Is Self-Care for Girly Girls?

When I say it to a man, nine times out of ten, I get a little bit of a funny look. I’ve been out of the closet for years, so it comes off my lips naturally and I forget that it’s “weird” for many other men to hear me say it. “I help my clients with self-care.” “What we really need to do to improve public wellness in the United States is get people interested in self-care.” When I say “self-care”, they cringe a little. As a wellness coach, I say “self-care” a lot. I say it to men. I say it to women. I say it all the time.

I don’t consider it a masculine term/activity or a feminine term/activity. To me, it’s person thing, an adult thing. To me, self-care isn’t manly/unmanly or womanly/unwomanly. It’s common sense. Like turning off the lights. Like taking out the trash. Like clearing the snow from my car. It’s something that just makes sense. To me, self-care is a self-evident practice of an intelligent person. Of a person living in their fullness*. Practicing self-care is no more and no less than being a steward of one’s life. But when I tell most men that I help people take care of themselves, I feel their discomfort.

I get it. I’ve done enough unfolding as a person to deeply understand how I’ve been influenced by the people in my life and by society at large. Self-care sounds weird to most men because the overwhelming cultural norm for men is self-destruction.

When the powers that be of this country need bodies to take bullets in exchange for oil, fertile land, or access to shipping routes, whose bodies are used? Men’s bodies. Men’s bodies have been considered disposable for so long and it’s considered so normal for a man to willingly destroy himself in exchange for resources that most people don’t even consider it a tragedy**. To ensure this, men are both sold a bill of goods and shamed from the time they leave the womb. What they’re offered for this kind of willing self-destruction is the abstraction “honor”. The shame comes in the form of messages to “Man up!” As if killing others and being killed in the name of the greed has anything to do with being a man.

This ethos trickles generously into men’s sports. Watch Alabama play Michigan in football on a Saturday afternoon on TV. The uninitiated fans, the all-about-watching-sports bros and the pink hats alike, see a crowded stadium full of face-painted, jubilant fans (most of them aren’t “naturally jubilant”, they’re wasted from tailgating for hours before the game). In the bowels of the stadium, if you dared to look, you’d see people, all men, with torn ACLs, broken ribs, and concussions. College football coaches seduce young men to come play for them with promises of the millions they’ll make in the NFL and the abstraction “glory”. Several walk away at 22 with blown knees and brain damage they’ll have for the rest of their lives along with a basket-weaving degree, if they even finish their degrees. An extremely low percentage of college football players, less than one percent, ever play a down of professional football. Those that do hardly make millions. Most make a few hundred thousand per year. Most who make it to the NFL have a career lasting less than three years. Far from “all set” financially, most who play in the NFL also get broken even more during their playing years. The median life expectancy of an NFL football player is about 55 years. You read that right. Do you still fail to believe me that men are encouraged to destroy themselves? How do you explain the fact that every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, all fall and winter, week in and week out, people cram into football stadiums, as many as 100,000 people at a time, all across this country, to cheer at football games. And don’t forget the millions watching these gladiators from the comfort of their upholstered couch with a craft beer in hand. Men dying 20 to 25 years earlier than everyone else is nothing short of celebrated. The Super Bowl is almost as big of a holiday as Christmas.

I can hear the shame coming my way. Men and women alike are calling me a sissy for speaking the truth about war and football. Shaming is the tool used by individuals, organizations, and society at large to get men to choose paths of self-destruction for the benefit of the shamer, be it their comfort, entertainment, or sheer control. Shame away. I’m immune.

Let’s talk about what it means to be a man. It’s not self-destruction. It’s not destruction of any kind for that matter. A man makes life better for his community. A man executes on his mission of life-betterment by living on purpose and getting the job done. He does the work. You can count on him. He’s sturdy.

I’m such a man. Even in athletics where many will feel compelled to shame me when reading this article. They’ll say I’m jealous I’m not playing pro football. They’ll say I’m not tough enough (that’s more shaming). So let’s talk about getting the job done and being sturdy. For starters, I’ve run my own business my entire adult life minus my first six months out of graduate school. I’ve been successful enough in business and in managing my money to be among the wealthiest 10 percent by my early 40s. That’s living on purpose. That’s getting the job done. What about sports? It’s true, I never played for the Cowboys. But through my own effort alone, I went from a short, out-of-shape kid at the end of middle school to an all-league, academic all-state two-sport high-school athlete (baseball and basketball) by the end of high school. Then I discovered triathlon, and by my mid-20s raced at a world-class level. These are accomplishments hardly any of the couch-sitting shaming bullies can claim.

I don’t write these things about myself to brag. I don’t measure myself by society’s standards of accomplishment. I’m here to thrive; I’m playing a whole ‘nother game. I disclose these things about myself to give an example of a man of action. A man of commitment. A sturdy man. Who, yes, is also a man of self-care. There, I said it again. It told you: I’m out of the self-care closet.

I wouldn’t do well in a large company working for “the man” (yes, there’s a lot of irony in that expression). They wouldn’t like it if I wanted to take a break to get some fresh air. They wouldn’t like it if I wanted to work on projects that benefitted humankind or that I enjoyed. My feelings don’t matter there. I don’t matter there. Fitting in and “paying your dues” matters. Just like in war, just like in football, when you’re worn out, they don’t skip a beat: “Next man up,” they say. “Next man up,” is society’s mantra for men. There’s always another one willing to enter the fray. Many men enter the fray of employment, and become a utility, for the abstraction “stability”, which they’ll never find there because it can only be found within.

Many people consider men’s bodies, men, to be disposable. For their country, their team, their company. Like plastic bags in a landfill, endless rows of men’s bodies, dead long before they needed to be, are arranged in places like Arlington National Cemetery. The busts of football ”heroes” don the halls of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In both places, millions of boys are conditioned to believe that “honor” and “glory” are a fair trade for self-destruction. Companies don’t generally extend such niceties as cemeteries and museums. They simply discard you when their shareholders demand a bigger dividend. See ya.

Photo 162--Arlington National Cemetery

Men are disposable to many women too who use the abstraction “love” to use men as workhorses, vending machines, and pensions through marriage: “If you love me, you’ll buy me a diamond ring worth three month’s income.” And when she’s ready for a new man (80 percent of divorces are initiated by women), she’ll demand alimony which the court system will hand over to her without hesitation (despite earning and having nearly as much money as men, 97 percent of alimony recipients are women). It’s like a guaranteed “love”*** annuity. You get “love”*** for as long as you want it, then you get to cash out. It’s a good deal. A man is a great investment. This, of course, is a burden on many men. And it’s another way men are acculturated as a resource. A resource that must be willing to destroy himself for his destroyers so they can get what they want from him.

