What is Healthy Eating?
Gluten free, wheat free, sugar free, low fat, low carbohydrate, whole foods, juices, paleo, 5:2, blood type, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig. What’s best? What works? What doesn’t? What is best for me? What can I stick to? How do we know?
So much information, so many opinions and so much confusion. Every time we turn on the radio or the tv, open a newspaper or magazine there is another article or ad telling us of the latest miracle cure that will lead us to good health and weight loss. Who and what do we believe?
The truth is that there can be healthy aspects to most diets. But, and it is a big but, it has to be right for you. Can you see yourself eating this way for the rest of your life without feeling like you are missing out on something? Because that is the problem with most diets – you have to cut out particular foods or food groups or you have to weigh and measure everything. It is usual to feel restricted on these diets. A question I often ask is: Would you want your children eating this way?
It can feel really good to begin with. You are in control, you feel healthier, you may have lost some weight. This is the one, this is the diet to end all diets. You may feel quite smug. But it doesn’t usually last. You start craving those forbidden foods, you’re not feeling so self-satisfied anymore, it’s starting to feel like hard work. You’re not getting the results you did when you started. In fact you’re feeling a little disheartened and surely it would be alright to have some chocolate, surely a few carbs won’t make that much difference. You can always do better tomorrow.
And when it doesn’t work. Whose fault is it? How do you feel? Like you’ve let yourself down? A failure even? Guilty for eating foods you weren’t supposed to? Self-esteem lower than when you started because you didn’t have the self-control and will power to be a success?
The problem with diets is that they focus on the what. What you should be eating and definitely what you shouldn’t. They don’t help to change your habits.
In fact they usually encourage worse habits. How do you eat those forbidden foods? Guiltily? Quickly to get rid of them so you don’t need to think about them anymore? Or before someone catches you? Do you restrict them? Don’t allow them in the house. Can’t trust yourself to have them in the cupboard without eating it all?
Do you ignore when you are hungry? It can’t be good to need to eat too much surely. I should be able to make it through the afternoon till dinner time without needing to eat. I only just had breakfast why do I feel hungry already? I will make myself wait. I can teach myself to not need to eat so much. It’s good to feel hungry, it means I’m not eating too much. Surely that’s a good thing?
The truth is that your body is your best guide to knowing what and how much you should eat. Just like we listen and respond to feelings of hot and cold, needing to sleep and needing to go to the toilet our body tells us when we are hungry and when we are full. Our body tells us what foods will really satisfy us at this particular meal.
We are all born with this innate ability. Young children are really good at knowing when they are hungry and when they are full. As we grow external messages from family, friends and the media can start to drown out our body’s signals.
I help people to relearn what those signals feel like and to learn how to respond. How to be their own kind of healthy.
Healthy eating is:
- Knowing what you feel like eating and responding to that.
- Taking pleasure in your food.
- Knowing when you are hungry, knowing when you are full and responding to that.
- Making yourself important enough to plan and prepare the meals and food you want.
- Making time to eat.
- Enjoying a wide variety of foods.
- Eating without rules.
- Trusting yourself.
- Different for different people.
Healthy eating is a lot of things but it isn’t dieting.