LifestyleNutrition Beyond Fuel. The Big Picture of Nutrition

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Why A Big Picture View Of Nutrition Is So Critical

Food is fuel.

People use that phrase to explain diet or nutrition practices. Usually, it’s meant to convey the idea that their approach to eating is based chiefly on athletic performance and aesthetics. This is not my point or my argument.

I suggest that the view is too limited.

When most people who are health conscious think of what they eat, their mindset is almost entirely physical. Losing weight, gaining muscle, eating for performance, or looking good at the beach are all common goals associated with eating a certain way.

This can lead to adopting a mindset towards food that stresses its use as fuel to help progress towards those goals.

If we adopted the same approach when choosing a vehicle, we would all be driving minivans or Honda Civics. What most people want, though, is a reliable and safe vehicle that is also, to some extent, fun to drive. We consider something valuable and practical while simultaneously an extension of our personality or preferences.

Nutrition can be and should be, viewed the same way.

When we opt for the simple idea that food is merely fuel, we deny ourselves the option of enjoying our meals as much as possible.

Nutrition goes far beyond the physical benefits we get from the food we put in our bodies.

There is a communal aspect to sharing meals with other people that serve to build and strengthen relationships. Some of the best conversations are those that take place around the dinner table with people we love. Food allows us to share our culture and history with other people in a powerful way. Because of this, it can be a bridge between strangers and create a community like almost nothing else. Food is way more than just fuel.

There is also an emotional and mental health component to what we ingest.

Thinking of food strictly as fuel could lead some athletes to pursue a rigorous diet consisting of the same foods because of their perceived benefit to performance or appearance. What can often go unnoticed is the role nutrition can play in our mental health, specifically vitamins and micro nutrients from various sources. A lack of vitamin b2, for example, can increase the tendency for anxiety or feelings of fatigue. B3 helps keep our nerves and digestive system operating healthily. B6 is especially critical as it can help offset depression, amnesia, confusion, anxiety, and irritability. One more reason to give cranky kids a sweet potato or banana.

The point is that our nutrition can significantly impact our health in ways that are not always apparent. Our mood can be significantly altered by the food we eat. Anyone who has had a rough day and found a pint of Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer knows this already. If your nutrition plan doesn’t allow you to enjoy what you eat, it is failing, regardless of the changes made on the scale.

(B2 is found in spinach, eggs, shrimp, almonds, and mushrooms. B3 is in canned tomatoes, whole grains, and most meats. B6 is prevalent in fish, potatoes, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, bananas, and spinach.)

If your view of nutrition does not allow you to enjoy what you are eating, limits your ability to engage in community events, or causes stress when eating out with friends, whatever benefit you may see physically is coming at a cost emotionally, relationally, and mentally.

Food is fuel for life. Life is so much more than how you look on the beach or how much weight you can clean and jerk. People may be impressed by those things, but if that is all you can offer, your ability to know others and be known by them will be hampered.

Yes, eat healthily and pursue health. Strive for progress and improvement, but don’t let that desire pull you into the lie of perfectionism. There is no perfect diet, and we all need the freedom to enjoy food and what it can offer, not just in terms of physical health but to experience a life worth living.

We love to quote Hippocrates and encourage people to let food be their medicine and medicine their food.

I’m not sure if he said that verbatim, but the idea is more important and goes beyond how good we look in a bathing suit.

We need to expand our definition of health beyond weight loss when discussing eating well. Our health involves how we look and operate physically and how we feel, think, and relate to others and ourselves. Nutrition has the power to influence all of those areas positively, and when we allow it to do so, then we will finally be fueling our life.

 MG Nutrition

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