Now you understand why a man has trouble eating a salad, getting the sleep he needs, or doing work he enjoys. If I man does something for himself instead of for his country, team, company, or wife, he’s in danger. If you’re on a football team and your knee starts to hurt and you tell the coach, seek treatment, or ask to sit out a practice to let it heal properly, do you know what happens? It means you’re one step closer to getting cut. You’re one more fuck-up from your career being over in an instant. Injured players are of no use to Bill Belichick and his record as a winning coach. So you play with injuries and get hurt worse, sometimes irreparably. If you’re a married attorney doing great work and on your way to making partner and you have a plan to make that happen in three years to allow yourself enough energy and time to enjoy your early 30s, forget about it if your wife wants a colonial house and two kids before she’s 32. So you burn the candle at both ends and live off coffee and takeout. Otherwise, she’ll trade up, while subsidizing her life with alimony you pay her while she dates. Tending to his own well-being has serious consequences for a man.

Is it any wonder that life expectancy for men is five years shorter than it is for women? Current life expectancy is 81.2 years for women and 76.4 years for men. And over 80 percent of suicides are committed by men. Most people who read this won’t bat an eyelash over either of these statistics. Men die earlier. So what? Men kill themselves at staggering rates. So what? “Suck it up!” they shame. I don’t expect any expressions of sadness, not even crocodile tears, over this. It’s the way most people think about men’s disposability.

My message to men who want to live great lives: Wake up. Embrace your humanity. Free yourself from the conditioning you’ve received. You’re here to live and to live well. Be who you are. A great builder. A great engineer. A great healer. Whatever it is, do your thing. Do it well. Be a man of substance and make life better for others. And take great care of yourself. It only makes you better at what you do and who you are. It won’t be easy. “Honor”, “glory”, “stability” and “love”***” are cunning seductresses used by cunning manipulators. Say no. Be you. Be free. You can do it. I believe in you.

“The alternative to self-love, in other words, is self-destruction. Because if you won’t take the risk of loving yourself properly, you will be compelled instead to destroy yourself.
—Alan Watts

My message to men who want to shame me now more than ever: Remember, I’m immune. Going for a run, eating vegetables, and taking downtime doesn’t make me a wussy. Taking care of myself doesn’t make me a “girl”. Taking care of myself doesn’t make me “gay”. These are ridiculous notions through and through. What intelligent, evolved, mature man doesn’t choose to do that which allows him to be his best? Let’s put it another way. How manly is obesity? Type-2 diabetes? Anxiety? These disorders are hugely common among men and are hugely avoidable with my dirty little term “self-care”. I know, I know, having some KFC will “put hair on my chest”. I don’t know much about physiology, except a ton, and I’m certain eating junk food doesn’t result in torso hair growth. I’m equally certain that eating junk food limits blood flow to both a man’s brain and penis. Is being a capable man and a great lover manly to you? Because decreased blood flow to your brain and penis equals two other common results of male self-destruction: dementia and erectile dysfunction. Really, you should come work with me. We’ll make a deal. You don’t call me a sissy or a wussy and I’ll look you in the eyes, treat you like a man with the respect you deserve, and call you by your name. We’ll get to work on you taking good care of yourself. You’ll get your mojo back and we’ll both be glad about that.

My message to society: Stop shaming men to destroy themselves. Stop treating men as an asset. Respect men fully as people. Full stop.

When men stop shaming themselves and when society stops shaming men, then we’ll make some hay. Behavior change on the individual and societal level isn’t for the meek. You’ve got to go deep. You’ve got to get to the roots. I’ve shown you one important root in many men’s lives that you probably didn’t think you were going to see today. Ignorance is never bliss and truth is always freedom.

Author’s Note: Men shouldn’t embrace self-care to be more like women. The absolute last thing I’m advocating for is androgyny. I firmly stand for masculinity and femininity and man-ness and woman-ness. Authentic masculinity and femininity need to be celebrated. Again, self-care is a gender-neutral term/activity. Men and women are equal in value, but very different in nature. So different, in fact, that they’re like the opposite poles of a magnet. It’s this very polarity that makes relationships between men and women interesting at all. Everything we can do as a society to create a culture of equality amongst all people is hugely beneficial for all of us. It’s obvious that that’s the way to operate as a society. But we mustn’t mistake equality for sameness, for androgyny. To be equal, a man not need be like a woman. To be equal, a woman need not be like a man. To be equal, men and women need not be the same. Look around. That’s been the experiment of the last 50 years or so. What we have are millions of men trying to be like women and millions of women trying to be like men. The result is men who are unrecognizable as men and function as second-rate women and women who are unrecognizable as women and function as second-rate men. Equality-sameness is an absolute social disaster. Equality-polarity is one of the most brilliant experiences a person can have on Earth. I highly recommend it.

Author’s Note: Some people, upset by my truth-telling about war, will try to shame me by telling me I have the freedom to write this article because of soldiers who fought, and died, for my freedom. I disagree. Countries fighting countries in contrived schemes of “good guys” and “bad guys”, which are always straightforward wars over resources, is childish. Two very intelligent, very wise men (see the quotes below) who created more than most hawk bullies could ever dream of creating agree with me. Also, 99 percent of the people who will attempt to shame me on this can be put in their place in 15 seconds. All I have to do is ask them if they’re raising their sons and daughters or grandchildren to serve in the military. I’ll spare you the suspense: They’re not.

“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”
—Albert Einstein

“Every nation ridicules other nations, and all are right.”
—Arthur Schopenhauer

Author’s Note: Some people, upset by my truth-telling about marriage, will say I’m bitter. That attack couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve never been divorced. I’m a lively, positive person. Anyone who knows me will tell you that. I speak these truths about marriage (it gets even better below) because they’re an important part of breaking down a culture of self-destruction for men (that’s what this article is about) and creating a culture of self-care for men.

Author’s Note: Some people, upset by my standing up for the wellness of men, will say I’m putting down women. They might also say that women have been and are treated worse by society. Of course, all people should be treated well. Of course, all lives are of equal inherent value. My standing up for men isn’t putting down women. Men and women aren’t in competition. Men thriving doesn’t mean women can’t thrive and vice versa. That’s absurd.

*Living in your fullness is a concept I first became aware of when reading books by and about psychologist Carl Jung. If you’d like to explore what it means to live in your fullness, I highly recommend exploring what he called the archetypes of the mature masculine and mature feminine.

**When you listen to news reports, listen to how reporters talk about men and women who die. You’ll hear reports like these. “A resident of the West End died last night in a home fire.” “A woman, who lived with her husband and children, died tragically in a home fire last night.” “Two firefighters perished yesterday while battling a blaze in York.” “Two female firefighters, recent graduates of the Maine Fire Service Institute died yesterday while battling a blaze in York.” You’ll hear men described as residents, firefighters, soldiers, etc. and rarely identified as men specifically. Dehumanized. It’s easier to consider them disposable that way.

