When It Comes To Nutrition, Who Do You Trust?

By Katie, 5:37 am

Trusting our bodies for proper nutrition can be pretty darn scary. I used to be terrified that, left to its own devises, my body would never crave a single vegetable and I’d be left with serious nutritional deficiencies. I’m happy to say that so far that hasn’t happened.

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In my mind, the true question is this: if we’re not going to trust our bodies, who are we going to trust? I think that through a simple process of elimination, our bodies turn out to be the most trustworthy ones around.

Who are the other contenders?

1. The first option would be the media.  But I ask you, is it really a good idea to make nutritional decisions based on something we see on television or read in a magazine? Let’s remember that the media fueled the exhausting debates about whether or not we should be eating eggs, and whether or not carbs are the devil. Those discussions just went around and around in circles!

2. Another choice is the producers of our food. But there’s an obvious conflict of interest here, right? The people who produce our food are often one-in-the-same with the people who sell us our food. For families who can’t afford healthy foods can apply for wic pa, it will help you get certain foods. Or, if they’re not the same, the sellers are the only ones we have access to.

It’s no secret that when money is involved, providing food consumers with accurate information isn’t at the top of the priority list. Remember when it was discovered that most commercially-produced food contains anywhere from 8% to 18% more calories than is reported?

3. If we can’t trust the media and we can’t trust the food industry, perhaps we can trust the scientists. Maybe. The problem with science is that it isn’t stagnant. For years researchers will say one thing, and label it the absolute “truth,” and then suddenly other researchers come along and say something completely different.

Case in point: for a long time I’ve been thinking that I am at a higher risk for heart disease because I carry most of my weight around my chest and stomach; I’m an “apple” instead of a “pear.” That’s what science researchers always told me, anyway. But just last month researchers came out and said, nope, we were wrong. There’s actually no correlation between body shape and heart disease. Well, ok then.

I’m not saying that scientists are lying to us. I’m just saying that the research is constantly changing and developing. It’s quite possible that you’ll wake up one day to find that some standard you’ve been living by for years has just been completely discredited.

4. The last option I see is medical professionals. Don’t worry, I’m not about to slam doctors or registered dieticians or anything like that. I think these people play a very important role in our nutritional health.

But to me, that role is to help us get to a place where we can trust our bodies. Their job is to help us navigate through all the muck that makes trusting our bodies so scary in the first place. The end goal is not to rely on a medical professional for the rest of our lives; rather, it’s to have the necessary knowledge and confidence to rely on ourselves.

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So, by a process of elimination, I think my body provides the most accurate, consistent information about how to eat for optimal nutrition. The way I see it, the only thing more frightening than trusting our bodies is to trust anyone or anything else.

When it comes to nutrition, who do you trust? Do you trust your body the most, or someone or something else?

40 Responses to “When It Comes To Nutrition, Who Do You Trust?”

  1. PJ says:

    That idea of trust is really interesting. I was thinking about this only the other night when I was trying to decide what to cook. And since I am having such a hard time making decisions about food at the moment the only thing I have left is to just follow the advice from the people I trust. I found it so much easier to just cook something from the blog of an RD that I trust. I knew that the recipe she had posted would be fine. So I cooked that. And I ate that. And I was able to do it because I trust her :)

  2. It’s definitely a challenge to trust our own bodies, but in reality, nobody knows our own needs better than we do! I always would get so frustrated as a child at my mother for telling me what I “felt” or “needed” or “wanted”, yet here as an adult I’m okay with the media, magazines and other people’s perception telling me what I “want” or “should do?” Enough of that!

  3. I love this post, Katie. One of the most fascinating things I learned in my training at IIN was that there is research to back up every.single.dietary.theory.out.there. Like, all of them. Which, was, of course the point of the training – to show us that we are all different and what works for one persons body may not work for another. The founder of the schools says “one mans food is another mans poison” and that is so true.

    • Katie says:

      Love that. And it really is true that you can find research to back up almost anything.

  4. I love how Michael Pollan calls a spade a spade…. he says food science is just plain bunk!

    I’m still working on trusting internal signals, instead of external factors.

    • Katie says:

      It’s a process, and I’d be lying if I said I’m 100% there yet either! And that’s one of the MANY reasons I love Michael Pollan too. :)

  5. Sportsgirl says:

    The problem with research is, well, not really a problem with the research but the person interpreting the research. You have to actually read the research paper yourself to determine whether the conclusions drawn are actually correct ones. Sometimes the sample sizes are too small, sometimes the population is mongolian women who eat a far different diet from you, sometimes it’s diabetic men!

