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SALT LAKE CITY — What if I told you that you don’t need more nutrition information in order to eat well?
That may seem confusing coming from a nutrition professional. In fact, when I first received my degree and started practicing nutrition, I truly thought I would help people by telling them what to eat.
I soon realized that most people know what to eat; a lack of information is certainly not an issue. But when you are obsessed and preoccupied with food, you run the risk of not including the type of flexibility and variety necessary to ensure nutritionally adequate food patterns.
Nutrition is a science; that is what led me to become a registered dietitian. I love the science of nutrition, and because I understand it well I know you don’t have to overthink, overanalyze or second-guess what you eat nearly as much as you probably do. Healthy eating has so much to do with flexibility, variety, satisfaction and what’s happening over weeks or months — not meal-to-meal or day-to-day.
Of course, it's not necessary to eliminate all nutrition knowledge. However, you would benefit from recognizing that nutrition isn't as black and white as many "nutrition facts" would lead you to believe.
In addition to what you know, here are four mindset shifts that can help you care about what you eat without caring too much.
Notice your judgment
Labeling food as "good" or "bad" and "right" or "wrong" encourages an all-or-nothing mentality that can lead to extremes in eating.
Does that mean you see all food as nutritionally equal? Not at all, because they aren’t. It means you’ll have the same emotional reaction no matter what you eat — you aren’t patting yourself on the back for eating carrots and hitting yourself over the head for eating cake.
Food is just food, and there isn’t any morality tied to it. The practice here is to reframe your beliefs about food to include the idea that all foods can fit.
Check in with your body
“When you have a deep level of self-awareness, you can tell if you’re getting the nutrition you need," intuitive eating coach Daxle Collier has said.
How often are you checking in on your body? Do you notice what it’s communicating to you at regular intervals throughout the day?
Knowing what your body is communicating to you will be a key factor in ensuring you are getting the nutrition you need in the quantities you need. Your body is always talking to you. Figure out what it is saying and how you can meet its needs.
Take it one meal at a time
Every meal is an opportunity to learn more about yourself: what nourishes and satisfies you, what keeps you energized and full, what isn’t enough food, what’s too much food, etc. So, instead of the judgment we discussed above, curiosity will be your biggest asset.
When you approach meal times this way, you'll learn a lot about how to feed yourself. This is how you put yourself back in charge of your own food decisions.
You are gathering data one meal at a time.
Stay in your own lane
Refrain from comparing your food preferences and food choices to other people's. There's nothing worth comparing. We all make food decisions based on a number of factors that change from meal to meal, so it's impossible to measure them against each other.
It's going to be difficult to be curious, to check in with your body, or to make wise food decisions one meal at a time when you are trying to keep up with everyone else.
Staying true to yourself is actually a really great strategy to care about what you eat without caring too much.