All too often when I first sit down with a client and they hand in their forms, including a 3-5 day food log, I am met with a very common and familiar look. It is a look of nervousness, embarrassment, and even guilt or shame.
“This isn’t how I normally eat.”
“This was a really bad week.”
“A friend was in town — I’m usually a much better eater than this.”
It’s a sentiment I can completely relate to because it’s one I would have expressed had I gone to see a nutritionist a few years ago. And honestly, these emotions and phrases are what I hear from probably 95% of my clients. In the moment we’re each sitting in these feelings and expressing these words we feel like we’re alone and that we’ve failed in some way, that we should be embarrassed or ashamed about how we’re eating because it isn’t how we “should” be.
But here’s the thing, there is no “perfect” way to eat. Do you have an idea in your mind of what a “perfect” diet you would be proud of looks like? And do you feel like you’re constantly trying to get there, or even sometimes coming really darn close, but then you just can’t “stick to it”? Do you see images on Instagram of all the nutritionists and health bloggers out there eating salad after salad and superfood breakfast bowl after superfood breakfast bowl and get disappointed in yourself that you aren’t doing the same?
In my line of work I know dozens of other nutritionists. And here’s a secret: none of us has a “perfect” diet. Nearly every nutritionist I know eats cookies, has an alcoholic beverage here and there, buys non-organic in a pinch and ends up too full at a special occasion. That image you may have of nutritionists sipping on green juice and daintily chewing salads day in and day out? It’s not a thing.
Sure I eat salads, roasted veggies and balanced meals most of the time because I know they will fuel me and feel good in my body. But I’m also going to have my favourite refined sugar-filled cookies around the holidays, a glass of wine (or two, or three!) with friends, and more of my dad’s homemade apple pie than I truly need because it’s So. Damn. Good.
Today, I love cooking homemade meals, eating lots of veggies and having dark chocolate as my dessert of choice. But I once ate a bagel for breakfast, a chocolate croissant for lunch and half a jar of peanut butter for dinner. Little by little I found the healthy changes I could do. I tried oatmeal with lots of toppings for breakfast, I started grabbing a salad that looked yummy instead of a pastry for lunch and I experimented with different recipes for dinner.
Some healthy changes I liked and I kept, some were too complicated or I didn’t enjoy and I let them go. But my diet never has been and never will be “perfect”. Because that image of what “perfect health” looks like, for most, will be incredibly restrictive, demoralizing and unnecessary. That desire to achieve a “perfect” diet can take you dangerously close to an eating disorder — orthorexia — wherein one becomes obsessed with only consuming foods that are considered “healthy”.
You know what’s more important than a “perfect” healthy diet? A healthy mind. And that comes from being kind, patient and understanding with ourselves. It comes from knowing we are doing what we can, whatever that looks like. You may be really struggling with a stressful job and a busy schedule and grabbing a quick bite on the run is all you feel you can do. That’s OKAY. You might just not have the interest in or motivation to cook most days. That’s OKAY. You might think salads are the work of the devil. That’s OKAY.
Show yourself some kindness and compassion for where you’re at Right. Now. Because wherever that is… it’s OKAY. If you want to make changes to improve your health and feel better, you can. But let go of the idea that there is some “perfect” way to eat that you need to achieve. Instead, find a fun, manageable change you think you can do and try it out. No pressure. No guilt. And no stress if it ends up not working for you.
You only get one life to live and of course you want to make it a long and healthy one. But do you want to make it one where you beat yourself up for eating cake on your birthday? Where you count the calories in the muffin you eat catching up with a friend over brunch? Or do you want it to be one where you make the best possible choices for your health when you can and also cut yourself some slack to just live? I know which one I want. So pass me that muffin.
Ditch the pursuit of the “perfect” diet and find the fun, doable changes that work for you. Book your FREE 20-minute consultation.