    The media is REALLY bad at running wild with conclusions drawn from research which is why we get the “eggs are bad” one year and “eggs are awesome” the next.

    You’ll probably find if you look at the research closely and are smart about interpreting what is a good study and what study you can actually discredit because of the methodology used, that reasearch does not lie at all.

    • Katie says:

      I hope it didn’t seem like I was saying research is lying. And I completely agree that it requires a critical eye to determine if the research methodology is sound. But even solid, peer-reviewed research sometimes becomes discredited as methodology improves and our general body of knowledge develops. Researchers are constantly learning new things, and sometimes that new information contradicts what had been taken as truth before.

      • Further to that, I would say that unless someone has a university education, with experience reading and interpreting scholarly articles, and a working knowledge of research methodology, it is very difficult to be critical of scientific literature. I doubt that the general layperson would know a good study from a bad study. I think this is why many people are inclined to trust the media’s interpretation of the research.
        And anyway, let’s be honest, there is a lot of bad research being published … in all disciplines.

      • Sportsgirl says:

        No you definitely didn’t come across as saying research was lying :) I was just wondering where you read your information; if it was from the media or if you actually studied journals to come to your conclusions. I never listen to what the media says, in fact I usually roll my eyes when they triumphantly proclaim something new.
        And as the person above mentioned, there is some terrible research out there, and you are not going to know it unless you know how to sift through it.

  6. Excellent post Katie! I have, finally, learned to trust my body when it comes to nutrition and…pretty much everything else too!

    I once wrote an article about the health claims “food” producers make in the marketing of said “food.” They jump on every “scientific” finding that comes down the pike and start touting that their product meets a certain need or improves health based on that latest finding. In the end, for the “food” producers, it’s just about profit, not about our health.

    • Katie says:

      So true. To be honest, I sometimes find it insulting. “You really think I’m going to buy your product just because you put that particular scientific buzz word on the package???”

  7. Erin says:

    I love this post! You hit the nail on the head most eloquently and I appreciate the topic choice. Honestly, I have recently learned to trust my body and listen to it’s intuition and it’s the best decision I have ever made. I still read scientific studies in magazines, listen to the media and go to my doctor for advice BUT I take them all into consideration, listen to what my own mind and body think and make my decisions based on all of the information provided. I think that I am making much better decisions now that I don’t try to base my life/diet around external resources. It’s hard to do but it’s definitely a better way to live life. Thanks again.

    • Katie says:

      Thanks for sharing, Erin! I love your point about taking ALL the sources into consideration. Honestly, I wish I could back and include that point in my post because it’s such a great one!

  8. McKella says:

    I take then word of science with a grain of salt, but I trust history more. Things that healthy people have eaten for generations are probably a good a place to start, but my body has the final word.

    • Katie says:

      Good point. I think it’s Michael Pollan who says he doesn’t eat anything his grandmother wouldn’t have recognized as food. :)

  9. Yes, I trust my body. My body really does tell me what it wants/needs, and whenever I have something indulgent, I can’t wait to eat a salad for my next meal. It’s not just in my head; it’s a real craving.

    On our recent trip, the toddler “discovered” bread and butter (don’t have it at home that much). He ate a lot of it. But he also asked for a lot of salads and veggies. It’s funny, once when we went out to eat, he ate the veggie garnish off everyone’s plate before eating anything else…

    • Katie says:

      That’s so neat! I think children are great role models when it comes to listening to our bodies.

  10. I dont trust medical professionals at all.

    In fact, its hard to find one you CAN trust these days.

    Im not saying its impossible, but most medical doctors are not concerned so much about your health as they are about receiving money and vacations from the newest drug company out there.

    What happened to the days when people DID listen to their bodies and actually took responsibility for their own health?

    What happened to the days when we actually worked on keeping ourselves healthy instead of waiting until there was a problem so THEN it becomes a priority.

    Your number one doctor is within and there are a lot of natural health doctors and coaches that truly can help you bring out the doctor within, but its sad that they are few and far between these days.

  11. Shawnee says:

    I trust my body. Your body will tell you when something isn’t right. Medical professionals are great if they will listen to you (not tell you you’re crazy) and treat the whole person. My doctors didn’t listen and I had to figure out which of the 5 doctors I’ve seen would listen to me when I demanded medical tests. Luckily she listened, but still didn’t believe me when she ran the tests. My dream is to see a naturopath one of these days.

