In my last blog, changing the way we think about food, I discussed how the idea that healthy eating is a black and white issue leads to an all-or-nothing mindset, ignoring our bodies’ signals, a lack of self-trust, and a lot of food guilt and stress. (If you haven’t read it yet, you can jump over HERE real quick and do so.)
With this being such a big issue in our culture right now, I can’t help but wonder, how did we get here?
I’m sure there are multiple layers to such a complex thing as the human psyche. In my last post, I mentioned diets and food zealots, but what I think what it all comes down to is something I felt needed it’s own blog….
The Attainment of Perfection
“What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.”
In college, my diet wasn’t anything spectacular in terms of what we think of today. I was simply really good at listening to my body. I had gotten to the point where it felt automatic and easy and I was maintaining a good physique. Then I was told that the best way to eat was to have 5-6 smaller meals every day and that you should never get to the point where you are feeling hunger. So I decided to try it. Long story short, it worked for a little bit, but then my body stalled and after that, it reversed and I actually gained some weight. I did it for years, but it never got to the point where it felt easy for me and gradually I trained myself to almost completely ignore most of the signals my body was giving me. Now, I’m practicing and getting back to what works best for me.
So you might be wondering why I would ever change up my eating in the first place! Looking back, that’s what I had to ask myself and here’s what I came to:
I had swallowed the lie that if I could just find and stick to that perfect diet then I could have a perfect body. See, even though I was in probably the best shape of my life, all I could see were the “flaws” and the parts that still didn’t look like the picture perfect image I had in my head. If I’m being honest, I think that deep down I honestly believed I would be prettier and happier and that then, and only then, would I be really worthy of calling myself a fitness professional.
Yikes, right?? 😉
Like so many trainers that I know, when I first got into fitness, magazines seemed like one of the best and easiest places to get information. Well, when all you ever see in magazines is perfectly proportioned girls with glowing skin and not a dimple or blemish in sight, it’s hard not to think that it’s the norm and even easily achievable.
Here’s the thing about magazines:
*They use a few of the best pictures chosen from hundreds or even thousands of takes. Pictures that have been taken with the perfect lighting & angles, make up, professional stylists and photographers, and Photoshop to top it all off.
**Then they tell us what these women eat to look like that by giving us an example of ONE DAY. One day, folks. First of all, do you guys know anybody who eats the same thing every day?? If you do, you should tell them to go see a doctor because chances are they are probably really deficient in some important nutrients. Second of all, if I’m being featured in a magazine and they ask for my diet, you better believe that I’m going to give them an example of what my best day looks like!! (Celebrities are just people too, so you better believe that they struggle with self doubt and insecurities just like the rest of us.)
I’m not trying to blame magazines for all our problems, but to think that we are not influenced by this stuff is only doing yourself a disservice.
“In 2014, Media Dynamics, Inc. revealed in a study that a typical adult’s daily consumption of media has grown from 5.2 hours in 1945 to 9.8 hours in 2014. Our media consumption per day… In that 10 hours a day that we’re in this media consumption, the study summarized that the number of ads adults are now exposed to across the five media outlets (these are the five major media outlets: TV, radio, Internet, newspaper, and magazine) is about 360 ads a day.” ~Matt Chandler
360 times a day we are exposed to ads that portray a very narrow definition of both beauty and health. Ads that tell us that we need to look a certain way to be able to wear a bikini and to be considered beautiful and for men to want to have sex with us. These lies are toxic to our souls and yet, in this day and age, it’s everywhere we look and it’s the very air we breathe. So, even though we know it’s an illusion, we know about Photoshop and we’ve seen the before and afters, we still secretly hold out hope that we will one day look like that. And we believe that the only way to get there is by eating these good foods and not those bad ones.
The truth is that this idea that there is a perfect diet that leads to the perfect body really only leads to discontentment. We spend years, if not a lifetime, on and off of different diets as we cycle between trying to achieve perfection and frustration when we can’t. Those who have attained it, soon realize it doesn’t deliver all the things they’d been promised. A perfect body doesn’t fulfill us, which is why 99% of women, no matter what shape or size, have body issues!
The media tries to tell us that health looks like a flat stomach, slim thighs and a firm butt. The truth is that, depending largely on your genetics and body type, the healthiest version of you might not be the leanest.
When a perfect body is the goal, your life will be enslaved to the never-ending search and marked by anxiety, frustration, and discontentment because it’ll never be enough. And one day you’ll look back and realize you spent way t0o much time focused on the wrong things and not enough time just enjoying food in a healthy way and learning to love and appreciate your body for everything that it does for you.
“Trying to be perfect is trying to fail.” ~Jill Coleman
Don’t worry, I’m not just going to leave you hanging. Check out part 3 HERE, for my personal insights and my definition of normal eating. 🙂