When it comes to nutrition, there’s no shortage of seemingly important numbers. We have recommended daily allowances for nutrients, calorie amounts, cholesterol levels, and target weight, just to name a few. And if we’re following a specific diet plan, chances are, we know a lot of those numbers by heart. We may even use them to help us make important life decisions. Nutritional numbers can be a great starting place, but sometimes we can start to feel like they’re running our life, leaving us no room for fun or spontaneity – and for all the attention we give them, they really only tell part of the story. In this thought-provoking new video from IPEtv, Emily Rosen, Director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, looks at the benefits and limitations of nutritional data, and offers some powerful alternative sources of guidance. If you find yourself checking the scale more often than you’d like, it may be time to give the numbers a break and tune into your own body’s wisdom about what it needs to be fully nourished. What you learn may surprise you!
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Here is a transcript of this week’s video:
Numbers are magic. They’re the DNA of the known universe, the fundamental alphabet of creation, and let’s face it: without them, it would be hard to figure out who owes what at dinner. But when it comes to food, nutrition, and weight, it’s high time that we reassess our love of numbers. Here’s what I mean:
What numbers should I follow?
So many of us are trying to find our right weight, but what exactly is that? You might have been told that you shouldn’t have too much fat in your diet, but how many grams are we talking about? Maybe you’re trying to limit your number of calories to lose weight, but exactly how many calories is a dieter supposed to eat? The big white elephant in the room of nutritional science is that nutrition is not an exact science. It doesn’t actually follow the numbers. Each one of us is different. Nutrient needs vary enormously, but we somehow want nutrition to be mathematically precise and exactly the same for everyone.
We’re told that we need to achieve the right cholesterol levels, but the research is actually vague about what those numbers truly are. You’ve also likely heard that excess weight is a sure predictor of ill health and unwanted metabolic consequences, but even here, even the most up-to-date numbers are surprisingly vague and noncommittal.
I think the biggest challenge occurs, though, when we grant certain numbers a position of excessive power. This is easiest to see in our worship of the scale. If we get on the scale and notice that we’ve lost weight, then our day is good and our worth as a human being is validated. But if we’ve gained a pound or more, then surely we have done something terribly wrong, and are worthy of shame and punishment.
Numbers and the mystical power they have over us!
As a practitioner and teacher in the field of Dynamic Eating Psychology, I’m both saddened and outraged about the immense suffering that’s created when humans allow some lowly machine that we step on to determine how we should feel about ourselves. Far too many lives are ruled by the meaning that we give to the number that the scale tells us each day. Essentially, when it comes to the scale, if you have the wrong number, the assumption is that you are wrong. You’re somehow bad, dysfunctional, and less valuable as a human being.
Perhaps the mother of all numbers when it comes to nutrition and weight loss is one’s target weight. The majority of dieters have a magic number they want to reach. It’s arguably the most important number in their life, and it holds a mystical power. We would do anything to reach our target weight, and often times, we already have. That number represents freedom, enlightenment, and the good life. Everyone will notice us and want us. But we never truly seem to get there, and even when we do, it doesn’t seem that the majority of us stay at our target weight very long.
It’s time to aim for a new target, and the bull’s-eye is love and nourishment. It’s time to put numbers in their proper place. Of course, we’ll always value the gift that they give us. But let’s put a higher premium on the data and insight gained from body wisdom, intuition, the heart’s knowing, and the journey of the soul.
I hope this was helpful.