    • Katie says:

      I’m glad you continued to trust yourself, even when your doctors wouldn’t listen to you. You’re living proof of the point I’m trying to make!

  12. Great question, Katie. I trust my body, and I certainly encourage my clients to do the same. Early in recovery from an eating disorder, it can be important to have some guidelines in order to establish cues about satiety and hunger. But other than that, I think our bodies tell us–if we really listen–what we need. The hardest part is learning to listen!

    • Katie says:

      Absolutely. And I completely agree; I’ve written before about how intuitive eating is an end goal, but isn’t always a first step (like in early recovery from an ED).

  13. We have to study foods as wholes, not as parts (carbohydrates, fats, & proteins.)

  14. When it comes to nutrition, I trust nature. All the things your body needs – fruits and veggies, grains, sugars, fats, etc., can all be found in nature, and the closer to their natural form, the better.

    That’s not to say that I ALWAYS follow my own advice. Some of my negative food habits have been creeping back up on me lately, but I’m trying. Someday I’d love to be able to eat a daily diet comprised entirely of whole, natural food, nothing processed at all. Not because anyone told me to or because of any kind of marketing or pressure, but because those types of foods just make me feel so much better!

  15. MK says:

    I trust my mother, and she taught me that if I can learn to listen to my body, eat what I crave — including “indulgences” or “junk food,” when that comes up — I will get what I need. Sometimes my body isn’t all that clear, though, but when I keep my kitchen stocked with good-for-me foods, I can usually find dinner in there.

  16. Natalie says:

    i’m definitely learning to trust my body, but ive realized that it DOES know what it needs – and moreso than any other source. after all, our bodies are all so different and need different things. when i went backpacking for a week and only had processed foods that entire time (mostly tortillas with peanut butter + nutella) i was DYING for fruit + veg when i came back.

    another interesting thing is that we trust the media/other people to define what health looks like for us. i think the media makes us think that if youre thin youre healthy , if youre fat youre not, but i totally dont think that is true at all (or at least it cant be a generalization); the media also makes us think that we have to be pounding ourselves at the gym everyday to be healthy, but again, we have to trust our bodies on things like that!

  17. Agreed. Our bodies can tell us so much if we work on becoming more in tune with them. If we really pay attention to when we feel optimal, we will quickly find that balance and way of eating that treats our bodies well. I love all of your posts!!

  18. Fanni says:

    Wow, Katie, this is a really great post! I trust my body but I struggle with my urge to mute it. Like when it says that ‘I’m full, please stop eating’ or when it says ‘hey, enough now with this crap, give me some vegetables and fruits’. You know sometimes I hear this internal yelling and sometimes I want to ignore it. And of course later I always wish I hadn’t ;) So for me the question is not who I trust but rather why I don’t pay attention to someone I trust?

    • Katie says:

      Good point! The first step is being able to hear that voice. The second, and often more challenging, step is to actually listen to it!

  19. Great post. Learning to trust your body’s inner wisdom is such a wonderful path to personal growth and discovery. And it’s so contrary to what we are taught to believe in our science knows best society.

  20. Jess says:

    This is a fabulous post! I love your assertion that the role of medical professionals is to get us to a point where we trust our own bodies. Our bodies are amazing machines – and ones that science has never truly been able to duplicate.
    Thanks for the reminder to trust my body today. :)

  21. Heather says:

    Hi Katie,

    This post really caught my interest, as it is pretty much the discussion my partner and I were having the other night. We were talking specifically about how difficult it can be to know what information we can trust. he used the example of the Atkins diet, whereby it has been both hailed and then shunned by popular media and health professionals alike, while the science on it can support both sides. He leans towards trusting scientific research.

    I’m not so sure. After years of not trusting myself, it is refreshing to me to even contemplate the idea that perhaps my own answers can lie within me. I’m still struggling to “listen” to my body in terms of what to eat, but I am certainly starting to hear the messages about what it doesn’t like! And it is interesting to notice that often, the things my mouth likes are not what feel right in my body.

    Thank you for supporting me in my thinking on this, and helping me to see that my choice (and it is a choice we have over where to get our own information) is just that – my choice.

    • Katie says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Heather! It sounds like we have a lot in common. As the Atkins example shows, it’s difficult to trust any outside sources because their information is constantly changing or conflicting. And you’re absolutely right – it really IS your choice! :)

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