I Am Not a Machine: More than calories

The other week, I posted about that New York Times article on wellness and diet culture. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own relationship with food and nutrition. If we live in the ocean of diet culture, there are definitely days, weeks, and years when I’m the fish that asks, “What is water?”

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Can this be right?

Not too long ago, I finished my Precision Nutrition certification. Even prior to starting, I thought I knew a fair amount about nutrition. Yet one of the things that surprised me most was the textbook’s explanation of how inaccurate food labels can be.

And in the past few weeks of working with a coach, I kept coming back to the thought, “Does my body really need the same exact macronutrient breakdown every day?” After deadlifts, for example, I am a carb-hound. Most other days, I naturally gravitate towards something different. Sometimes I walk a lot, and other days I’m pretty sedentary.

Logically, the answer is no. My body is not a machine. In fact, it’s a lot smarter than one. Cravings are usually an indication of some other need, be it physical or, in some cases, emotional. That we naturally gravitate towards certain foods some days is actually a pretty amazing trait.

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Digging deeper

A few days ago, another Precision Nutrition student shared this article: The Death of the Calorie. In various nutrition groups, it’s not uncommon to see some variation of the “calories in vs. calories out” argument in a variety of discussions. Yes, at the end of the day, if you eat more energy than your body needs, it will store it.

But, in reading this article, I found some validation in this recurring thought of “the body is not a machine.” Our bodies fluctuate. They have different needs – be it macronutrient or micronutrient breakdowns – over the course of days, weeks, and years. They have different needs in terms of how much energy we store over the course of days, weeks, and years. There’s also the emotional body and how that ties into physical needs as well.

It’s complex, and I don’t feel convinced we know everything that we should to make a definitive statement about how much and what and when and why you should be eating at all times. To rephrase something I read recently, even if we all ate the same exact thing every single day with the same activity levels, we would all look different.

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Energy of Culture

All of this thinking got me to finally get started on “Just Eat It,” a book about intuitive eating by Laura Thomas. She does an excellent job of explaining how “wellness” is, generally, just another side of diet culture and its negative effects. As someone personally interested in athletics and nutrition, it both bothers and worries me how similar this language is, not to mention the number of assumptions buried within it.

Personally, I find myself starting off on a slightly new journey when it comes to how to eat. I’m struggling to get behind any sort of static plan towards nutrition and find myself drawn towards the intelligence inherent in my body (that I’ve often ignored).

The relationship I have between myself and food is deeply personal. While I think it’s important to preface that I have generally always lived in a very socially acceptable body, I’ve often struggled with body image and how it relates to my diet. In the past few months, finding myself in a place where I was back to questioning my own hunger triggered a thought process in me. “I don’t think any of this is right.”

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It’s difficult for me and I think it’s difficult for most people. People often talk about going back to how you ate as children (“when you didn’t think so much about food”), but I don’t think things like that are helpful. As children, we were still being initiated into our cultural expectations of weight, appearance, food, and diet. And how to we step away from those things now?

As I dig deeper, once again, into my personal feelings around food, I can’t help but feel like it’s all been oversimplified. And at everyone’s expense. I’m curious to see, read, and learn more about different discussions of health, what that looks like, and what that feels like for a variety of bodies. There cannot be a one size fits all approach because we are not all one size. And I like that fact.

One Comment

  • Alternative Perspective

    Thanks for posting this! I’ve felt very similar about eating…I definitely don’t believe one diet fits all or even one diet fits the same person every day/week/year. I have certain cravings and I try to follow them. More than that, there are times when I feel almost repelled by certain foods, even though I like them in general. There are times when I feel like having a hearty meal and others when I just feel like something light and fresh. I still struggle at times to pinpoint what it is my body is wanting but I think that’s all in the practice, trial and error. Our bodies are more intelligent than we give them credit for and, I hope to see this type of intuitive eating expand along with scientific research into it.

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