peace with their bodies. In this feature, Emily shares insights with us on achieving a healthy lifestyle.
I've always loved food and cooking since I was young. Sharing food with others is a way that I show my love and bond with others. When I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 10, I think this is when I started to become interested in health. So combining the two, health and food, and it led me to pursue becoming a dietitian. Healing from my own disordered relationship with food led me to becoming a dietitian who now practices with a weight-inclusive and intuitive eating approach.
I think that many people aren't actually eating enough. We hear this widely-used piece of advice all over- "eat less and move more", but I think that's actually really bad advice. The most important nutrition aspect to be aware of is if you're eating enough on a consistent basis. Many people in the US aren't able to achieve this due to food insecurity. Food is expensive in the US, especially nutritious food, and many people struggle with being able to have the time to prepare meals for themselves and their family. Much of the messaging around nutrition is about achieving some level of perfection with your nutritional status, but that really doesn't exist. If we get back to the basics of good nutrition, it's just about eating enough and eating a variety. If you are able to do those 2 things- enough + variety- your nutritional status is likely to be just fine.
Be aware that the diet industry is a 78 Billion dollar industry with a product that is designed to fail. As much as 80-90% of people who attempt to lose weight through diet/exercise will regain the weight within a period of 2-5 years. Regaining and losing the same weight over and over creates a pattern known as weight-cycling and this has been shown to be associated with worse health outcomes.
If I could offer a suggestion it would be to not try to diet or force yourself into a size your body isn't meant to be. Dieting is associated with increased risk of developing an eating disorder or disordered eating. When we hyper-focus on our food choices through dieting it tends to lead to more stress, anxiety and guilt around food and your body. You can learn to have a more peaceful relationship with food through practicing intuitive eating and working on developing a healthier body image.
Mindful eating is challenging to do when your body is undernourished. My first suggestion to help with more mindful eating is to focus on developing a consistent eating pattern which may consist of at least 3 meals + 2-3 snacks per day. After being in this pattern for some time you might be able to become more aware of your unique hunger and fullness signals. When you're undernourished you may find yourself eating faster and more mindlessly simply because of how hungry you are. If you can allow your body to have enough nourishment on a consistent basis, mindful eating can happen more naturally. You can then start to pay attention to how the food is tasting, how it feels in your body and what thoughts or emotions come up for you when you're eating. Something else important to consider is: The word mindfulness can be replaced with non-judgemental awareness or curious exploration of what is going on. Thinking about it this way can help you be more self-compassionate and understanding of your tendencies and thoughts.
I think that pre-cooked and pre-packaged meals can be helpful for so many people. They make eating more accessible, time-efficient and convenient. Look for options that sound and taste satisfying to you. If the food isn't filling enough for you, you can always combine multiple pre-packaged foods together to create a more substantial meal for yourself.