Let’s keep it real, folks. I ate a donut over Christmas vacation. There, I said it. It was not gluten-free, dairy-free, or sugar-free. It was a straight-up, fake chocolate covered, soy-oil deep-fried donut. Donuts are my thing. My weakness. Put a donut in front of me and it’s almost impossible for me to resist. I don’t give in to this weakness very often but, when I do, I don’t beat myself up about it. I also probably had a few too many drinks between Christmas and New Years but, I’m human. I forgive and move on.
What kind of a nutritionist eats a donut? An imperfect one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very passionate about nutrition, food as medicine, and knowing where your food comes from. But, I have to admit, I sometimes get damn tired of hearing about it – tired of fad diets, and tired of nutrition authorities touting all-or-nothing advice or one-size-fits-all protocols. Perfection has no place in nutrition.
I absolutely believe in therapeutic diets. All of us, myself included, can benefit from the healing power of a therapeutic protocol at one time or another, or seasonally, or whenever we need a “reset.” I love a good sugar detox or a gut-healing regimen. They definitely have their place in a journey to better health but, I believe in most circumstances, they are not meant to be long term.
Where I think we go off-track is when nutrition becomes an obsession. It becomes all we think about, and our lives can become only about what we are eating, day-in and day-out. It becomes an eating disorder in itself – orthorexia nervosa, a term that literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” The stress of having to think about what goes in your mouth, every minute of every day, the stress of nutrition perfection takes a devastating toll on the body and spirit. It becomes enslaving and isolating.
We are bombarded with nutrition information in the media, from well-meaning friends, and from those who consider themselves nutrition authorities. They are peddling their one-size-fits-all approach to eating and that’s never made sense to me. What is good for one person is not necessarily the best for everyone. Many nutrition websites and bloggers give the impression that they have “righteous eating” down to an art and a science and if you aren’t doing it perfectly, you’re doing it wrong. They are setting us up to fail. It’s no wonder we quit before we even start. Perfection is not sustainable.
Many of us have set New Year resolutions for ourselves – whether it be to lose weight, to eat healthier, or to exercise more. But, we all know that the resolutions we make for ourselves aren’t sustainable or every realistic, in most cases. I’ll say it again – perfect nutrition is not sustainable. It does not allow us room for grace and forgiveness on our journey to better health.
So, let’s set our resolutions with a twist. Instead of losing 30 pounds, or giving up sugar, or running a marathon, let’s resolve to set intentions to honor ourselves, to forgive our imperfections, and to have grace and courtesy in understanding our journey is different than anyone else’s. If we do this, the rest will surely follow.