The Stress of Healthy Eating

Do you wonder what healthy eating actually is?

I’ve been reflecting this week on how hard it can be to find the right balance between recommending healthy eating dietary changes and avoiding creating stress around food. Many of the people I work with in clinic have foods in their daily diet that could be obstacles to healing and the place they want to get to with their health. Often these foods are linked to digestive symptoms like bloating, diarrhoea or constipation, or immune reactions like sinus congestion, or there might be no obvious symptoms. Through looking at blood tests for hormones and whole body health I can start to see if something in your diet is possibly causing a problem and creating or contributing to symptoms.

This isn’t always the case forever – reactivity to foods can often be a short term, transient thing that could be to do with stress, recent antibiotic or other medication use or even gut infections that haven’t totally resolved. My (possibly idealistic) hope is that we can take some time to heal, restore and strengthen your gut and that this will lead to less reactivity and better tolerance of a range of foods.

The other side to this story is that many people are approaching food with fear. They might be scared that certain foods are creating symptoms based on reactions in the past, or that their gut is sensitive and reacts to almost anything.

…reactivity to foods is often a short term, transient thing that could be to do with stress, recent antibiotic or other medication use or even gut infections that haven’t totally resolved.

Fear leads to stress when eating. Stress and the hormones that go with it get in the way of our ‘rest and digest’ processes that help us break down and absorb nutrients from our meals. Fear can create rigid eating practices and affect our enjoyment of the whole process of cooking, eating and sharing food with others.

So, sometimes I feel like I’m helping to remove underlying obstacles to healing and other times I worry I am part of the problem, setting up a situation that encourages fear and stress around food.

My favourite way to combat this is to recognise that each person has different needs, susceptibilities and obstacles on their health journey. No one diet approach suits everyone and the more we recognise what works for each of us as a unique individual, the more guilt, stress and fear we can let go of about the choices that we need to make right now.

If we listen to our bodies, accept our limitations and recognise that health is a dynamic state then we can keep moving forward. I find it helps to have a really good chat about it once in a while too.

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