How I Approach Eating
I am so passionate about this for a number of reasons. The main one being that I struggled with food issues for YEARS and starting at a very young age.
I was brainwashed into thinking that I had to diet, or else I would be fat... I tried EVERY single diet out there in an unhealthy obsessive way and I’m not even exaggerating — I tried the South Beach Diet, The Atkins Diet, The Alkaline Diet, The Keto Diet, The Raw Foods Diet, and just about any other diet phenomenon I could get my hands on all before I could even drive.
I was still unhappy with my body at the end of each of my experiments and after the die hard commitments I had made to each of these diets, all the while torturing myself over measuring out exactly 1/4 cup of nuts or 1 teaspoon of olive oil. I couldn’t wait for a “cheat day” or the day I could finally “graduate” from the diet I was currently on because I had followed it to a T for an extended period of time. It was a love-hate relationship because when I would go off a diet for a day or two, I would panic, and then immediately get back on it or find a new one to devote my life to.
I absolutely had an unhealthy obsession with food and dieting and I honestly didn’t think there was ever a way out. I thought that once I had inherited these tendencies I would NEVER be able to just live a normal life again and eat without these obsessive tendencies.
To my surprise, I broke out of my disordered thinking when I finally embraced a new way of thinking! I still can’t believe it today — if only you knew the girl that was so meticulous and calculated over every single bite, you would not recognize her today. I drove myself crazy for so long and I am so relieved to be out of that space.
With my new mindset, I never hated myself again for eating that piece of bread at dinner, I never hated myself for actually indulging in the pancakes I really wanted to be eating for breakfast, I never ate a piece of plain chicken breast with steamed broccoli out of sheer obligation ever again. Now, I honestly eat WHATEVER it is that I want and this is the kicker — I love my body more than I ever did when I was on my strict diets. How does that even work? I didn’t say that I’m careless and then magically have a body that I’m proud of — that’s not it at all. I am thoughtful, practical, and use my intuition to guide my eating habits now and do so all standing on my own two feet — without any directions or measurements given to me from an outside source. Like I said, I NEVER thought I would be able to live without that crutch so it is huge for me to finally be able to make all my own choices and to do so confidently.
Eating is more fun now and I feel so liberated that I can make my own food choices. This may sound a bit odd since I was “choosing” to follow those diets before, but only because I felt like I “had” to and I didn’t know how to live otherwise. I thought for so long that following a strict diet and liking your body went hand in hand and there was absolutely no way to have one without the other. I want to tell you that you can still love your figure without dieting.
You’re probably wondering what actionable steps or methods I follow now when it comes to eating, because like I said, it’s not a free for all and we do not live in some alternate universe where you can eat cake for every meal and still be fit and healthy. I have a set of thoughtful guidelines and a philosophy that guides me to make the best choices when it comes to eating.
I’ve written out each of the guiding principles that shape my eating habits and my relationship with food now. This is far from a diet and far from any advice I ever received in the dozens of diet books I’ve read in my lifetime. Think of these as tools to achieve the body you want with the freedom to make your own choices.
If I know I’m going to want to indulge in something later, I’ll make smarter choices in the moment to balance everything out. Let me give you an example. If I plan on having dessert at a restaurant, I’ll choose something lighter for my entree to balance out my indulgence. If I woke up and chose to have pancakes, then I won’t have a muffin in the middle of the day. If you drink alcohol, then maybe forgo dessert. If you’re not a breakfast person and choose to skip it, then you can afford to have a heartier lunch. You get the gist? Everything is about balance. Like I mentioned earlier, eating a slice of cake at every meal is not balanced, BUT eating a slice of cake is perfectly acceptable if you counter it out with your other choices. It’s really quite simple and you know in your gut the right way to balance out your choices.
EATING OUT OF OBLIGATION
A gripe I have with diets is that they instruct you to eat at specific times, intervals, and amounts that can actually encourage you to eat more (or less) than you want or need to. I usually don’t eat a midmorning snack or an afternoon snack, and a diet telling me to do so is forcing me to consume more calories than I would even like — Or, somedays I’m not in the mood for a whole lunch, but a diet telling me to eat a full portion of carbs and protein at that time would be putting unnecessary food in my body that I don’t in fact need.