***Love, in both its passive form as in really enjoying someone or something and its active form as in taking great care of someone or something is absolutely spectacular! Love and marriage are two different things. Marriage is about property rights and has been since its inception as both a religious and government institution. When people get divorced, they don’t divide up the love, they divide up the assets. The passage below from the Old Testament of the Bible makes is perfectly clear that marriage originated as an institution of property rights. Marriage is, in fact, institutionalized prostitution. With the advent of agriculture around 8,000 B.C.E., the first form of property, grain, emerged. With property came ownership. With ownership came trade. With trade came prostitution. There’s a reason it’s called “the world’s oldest profession”. Seeking to both get their cut and control the masses, religions and governments quickly got into the prostitution industry. That’s what marriage is: prostitution regulated by religions and governments. There are other sources of information besides Disney movies.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Bible, Exodus 20:17

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

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Did Your School Cut Recess Too?

If you Google “schools cut recess”, you’ll come across these articles:

  1. The Death of Recess in America
  2. The Common Core Is Taking Away Recess—And That Makes No Sense
  3. As Schools Cut Recess, Learning Will Suffer, Experts Say

Photo 161--Recess

There’s clear concern about taking recess away from kids. It’s difficult for kids to sit down, shut up, and focus for five, six, seven hours straight. Kids are kids. They need to run around, laugh, sing, shout—live. They aren’t made to sit still in chairs in tidy rows, stare straight ahead at a board or screen all day, and only use one small part of themselves, their neocortices*, all day long.

And neither are you. You need recess too. Maybe hopscotch isn’t your thing, or maybe it is. Whatever you like to do, the idea is to be freely playing. Children don’t learn as well without recess and you’re not nearly as productive without recess either.

Here’s the thing. The powers that be (slave owners) want you to be productive all the time. Productive in this context means doing that which “makes money” (for them). It’s the same for the recess-robbing school administrators. They consider math, science, reading, and writing to be the classes that’ll make a kid a money-maker. They consider recess to be unproductive. There’s no future money in being fully alive, they believe. No future money, no good reason to include it in the curriculum, their logic goes. It’s sad.

But there’s good news, for you at least, if not for your kids: You’re the superintendent of the school called you. You get to create your own curriculum. What are your daily and weekly needs? Does it work for you to be productive and in money-making mode all the time? If so, have at it. But if you need some recess, what does that look like for you? Swimming? Golf? Singing in a choir? Mountain biking? Yoga? Contra dance? What’s your recess?

I recently checked in with one of my clients and asked her how her day was going. She told me, “It’s going great; I started with recess.” Her response made me smile. She lives on Cape Cod. Recess for her is running on her favorite beaches. She’s a real-estate agent, and a great one. She provides excellent service for her clients and she’s a super marketer. And she’s learned that when she starts her day with recess, everything goes better. She, like you, isn’t a machine. She isn’t made to grind morning, noon, and night.

Schools are making other big cuts to their curricula. Physical education is going. Art is going. Home economics is going. Shop is going. These are increasingly considered unnecessary. The result is a decreasingly well-rounded education. (And I can’t sing a lick or fix my own toilet, but that’s my problem.)

And, frankly, like it or not, our school system does more than educate our children. Kids spend much of their time in school. Of course, it’s very formative time. Our education system, like it or not, is a major force in shaping who our children become. Schools are a big part of how children become acculturated. What are we teaching them? To be always-thinking, always-producing robots?

Back to your personal school. What are you teaching yourself? What are you becoming as your life unfolds further and further. An impotent money-making drone? Or a full-of-life person? What would help you come back to life? Is it time you add recess back in? Art? Some other classes?

“Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.”
–Thomas Jefferson

*While we’re in school, look up “neocortex” if you don’t know what it means. “Neocortices” is the plural of neocortex.

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

SEXY & TONED! The Single Best Fitness Trick to Firm Up All Over!

Photo 160--Women's Health

Are you fucking kidding me? If this was Women’s Bodyshaping, then fine, I get it. This is Women’s Health. Either change the name of your magazine or change your content.

By coupling wellness with bodyshaping, you’re doing your readers and our society a massive disservice. If you haven’t noticed, women are dying every day of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other cancers. Women are suffering in droves with cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, dementia, anxiety, depression.

What have you got for them? How can you help women to be well and thrive? To live long, happy, healthy lives?

You have tips from an Instagram star on how to “sculpt abs”. Wow, thanks for your deeply caring, deeply intelligent efforts, Women’s Health! You’re really stepping it up and making a real contribution to our society. What else have you got? Train Your Legs to Trim Your Waist. Gee, thanks again.

To be well, women need to learn to care for themselves, not shape themselves. Women who are truly well are naturally lean. People who pursue extreme leanness solely for vanity (thanks for the BEACHY HAIR article by the way) as your magazine pushes are often not well at all. Women, especially young women, pursue extreme leanness in droves through sports that reward leanness like figure skating, gymnastics, cycling, running, and triathlon and extreme fitness practices. Many of these women couple their excessive exercise (often exercise addiction) with eating disorders. Many stop having their periods. Many suffer stress fractures resulting from osteoporosis as early as teenagers. This phenomenon is so common that physicians and other medical professionals refer to it as the “female athlete triad”. Your pushing bodyshaping on women, especially young women is deplorable.

I’m not surprised you do it. Your magazine is a carryover from the bodybuilding movement, simply modified as the bodyshaping movement for women who “don’t want to get muscular”. Your magazine sells because you’re not alone in this bait-and-switch cover-up. The mainstream fitness industry, it’s gyms, and it’s personal trainers are basically bodybuilding/bodyshaping coaches. Many claim to be wellness professionals (a select few truly are), but most will gladly commiserate with you about your jiggly arms or your saggy butt and take thousands of dollars from you to stand next to you while you lift weights and they tell you, “You look great!”

Like your magazine, there’s not a ton of health or wellness in these bodyshaping personal-training circles. The guys (I can’t call them men until them come into their fullness and do something of value for themselves and others) are too busy drinking their brotein shakes in an effort to add some size to their lats to ever have the time to be truly informed about wellness. The gals (not real women yet) are too busy shopping for their next pair of yoga pants (since there’s no better way to get clients than to wear pants tight enough to clearly show what you’ve really got to offer) to ever have time to read up on the science of wellness.

I urge you to grow up. If you want to contribute to the mission of helping people thrive, please do so. If you want to join me, educate yourself first. Get at least smart enough to do no more harm. Firmly decouple your messages of bodyshaping and wellness.

You’re not fooling me with your coy, smiling cover models. The scientific research on how people going into the field of personal training feel about themselves is clear. A study article published in the scientific journal Health Education Research (1) informs us:

“H&PE [health education and physical education] males and females had significantly poorer body image and higher levels of body dissatisfaction, dieting and disordered eating behaviors than non-H&PE [non-health-education and non-physical-education] participants.”

