Stressed out: The danger of obsessive nutrition

Stressed out: The danger of obsessive nutrition

As someone who tries to live a “toxic-free” life, I’m constantly amazed at how toxic the health world can be. Don’t ever tell someone that you write about health and wellness. If you do, be prepared to get all sort of comments that demonstrate just how messed up our idea of healthy living is.

You’ll get comments about the fear of eating certain real foods because study x, y, and z have proven they will kill you. You’ll get comments about the latest weight-loss trends. You get comments drenched in fear, guilt, disgust, and fanaticism.

Does it really have to be so confusing?

Nope. As someone who has previously discussed the idea that there is no one diet that’s perfect for everyone, I’m doing my best to try and get people to calm down a little bit and get back to a more basic approach to eating and healthy living.

And believe me, it’s been a long road… a journey that I’m still figuring out. I do not have all the answers (by any stretch of the imagination), but I can relate with so much of the rigid idea of health because I’ve been there. I remember the day when I thought I knew what the perfect diet was for everyone. I remember the time, not too long after that, when I started feeling less certain. The day when I feared eating anything because there was research to show that everything is bad for you.

The trouble is that mainstream recommendations are doing a lot more harm than good. Basically, if you think you’re doing everything “right” according to mainstream experts, you are probably putting a lot of strain on your metabolic health. -Elizabeth Walling, The Nourished Metabolism 

And then I remember the day when I started realizing that maybe all the “scientific proof” in the health world wasn’t so accurate. Like the idea that everyone should drink 8 oz. of water a day. Or the idea that sugar is bad. In fact, some of the most strongly held “truths” in the health world are the very ones doing a lot of damage to our body.

Understanding the body’s needs

The problem with so much of the nutritional information out there is that it ignores the big picture. Like when the China Study goes after milk but makes no distinction between pasteurized milk from sick and abused cows (you know, the stuff most readily available to consumers) and clean raw milk from healthy cows that has enzymes still intact for proper digestion. Sure you can use all the “data” you want to cherry pick a “scientific” study, but if you don’t step back and see the whole picture it’s not an accurate assessment of the real situation.

I think this is also true for those who talk so fervently about a “nourishing” diet while providing long lists of foods that must be consumed and foods that should be avoided. Hey, I’m all for nourishing food, but when I start to stress that my body may be failing because I  didn’t get my weekly ration of liver or kale into my diet I begin to wonder if I have a healthy approach to food.

The body is extremely sensitive to stress… and that most certainly includes the stress of a hyperactive desire to eat perfectly.

The effects of stress on the body

Most of us think of deadlines, job interviews, or other “extreme” and emotionally charged situations when we think of stress. And ultimately stress is a part of life… and sometimes it’s even a good part of life. When faced with an immediate stressful situation our body pumps up the stress hormones to help us deal. In those short bursts stress serves an important purpose.

The problem, however, is that stress isn’t always tied to some sort of emotional event. When stress goes from obvious and short-lived to subtle and chronic that’s when we start hitting a danger zone.

As I mentioned in this post, there are a variety of ways that our body can begin to live off our stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, including highly restrictive diets. And while those hormones can provide mental clarity, energy, and decreased cravings in the beginning, the body was not designed to live off these hormones.

Ironically, one of the major side effects of chronically living off these hormones is poor digestion and assimilation. If we are chronically stressed our body can’t absorb a lot of what we give it. So much for that highly nourishing diet.

Other symptoms of chronic stress include:

  • Poor thyroid function
  • Blood sugar swings
  • Loss of lean body tissue like muscle and bone mass
  • Mood swings and depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep problems
  • Inflammatory skin conditions like eczema
  • Susceptibility to illness and infection
  • Weight gain, particularly in the abdominal region

Not a fun list, right?

Wow, I never realized chronic stress could be so harmful. I love this article on the importance of nourishing our metabolic health. A must read.

Back to the big picture:

If healthy living is really your goal, then you need to consider your metabolic health. Before you worry about every micro-nutrient or latest “study” worry about this most basic function of life. I’m not suggesting you give up real food or quit your job to take a year long vacation so that you are never stressed (although, wouldn’t the vacation be awesome?)… But I am suggesting letting go of any zealot tendencies that are keeping your from finding real joy, real vitality, and real health.

But where do I start?

I’d start simple:

  • Focus on getting quality sleep (and lots of it).
  • Focus on enjoying your food, and eating with mindfulness.
  • Focus on deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation to counteract your busy day.
  • Focus on the positive relationships in your life.
  • Don’t stress about the things you have no control over and change the things you do.

I’d also highly recommend getting your hands on Elizabeth Walling’s book: The Nourished Metabolism. It’s full of useful information to get stress in check, and find balance in this real food world.

Are you stressed about eating perfectly? Learn how chronic stress destroys your metabolism and what you can do about it.

The Nourished Metabolism

Are you stressed about eating perfectly? Learn how chronic stress destroys your metabolism and what you can do about it.This is a wonderfully comprehensive guide for learning how to improve your metabolic health with simple but powerful changes in your diet and lifestyle that will nourish your metabolism and bring it back to its optimal state–a state where things like insomnia, poor digestion, low body temperature, dull skin, and mood swings become the rarity instead of the everyday.

What I love about Elizabeth’s book is that it provides clear and useful information without trying to shove you into some sort of dietary box. She’s an advocate of doing what works for you, and helps you find your own way through the confusing world of nutrition. Check it out here.

What will you do to nourish your metabolism today? 

NOTE: Due to an never-ending cesspool of spam, I have made the tough decision to close comments 14 days after the original posting of all posts. If you have a burning question or are looking for support in your journey to healthy living, please join the Thank Your Body Friends facebook page here.

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About the author

Hi! I'm and I’m passionate about healthy living: feeling nourished, having energy, getting good sleep, and feeling strong. I believe healthy living does not have to be complicated or stressful. I’m a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) and a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA). I’m also an avid researcher and love to read about nutrition, the body, and toxic-free living. Learn more.

View all articles by Robin Konie


  1. Jodi

    So, I’ve thought a lot about this and I totally agree. Even your blog can cause me a lot of stress and I choose not to read it sometimes. My philosophy is simply do your best but don’t stress about it. Stress and guilt can be much worse for your physical health than any of the toxins you write about. I think everyone needs to decide for themselves what level is a good balance and where the stress starts and it will probably be different for everybody.

    1. Post author

      So true (and sorry for any stress my blog has caused!). It’s that fine balance between being informed and feeling trapped. I often taken little breaks from my favorite read to rebalance, listen to my body, and find what works for me. :)

  2. purelytwins

    read that book – great read!! we learned so much from it and focusing on healing our metabolism and enjoying life with no stress (well we less stress) :)

  3. Tamela

    I worry so much about GMO food that I think I make myself sick by choosing not to eat at all (which I do a lot) if I don’t believe I have any healthy options at the time. Thanks for the reminder to do what you can. I will leave the rest in God’s hands. :)

    1. Post author

      Yep. We can only control so much. Let’s enjoy life as much as possible while still pushing forward and choosing good. :)

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  5. Audrey

    I needed this reminder right now! I’ve been frustrated lately because even though we eat as healthy as we possibly can right now, I know there is still much more I could do/change for the better. That being said, I’ve been having digestive issues again and obvious mood swings lately. (bless my poor family). I know it’s stress, though pregnant, I can tell the difference. Thank you for the post!

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