As I was filling out some very lengthy responses to some questions to attend the Childhood Obesity Conference in San Diego this June on scholarship, I was asked how my passions are aligned with the goals of the conference (main goal is “Nutrition For Everyone”) and it really got me thinking. Actually, I have been thinking a lot for the last few months because I see two really big divides in my life regarding nutrition and I’ve finally somewhat got it together.
The first side is the side I learn about in grad school. Planned diets for a certain disease state or condition and talk of calories in vs. calories out, physical activity, lab values, etc. We learn about the cultural aspects of food, nutrition through the life span, and so much more. I love this side.
(I have nothing against fried fries but WOWZA these air baked fries from ByCHLOE are legit- especially if you dip it in the aioli)
The second side is the Instagram side, where I see this HUGE gap between real life and Instagram life. I see diets perfected with maca and spiurlina powder blended into the most beautifully thick and sculpted smoothie bowl drizzled in 12 dollar almond butter that makes me cringe more than drool because I know this life style isn’t something that can be replicated in a larger audience as often as it is displayed on Instagram (Also yes, I do like so drizzle PB on some of my stuff but you know what I mean here). Don’t get me wrong I also see the side of Instagram that makes me so excited because I get inspired to see a yummy recipe from some of my most favorite people or the most down to earth life talks on my favorite blogs (2 blogs I ALWAYS read are by Alexis aka Hummusapien and Robyn aka The Real Life RD– I hope to be like them when I grow up) .
More often then not though, I feel like people get carried away with the “lala land” mentality of Instagram versus realizing that this isn’t how you have to live your life to be “healthy”. I find passion in seeing this divide here because it gives me the drive to educate others who may fall into the sort of “Instagram trap” which could, has, and will inevitably lead to orthorexia, anxiety, and feelings of low self worth. I know this because I’ve seen it and I’ve almost been there myself. I love this side too.
(Honey Hi in Echo Park, LA has some killer chocolate chip cookies that I have been frequenting lately- do you see that sea salt?!)
I’m often torn because as a teacher ( I was hired last year as a Teaching Associate Faculty at CSULA to teach in the Kinesiology Dept. in addition to being a full time grad student) and a nutrition educator (working for LAUSD and YMCA of the Foothills) I preach about reducing the amount of refined sugar we intake (mostly soda), lowering our sat. fat, choosing home cooked vs. fast food, etc. where as on Instagram I find myself saying the phrase “well what are ya gonna do about it” in reference to missing a workout or eating that piece of cake or grabbing a burger with friends. I feel like a hypocrite sometimes.
I took a step back and thought about why I felt this way and realized it was because the two parts of my life- the Instagram Connie vs. teacher Connie- speak to two very different audiences.
Most of the students I teach frequent fast food 3-5 times a week, overindulge on sugar, choose fried over baked, open more packages than raw foods, and may try fad diets in an effort to drop some pounds without knowing the effects it has on their body. So yes, when I suggest eating less refined sugar and opting for home meals it’s to prevent them from getting pre diabetes, diabetes, hypertension, and other weight related diseases because many- not all- are headed in that direction if not there already.
You know what these students do better than anyone else though? They enjoy their food. They celebrate with it, they chill with it, and they don’t obsess over it. Some of them even forget to eat and although thats not great for the body it shows it’s not the number one thing on their mind which STRONGLY contrasts some of the individuals you can find on instagram that read labels constantly, talk about ingredients ingredients ingredients, only buy organic, never skip a meal, steer away from eating out because it’s unfamiliar, and end up obsessing more than enjoying.
(One of my best grad school friends Jackie has a professional chef as a boyfriend who made us an Irish FEAST with Corned Beef, potatoes, amazing cabbage and carrots, and I brought the veggies!)
The accounts I see on Instagram seem like all they do is talk about food, shop for food, dream abut food, complain about food, criticize other people’s foods, claim they know lots of stuff about food/nutrition, and although they might have a life outside of food they don’t really show it which can mislead some of the readers who may be trying to live a healthier life and make them believe that living perfectly is the only way to be healthy. In this population you rarely see talk of hypertension, diabetes, cancer, obesity, etc. You do see anorexia, orthorexia, overexercising, amennoreah, etc. So this is the other extreme. When I’m on my Instagram stories and I see this all day I can’t help but to show my life outside of food and try to explain there is more to life than food. There is more to life then obsessing over food. There is more to life than a 30 dollar workout class and a 18 dollar organic salmon salad + a 12 dollar green juice to be healthy.
Do you see my dilemma?
I preach listening to your body in everything I say but I have to word it differently for different audiences. If I tell my nutrition students to eat sugar if they feel like it without educating them on it they could very well grab a slice of cake for breakfast every day of the week and call that good. They might take my words the wrong way. I have to first educate, and encourage to fill up on the more nutrient dense food first before grabbing that cookie. On the other hand when I say on my instagram “eat sugar if you feel like it” it’s probably totally fine. The people watching my story probably ate more than enough nutrients in a day to last them and have some room for a little sugar party.
Nutrition is not one size fits all. Nutrition must be tailored to the individual and can not be compared from one person to another because we all have bodies that work differently. Yes for the most part the basic guidelines will always apply but the two audiences I see regularly present with different extremes of the basic guidelines. I might even go as far to say one group is not healthy enough and one group is too healthy (also remember- there are TOTALLY exceptions to this statement – take it with a grain of salt). Each group has work to do but in the end will never be perfect and that’s ok.
Different audiences different approaches. I’m stuck some days.
(Guinness and Irish Creme Cupcake to finish the night + more beer because- Irish)
All I know is that I love both places. Some days I don’t feel like I’m making that big of a difference through the blog world yet want to where as I always feel like I make an impact after teaching a lecture and having a student go “ooohhhhhh no way!!” to seeing how much sugar resides in a 12 oz can of soda.
I guess my reason for typing this is to say I love this space and those people who I so admire for how they are changing the Instagram culture and that I also love my life outside of this place. Some days I feel like a hypocrite. Some days I just realize I live a double life and leave it at that.