“H&PE [health education and physical education] teachers were more likely to over-exercise and have exercise disorders, but very few self-identified problems with objectively assessed excessive exercise behaviors.”

“Evidence of this suggestion was reported in an Australian study of health education, physical education and home economics teachers, which found that 47% of the females and 15% of the males were currently dieting to lose weight. Of females who were classified as being underweight (body mass index [BMI] < 20), a concerning 42% reported both the desire to be slimmer and current dieting to lose weight. Dangerous dieting behaviors such as excessive exercise (29% women, 22% men), fasting (19% women, 9% men) and smoking (7% women, 6% men) were also used by the male and female trainee teachers in that study. Female trainee teachers further reported trying to induce vomiting (22%), vomiting (10%), and taking laxatives (19%) and slimming pills (8%) in order to lose weight. Finally, 14% of female trainee home economics and trainee health education/physical education (H&PE) teachers stated that they currently had an eating disorder.”

“The other major research concerning body image among physical education teachers was conducted in New Zealand. In this study, the body image and eating behaviors of 109 female trainee PE [physical education] teachers were compared with a matched sample of 119 undergraduate psychology females. PE [physical education] females scored significantly higher than their non-PE [non-physical-education] counterparts on measures of dieting and bulimia nervosa (BN) and they had significantly lower global self-esteem.”

Under the hood of these bodyshaping personal trainers we find: “poorer body image”, “higher levels of body dissatisfaction”, “disordered eating behaviors”, “excessive exercise”, “smoking” (as a means of getting/staying lean), “vomiting”, “taking laxatives”, “globally lower self-esteem”.

A big dose of the red pill always reveals the truth. You just have to know where to look. Hint: The enlightened, free people read Health Education Research. The blissfully and not-so-blissfully ignorant, trapped people read Women’s Health.

(1) Body Image, Dieting and Disordered Eating and Activity Practices Among Teacher Trainees: Implications for School-Based Health Education and Obesity Prevention Programs. Health Education Research, 2009, 24(3), 472-482.

Author’s Note to Women: A very lean body doesn’t make you lovely. Living in your fullness as a women makes you lovely. Employing the kinds of “tricks” these magazines hawk give you a chance at pretending to possess lovely femininity. What you can have with this approach is a thin shell, at best, of the loveliness you seek to realize. Like a hollow man being a bully, riding an obnoxiously loud motorcycle, or chasing fame often hasn’t an ounce of authentic sturdy masculinity. Essence isn’t skin (or adipose tissue) deep.

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

Sex, Drugs, Rock ’n’ Roll, and Food

What do sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll, and food all have in common?

Photo 159--Rock Band

They all stimulate the reward center of your brain, of your body, of you.

On a day that I have great, sensual, connected sex and also get to listen to Pearl Jam play on MTV Unplugged, I don’t need much else. Really. I certainly don’t need any potato chips.

Seriously, imagine the feeling of eating some chips.

Now imagine the feeling of being at a concert with your friends or doing something else you really enjoy doing. Have you ever been having such a good time that you basically forgot to eat? Then you get the idea. This is your reward center doing it’s thing. At our most basic level, we need food, we need people, and we’re here to enjoy the whole experience. We’re here to be alive. When we’re meeting these essential needs and feeling that good, all we want to do is keep it going. Of course, even when we’re having the time of your lives, we eventually get hungry. Even kids making forts in the woods eventually come in to eat.

On the other hand, have you ever been so lonely, stressed, and/or bored that all you wanted to do was eat, even when you weren’t hungry, even when the food stopped tasting good? That’s “emotional” eating. A better name for it is reward-center eating because calling it “emotional” eating makes it seem irrational and unchangeable. It actually makes perfect sense and is really easy to fix. Here’s the straight truth: When you’re not meeting your needs for connection and overall enjoyment, most likely because you don’t feel you deserve them, your reward center drives you to eat. Eating when you’re hungry is life itself. Eating when you aren’t hungry is a poor substitute for what you really want and need.

Appropriate eating is hunger eating. That is, you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. All animals on the planet do that, and have done that for all of history and pre-history, except for the most modern humans. Why is that? Because most people aren’t meeting their needs for connection and overall enjoyment. We’re a people made for living with our tribe, our possy, our peeps. We’re a people made for fist bumps and hugs and pats on the back. For massages. For great sex. For concerts and dances and adventures of all kinds. But we settle for chips. Chips that never satisfy. How could they?

“Emotional” eating is so common because so many people are chronically lonely-stressed-bored. That’s what happens when you do a job you don’t actually like to make money to buy things you don’t actually like to impress people you don’t actually like. Welcome to the United States, where materialism* and industrialism** are the gods; chronic boredom, loneliness, and stress are the fallout; and “emotional” eating is the dirty-little-not-so-secret coping mechanism.

Many people (I meet several every week) are stuck in years-long dysfunctional relationships with “emotional” eating. They’re all using the wrong tool for the job: willpower. They believe their life is just fine as it is and the reason they eat junk food when they’re not even hungry is because they lack the willpower to stop. So they “abstain” for a few days, while the desire to eat junk food builds and builds and builds and builds, and they eventually “indulge”. Our reward centers need to be stimulated and they’ll get what they need one way or another. If you don’t allow yourself to have the connection and overall enjoyment you truly desire, your reward center is going to keep asking for chips and cookies. You can’t resist nature. There’s no better example than the Catholic church. Catholic priests take a vow to live without having sex and what happens? They have sex, in secret, with boys and girls. You can’t put nature in a box. It’ll always escape.

This is what “emotional” eaters do too. They hold it together, hold it together, hold it together with “restraint”, then bam, the floodgates open and they’re binging on junk food again. Why do they fall apart? Because they’re using the entirely wrong tools for the job: willpower, abstinence, restraint.

I help my clients overcome “emotional” eating every week. It’s quite simple, and quite easy because we use the right tools for the job: sex and rock ’n’ roll.

Great, sensual, connected sex truly does work well. As does any deeply intimate, deeply harmonious connection. Our brains’ reward centers love connection. With a lover. With a friend. With anyone we’re close with or becoming close with. Connected people have satisfied reward centers.

Rock ’n’ roll works really well too. So does jazz or hip-hop or ambient music. Or anything you enjoy. Rock ’n’ roll, in this case, is a facsimile for enjoyment, for fun, for pleasure. A person living a truly fun-filled, pleasure-filled life has little need for chips.

