By Dr. Charlotte Markey

Don’t eat carbs.  Avoid sugar.  Watch your calories.  Count macros.  Skip foods high in fat.

There are a million “food rules” –including all of the above — that you may be familiar with.  However, if you follow all of them, you’ll soon come to realize that you’re left with nothing to eat!

All of these food rules offer an oversimplified approach to eating by suggesting that you limit, avoid, or entirely cut certain foods out of your diet.  However, all of these food rules are wrong.

Nourishing your body is one of the most important tasks you must complete each and every day.  Your goal is to physically nourish your body – provide your body with nutrients that will literally fuel all of your bodily functions, from breathing to running.  You should also consider the importance of psychologically nourishing your body.  What I mean by this is that food offers more than nutrients. It offers pleasure, comfort, and an excuse to gather with other people.  These are important sources of psychological nourishment.

But, back to the literal nourishment that is derived from food.  What are you supposed to eat?

It is important to eat a variety of foods so that you get the nutrients – including the vitamins and minerals — that you need.  Below I’ll discuss some of the nutrients that seem to be most poorly understood by people.

Carbohydrates (e.g., breads, pastas) and fats (e.g., oils, butter) have both gotten a bad rap, but both are necessary if you want your body to function optimally.  You need the energy that you get almost immediately from carbohydrates and the energy that you get from fats that is available for days. Sometimes, you may want to try to eat whole grain breads and olive oil, options that may offer more health benefits than white bread or vegetable oil, but you should make room in your diet for all sorts of carbohydrates and fats that you enjoy.  After all, who wants to live without fresh bread slathered in butter?

It is important to eat some foods that contain protein (e.g., meat, beans) because not only are these foods likely to keep you feeling full, they also help your muscles, bones, and even skin to grow.  Luckily, most people eat enough protein without trying.  In fact, even though protein powders and supplements are popular, most people will not benefit from them at all!  If you’re already getting the protein you need from food (and you probably are), your body doesn’t benefit from “extra” protein.

Sugar, and especially sugary sweets, are sometimes viewed as unnecessary — treats that should be skipped.  However, sugar is in so many of the foods we eat! It often appears as dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, or fruit juice concentrate and you definitely don’t need to avoid all of these sugars, sugar substitutes, and sugar derivatives.  I can’t recommend that you just eat sugar from the bag by the spoonful, but I do think it is important not to demonize sugar.  Sugar helps to make foods delicious!

The bottom line is that nourishing your body requires you to eat a variety of foods that you enjoy. And, be sure that you question the media messages you see about carbohydrates, fat, protein, sugar – and all nutrients – because many of them are not scientifically accurate.

For more information about nutrition basics, pick up a copy of The Body Image Book for Girls or look out for Being You: The Body Image Book for Boys, which will be available in 2022.


Dr. Charlotte Markey. Psychologist, professor and scientist, Dr. Markey has been a leading body image expert for more than two decades. Now, Dr. Markey applies her academic research, her findings after interviewing hundreds of girls, and her practical experience as mother of a teen to a new, evidence-based yet easy-to-read book for girls ages 9yrs -15yrs. THE BODY IMAGE BOOK FOR GIRLS: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless