I wrote this post regarding this dilemma I have between being a nutrition student and also an avid believer in intuitive eating as being the best way to eat. I often get info in school that revolves around numbers, numbers, numbers, and prescribed diets we should be giving to patients (key word) that makes me question a lot of things. I always have to come back to ground myself in distinguishing there are times and places for diets/close label reading, yes, if medically necessary. What really gets me though is the thought that someone with a hint of gassiness one day feels the need to go on an elimination diet to cleanse themselves of whatever is making them gassy because apparently indigestion is an immediate sign of gluten intolerance or that a person might never place a food item with guar gum in their cart because apparently it is EVILLLLLLL.
(Vegan ice cream that Kate an I have loved since the week they opened!)
Take this example- If you have just been diagnosed with high blood pressure and all signs point towards a heart attack in the near future because your LDL, Triglycerides, and weight are through the roof then YES, yes you do need to read labels and pay closer attention to your diet. Said person might be prescribed a TLC diet and that would include learning how to read labels for information sake . This type of individual I believe can still practice intuitive eating though, because from the looks of it, there were many choices that weren’t really displaying a mind-body connection there and left this person in a rather dangerous state.
You see, I believe reading labels is necessary to an extent. Once you look at a few you can pretty much tell what that food is and if that food is something that is considered a core food or more of a fun food, both which need to be included in the diet. What doesn’t need to happen is this over-analyzation and the dubbing of the food as “good” or “bad” because truthfully there is no such thing.
When I see individuals with tens of thousands of followers on instagram promoting cutting all foods with say evaporated cane sugar in the food then that cuts out quite a lot of foods and quite a lot of life. If one ingredient continually prevents you from purchasing that food item because it’s “bad” then hi, hello, thats the diet monster speaking, not your cravings or your needs speaking.
(Saturday breakfast at Zinc Cafe in the Arts District LA- AMAZING)
Label reading is important to know what we are putting into our body and that’s it. If you are giving labels more value that just the nutritional content of the food then take a step back and think why you are doing that. Is it because ____________ instagram account who has no nutrition background told you to? OR is it because you were reaching for a pasta to complete your meal equip with a veggie, protein, fat, and then some fun foods too, and you read the label to see it was made with a refined flour and you were feeling more like a whole grain today or maybe you did want the white pasta (which is great too!). THAT is what labels are for. They help you make conscious decisions about your food but should not control our lives.
Back to our friend who maybe hasn’t had the most experience with label reading and has been emotionally eating due to a stressful job that’s left them with those lab values they are now told are dangerous. This is the patient/client who we can educate on said labels and what information they provide. An RD can then show an example of how these labels can help build a complete plate with more than 3 food groups and how we can choose labels (or whole foods that don’t have labels) to help him normalize those values. What also needs to happen is finding out whether those labs were do to family history and inheriting those numbers was inevitable or if there was a mis-step along the lines with associating foods with emotions or only eating what’s easy to grab rather than actually connecting with the mind and body first before reaching for a food choice.
(I had 2 grad parties to go to this weekend both with great food! I ate a plate at each. This was the first one with lots of salad with caesar dressing that was super heavy on the garlic and made me feel like I had garlic cloves hanging from my teeth but like in the best way possible + chicken and pesto pasta- had 2 plates actually and 2 plates at Spencers with Mexican food- I was talking up a storm so maybe that got me hungry!)
So yes, labels are important but they shouldn’t dictate our lives and if you are letting someone else tell you they should, then let me be the first to tell you that eating should be and is more important that what a label has to say. Let the label guide you, not control you.
I believe the diets I learn in school really do have a time and a place but again these “diets” aren’t associated with diet culture. The diets are meant to help someone who isn’t nutritionally sound, and to get to that place via food and movement. I think we should all know how to read labels and ingredient lists but we shouldn’t let them have too much power over us.
Friends! Hope you had a wonderful weekend!