When a wellness professional’s only tool to help you overcome “emotional” eating is willpower, they’re showing that they slept through both their physiology and psychology classes. My clients put “emotional” eating behind them for good because together we do the work to help them meet their needs for connection and overall enjoyment. Here’s where this gets really good. Most people who are failing to meet their needs for connection and enjoyment don’t believe they deserve connection and enjoyment. They think loneliness, stress, and boredom is all they deserve. Their relationship with themselves has become corrupt and we do the challenging, meaningful, life-changing work together to clean up and restore their relationship with themselves. That’s true wellness coaching. That’s true transformation.

Frankly, it’s the only way to get the job done. Trying to curb “emotional” eating with willpower is like trying to drain Lake Erie with a spoon. A woman who’s in a marriage in which her husband doesn’t pay any attention to her, who’s running around from morning to night shuttling her kids to activities, and who’s come to the realization that having the trendiest sports-utility vehicle doesn’t fulfill her, isn’t going to stop binging in the afternoon using willpower. Her brain, her body, every ounce of her being needs those cookies. The reward center of her brain is starving because she’s lonely, stressed, and bored. The reward center of our brains has evolved over millions of years. It needs stimulation and it will get it. Your measly willpower doesn’t stand a chance against millions of years of evolution.

You were made to rock (to enjoy the sensory, sensuous, sensual nature of life), and you were made for vibrant community, friendship, and sex. If you’re not living in alignment with the vary fabric of your being, your reward center has an obligation to inform you. It’s not working against you with those after-dinner cravings. It’s working for you. If you listened closely to the cravings, you’d be able to tell that junk food isn’t what you really want and need. When you allow yourself to have what you really want and need, that’s when your life will really take off. This is when you’ll start to thrive. Yes, you’ll put “emotional” eating away quickly and easily. And you’ll get so much more! Because when your relationships improve, everything in your life will get better. And when you start allowing yourself to enjoy your life, it’ll have massive ripple effects for how you approach your work and all of your life. You’ll shun drudgery and embrace play. You’ll be truly happy and healthy. You’ll thrive.

I challenge you to ask yourself if you believe you deserve a life you love, full of the kind of connection, fun, and pleasure you were made for. If you hesitate at all to say “Yes!” I challenge you to do the work, with help if you could use help, to be able to say “Yes!” and to walk your talk. Because, then, and only then will you be able to fully step into a life that meets your needs. And when you do, “emotional” eating will stop being a monster. It’ll be pesky fly you don’t even notice. “Emotional” eating isn’t even a thing for a thriving person.

*The word materialism, as it is used in our culture to mean a reverence of meaningless things has a negative connotation and it should. It’s true, 3,000-square-foot homes for four-person families and cheap plastic goods aren’t serving anyone. Contemporary materialism is pornography of true materialism which is actually a wonderful perspective. A true materialist finds the rocks and the water (in lakes, rivers, the ocean, etc.), the clay and the trees, and all of Earth’s “material” as simultaneously gorgeous and perfectly useful. As such, he/she appreciates the material word, respects the material word, reveres the material world, and stewards the material world.

**The word industrialism, as it’s used in our culture to mean growth and expansion of economies for any reason at any cost has created a faulty, useless, destructive abstraction. People now value the moving of money around for the sake of moving money around and the selling of anything for the sake of selling and not for actually enhancing the quality of life for anyone. It’s rare that anyone’s life improves through abstract growth and expansion or selling anything some fool will buy. For example, is the life of an ordinary United States citizen better today than it was 25 years ago? The wellness metrics say it’s worse. As one example, far more people, including far more children, suffer from both depression and type-2 diabetes today than they did 25 years ago. But, of course, the United States and world economy has grown and much more stuff is being sold. True industrialism is the perspective and actions of of an individual or group who use their talents and abilities to make the day-to-day experience of life better for themselves and others. They use their life to create that which matters.

Author’s Note: Drugs light up the reward center of our brains like magic too, but they also fuck your life up faster than Hollywood stars fall from grace. I don’t recommend them.

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

The Lean, Thriving People Who Eat Only Carbs, Sugar, Fat, Saturated Fat, Flesh, and Guts

Photo 156--Kitava

Kitavans are lean, thriving people that live on an island that’s part of Papua New Guinea. Cardiovascular disease is virtually nonexistent in their society. Sickness, in general, is rare in Kitava.

What’s their secret? Are they watching their carbs? Making sure not to eat too much saturated fat?

That’s not it. (This article works best if you follow this link.)

But, yes, their way of eating is a big part of their wellness. Kitavans, who live as subsistence farmers who also continue to fish, eat really well. They always have an abundance of delicious food. Their staples are coconuts, fish, fruit, and tubers. Let’s do a basic nutrition breakdown of the foods Kitavans thrive on.

Coconuts are made up of more than 75-percent fat with small amounts of carbohydrate and protein. The fat in coconuts is about 90-percent saturated fat.

Fruit is made up of more than 90-percent carbohydrate with very small amounts of protein and fat. The carbohydrate in fruit is about 75-percent sugar.

Let’s pause here for a moment and make this perfectly clear: The Kitavans, who are kicking the United States’ ass in terms of cardiovascular-disease prevention have as staples of their diet high-carbohydrate, high-fat foods. Not just any carbohydrate, but sugar. Not just any fat, but saturated fat. If you’re world is being rocked, hang in there; we’ll get through this together.

Maybe they’re vegetarians? Not, that’s not it either. Remember, Kitavans are island people who regularly eat fish. They eat a wide array of fish, both finfish and shellfish, and eat every part except for the bones, gallbladders, and scales of finfish and, of course, the shells of clams, mussels, and oysters. They eat fish guts. They eat fish eggs too. Fish eggs are particularly popular with Kitavan children. (If you think you’re wealthy living in the suburbs feeding your kids GoGurt while you’re rushing around in your borrowed (the bank owns it) crossover vehicle to get back to your borrowed (the bank owns it) colonial house, consider the fact that Kitavan kids are regularly eating caviar while living on an island paradise with their debt-free parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.)

Photo 157--Kitavan Children

Kitavans are also big fans of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other tubers which are staples of their diet since they grow so well in Kitava. Tubers are more than 90-percent carbohydrate with very small amounts of protein and fat.

If you’re wondering why news anchors are always telling you to cut carbs and to be careful not to eat too much saturated fat, my hunch is they’re spending too much time working on their spray tans and permanent fake smiles to be well-informed. Let’s stand out from the crowd and inform ourselves with direct quotes from the physicians and scientists who’ve studied the Kitivans:

“In Kitava, the intake of Western food is negligible and stroke and ischemic heart disease are absent or rare.” (1) (My comment: Western food refers to food-like packaged goods, like 365 Everyday Value Organic Cheese Crackers, for example.)

