Are you someone who spends time during your day thinking about what you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to eating and physical activity? Have you ever wondered how those patterns developed, years after our bodies knew how much milk and food we needed as babies?
There is no limit to the number of people willing to tell us what our bodies need to be “healthier”. They are screaming it from daytime and prime time television, from books, from home shopping networks, from newspapers and magazines. They are offering up these shoulds and shouldn’ts, in a way that seems like they’re doing us a favor. As long as we follow their rules we’ll be so much better off!
Upon examination these people tend to have a few things in common. They are usually 1. White, 2. Cis gendered and heterosexual, 3. Higher SES, 4. Have often self-appointed themselves the expert of everyone’s needs on the planet (Dr. Oz anyone?). 5. Have never met me.
Let me tell you, as a queer person of color, I am totally over straight white folks in self-appointed power telling me what I need to do in order to live my life, and be “healthy” as defined by the aforementioned stranger.
I think that this paternalism is just one aspect of the bigger issue here; as a nation our health literacy is in the toilet. With the constant barrage of “right” and “wrong” ways to do things—each of which contradict each other—we are completely without the knowledge to know that our body has individual needs and how to clue into them. As one recent conference participant put it, “I feel like each of us has our own unique…equation for what our body needs and we haven’t even taken the class to figure out how to answer it!”
I agree. As a dietitian I may be a food expert, but I’m not an expert about anybody’s body but my own. I encourage you to travel your own journey to find out what your unique body needs. If you were able to tune out all of the shoulds in your life, what else would you have space for?
Please join me for a Fall group series, Satisfied? Become Your Own Food Expert, in Oakland starting mid October.