“Nearly four in ten women will develop cardiovascular disease (CVD) during their lifetime” (Srivaratharajah & Abramson, 2019). However, with sufficient dietary intervention, this rate can be reduced by 80%, “elimination of modifiable risk factors including unhealthy lifestyle has the potential for prevention of 80% of cardiovascular disease cases (Nielsen et al., 2017). As a weight loss coach, I understand how losing weight can have a significant impact on health and wellbeing. However, regardless of the amount of pounds you need to shed, there can be a downside to solely focusing on what you eat. Dieting, or therapeutic nutrition, can create a rift in the natural, holistic psychological approach to food, as well as the cultural benefits of breaking bread together. By merely perceiving the body as a machine and designating food as a modality for weight loss, you risk losing the holistic aspects of eating and succumbing to its shadow myths. For a person needing to lose weight, assigning to diet plans and the world of clinical nutrition can initially be beneficial. However, it is also important to incorporate a mindset that dieting and focusing on what you eat is is not the whole story.
Michael Pollan writes in his book, In Defense of Food, that current science of nutrition has, “confused us with three pernicious myths: that what matters most is not the food but the ‘nutrient’: that because nutrients are invisible and incomprehensible to everyone but scientists, we need expert help in deciding what to eat; and that the purpose of eating is to promote a narrow concept physical health” (Pollan, 2009, p. 8). Dieting, clinical or therapeutic nutrition can temporarily aid weight loss, but it creates a narrow view of food, “we are becoming a nation of orthorexics” writes Pollan, (2009, p. 9). I suggest to anyone exploring weight loss, to evaluate clinical nutrition and diet plans as they would with all conventional medical avenues. By evaluating if the gain of overall health benefits outweighs the negative outcomes from the method. If you chose to diet or a therapeutic nutrition plan, remember that there are other vital holistic emotional components that still need to be incorporated into your relationship with food.
Pollan (2009) writes, “as long as humans have been taking meals together, eating has been as much about cultures as it has been about biology” (p. 8). Since the beginning of time, humans have broken bread together. We have innately known that it is not only what’s in the food that benefits our health and wellbeing, but the synergies of incorporating ritual eating with gratitude, abundance and joy, nourishing not only the mind and body, but also the spirit. I personally am caught in what Pollan describes as the “quel paradox” (2009, p. 9). I identify as a foodie, loving to explore the varied cultures of food yet find myself constantly conflicted with my proclaimed Nutritionista self. So now, I am exploring the culture of enjoying the whole experience of eating, trusting the holistic approach that good foods affect and satiate my whole mind and body. Eating a whole array of colorful vegetables, fish, some meats, nuts and oils, while eating just enough to feel content. No longer checking off lists of superfoods and macros etc. I believe we have much to learn about the nature of eating, “not only physiologically but also historically and ecologically”, (Pollan, 2009, p. 11).
So, I would say to anyone wanting to lose weight, that while utilizing a diet plan for weight loss can be effective, prepare to be mindful of its shadow myths. Diet plans and clinical nutrition can create a rift in the natural, holistic psychological approach to food, as well as the cultural benefits of breaking bread together, by perceiving the body as a machine and designating food as a modality for disease prevention. There is a balance in approaching the whole being and trusting oneself in what feels right when it comes to food. After all, humans have known what to eat for thousands of years. Nutrition science has a long way to go in understanding the holistic connection between mind, body, and food. All aspects of the human experience need to be present at the table.
Barriers to lifestyle changes for prevention of cardiovascular disease – a survey among 40–60-year-old Danes
Nielsen, J. B., Leppin, A., Gyrd-Hansen, D. E., Jarbøl, D. E., Søndergaard, J., & Larsen, P. V. (2017). Barriers to lifestyle changes for prevention of cardiovascular disease – a survey among 40-60-year-old Danes. BMC cardiovascular disorders, 17(1), 245. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12872-017-0677-0
Pollan, M. (2009). In defense of food: An eater’s manifesto. London: Penguin Books.
Identifying and managing younger women at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
Srivaratharajah, K., & Abramson, B. L. (2019). Identifying and managing younger women at high risk of cardiovascular disease. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne, 191(6), E159–E163. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.180053