“The population is characterized by extreme leanness (despite food abundance), low blood pressure, low plasma plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 activity [a marker of thrombosis related to the development of the metabolic syndrome (the cluster of cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, obesity, and related diseases) and cancer], and rarity of cardiovascular disease. Tubers, fruit, fish, and coconut are dietary staples whereas dairy products, refined fat and sugar, cereals, and alcohol are absent and salt intake is low.” (2) (My comment: Kitavans are very lean and hardly ever get cardiovascular disease. Among their food staples are coconuts which are almost entirely saturated fat. They also don’t eat any food-like packaged goods.)

“On the island of Kitava, Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea, a subsistence lifestyle, uninfluenced by western dietary habits, is still maintained. Tubers, fruit, fish and coconut are dietary staples. Of the total population, 1816 subjects were estimated to be older than 3 years and 125 to be 60-96 years old. The frequencies of spontaneous sudden death, exertion-related chest pain, hemiparesis, aphasia and sudden imbalance were assessed by semi-structured interviews in 213 adults aged 20-96. Resting electrocardiograms (ECG’s) were recorded in 119 males and 52 females. No case corresponding to stroke, sudden death or angina pectoris was described by the interviewed subjects. Minnesota Code (MC) items 1-5 occurred in 14 ECG’s with no significant relation to age, gender or smoking. ST items [a measure of heart function] (MC [Minnesota Code] 4.2 and 4.3) were found in two females and Q items [a measure of heart function] (MC [Minnesota Code] 1.1.2, 1.3.2 and 1.3.3) in three males. Stroke and ischaemic heart disease appear to be absent in this population.” (3) (My comment: Among the Kitivans; people whose food staples are coconuts, fish, fruit, and tubers; cardiovascular disease is so rare that researches used the word “absent” to describe the results of their study. Wow!)

“Low serum insulin may partly explain the low prevalence of cardiovascular disease in Kitavans and probably relates to their marked leanness.” (1) (My comment: Kitivans eat a lot of fruit and tubers and they have low blood-insulin levels. About 70 percent of what they eat is carbohydrate.)

Now you know about the Kitivans: the lean, thriving people who eat only carbs, sugar, fat, saturated fat, flesh, and guts.

Let’s be real clear about something: Kitivans aren’t eating low-fat coconuts. They’re not eating I Can’t Believe It’s Not a Coconut. They’re eating full-fat, full-saturated-fat, full-flavor, full-life coconuts. They’re not eating low-carb sweet potatoes or low-sugar bananas either. Fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, and sugar are…wait for it…wait for it…wait for it…nutrients. They’re not villains, they’re nutrients. And there aren’t good and bad nutrients. Bad nutrient is a misnomer. There are simply nutrients.

Kitavan food hasn’t been destroyed by industry, by processing. That’s all. That’s their secret. All whole, natural, real food, from spinach to almonds to venison to raspberries and everywhere in between—ALL whole, natural, real food—is nourishing. That’s 99 percent of what you need to know about nutrition.

Some people will learn about the Kitavans and mistakenly think coconuts, fish, fruit, and tubers are superfoods. These aren’t superfoods. There are NO superfoods. These are very simply the Kitavan’s local foods. They eat wild-caught fish and organically grown vegetables and fruit that grow well in the region of Earth where they live. That’s what you can do too to reap the benefits the Kitavans do from their way of eating. If you’re ready to be done obsessing over nutrients, if you’re ready to let your food villains go, you’re now free to do so. Just eat real food.

To emphasize this point, none of you “food”-entrepreneur types (who don’t make food, but make food-like packaged goods) should go out and try to make Kitava Bars made from coconuts, red snapper, mangos, and sweet potatoes with a drawing of a Kativan lifting a barbell on the package. Kativans aren’t doing boot camp, and taking food and processing the crap out of it to make a shelf-stable bar is exactly the problem. Don’t be the problem. Just eat real food. Any real food. All real food.

“But Jason, it isn’t only the news anchors who tell me to avoid certain nutrients. My physicians, including my cardiologist, are always telling me to cut back on this and that.”

Cardiologists are smart dudes/dudettes. And if you want to know the right pill to lower your blood pressure or you want to have a stent properly inserted into your body, there isn’t anyone better for the job. But these folks aren’t the best people for the job of helping you eat well. In a 2017 study article published in Current Cardiology Reports (a medical journal that focuses on cardiology) (4), the researchers state:

“Medical students receive an average of fewer than 20 h [hours] of nutrition education, largely confined to basic sciences and discussion of vitamin deficiency states.”

“Current guidelines for Internal Medicine [sic] residency and cardiovascular fellowship training do not contain any specific requirement for nutrition education.”

“A recent survey showed that the vast majority of cardiologists report having received minimal nutrition training, although most cardiologists believe it is their personal responsibility to provide nutritional counseling to their patients.” (My comment: That’s like someone who’s never taken drivers’ ed believing it’s their personal responsibility to drive an 18-wheeler over an icy mountain pass in Montana.)

“Cardiologists typically receive minimal training in nutrition and are not well equipped to deliver effective nutritional counseling and recognize opportunities for appropriate referral.”

We’ve known (the few off us in the know) about the Kitivans since the early 1990s, yet if you ask most cardiologists if they’ve heard of Kitava, they’ll probably ask you back if it’s a brand of sailboat they can buy. You’re on your own people. Popular culture is cesspool of misinformation regarding eating well. The television and your physicians’ offices offer little guidance. I’m not knocking physicians or the medical system. Cardiologists, in their own journal, are being forthright and telling you they don’t know what they’re doing. Besides, it takes millions of people (and billions of dollars) to do this crazy tango. Medical-insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and millions of sick people all work together with physicians to create the medical system. If there weren’t so many sick people, the medical system wouldn’t be so dysfunctional. If you want the medical-insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and physicians to be less of a factor in your life, be well. Live well and be well. The Kitivans make it perfectly clear that for those with a lifestyle that meets their needs, cardiovascular disease, and sickness in general, is a non-factor.

A client of mine recently asked me, “Jason, when did people become so afraid of food?” It’s a poignant question. From birth, most of us have lived in a culture of food exclusion. Ask anyone you know today what they do to eat well and almost every single person will answer with something like, “I watch my carbs,” “I’m gluten-free and dairy-free,” “I limit my red-meat intake and watch my portions.” Our entire discourse around eating well is about what we’re scared of. The advice on what to be scared of, that you get from your news anchors, Weight Watchers, and nutrition professors, is, of course, always changing. The same people/organizations that told you to eat a low-fat diet 20 years ago tell you to eat a low-carb diet today. Mainstream eating advice is a decidedly unappetizing mix of fear and ignorance.

I invite you to imagine what a fear-free, enjoyment-full relationship with food, eating, your body, and yourself would be like for you. It’s glorious.

