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How Nutrition Benefits Massage
I’ve been asked a fair bit lately about nutrition and diet. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s summer and all its bounty has people thinking about their bodies and what they put into them. Maybe it’s because of our increasing awareness of the links between our diet and our personal, and collective, health. Or possibly there are a lot of people who are actively confused by the ping-pong-like battles among various professional in science, diet, nutrition and fitness putting what feels like a lot of contradictory information out there. Mostly, I get the sense that what people are seeking is some guidance towards how they can make themselves healthier and feel better.
Disclaimer: I’m not a Nutritionist. I’m not a Dietician. I’m not a doctor. What I am is someone with a body, who has studied some intensive basics along the way, and who has also occasionally struggled with understanding what’s “healthy.” In other words, I’m a lot like most of us with maybe a smattering of formal education and work in the field. I’m not here to tell you what to do and I won’t, what I can do is share what I’ve learned and hope it’s helpful.
Like a lot of people, I’ve been terribly confused, frustrated, and occasionally outraged by all the back and forth information that’s distributed to the general public as guidelines for health. “Carbs/grains are good!” to “Carbs/grains make us fat!” to “Carbs should be the base of the diet pyramid.” to “Whole grain carbs are what we need.” to “Well….” Then there’s the recent (and ongoing) kerfuffle about coconut oil: it’s fine; no, it’s a saturated fat = terrible; no, it’s a vegetable-based saturated fat and it’s possibly slightly miraculous; no, still a saturated fat = avoid. And I’m looking around at all the amazingly healthy yoga practitioners who swear by it and all the stressed out scientists who don’t seem to know from one minute to the next what’s generally true, and I start to get that look I got as a kid when mom told me that Santa took all my Halloween candy to charge up his reindeer. Skeptical, to say the least.
And then I remember that the big problematic word in that penultimate sentence is “generally.” The big issue, as I see it, is that there probably isn’t a 100% generally applicable diet (or anything else) that is all good for all people. I remember that my (and my client’s) health journey is a personal one. While everyone is scrambling to find a universal “healthy” diet, we forget that we are all completely individual humans with unique genetic backgrounds and health histories and diet preferences. The things that are good for some are NOT good for others. Aside from food allergies and sensitivities to things like gluten and dairy, there can be more challenging and subtle. I have tried a number of different ways of eating; low-carb/high protein, paleo, high carb/lean protein, no red meat and seeing how my body responded. I have discovered that, for me, eating a typical quantity of grains, even healthy whole grains of almost any kind, sets me up for feeling heavy and sleepy and a disorienting blood sugar crash later in the day. When I avoid grains and substitute out with extra veggies and greens I don’t get that response. I also recognize that is what works for me, and it took me a long time to discover that balance for myself. I believe what we need is more encouragement to start paying attention to our own bodies and how they actually feel when we feed them. Do I feel merely full, or do I actually feel nourished? Does my body feel sluggish and heavy or turbocharged and ready to go? The foods and diets that do that for each of us are likely to not be the same and that needs to be ok.
I will now insert that I believe there are some things that we can reasonably accept as foods to avoid (I can finally own that the Whiskey, Diet Coke, Bacon & Snickers Diet phase was probably a mistake. A delicious delicious amazing mistake…) Eating more whole fruits and vegetables, eating less sugar and processed foods, and probably eating less animal meat are good places to start, both for our body health as well as our planetary health. What comes next is a bigger ask: pay attention! Pay attention to your body, what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat (or drink) it, your mood, your energy levels, your sleep patterns. Do you notice correlations between what you eat and how you feel. Are there ways you want to feel and don’t? any ideas on why? Are there things you’d like to try, or things you are considering removing from your diet, and what hopes and concerns do you carry into that? Being in these questions for yourself can be far more rewarding than fast-forwarding to an easy, pre-digested answer.
This isn’t supposed to be a cop-out telling people to figure it out themselves. It’s a statement that I don’t think anyone else can give you your answers, as well as a belief that we know when we feel truly good in our bodies. What I’d like to do with this is to challenge and empower all my clients to start asking themselves these questions and more. I’d also like us to stop feeling overwhelmed while seeking the right someone who can just tell us what to eat and when. I would rather see people begin to learn about their own bodies and processes and finding what works best for them. Let’s get curious about food, and ideas about food, and then start trying stuff!