Why we’re not going Junk Free this June
We recognise this fundraising month is for a great cause. The Cancer Society provides advocacy, education and support to patients throughout the country and we absolutely support their fundraising efforts (we’ll share our fundraising alternative with you below!).
Junk Free June certainly encourages more movement and that’s something we can definitely get behind! After all, physical activity is something that we know will improve health and wellbeing and this is independent of your body size or shape. Want to know more? Hop on over and check this short video out!
As non-diet nutritionists and dietitians we work with clients who have battled through making food choices for years or decades, hopping from diet to diet with little success (no surprises there – dietary restriction to achieve weight loss has a measley 5% success rate).
Attempting to cut out ‘pleasure’ foods from our diet for an entire month is restrictive behaviour – regardless of the fundraising intention – and restriction isn’t a concept that aligns with our health and wellbeing philosophies.
What do you think when you hear “junk food”?
Bad? Unhealthy? Fattening? Damaging? Lack of restraint?
How do you feel when you eat foods labelled “junk food”?
Maybe guilty, naughty, disgusting, anxious, sad, disappointed, happy, content or soothed?
We don’t buy into moral tags for food or use labels like ‘Junk Food’ and we encourage you not to. Once we drop the labels and relearn to look at food through a neutral lens, all foods can be included into our eating pattern without judgement and guilt.
Labelling foods, particularly with negative connotations such as ‘junk’ food or as ‘treats’ creates a situation where in our efforts to resist eating these foods, we end up feeling frazzled when we do find our self presented with our vice or forbidden food.
Our efforts to restrict only sustains a cycle of periodic “overeating”, feelings of loss of control and failure, and eating behaviours that might feel confusing, cautious or stressful.
So…what might this look like in real life?
Maybe you’re considering giving up chocolate for Junk Free June. You find it irresistible and when you do eat chocolate it’s a frenzy, it’s all or nothing, until uncomfortably full and regretful. You’ve identified it as your vice food.
The first few days or week of June might be ok, but then you “cave to a craving”, shit hits the fan and you find yourself just one cookie from the bottom of the jar and preparing for a shame hangover. Attempting to restrict or cut out chocolate hasn’t proved helpful and if you do manage to silence your cravings and your hunger through to the end of June, what do you think July 1st is going to look like? **Cue an absolute schamozzle**
May we suggest there’s another way to live with ‘junk food’ in your life?
We know, from personal and professional experience it’s unhelpful to shut the door on any one food, unless of course it makes you feel physically ill, you are allergic or intolerant. Instead we encourage you to approach eating from a place of curiosity and explore how food makes you feel – both physically and emotionally. Working to make peace with food and accept that you can have anything you want to eat without feeling like you’ve broken a rule goes a long way to solve the issues we hear about ‘vice foods’ or ‘trigger foods’.
Sure as nutrition professionals we don’t ignore the fact that some foods promote good physical health while others promote psychological health. Foods complement each other in this way and it’s important we eat widely to ensure both our physical and psychosocial needs are met. We sure work hard to keep moral tags or ‘judgements’ out of our food choices! We make food decisions based on how they make us feel and what will be satisfying to eat.
When you are making food decisions based on how your body feels and responds, you are unlikely to persist in choosing foods that do not make you feel well or energised.
In other words, and for those concerned that intuitive eating promotes a “junk food diet” – it’s simply not the case. When you are truly listening to your body’s cues and responses, you find yourself recognising that you need a wide variety of nutrient dense foods and a variety of pleasure foods to ensure you are nurturing both your physical and psychological needs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica Campbell BSc PgDip, is a Non-Diet Nutritionist & Medical Student passionate about weight inclusive healthcare practices, eating disorder prevention & therapies.
Jess has stepped back from clinical nutrition work and now supports the team in group practice providing food and body positive nutrition and dietetic care and eating disorder recovery services in person and online New Zealand wide.
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