I field many questions on my Instagram channel, @wayofgray, and one of the most frequently asked questions is: “What exactly do you eat?” These days it feels like everywhere you look, folks with any kind of following are sharing “what I eat in a day” videos and articles, whether they are nutritionists, athletes, social media “celebrities” or any other person who believes they are an expert on healthy living. In these kinds of posts, the authors disclose their “hidden secrets” for being as healthy as they are. Coming from a trained holistic nutritionist, you may find this a surprise, but I actively avoid sharing those kinds of prescriptive posts.
Yes, I totally understand the point of such articles and videos, why people want a guideline of how to eat, and why they are eager for recipes, tips and tricks. Yes, I think it’s incredible that people are taking charge of their health and searching for information and inspiration when it comes to nutrition. For most people, those articles and videos are simply another tool in their toolbox. But this isn’t so for everyone. For those of us reaching large audiences on the subject of nutrition, we must be aware of our readers who look at this information quite differently. For example, the young girl who is so obsessed with looking a certain way that she’ll ignore her body’s own biological signals in favour of recommendations she insists on following to a tee.
I was that girl. In high school, I wanted to be a Victoria Secret Angel more than anything. If my 16-year-old self could have gotten a hold of Heidi Klum or Gisele Bündchen’s diet, you bet I would have stuck to it with religious devotion. I would have turned a blind eye to my own hunger or fullness. I would have ignored any indications that some choices might not have been for me.
As a holistic nutritionist today, I’m trained to see each person as an individual, absolutely unique from all of my other clients. It goes to follow that what might work for a supermodel may not be appropriate for a 16 year old. Certainly, there are some general do’s and don’ts that make sense for most of the population. For example, clean drinking water is beneficial for everyone, and soda isn’t doing good for anyone. But let’s think about the details. How much water is the right amount? 8 glasses? Well, not exactly. The amount needed to stay hydrated differs from person to person. The best way to tell how much water you need? Pay attention to your thirst and monitor your urine. This is incredibly important, but not something mentioned in the Perez Hilton report on Kendal Jenner’s diet secrets.
For those of you thinking, “Of course those articles are just general guidelines, not to be followed religiously. Whoever takes them too seriously needs to get a grip,” then consider yourself lucky. Not everyone has the same perspective when it comes to how they see their bodies and their relationship with food. It’s estimated that about 1 to 2 percent of the population is living with Body Dysmorphic Disorder—nearly 5 million people in the United States alone, and that nearly 8 million Americans are living with an eating disorder.
I don’t want to shame anyone who sees this issue differently and wishes to keep sharing diet info the way they always have. But just imagine the impact, if more public figures talking about diet and nutrition were more actively looking out for those struggling with these disorders and diseases. Imagine who could be helped if those of us with the social media megaphones took a more sensitive approach, highlighting how important it is to listen to your own body, and reminding others their intrinsic knowledge can trump the tips and tricks of others.