Sometimes being a Dietitian just isn’t “sexy”. No, seriously! We can sound like old stick in the muds, trotting out the old “everything in moderation” line when others in the wide and varied world that is nutrition; may be encouraging that “new” lifestyle diet, (you know what I’m sayin’ – ala the newest super food, paleo, raw, sugar free, “clean”). These new super shiny “lifestyles” can sound like just the thing……
“From now, I’ll only eat “clean” and never let the poison that is- (insert latest “bad” food group here)- touch my lips. My body is a temple “.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Some are calling these new fads Orthorexia.
Orthorexia has now been defined by the national eating disorders association as “an unhealthy obsession with otherwise healthy eating”. I remember once following the Atkins diet to see what the hype was and after 3 days I was afraid to eat an apple, for fear of ruining my ketotic state. It was then and there I decided that any diet that made me afraid to eat an apple was bloody ridiculous and for the bin.
But this isn’t about Orthorexia, it’s about moderation.
So what’s this got to do with moderation not being as boring as it sounds?
Really, it’s about whether or not these diets are sustainable or not. And about how it can lead to an unhealthy mind-set and other problems when it comes to food and eating.
Trish, (not her real name), decided to do “clean eating” at the end of last year.
In her own words: “Tried consistent “clean eating”, binged/failed”.
Trish had been trying so hard to keep away from “chemical laden, non-clean foods” that she got herself into a mind-set of restriction, leading to a preoccupation with the foods she was denying herself. This led to bingeing. It was ok though, she only ate “off plan” for a few days and soon returned to her “healthy ways”. Or was it?
So this isn’t a problem, is it? Well, maybe it could be.
I have just read a report on a study from Australia that suggests that “junk food binge eating” is just as bad as following an unhealthy diet full time. This is an issue for people, like Trish, who wear the diet halo for most of the time and then have a few “cheat” days or just fall off the wagon now and then and “binge”. The study was done on rats, I admit, but after a “healthy only” diet; just 3 days of eating high fat, high sugar choices were enough to make an impact on the gut bacteria of the rats. The disruption was worse with this “binge eating” than when the diet was one which included “moderation” all of the time. The balance of gut bacteria in humans determines how we metabolise food, and has an impact on nutrition and immune function. Disruption to gut bacteria has been linked with conditions such as obesity and inflammatory bowel disease. You don’t want to mess with those little guys.
But it’s not just about the potential effects on the body, it’s also about the mind. How many of us have decided to give a certain food up, only to find ourselves craving “just a bite”?
Trish had this problem.
She really wanted the biscuits that she knew were in the cupboard and one day just snapped and binged. The whole packet, gone. “Well”, she thought, “at least if I eat them, they are out of the house and I can start again”. Restriction just added fuel to the bingeing fire.
At the end of the day, these shiny, glossy diets can lead to really unhealthy relationships with food.
Restriction –> Binge Eating –> Guilt –> Restriction –> Binge Eating –> Guilt
So this is where the Dietitians’ motto of “everything in moderation” comes in. The best way to eat for better health is not “black and white” and it sure isn’t about what to restrict. The best way to eat is in moderation. This means making sure to include a variety of foods including more fruit and vegetables, lean meats and alternatives and more high fibre whole-grains whilst cutting back foods and drinks that are processed or high in sugar, salt and saturated fat. This also means getting in tune with your hunger and feelings of fullness and about reading important body cues. Moderation means being able to include all foods in your diet in just the right amount. Rigid rules and notions about “good” and “bad” foods only lead to problems. Really, they do.
So moderation isn’t as boring as it sounds.
Moderation in eating is important for maintaining a healthy mind-set and, potentially, for keeping the ebb and flow of your gut flora the way it should be to help prevent you from disease.
Moderation. Sounds bland doesn’t it? Or maybe we Dietitians are just masters of the understatement.