Because I feel the need to be thorough (my articles are the opposite of 30-second sound bites and five-minute medical appointments; they’re the plenum of truth), it’s not only the Kitavans’ way of eating that creates their wellness, it’s their lifestyle in the fullest sense of the word. Among other factors contributing to the Kitavans’ wellness are the facts that they spend a lot of time outdoors in nature, live in close-knit communities, and do work that’s inherently fulfilling to them. These factors all contribute to lives low in chronic stress. That’s what happens when you meet your needs. That’s the key to wellness in both the present and the future.

Papua New Guinea, Kitava Island, The Trobriands, dancer

I invite you to stop drinking from wells of fear and ignorance and enjoy great meals made from well-sourced, delicious real food with your close ones. That’s really all there is to it.

(1) Low Serum Insulin in Traditional Pacific Islanders—The Kitava Study. Metabolism, 1999, 48(10), 1,216-1,219.
(2) Age Relations of Cardiovascular Risk Factors in a Traditional Melanesian Society: The Kitava Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1997, 66(4), 845-852.
(3) Apparent Absence of Stroke and Ischaemic Heart Disease in a Traditional Melanesian Island: A Clinical Study in Kitava. Journal of Internal Medicine, 1993, 233(3), 269-275.
(4) Nutrition Education for Cardiologists: The Time Has Come. Current Cardiology Reports, 2017, 19(9), 77.

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

Fat People Live the Longest

It’s true. According to a study article published in JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association (1):

“Relative to normal weight, both obesity (all grades) and grades 2 and 3 obesity were associated with significantly higher all-cause mortality. Grade 1 obesity overall was not associated with higher mortality, and overweight was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality.”

The key part:

“…and overweight was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality.”

Compared to “normal weight” people, “overweight” people had significantly lower all-cause mortality.

I know what you must be thinking: It’s bad science. When a scientific study presents results that are counter to a deeply held belief, many people start by attacking the science. I get that. And truly, all scientific studies have flaws, but yet still have the capacity to teach us a great deal. I also know that your know-it-all aunt who did Weight Watchers and your bro personal trainer all know better. They easily spout, “Lose weight and everything measure of wellness gets better.” According to this study, one important measure of wellness is better for fat people: living.

Back to the quality of the science. This is JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, one of the most prestigious and longest-running medical journals in the world. You can’t do a scientific study in your basement, write up the results, send it over to them, and get it published. They have one of the most rigorous peer-review processes of any medical journal in the world. These are extremely intelligent scientists and physicians reading thousands of study articles submitted by researchers from around the world, who are also extremely intelligent scientists and physicians, and selecting only the study articles that describe the most well-executed scientific studies that meet their rigorous criteria. If it doesn’t meet the standards of JAMA, it doesn’t even get a sniff. This is like Hollywood: You don’t call them; they call you. As far as standards for quality of science, it doesn’t get any better than JAMA.

Photo 155--The Journal of the American Medical Association

It must seem impossible in our body-fat-obsessed culture, but there’s not a dose-response relationship between leanness and wellness. That’s what the science tells us.

In the study, subjects were classified as “normal weight” (body-mass index of 18.5 to 24.9), “overweight” (body-mass index of 25 to 29.9), or “obese” (body-mass index of 30 or more). The mortality risk for “normal weight” subjects was designated 1.0. Relative to the mortality risk for “normal weight” subjects, those classified as “overweight” were determined to have a 0.94 mortality risk and those classified as “obese” were determined to have a 1.18 mortality risk. The fat people lived longer than the “normal weight” people. The “normal weight” people lived longer than the very-fat people. So, yes, to some degree, fatness kills, but only for the very fat. It’s not a linear relationship.

Looking at the data a bit more closely, when subjects classified as “obese” were subclassified as “grade 1, 2, or 3 obese”, those classified as “grade 1 obese” (body-mass index of 30 to 34.9) were determined to have a mortality risk of 0.95, again lower than the mortality risk for “normal weight” subjects. So both “overweight” and “grade 1 obese” subjects, were determined to have a lower mortality risk than “normal weight” subjects. Being classified as “overweight” or “grade 1 obese” was associated with greater longevity.

In this study, fat people (excluding the very fat) lived the longest. It took a body-mass index over 35, a full 10 points over the top end of “normal weight” before subjects were determined to have a lower mortality risk. So, yes, again, the very fat were determined to have the highest mortality risk. But the “pleasantly plump” lived the longest.

Here’s another helping of truth: Exercising well and eating well, along with meeting all of your needs, prevents virtually every ailment, and fosters wellness. That’s right, exercising well and eating well are two of the best things you can do for yourself.

“But Jason, you just said fat people live the longest. I’m confused.”

Good. I have you right where I want you: shaken loose from the doldrums of decades of misinformation. As you meet your needs, including your needs for nourishing movement and nourishing food, you’ll be well and you’ll thrive. I wholeheartedly recommend you consistently meet your needs including doing exercise you love and eating well-sourced, delicious real food. I also recommend you stop obsessing about your weight. Your body-mass index. Your body composition. Whatever you want to call it.

This is my message in no uncertain terms: Untangle the shape and look of your body, of you, from the happiness, health, and wellness of you. Separate them completely. Ask yourself each day, “What can I do to take care of myself and live a life I love?” Then do those things. Not because they alter your shape or look. Fuck that. Let it go. Be normal. Be a person. Live.

Obsessing over weight trips so many people up on their paths to greater wellness. If you untangle shape/look from happiness/heath/wellness, it’s a much smoother ride. I’m here to encourage you to be super well. To thrive. And to let your body be. Accept it. Let it be and rock your life.

If you’re still shaking your head thinking it just can’t be, if you’re wondering how could everyone have lied to you all these years, I have an answer for you. We live in a society fueled by, even founded upon, the most spectacular half-truths (half is being generous). The founders of our country wrote in the United States Declaration of Independence that it’s a self-evident truth that all men are created equal. This, while the blood on their knives was still drying from their slaughter of 30 million “indigenous” Americans (twice the number of people killed in the Holocaust). At the very same time, 15 million African men, women, and children were building this country as slaves. Oh, and women wouldn’t be allowed to vote for 144 years from the date of the signing of that document. All and equal wasn’t (isn’t) honest. The United States is good at subtle lies, half-truths, and massive propaganda whether it’s to get you to buy a diet shake or to go to war. Things are rarely as they seem around here.

The truth will set you free and I’m glad to bring you some today. There’s more where that came from.

(1) Association of All-Cause Mortality with Overweight and Obesity Using Standard Body Mass Index Categories. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2013, 309(1), 71-82.

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

 

Your Nutritionist Throws Up After He/She Eats

“Twenty percent of the dietetic majors indicated some degree of vomiting after they stuffed themselves. This was in contrast to the combined total of approximately four percent for the other two majors.”

This, according to a study article published in the Journal of Nutrition Education (1).

