Are Instagram Abs Really Everything They Seem?

Last week I put a post out on Instagram about the wellness community online. With the limited words in the caption I thought I’d expand on my message in a full blow post.

It’s no secret that the wellness community on Instagram is pretty large with over 29 million posts associated with #wellness there’s definitely some content which we should be aware of. Over the past 7-8 years of Instagram’s real growth we’ve seen a change in the messages which are being put out by the online wellness gurus. Initially the messaging was all surrounding #cleaneating and the competition to #eatclean was rife. Although since the more body positivity movement has begun we’ve seen a backlash towards all those #cleaneaters. We must note that many of these body positivity activists were those eating #clean diets.


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Moving this Instagram story onwards, in more recent months/ years I’ve began to notice that the drive for washboard abs remains high whilst at the same time the messaging around food is becoming more and more relaxed. So what’s actually happening? Many of these ‘ab goals’ fitness influencers are striving for perfection whilst ensuring that their drive to do so is looking as effortless as possible. Even more than this it almost appears that there’s somewhat of a competition as to who can eat the most pizzas, scoops of ice cream or put away a larger pancake stack than the next #influencer. The latest trend of ‘what I eat in a day’, can be seen as de-motivating, unrealistic and unachievable as we watch doughnut after doughnut being chopped down and swallowed into the abyss of a 6-pack.

So what’s this #eatingforabs all about? Can you really be consuming all this food and still stay as lean as these insta models? For the most part, achieving abs is incredibly difficult (particularly for females) and when they are ‘achieved’ (note I use the term loosely) more often than not they’re made visible by a very low body fat % which is often generated through a diet or restriction, low energy and meticulous planning. So why is it different for those we see on Instagram? In a few rare cases genetics can play a role in having a very lean body type although for many we have to remember that Instagram is only as good as the artist. You can paint a picture online of the image you want to give off. It’s important to consider that sometimes this food might not actually be being eaten, some might have disordered behaviours following their food consumption and others might be spending hours a day in the gym.

Whilst this post isn’t here to knock those with lean physiques I just want to highlight that sometimes it’s not all as effortless and realistic as it may seem. These messages can be damaging and I urge you all to never follow someone else’s diet as we’re all so different and their diet may not be all that they say it really is. Remember: you’re worth more.

The Nordic Diet - Everything You Need To Know

You’ve likely heard about the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet and whilst it’s been labelled as one of the healthiest diets out there but there’s always something else on the side lines waiting to steal the thunder. This time it’s the Nordic Diet which everyone’s talking about. It’s not difficult to work out the Nordic diet is one which is consumed by those who live in Nordic countries. What is this diet and why is it trying to steal the light of the ever so great med diet? Well actually, the Nordic diet is not too dissimilar from the Mediterranean diet. It promotes a generous consumption of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole-grains, nuts, seeds, fish, low-fat dairy, rapeseed oil, herbs and spices, a moderate consumption of cheese, eggs, poultry and a limited consumption of red meat and animal fats. The Nordic diet also advises against consuming highly processed meats and fast food and sugar sweetened beverages. You’re likely thinking that this appears very similar to the well-known Mediterranean diet and you’re not wrong. Although the Nordic diet places a larger emphasis on consuming more plant rich foods and ensuring a larger percentage of your diet comes from plant based foods.  

So when it comes to the health benefits, what do you need to know?

-          Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. One large scale study conducted on over 57K Danish participants showed an inverse relationship between the Nordic diet and type 2 diabetes following a 15 year period. These findings were compared to that of an average Danish diet. Another study looked at the benefits of the Mediterranean diet over the Nordic diet on the risk of type 2 diabetes and found no significant differences (both were shown to have beneficial effects).

-          Reduced risk of stroke. Research shows a strong association between the Nordic diet and a reduction in risk of stroke. Remember though that whilst these effects are promising, diet alone is not protective against diseases as there are hundreds of other uncontrollable factors involved.

