Staying healthy requires a lot of work, and sometimes it feels as though diet ads are everywhere to remind you of what “eating healthy” really means. However, according to author Heidi Schauster, consumers need to beware of the diet industry. Earlier this month, I interviewed Schauster about her new book, Nourish: How To Heal Your Relationship With Food, Body, And Self. During our discussion, Schauster shared her thoughts on the diet industry and more.
“The diet industry is a $60 billion industry that does well because diets are inevitably not sustainable,” explained Schauster in an interview with Motherhood Through My Eyes. “The research shows that 96% of people who go on a weight-loss diet will end up gaining the weight back. What typically happens when the diet stops ‘working’ is that people feel like failures — like they didn’t have enough willpower or did it well enough — and they return to another diet program or book or food plan.”
Unfortunately, you cannot blame consumers lack of dedication to the diet program as most do. In fact, Schauster noted the real issue with these programs. “The problem is not willpower; it’s the diet itself,” she noted. “Our bodies and minds do not like deprivation of any kind, so we often find yourself overeating intermittently when we try to restrict food. It is a cycle that so many of us struggle with: going between eating ‘good’ and eating ‘bad’ (either on or off the diet or ‘healthy eating plan’).”
So, what can we do as consumers?
As a nutrition therapist and registered dietitian, Schauster has much to offer on the subject. In the interview, she discussed how “we tend to trust a prescription outside of us about how to eat instead of trusting our own body’s inner wisdom.” She then added: “Yes, it can be a lot of work to get back to a more connected, mindful, intuitive way of eating when you are not used to making choices about food that way. However, trusting the body’s wisdom about what and how much to eat is ultimately the way out of the diet/overeat cycle.”
Schauster brought up an important point as well: “No one else can really tell you how to eat healthfully. Only you really know what feels best in your unique body. It requires some deep listening, but doing so helps us to determine what our individual needs around food, physical activity, and other self-care might be.”
Schauster reflected on the work of Ellyn Satter, an author who is considered to be the go-to authority about raising healthy children who are a joy to feed. “(Satter) spoke about an important division of responsibility around feeding kids,” she shared. “It’s the parent’s responsibility to make sure that a variety of food is available; it’s the child’s responsibility to decide how much of it to eat. When we step over these boundaries as parents, either trying to ‘make’ a child eat something or encourage more or less of certain foods at the table (and now that I’m a parent, I understand how easy it is to do this), then we cross a boundary.”
Schauster suggests parents teach their kids about eating with love and common sense for a healthier body image by encouraging their children to learn to listen to their bodies and be good self-regulators around food, and need to trust them to do that.
“Naturally, kids are good at this,” she then explained. “They learn what foods feel good for their particular bodies and palettes and generally eat a variety of different foods over the course of a week. They stop trusting their bodies when adults (and the diet culture at large) tells them that they can’t be trusted and that they ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ eat certain things.”
In terms of their body image, Schauster said the less comments that you make about your children’s bodies or your own body, the better. “Negative body comments are particularly harmful, but even compliments that draw attention to certain body types being more desirable than others can affect your child’s body image. Talking about the body as the miracle that it is (look what you can do!) and treating your child as a whole person who has so many more wonderful features besides how cute they look will go a long way.”
According to Schauster, getting in touch with how to truly feed ourselves well also opens up exploration of our deeper feelings and needs. “As new parents, you understand that it’s hard not to feed a baby without having that be connected to the baby’s other needs for comfort, care, and security.” Schauster dives into this topic a little further by adding that challenges around food are often connected to struggles around knowing and meeting our deeper needs as adults.
“Working on one’s relationship with food and body — whether it’s by working through the steps in my book and/or doing so with a professional — often helps to make deeper needs and values clearer. This work can be transformational on many levels. It enriches our lives and all of our relationships when we learn how to take the best care of our unique bodies and selves.”
Schauster said she wrote Nourish because many people have asked her to recommend a good, basic nutrition book. “I couldn’t in good conscience because so many nutrition books are diet-oriented or triggering for people who are in recovery from eating disorders,” she stated. “So, I aimed to write a book that would be neither of those things. Nourish is appropriate for someone who is in recovery from disordered eating, but it’s also for the average person who sometimes has a ‘funky’ relationship with food and their bodies and wants to understand that more.”
She also mentioned how it’s not easy for her readers to follow what she writes in her new book. “I realize that my ten non-linear healing steps take a lot longer than the average diet plan and are not a quick fix,” she noted. “My hope is that
For more information on Schauster and her book, head over to www.anourishingword.com.