According to a recent study, one-in-three Australians exclude specific food groups from their diet – including wheat or gluten, dairy and/or animal products. My observation within my practice is that this number may be even higher. Every day I hear conversations around what food movement people follow and it seems that this food avoidance is being linked to a sense of identity and belonging. There are so many food tribes out there – “don’t do sugar”, vegetarian, vegan, clean eating, “don’t do gluten and dairy”, 5:2, to name just a few.
There are people who have genuine allergies and food intolerances. Other families follow certain styles of eating for religious, cultural and ethical reasons. Individuals may also embark on a new style of eating to improve their health and well-being. However, many people choose to belong to a food tribe without any underlying reason and it’s easy to see why. The market is saturated with food and nutrition messages on websites, on-line marketing and social media. These messages can be confusing and misleading. Some come from credible nutrition science sources, but many do not. This messaging has a constant, very impressionable impact upon men and women of all ages, and particularly teenagers.
At the very time when teens are vulnerable to the need to “fit in”, they are also developing their own sets of values and beliefs – the outcome for some teens is that they may choose to join a food tribe.
Sometimes people find it difficult to keep their food preferences balanced, with more and more food exclusions and restrictions occurring over time. If taken to the extreme, their eating style can lead to food confusion, increased anxiety, disordered eating or a life-time of the dieting merry-go-round.
People may also be at risk of nutritional imbalances when excluding whole food groups from their diet, including iron, vitamin B12, zinc, fibre and calcium. These nutritional needs should be fulfilled with other food sources.
It is important to understand that your self-worth and self-value are not linked with the food that you eat. Food is food. Food is morally neutral. For the most part, we make food choices that are going to nourish our bodies, and other times we make food choices that nourish our soul.
My hope is that people make the food choices that are right for them. If we all had a true understanding of the magnificence and wonder of our bodies, respect for the intricate science behind it – we would be kinder to it. Listen to your body’s internal wisdom. Be your own food tribe, one that is unique to you and intuitive to the feedback that your body is already giving you. If you are following an eating style that excludes certain foods from your diet, ensure that your nutritional needs are met with the advice of an Accredited Practising Nutritionist or Dietitian.
Be your own food tribe, one that is unique to you and intuitive to the feedback that your body is already giving you