Last week I shared an introduction to the series RE-Defining “Healthy”. I mentioned that, over the years, I have formed a set of principles that guide the way I think about the food that goes into my body. So many diet books, nutrition influencers and marketing campaigns seemed to me to be completely unattainable, and not rooted in science. I also didn’t understand why there was so much fabricated controversy around nutrition, when the core tenants of eating well are completely uncontroversial. The resulting principles, or self recommendations, were formed out of my many failed, successful and OCD attempts to reconcile my love of food with my desire to be a ‘perfect’ eater. Even if you do not share my neuroticism for life, I believe these are still 100% applicable to your life.
I have retroactively organized these principles into three steps: changing our perception about food; understanding what our bodies need; and making it work for us. I am sharing the first step below.
Before I begin my list, I will caveat that I do not own the credentials to tell you to eat this or that or the expertise to navigate the complex emotional issues that can be tied to food. I am only speaking from my experience and the experiences of those around me.
- Changing perception
- Remove ALL guilt from your relationship with food— The worst way you can react to an evening of over-the-top eating is by feeling guilty. It is already done. There isn’t anything you can do about it. And guess what? There are worst things! Use that negative energy to fuel positive choices at your next meal.
- Remove classifications of “bad” and “good” from foods—This is a core tenant of battling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and is completely relevant to the way we relate to food. Yes, a donut may not have the nutritional value of an egg, but calling it “bad” only leads to the type of black and white, skewed perceptions that suffocate the freedom of enjoying food.
- Think about the way you feel before, during and after you eat – Anyone ever heard of mindful eating? The practice involves examining your thoughts and physical state before, during and after you eat. Our bodies are designed to crave food when we need nutrients, but we can often get these signals confused with emotional and other physical triggers. Taking the time to mindfully consider these triggers makes you more sensitive and in-tune with what you need!
- View food as an opportunity — Science overwhelmingly supports the efficacy of a healthy diet for reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as Heart Disease or Diabetes. This may be the public health dork in me coming out, but isn’t it amazing that we can make choices every day that are scientifically-proven to reduce the risk of chronic disease later in life? So often we see “healthy” eating as restrictive, but in reality it is a huge opportunity!
Stay tuned for more…understanding what our bodies need is next!