Reminder: Food is fuel, not therapy, with illustration of a pear

It is all too common these days to hear health professionals, trainers and nutrition companies compare food to FUEL. The argument being that what you eat drives performance just like fuel is essential for a car to perform on the road. The analogy goes on to suggest that putting the best quality nutrients in your daily meals will help to maximize the efficiency of your metabolism. This increased efficiency will promote weight loss, and protect your lean body mass; all of which are essential for maintaining a healthy body composition, or muscle to fat ratio.

While I often balk at industry norms, the trends and gimmicky lingo, on this I could not agree more. This is a foundational principle I have built my brand on, one element that defines a healthy, sustainable, and long-term solution to performance optimization. When we start to separate the emotions that exist around food and look at it objectively as something (e.g., fuel), that we must give to our body in order to exist, the landscape is often much more navigable. This shift in perspective transforms the personalization, the relationship issues, the “old shit” that many people have around food into a daily practice. You have to put gas in the car to make it go…you have to brush your teeth to maintain hygiene, you have to sleep to recover and perform, you have to eat to survive. There is no emotion in that.

In creating this separation lies the freedom from emotional eating. For so many of my clients, the greatest barrier to change, the steepest mountain we strive to overcome is the baggage that they lug around as it relates to food. It is different for everyone, but the most common challenges we face are:

  • SOCIAL STIGMAS. So many people had messages that were sent about what they were “supposed” to look like. Those messages coming either directly or implied through behaviors, comments or acceptance from external sources such as parents, coaches, teachers, siblings or peers.
  • MIND-BODY OVERLOAD. I am juggling so many hats. I work full time, drive the kids to practice and after school activities, keep a clean house, and try to find time to breathe. I simply cannot add cooking, shopping or prepping my meals.
  • CHASING HUNGER. I am so tired when I get home that I am chasing energy. I find that energy in simple sugars like soda, caffeine to processed and high carb foods. Once I open Pandora’s Box making healthy choices is impossible.
  • SOCIAL PRESSURE. I need a social release, an outlet from the “norm”. This often this means meals out with family or friends. Eating out often leads to unhealthy choices and bigger portions. In addition, my friends “expect” me to have alcohol or share appetizers. If I don’t then I feel like I am being the party pooper.
  • FOOD IS COMFORT. If I can escape, if only for a short time back to a time when life was simple. Certain meals bring back positive, carefree memories. This usually means “junk food”, treats or meals from my childhood like Mom’s Spaghetti, or Grandmas Chicken Pot Pie.

All these barriers to success, and ultimate resolution are self-manufactured. I am not saying these situations don’t happen; or that history was a figment of anyone’s imagination.  There is certainly some scientific basis to stress, fatigue and mental overload being linked to sugar and caffeine cravings. Often, in an attempt to keep your head above water you need to look at your day and let something slide. This might be what you are going to eat for dinner, or not caring whether your carbs, fat and protein are balanced.

Only you know when enough is enough. BUT, until you are able to recognize that how you feed your body has a direct relationship with how you are feeding your emotions and your mental acuity. Food is FUEL. But not just for your physical performance. Our brain, our cells, our emotional capacity are all driven by calories. And the nutrients within those calories…both the macro nutrients called Carbs, Fat and Protein as well as the micro nutrients like water, vitamins, and minerals will all enhance or reduce our ability to be at our best. And when you are already bombarded with external pressures, stressors and situational challenges, the last thing you need is to put even more on your “plate” you can fight back better, with more resilience, and more mental clarity when you are giving your body the most optimal levels of energy, and FUEL. Let’s not get emotional, let’s get real!

Dr. Tiff Fuel. Sweat. Science. Dr. T logo