You might be seeking help to improve your eating habits. You might want to feel better about yourself and have better relationships with your body and eating. I understand that; I really do. And I warn you: Be careful where you turn for help.

According to a study article published in the scientific journal Nutrition & Food Science (2):

“Nutrition students had a low mean BMI [body-mass index] of 21.8 kg/m2 [kilograms per square meters]. Despite this, the majority (90 per cent [sic]) were dissatisfied with their body; with 83 per cent [sic] wishing to be thinner and 60 per cent [sic] overestimating their body size. The BITE [Bulimic Investigatory Test, Edinburgh] questionnaire [a measure of bulimia and other eating disorders] revealed that 30 per cent [sic] scored for disordered eating and 10 per cent [sic] scored for Bulimia Nervosa [sic].”

You might expect nutrition students, who are soon-to-be nutrition professionals, to be masters of eating well and to have very loving relationships with themselves, their bodies, and eating. This isn’t the case. You might expect nutrition professionals to be able to help you learn to eat well and to improve your relationship with yourself, your body, and eating. But a person can’t give you what they don’t have.

Keep in mind that this third or so that meet the criteria for disordered eating are only the leading edge of this problem. Disordered eating occurs on a continuum ranging from clinical eating disorder, to subclinical eating disorder, to various neurotic approaches to eating. Considering that fact that 60 percent of subjects in this study overestimated their body size, 83 percent wanted to be thinner, and 90 percent were dissatisfied with their bodies despite having a low body-mass index says only one thing: epidemic. Nutrition departments are both welcome homes and breeding grounds for these troubled people.

What’s being done about this? Not much according to a study article published in the Canadian Journal of Dietary Practice and Research (3):

“We developed a questionnaire specifically for this project and distributed 664 copies electronically, using contact information obtained in collaboration with Dietitians of Canada and the International Confederation of Dietetic Associations. Using the 101 questionnaires returned from 14 countries, we found that 77% of respondents felt eating disorders are a concern among nutrition students; however, only 15% of programs had policies/procedures to help address these disorders. Forty-eight percent of respondents thought screening for eating disorders would be a good idea; however, 78% of them believed screening would involve ethical issues. In conclusion, eating disorders are a concern in nutrition faculties around the world, and while most feel something should be done, ethical dilemmas contribute to confusion over the best approach.”

It appears the fox is guarding the hen house. The nutrition students of yesterday are the nutrition professionals of today and the cycle continues. It’s the blind leading the blind. The troubled leading the troubled.

And the troubled leading you. The leaders of eating well in our communities struggle in droves with body-image disorders and eating disorders. This means not only the direct services you might receive from these professionals, but also the articles, books, and all the media they put out are deeply tainted. Both highly dysfunctional approaches and overt disorders are being passed on to you, the consumer of eating advice.

This has been going on for decades according to a study article published in the scientific journal Health Education Research (4):

“As early as 1989, Betty Larson wrote about a new epidemic of females in food technology and dietetics training who were exhibiting characteristics of eating disorders, including body size overestimation and a pre-occupation with weight, shape and food. She then commented about the ethical dilemma of allowing these young women with eating disorders to study in such careers that revolve around food and health, both for their own well being [sic] and that of their future clients. Research in this area has since confirmed that body dissatisfaction, dieting and disordered eating behaviors as well as sub-clinical and clinical eating disorders are indeed more prevalent in this group of food and nutrition professionals.”

This is the very culture where diets, calorie counting, and ever-changing lists of “good” and “bad” foods come from. These are the epic failures the body-image-disorder-infested, eating-disorder-plagued nutrition profession have given us. This is the very culture, through the aforementioned practices, that’s created the epidemic of weight cycling (a.k.a. yo-yo dieting) and introduced a whole new eating disorder to the world in the last two decades: orthorexia.

I’m not criticizing any person for struggling with body image and eating. I’m open about my struggles with body image as a teenager and into my early 20s. I have great compassion for anyone who struggles in these ways. I coach many people, including many people you wouldn’t expect to struggle with body image and related exercise disorders and eating disorders, including world-class athletes, esteemed counselors, and yes, many nutritionists. They come to me referred by someone who knows I have both the sensitivity and acumen to help them learn to eat well on top of learning how to heal from their body-image disorders and underlying shame. Sometimes they come directly to me when they meet me and they can tell I have what they want: true, deep acceptance of myself and my body along with freedom to exercise and eat peacefully and joyfully from that foundation of acceptance. I’m not criticizing anyone struggling with these challenges.

My concern is that everything that comes out of the nutrition culture is created in this toxic petri dish. The aforementioned study subjects who struggle in droves with these matters are the very people working in nutrition laboratories, doing nutrition dissertations, giving nutrition talks, even shaping public policy around nutrition. Many physicians, without the expertise or time to help their patients with eating well, often unknowingly refer their patients to these same nutritionists. Many of them are unaware of the studies I’ve described here.

I invite you to question the primary products of the nutrition field: diets, calorie counting, and ever-changing lists of “good” and “bad” foods. Diets are also called cleanses, detoxes, and similar names. Calorie counting in other forms is counting grams of carbohydrate, fat, and/or protein or counting “points” of different food types. The “good”-and-“bad”-foods approach created the disastrous low-fat movement of the 80s and 90s and the disastrous low-carb movement of now. The common denominators are exclusion and restriction. That’s really what the troubled nutrition field has given us: exclusion and restriction (and now you know why!). Exclusion and restriction are insane approaches to the life-giving act of eating.

It pains me deeply when someone comes to me and says, “I’ve struggled with my weight and with eating my whole life.” If you’re one of these people, you have my fullest compassion. You must break away from the mainstream nutrition community and find someone to work with who can help you establish a loving relationship with yourself, your body, and eating. You must look more than skin deep. If you look only for a lean body, you’re not looking for the right stuff. Have a conversation with a professional and listen well. Do they have a loving relationship with themselves, their body, and eating? Do they truly understand your struggles? Are they genuinely compassionate? Do they possess a real acumen for helping you feel better about yourself and more confident in your ability to eat well? When you find such a person, breathe easy. You’ve finally found someone who can help you learn what you’ve been trying to learn all these years. Things are about to turn around for you.

Photo 154--Excited Woman

(1) Comparison of Eating Patterns Between Dietetic and Other College Students. Journal of Nutrition Education, 1985, 17(2), 47-50.
(2) Body Image Dissatisfaction Among Food‐Related Degree Students. Nutrition & Food Science, 2012, 42(3), 139-147.
(3) Dietitians and Eating Disorders: An International Issue. Canadian Journal of Dietary Practice and Research, 2012, 73(2), 86-90.
(4) Body Image, Dieting and Disordered Eating and Activity Practices Among Teacher Trainees: Implications for School-Based Health Education and Obesity Prevention Programs. Health Education Research, 2008, 24(3), 472-482.

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.