Nutrition can be a topsy-turvy place-- a place where misinformation parades around in six-pack suits with “fitspo” masks, where cult leaders preach food restriction dogma from social media pulpits, where marketing supplants science, and where people trap themselves in echo-chamber labyrinths of their own design.
In the midst of this inside-out, upside-down carnival, there’s a radical voice calling for reason, compassion, and peer-reviewed research. A voice that’s not going to stand for the havoc that sensationalism and fanaticism wreak on people’s self image. That voice? It belongs to Pixie Turner, Associate Nutritionist, MSc, and author who’s dedicated to leveraging science and empathy to flip the world of nutrition rightside up. She joins us on Episode 51 of our podcast, and we think her message is a must-hear.
Pixie begins by discussing her latest book, “The No-Need to Diet Book” which investigates the science behind food anxieties, emotional eating, orthorexia, and other maladaptive eating habits. In doing so, it examines the environmental factors that lead to negative relationships with food.
One particularly subversive factor Pixie identifies is social media behavior. According to her research findings, “The more time [people] spend on social media following health food and clean eating accounts, the more likely [they] are to be at risk for orthorexia.”
One of the reasons for this is the way social media outlets function. Individuals curate the images and messages they see on Instagram, for example, by selecting the accounts they want to follow. This can limit people’s exposure to messages about nutrition, thereby inducing them to believe that one (potentially extreme) perspective is widely held. And under this belief, individuals can develop a relationship with food that doesn’t align with their priorities, that impacts their social and mental health, and that becomes pathological.
In Pixie’s experience, people’s nutritional goals often include psychological elements. In other words, people often seek nutritional advice not only because they have aesthetic or athletic goals, but also because they want to have a better self-image, they want to be more self-accepting, and they want to have a healthier relationship with food. Pixie has found that addressing these psychological goals first actually promotes her clients’ achievement of other aesthetic or performance-based objectives.
Addressing the psychosocial facets of nutrition is no simple task, and it’s certainly beyond the capabilities of macro calculators or gimmick diets. It’s something that requires an empathetic, careful, and human approach-- an approach epitomized by the first thing Pixie asks her clients to do: “Tell me about your history with food. Take me back to your childhood. Tell me what food was like for you then, and take me on that journey to today. What got you to where you are now, sitting in this clinic with me?”
Pixie goes on to discuss how her interactions with clients have shaped the way she promotes information about nutrition. Her compassionate, rational, and evidence-based messages offer people a sustainable and healthy alternative to the fanatic, food-cult dogma proliferating on social media outlets. This dogmatic approach to eating represents a topic of particular interest to Pixie, and she discusses the power it wields over human psychology as well as the ways that people can avoid its sway.
Steadfast in her conviction that there is no “one-size-fits-all” diet, Pixie explains why following evidence-based guidelines instead of rigid, stifling, and often misguided “rules” can be a much more positive and rewarding approach to nutrition. She makes the case for learning how to eat intuitively, then discusses how the issue of orthorexia fits within the context of other public health concerns.
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