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  • Paige Smathers

How to Navigate Confusing Nutrition Messaging Online


I believe it's both a blessing and a curse to learn paradigm-shifting, life-changing concepts online. On the one hand, it's incredibly liberating to learn there's another way to relate to your body and food and that you don't need to relegate yourself to harmful diets. On the other hand, when learning these things online, we risk comparing ourselves to anyone and everyone who posts about these topics.


Let me be very clear: I am soooo glad we have increased awareness of these things online. I'm grateful for free access to health-promoting frameworks. I don't want us to stop talking about these things. I do want to hopefully help you understand that it is completely normal to feel a bit confused as you navigate these messages. In fact, the cognitive dissonance many of you feel is NORMAL and GOOD. Remember, one of the big things we're working on developing more ease with discomfort. As you feel that discomfort, please just know it's normal, it's progress and it's okay to sit with that feeling. And, you have the right to check in with yourself as you navigate the messaging you receive online. If you are feeling confused, lean into it. See what you can discover about yourself and see if you can learn something new. And ask yourself what you think, too. Ask: does this work for me? Does this fit into my values system? Does this bring my closer to what matters to me? There are no right or wrong answers here, but practicing connecting with yourself is critical.


For example, if you are learning to reject the diet mentality, and you feel confused by the constant barrage of doughnuts on Instagram as you consume the content of intuitive eating advocates, please don't take the message away that you *have* to eat doughnuts. The point is you *can* eat them if you want, not that you *have* to eat them. Your eating doesn't need to look like someone else's eating online. Repeat after me: I will not compare myself to strangers on the internet!



Another confusing message people can absorb from the online space is thinking that Health at Every Size (HAES) and Intuitive Eating (IE) are anti-health frameworks. For the record, they aren't. In fact, there is a growing body of literature showing that prioritizing health-promoting behaviors over weight is a more sustainable and healthful practice long-term. However, I understand why people might feel confused. The important thing here is that you ask yourself what you value, and you pursue that. If you value health, it's important to get clear about what that really means. Does it mean a lifetime of obsession and handwringing about nutrition? Or is it a full, balanced, happy, grounded life, including yummy food, nourishing food, comforting food, and less/no food guilt? Answer those questions for yourself, and allow the IE and HAES frameworks to help you define what that looks like in your life. Hint: health is NOT how diet culture defines it.

And remember: the people you are learning from online are people who are learning, too. We are not immune to getting caught up in the more, more, more game of being online. Sadly, this sometimes negatively affects our audience. We can't be perfect, online or otherwise, but just know that online platforms fundamentally make it difficult to explore nuance. That's your job! As you consume this information, please also sit with yourself and explore how it fits for you. If you want a little deeper dive into this concept, I recorded a lesson on the Nutrition Matters Premium feed for supporters of the podcast. There you can access the lesson: exploring how to navigate confusing messaging you get online about making peace with food plus all previous guided mediations and Q&As by clicking the link in my profile and supporting the podcast at $5/month. Thank you for your support!

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