A long time ago I made the choice to shift my focus on what I should include more of in my diet instead of what to limit. Interested in joining me?
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, are you someone who dreams up big ticket goals only to see them slowly fade in the distance soon after? Most of us can certainly relate. I consider myself a serial goal setter and it wasn’t until recently that I really learned how to be effective with the whole process. Not following through with New Year’s goals and resolutions doesn’t mean you’re a failure either. Somewhere in the ball park of just 9% of people fully follow through with resolutions set at the beginning of the year. And by the way, it’s probably not you, it’s the goals.
Eating healthier is always near the top of the list when it comes to the most popular resolutions but the internet creates confusion around what exactly that means. We all know that at least one new food or food group will be proclaimed “toxic” this year and there will surely be a documentary to scare you into thinking you should abide by some newly coined rules, at the risk of facing some nasty consequences. (p.s. documentaries are not usually a reliable medium for health advice).
In recent memory alone I’ve read about the dangers of fat, carbohydrates, sugar, gluten, grains, meat, nightshade vegetables, milk, beans, soy, peanuts, eggs, bananas, fruit in general, sparkling water, tap water, bottled water, deli meat, fish, butter, vegetable oil, and coconut oil among many others. At least one of your favorite foods will be on the “no” list at some point. Please don’t take my coffee - anything but coffee! Just kidding.
The good news is, this really doesn’t have to be all that complicated. Sure, it can be hard not to get swept up into the world of wellness extremes because no one wants to miss out on what could be the next big thing, especially in the social media-driven world we live in.
What if there was an alternative to restriction that felt positive, un-complicated and sustainable?
Instead of putting energy into what not to eat, I much prefer the goal of eating more. And by this, I mean:
More new foods so you get a variety of nutrients, flavors & textures; and
More creative preparation methods so you can learn to make health-promoting food taste amazing while learning to easily incorporate said food into your normal routine.
In my experience, simple mindset shifts can have a huge payoff when it comes to health improvement! And better yet, this is a totally reasonable goal. Most of my clients don’t need to make any radical dietary changes or to stop eating gluten, they need to learn how to objectively evaluate food and make informed decisions about what best meets a need based on the situation.
It’s important to remember that food is not the enemy, it’s essential for fueling the lifestyle you want. If any of this rings true for you, it might seem unattainable now, but it is possible and the benefits are worth the effort.
How Do I Even Start this Process?
The first thing you can do is consider making some minor shifts in the language you use around food. For example:
Instead of “this is high in calories”, try “this will satisfy me for a while”
Instead of “this dessert is so unhealthy”, try “this is really rich & indulgent”
Instead of “fruit is high in sugar”, try “the carbohydrates in fruit give me energy”
This is a powerful step in learning to make appropriate choices whether they’re based on nutrition, pleasure, social connection, or some combination of the three.
For the sake of mental health, using a “more, not less” approach can even be (dare I say) fun. Challenging yourself to include more variety (rather than arbitrarily eliminating something) can be liberating and free up a lot of space to focus on other things, like learning a new hobby or embracing forms of movement that you actually enjoy.
Remember that health is not determined by one food, meal or even day of eating. It’s the patterns that we create over long periods of time that truly make an impact. If you can find a way to blend science-based nutrition information with a healthy mindset around food, I would consider that a win.
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