Our Bodies Like Averages
It's easy to get caught up in perfection with nutrition. We are constantly bombarded with messages making it seem like it's necessary to consume specific amount of calories, grams of fat, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, servings of fruits and vegetables, and on and on. This information is typically put out there with good intentions to help us live the healthiest lives we can, but for some people, these recommendations can trigger disordered eating or even full-blown eating disorders.
The truth is: you can't eat PERFECTLY. Healthy eating isn't perfect eating and perfect eating isn't healthy eating. Perfection with food simply doesn't exist, and the mere idea of expecting perfection with eating is often the very thing that causes chaos and dysfunction with food. Even if there were a clear-cut definition of perfection with eating, it wouldn't be perfect at all. A little slice of cake here and there really enhances my life, although it might not be the "perfect" thing to eat. You feel me?
Here's what I'm trying to get at: consistency over time is what really matters with nutrition. There is great value for doing the best you can with your eating. But, when you fall short and have a day where you over do it, forget to eat your fruits and vegetables, or even when you may under eat, remember that your body likes averages. We are biologically set up for imperfection with our eating. Phew, what a relief!
This idea can be so helpful and freeing. Some days, you might find yourself eating a huge salad with all kinds of greens and veggies. That day you might eat well over your need for vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, etc. The next day, you might under eat some of those nutrients. One day of not enough vitamin C is not going to cause scurvy. One day of not doing the best at honoring your hunger and fullness cues does not make you a failure.
Our bodies like averages. Your body naturally takes into account what you've provided it with on average over the last week or so. It can hold on to excess calories or excess vitamins or minerals if needed to prepare for days where those nutrients might be unavailable. Our bodies are amazing and have a built-in mechanism for allowing us to be imperfect, or in other words, human. We have this idea that our bodies are so fragile that they need math and numbers and perfection to function—but this notion simply isn't true!
Be careful to ensure you don't turn this into a way to sink deeper into your disordered eating thinking of you are unworthy of food the day after a binge or overeating episode because your body needs to average out. NO! Do not misunderstand: what I'm saying here is that your body naturally will find the average as you do your best to honor hunger and fullness cues, to use good common sense about balance and to take good care of yourself generally with sleep, movement, stress management, hydration, etc. Consistency is what matters over time and your body doesn't need micromanaging to find that balance.
Consistency, consistency, consistency. Remember that principle and you will do just fine. If you can look at yourself in the mirror at the end of each day and honestly say that you are doing your best, please, I beg you, let that be good enough. Whether it's about food or about relationships or life in general, you really can only do your best. Try your best to get a good balance of foods, get adequate sleep, manage your stress and to connect to your values. On the days you fall short of "perfection" with your eating (which is every day) remember your body doesn't expect or need perfection to thrive.
If you'd like more knowledge about why our bodies don't need or expect perfection with food, check out our new online course, Positive Nutrition 101 to learn about the science of nutrition without the gimmicks.
This article originally appeared on ksl.com