-          Weight management. The diet has been associated with a reduction in weight when compared to a Danish diet over a period of 6 months. Although other research suggests that over a period of 1 year the diet is not superior and those following the Nordic diet are likely to gain the weight back if the diet is not continued.

-          High diet quality. Due to the nature of the diet you’re less likely to be at risk of deficiency and research has shown the Nordic diet to be of a higher nutrient quality than the average Danish diet.

-          Environmental benefits. As the diet is based heavily around consuming more fruits, vegetables and plant-based foods the environmental impact of the diet is significantly reduced. This may be one of the key reasons why this style of eating has been gaining more traction recently. The diet has also been shown to be higher in fibre and lower in saturated fats.

So what can you take away from this?

Both the Nordic and the Mediterranean diets have been shown to have beneficial effects on heart health, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and overall improved weight management although the Nordic diet might be slightly more environmentally friendly. Ultimately as you probably know by now that there is no one size fits all so it’s important to eat in a way which makes you feel happy and great about yourself. Yep, this may be different to your sister, brother, neighbour or best friend but that’s what makes us all unique.

Galbete, C., Kröger, J., Jannasch, F., Iqbal, K., Schwingshackl, L., Schwedhelm, C., ... & Schulze, M. B. (2018). Nordic diet, Mediterranean diet, and the risk of chronic diseases: the EPIC-Potsdam study. BMC medicine16(1), 99.

Kanerva, N., Harald, K., Männistö, S., Kaartinen, N. E., Maukonen, M., Haukkala, A., & Jousilahti, P. (2018). Adherence to the healthy Nordic diet is associated with weight change during 7 years of follow-up. British Journal of Nutrition120(1), 101-110.

Gunge, V. B., Andersen, I., Kyrø, C., Hansen, C. P., Dahm, C. C., Christensen, J., ... & Olsen, A. (2017). Adherence to a healthy Nordic food index and risk of myocardial infarction in middle-aged Danes: the diet, cancer and health cohort study. European journal of clinical nutrition71(5), 652.

Poulsen, S. K., Crone, C., Astrup, A., & Larsen, T. M. (2015). Long-term adherence to the New Nordic Diet and the effects on body weight, anthropometry and blood pressure: a 12-month follow-up study. European journal of nutrition54(1), 67-76.

Poulsen, S. K., Due, A., Jordy, A. B., Kiens, B., Stark, K. D., Stender, S., ... & Larsen, T. M. (2013). Health effect of the New Nordic Diet in adults with increased waist circumference: a 6-mo randomized controlled trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 99(1),

5 Reasons Why You Should Be Eating More Greens

You may have heard of green veg as the ‘powerhouses’ of vegetables. Well without taking too much of your time this week here are 5 reasons why you should be eating more greens (not the skittle variety). We’re talking spinach, kale, broccoli, beans, asparagus and peas to name a few!

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  1. Iron - these vegetables are a great source of plant based iron which is vital for transporting oxygen around the body. Optimise the amount of iron your body can absorb and utilise by adding a source of vitamin C. E.g. squeeze lemon juice on your cooked greens.

  2. Vitamin K - this is a nutrient which isn’t spoken about very much. Essentially vitamin K is vital for blood clotting and regulating calcium levels to support bone health.

  3. Folate - aka B9. Folate is vital (particularly in pregnant women or those looking to conceive). It plays a role in protecting against neural tube defects e.g. spina bifida and in the production of RNA and DNA .

  4. Fibre - I’ve said it many a times but fibre is absolutely vital for supporting your gut health which we now know is linked to mental wellbeing, weight management, skin health, energy and so much more. Supporting your gut is vital to help optimise nutrient absorption so try and ensure you’re getting your 30g.day.

  5. Calcium - these green veg are a source of plant based calcium (as are tofu, nuts, seeds and fortified milks). Calcium is vital for maintaining healthy bones and teeth as well as supporting muscle and nerve function.

There you have a few #smartpointers to encourage you eat more greens. Try adding one portion to every meal!