Every March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics promotes National Nutrition Month. Each year, they put forth a theme that reflects “…the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.” This year, the theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” As a non-diet dietitian and a Health at Every Size® practitioner, this theme left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It felt very much in the vein of diet culture and judgmental of food.
If you have been following my work, you know my philosophy on food: Food is not good. Food is not bad. Food is food. Putting your “best” anything forward gives off the impression that there are a best, a least, and some things in between. This is certainly not a message I want to spread, so I considered not participating in the hoopla this year. I then decided that it would be best to put a twist on the theme of “Put Your Best Fork Forward” for my diet-free living community. Here’s my take on it:
Put Your Best Fork Forward:
Eat what you enjoy.
The role of food in our lives is not meant to solely nourish and fuel you. Part of what brings us satisfaction when we eat is our enjoyment of the food itself. If you eat something you don’t necessarily care for, you may reach fullness, but you may not be satisfied. This can lead to looking for other things to eat, and then eat past fullness in order to satisfy a craving or hankering for something…”better.” Your best fork forward in this scenario would be to incorporate foods you enjoy into your meals and snacks as often as you can. This can be your love of Brussels sprouts or brownies – both have a place in a healthy eating pattern.
Remove stigma from food.
Like I have stated before: Food is not good. Food is not bad. Food is food. Assigning virtue to food sets you up for guilt and shame when you eat it, and deprivation when you don’t. When you incorporate all foods into your repertoire and allow yourself to choose any and all foods, eventually, the “bad” foods can lose their appeal. You may even find that you don’t like the forbidden foods and that their appeal was mostly due to diet rules telling you that they were “sinful,” or a “guilty pleasure.” Put your best fork forward by eating all foods and decide for yourself what you like and dislike, rather than listening to what diet culture tells you to do.
Try something new or from a different culture.
Become an adventurous eater! After years of dieting, chances are that food rules have slowly limited your food repertoire. Expand your palette by tasting something new. Try a delicacy like a pâté or something made with ghee. Taste a funky-looking fruit like Dragon Fruit, or maybe someone else’s “comfort food” like shrimp and grits or matzoh ball soup. Put your best fork forward by stepping out of your comfort zone and away from the diet rules and taste something new.
Ditch the diet foods.
For the love of G-d and all things holy, please step away from the 5-poung bag of baby carrots, air-popped popcorn, and turkey jerky! Throw out the SnackWells (do they still make these?) and the frozen protein-powder-disguised-as-ice-cream and embrace food. If you want pizza, eat pizza. Don’t substitute the real thing for the cauliflower crust just because diet rules told you to fear carbs. Go ahead and have a piece of cake that doesn’t contain beans or zucchini. Filling up on low-calorie foods or diet foods that substitute for foods you are trying to avoid will only leave you unsatisfied and feeling deprived. When you restrict your intake, you might find that you spend lots of time and energy obsessing over food. Release yourself from that. Put your best fork forward by honoring your hunger and nourishing your body with all of the carbohydrate, protein, and fat sources available to us.
During National Nutrition Month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics would like us to remember that “…each one of us holds the tool to make healthier food choices.” That tool is not a fork. That tool is our intuition. Listening to what our body needs, becoming curious about what energizes us and what depletes us, and experimenting with our likes and dislikes – while using nutrition information as a guideline and not a hard set of rules – will do more than help us make healthy choices; it will help us heal our relationship with food and our body.
Have a happy and intuitive National Nutrition Month.
Have you downloaded your FREE copy of my new e-book, “The Inner Girl Power Challenge” yet? Get a jump start towards ditching dieting, eating fearlessly, and making peace with the skin you are in. What are you waiting for??