Dr. Caroline Leaf – The world of healthy eating can be confusing and overwhelming at times. It can also be toxic and can set us up for a host of mental and physical health issues if we are not careful. In this podcast (episode #235) and blog, I speak with nutritional therapy practitioner and certified personal trainer Noelle Tarrabout how diet culture is dangerous and how to combat the negative effects, how to build sustainable weight loss and fitness habits, how to begin healing orthorexia and body dysmorphia, why we should use clean beauty and skincare products, and more!
As Noelle points out, many people hide unhealthy behaviors like extreme dieting and over-exercising by placing them under the guise of “being healthy”. We cannot just change what we do; we also need to change our THINKING.
If you hate what you are doing and it is making you feel sick and unhappy, then it is not healthy. In fact, if we don’t focus on our physical AND mental health when we are talking about food, weight and body image, then we are missing a big part of the picture, and our overall wellbeing will suffer as a result!
Unfortunately, the wellness industry is, in large part, dominated by modern diet culture. This culture is characterized by the pervasive, dangerous belief in our society that it is better to be smaller and thinner. It tells us that our value or worth is in our weight, shape or clothing size, or our ability to control what we look like. It assumes that food and appearance have moral value, making people feel like they are good or bad people depending on what they eat and how they look.
Indeed, most fitness advertisements are completely focused on weight loss. We have forgotten what exercise is really about: optimal MENTAL and physical health, not what you look like or how much you weigh!
We need to understand that true health or loving your body is not a destination. You will not reach it at the end of a series of tasks. Your problems will still be there when you reach your ideal size or look if you haven’t changed your thinking. Indeed, you don’t always need to love your body and obsess over it, because your life is not just about your body!
We need to normalize change, both in how we feel and how we look. As Noelle notes, it is very normal for our weight to fluctuate over time. A changing body is a “normal” body, because we are always changing, especially as women. We can be healthy at a variety of weights!
We also need to understand that when we are dieting all the time and eating low calories, we are also eating low nutrients. We are essentially setting ourselves up for nutrient deficiency, and our body and mind will start to act funky! The food that we eat and the exercise we do will either set us up for success in every area of our life or failure.When we chase after something that we think we should do or an image we think we should look like, our health will take a turn for the worse. We shouldn’t live our life pursuing fleeting social images of “ideal” bodies—it is not worth it!
Unfortunately, modern diet culture has not only led to a rise in body dysmorphia (obsessing over flaws in our appearance/body), but also increasing rates of orthorexia in our society. Orthorexia is a classified eating disorder that involves and unhealthy obsession with healthy eating and dieting. Someone who is struggling with orthorexia is completely consumed with monitoring what they eat and how much they eat.
The first step in healing orthorexia is getting to the root of your behavior. Why do you do what you do? What are the intentions behind your choices and actions? What drives your obsession with healthy eating and weight? How can you undo the damaging diet culture beliefs that dominate your thinking? If you don’t change the way you see yourself, your worth and food, you will not achieve long-term, sustainable healing. You need to learn how to take your focus off the scale and mirror and back onto what is going to serve YOU, physically, mentally and emotionally.
But, as Noelle points out, health is not just about what we put into our body, but also what we put onto our body, especially when it comes to our hormonal health. Many skincare, cleaning and beauty products have chemicals that act as hormone disrupters, which can impact both our mental and physical health. Indeed, research has shown that some of these chemicals can stay in our blood stream for up to a month! This is why Noelle is a part of the company Beauty Counter, which focuses on clean and healthy beauty, bath and skincare products that make you feel good on the outside and inside.