Consequently, this concept also applies to being deprived of food. If you have had a lot going on or your body is undergoing some physiological process where you are craving more calories and a diet prescribes you to just eat a light salad or some egg whites, you are not serving your body’s actual needs in that moment. Listen to your body. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. If you are hungry, then eat. It is almost so simple that we forget this obvious way of living. Which leads me to my next point about intuitive eating...
INTUITIVE EATING/FOLLOW YOUR BLISS
Eat what you’re craving. If you’re eating a bland salad or plain piece of lean protein that you loathe, you’re really not ever becoming satisfied. The purpose of food is to enjoy it, not be miserable. This is one of the main reasons diets don’t work — there is absolutely no way they can be permanent since they are so restrictive and therefore unsustainable. If I want a muffin for lunch, I’m going to eat that muffin and I probably won’t be hungry until much later. I don’t know about you, but eating a piece of chicken with veggies for lunch makes me unsatisfied and I’ll probably spend the whole afternoon searching for that satisfaction elsewhere and end up eating more than if I had just had what I really wanted in the first place. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
TASTE EVERYTHING, EAT NOTHING
Calm down, it’s just an expression and doesn’t mean I don’t eat, it just means that nothing is off limits. I will taste, indulge in, and enjoy everything I want, I just won’t overdo it. If I want that bread at dinner, I’ll have it — but I don’t need to finish the whole thing. If I’d like to try that pasta, I’ll have a few bites. If I want some toast, maybe I’ll try having just one piece of bread instead of two. Something I’ve realized — An entire bowl of healthy, whole wheat pasta with grilled veggies and light oil has MORE calories than if you had a few bites of that rich, hearty authentic pasta dish you actually would have PREFERRED to eat. Just don’t lick the bowl clean, and you’ll be fine! I love to dabble in a medley of things when I’m out to eat and trying a little bit of everything actually provides a more rich dining experience anyway. There is no reason to order the most boring thing on the menu because you want to have a good body. Get what you want, just know when to call it quits and move on (which coincides with my next principle).
POINT OF DIMINISHING RETURN
This concept changed my food habits DRAMATICALLY. The point of diminishing return describes how things just don’t taste as good as you continue to eat them in that sitting. Nothing about the dish has changed, but after the first few bites you really aren’t experiencing or tasting that food the same way you were when you initially picked it up. Why would you continue to eat something if you’re not really savoring it anymore? I remember reading an article published in a medical journal that said after your first 3 bites of something, the sensation actually decreases. Science! Be mindful when you are putting stuff in your mouth, if you are just shoveling it in there mindlessly without being present, you are going to overeat. Check in with yourself and ask, am I really still enjoying this? You will surprise yourself and realize that most of the time you are just eating out of habit.
IT'S ALL ON YOU
When you follow a diet, you sometimes rely on it too much to do all the work and are waiting for some “magic” to take place. It’s like relying on that one kid in the group project to do everything while you don’t contribute any blood, sweat, and tears of your own. You show up to the meetings but there is no sense of ownership in what’s going on. In this way, when the diet fails, or you decide it’s not working out, you can blame it on them and wipe your hands clean of any responsibility. Owning the fact that you, and only you, are responsible for what you put in your body and your resulting figure shifts the “blame” on you and shapes you to make better choices.
To continue my analogy, if the group part of the assignment is taken away and you are tasked to deliver a presentation all on your own, you’re going to put a heck of a lot more effort and care into it when you know its all up to you. When you’re eating as an independent (not following someone else’s diet plan), you know the responsibility is all on you. If you don’t like how you look, then you know it's on you to make better choices. The reverse is also true and extremely empowering when you do like the way you look — you know that YOU did that and therefore have the confidence to continue making good choices for yourself.
This is the best advice I could ever give anyone about how to eat. Living this way has worked better than any diet out there and has also helped me break free from my disordered eating habits. Whether you have dealt with food issues in the past or not, these principles can help anyone unlock the body they want without all the obsessing and restrictive rules. If you are being honest with yourself and real about what your body needs, then there is no way you won’t see physical results — the bonus is an improved mental outlook on your relationship with food, no more stressing!