Do you wish you had clear answers to all your food questions?
Maybe you keep seeing lists of foods to avoid to “reduce inflammation.”
Maybe you’ve tried to remove these foods, but they just seem to show up everywhere.
Or maybe you’re starting to see food as categories and you’re trying hard to remember which food goes into which…
If this sounds familiar, and if you’re wondering if there’s an easier way to nutrition while dealing with your brain injury or chronic illness, don’t worry. There is.
My name is Krystal Merrells. I’m a registered dietitian and a concussion warrior in Ontario, Canada.
I’ve had multiple concussions and I’ve seen how food can become this big stressful thing after a brain injury. I am here to help you move towards feeling good with food.
This is Food Love. A 14-day mini-series exploring your relationship with food.
Today is day 3: You have more options than you think
Let me start this one off by declaring that I am a science nerd 🙂
Science was my entry into nutrition. That is, after I gave up hopes of becoming a forensic scientist, inspired by Dana Scully from The X-Files, of course.
With science comes research and I have in fact been involved in, as well as authored some research studies!
None to date on concussion or brain injury. Though I would love to influence or be involved in this. Because the science most studied and talked about in brain injury and nutrition just isn’t my favourite.
I find the research done in concussion and TBI nutrition very limited in vision and scope. It mostly looks at just individual nutrients, supplements, and restrictive diets.
As a dietitian, I know that nutrition is far far more than just this.
What’s even more frustrating is how the results of this research is put into practice: the results of these scientific studies are often reduced by practitioners into specific categories — or a simple binary of “good” versus “bad.”
You know what I mean.
Dairy: good or bad?
Carbs: good or bad?
Caffeine: good or bad?
Can you imagine if we reduced other things in life to these two options?
The sun: good or bad?
Oxygen: good or bad?
Hugs: good or bad?
Having an excessive number of house plants: good or bad?
Often when we reduce things to simply just two choices, we’re led to believe that one is absolutely right and one is absolutely wrong.
And this limited way of looking at things, including food, can really make our interaction with them quite fraught.
When really, there is quite a bit of nuance to be seen…
Even with the non-food examples I just gave, we could debate each of them:
The sun after all is super important for growing the planet’s vegetation. And at the same time, it can really wreak havoc on a person’s skin and cause diseases with too much exposure.
Oxygen is 100% needed for us humans and animals to survive! And, in high doses it’s toxic, and on a lower level also causes rust.
What about hugs? Hugs are such a beautiful form of human connection. I think through the pandemic many of us have missed these. And also, hugs can be harassment when they are not wanted or when there is no consent for that level of touch.
And houseplants… Well, sitting here surrounded by many I know where I stand on this, and I know my partner’s opinion too, lol.
But let’s do an example with people.
Consider a group of people. Maybe it’s your neighbours, your family, or your work colleagues.
How would those personal relationships be if you took to reducing each person to either “good” or “bad”?
“OK Morgan from HR is good.
Jaime from accounting is bad.
Frankie from management, yeah they’re good.
Jodi from fundraising though, definitely bad…”
I mean… You would hate half of your work colleagues!
And I don’t know… maybe you do!
But you would still have to have a working relationship with these people.
And so, labelling them “good” or “bad” likely won’t help you have a respectful relationship, and might make your days at your workplace an emotional rollercoaster…
And the same goes for food.
Now, I do want to make an important note here.
Because I’m sure at least some of you might be thinking that there are foods that are just outright bad for certain people.
I do have a number of clients who have had it rough with food. Be it food sensitivities, allergies, intolerances, IBS, eating disorders… These people have had actual bad experiences with food.
And I don’t want to dismiss the fact that certain foods for certain people can cause serious problems!
If peanuts cause a person to go into anaphylactic shock, I think it’s safe to say that peanuts are a bad choice for that person.
Even in situations where people have had bad experiences with food, moving away from viewing food as solely “good” or “bad” has helped my clients explore more foods, re-introduce the foods they can safely, and make peace with the foods they may have to limit.
Because just like neighbours, family, or colleagues at work, you will still come across all different kinds of foods in your life, overtime, and in different environments.
And when you have more options other than just “good” or “bad” to describe food, you will likely have more experiences with food that you can work through, without emotional rollercoasters.
So, your reflection question for today:
If no food is either purely good or purely bad, what are some other options?
What other choices can you come up with?
What are some other ways you can describe food?
When you start to see food for all of its different uses, contributions, histories and meanings, a respectful relationship with food can be nurtured.
“OK Morgan from HR always listens when I have something to share.
Jaime from accounting, they’re really quirky and often go off topic.
Frankie from management values their staff.
Jodi from fundraising is always late to meetings, though I appreciate the donuts they bring.”
Best in food love,