In my experience, people who want to lose weight tend to go one of two ways with their nutrition.
A) Analyze every gram of x, y, z that goes in their mouth. “How many carbs was that?”
B) Adopt some kind of fad diet, usually whatever has been trending in the gym or in magazines.
I feel that neither of these methods is a good route to a healthy relationship with food and can either result in disordered eating or cause disappointment when we eventually cannot maintain our results.
People at my work find it quite amusing to see what I will eat next. Sometimes it’s raw cucumbers and carrots, and sometimes it is a pint of halo top ice cream or a breakfast Kolache. I still stay lean because the *majority* of the time I make healthy decisions.
So then you may be wondering, “what SHOULD I be doing?” You aren’t alone. Healthy eating is such a common topic that I procrastinated almost a year writing this post. I feel that general guidelines are better than hard and fast rules. This gives us flexibility and accounts for human needs and life.
Here are my general guidelines to eating. Take whatever works for you and leave the rest.
- We are all our own worst critics – don’t beat yourself
- You are not defined by your weight, your food choices or your diet. If you decide to enjoy a piece of cake, try to not beat yourself up over it. When we barate ourselves for the food we eat, it gets rid of the enjoyment and can cause a cycle of stress eating.
- Eat real food the majority of the time
- If something doesn’t rot or takes a suspiciously long time… its probably not food.
- The ingredients that are preventing nature from breaking preservatives down often keep your body from absorbing nutrients. Tried and true food preservation methods (canning, dehydrating, pickling) provide a better quality food than semi hydrogenated oils.
- Eat at home the majority of the time
- Even a salad at a restaurant has more fat/salt/sugar and ultimately calories than if you made it at home. Thats not to say “don’t go out.” Because nutrition isn’t your only goal right? Socialization for example is a perfectly valid reason to go out to eat. If your goal for a particular meal is to fuel your body, skip the take out and make your food.
- Ask yourself “what is this providing me?”
- Again, socialization/time with friends is a valid reason. So is taste. Are you craving the taste of a particular dish? Thats ok.
- If your meal is to fuel your body, then the goal is nutrients. How well is your food doing that? A white castle burger is going to provide some protein, so will egg whites. But the QUALITY of protein is going to be a lot better with the eggs.
- Minimize drinking your calories
- Drinks can have a ton of calories in them without providing much to keep you feeling full. There’s benefit in having foods that take time to break down because it takes longer before you start feeling hungry. If you are drinking high calorie drinks (in general) you will be hungry more often and will tend to eat above your energy needs.
- Only eat when you are hungry
- A lot of my generation grew up being guilted for not clearing their plate. “There are kids starving in Africa.” Without tackling the social and ethnocentric implications of these statements, this has led to the unhealthy habit of eating everything we are served. We will do this even when we’re not hungry. Restaurant portions are 2 to 3 times larger than recommended portions which can cause extra problems when dining out.
- Take breaks and enjoy your food
- This works in with number 6. Eat slowly so that your stomach can realize it is full. Experience your food. And then stop when you are full.
- Food is fuel (most of the time)
I don’t claim to be a dietician or life coach. The above are guidelines that I have developed which (mostly) keep me from being too neurotic about what I eat. The first point was very intentional. The biggest thing I have tried to incorporate over the years is that guilt, particularly over what you eat, is a toxic emotion. You are more important than a number on a scale. I hope you find this helpful. If you have anything that particularly works for you, please message me or leave it in the comments.