Something I know many people struggle with is creating a balance of eating healthy without becoming obsessed. Without it becoming unhealthy.
In the past I could never relate to this – I’ve always eaten whatever I was craving and most times it was the nourishing types of foods. Then I would eat pizza when I was out with my friends. Thankfully, it’s still like this.
However, I did go through a season in my life, when eating healthy had become a bit confusing and honestly, draining. It was around 5 years ago when I really started learning more and more and more about “good foods” and “bad foods”. I never counted calories or macros or anything like that, but slowly it was becoming a thing.
Suddenly, there were all these videos on Youtube of models talking about “What I Eat In A Day”, drinking 3 smoothies and eating salads without oil. People talking about supplements, gut health and how you should avoid this and that to feel like a superhuman. And I’m not just talking pizza or burgers. I’m talking major food groups like fruits, grains, legumes or animal products.
On the other hand, I’d see crazy mind-numbing cheat days with millions of calories.
And then – the next thing – people who talk about how dieting turned into an unhealthy fixation that ruined their relationship with food.
I do have my own experience and a few thoughts on eating healthy and how to let it work for you, without it becoming an obsession. What you eat does matter, and don’t get me wrong – food is great, but it should not be the center of the universe.
How To Eat Healthy Without Becoming Obsessed
1. Know Your Motivation
When you have a deeper why behind why you’re eating healthy, I’m 99% sure you’ll be able to stay healthy without becoming obsessed.
Here’s my why. I want to eat healthy, because it makes me feel good. Because I have more energy during the day to run faster, to have fun, to play with my nephew and to be present around the people I love. I eat healthy, because it allows me to have the focus to work on the things I want in life. Things that are different than eating everything I want or being super lean and looking a certain way.
I know how I feel when I don’t eat healthy. I feel sluggish, distracted and like I want to take a nap. My head is foggy. And the fact that my jeans are too tight around my waist doesn’t help. I want to put on sweat pants and sit on my couch. But that’s not what I want out of life. It’s not the life I want.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting abs, but is it something that will make you want to eat a healthy nutritious salad? No.
Doing things because you have to achieve something, well let’s call it what it is – superficial, can easily wake up that voice of “That’s not enough…”. Thus leading to obsessing over unimportant things like whether you ate 10g more carbs (even if those were from lettuce!) today or not.
You might say, I want to look good, so I can be more confident. This is a deeper why, but confidence doesn’t come from looking a certain way.
It comes from within. It comes from taking the right actions and from staying true to yourself. Food has nothing to do with confidence. Having abs has nothing to do with confidence.
Decide what you want and don’t want in your life, and what you’ll be okay with, then make the everyday choices that will support that decision.
2. Bye, Guilt.
On the other hand, I know that the occasional slice of pizza (or three of those!) or a donut won’t kill me. Whenever I crave these foods, I have them and I’m fully comfortable with my choices.
It’s fully okay that I had those mini burgers, the cake, the macaroons, the chocolate covered fruit at my friend’s wedding. And that I drank champagne as if it was water that day (it’s quite sneaky!). It’s her wedding, I’m not going to eat this way every single day. What happens, happens.
I know for myself, whenever I start feeling even the slightest guilt around food, I start setting these crazy rules and I tend to overeat more and more. So whatever I do, I try to enjoy it, wholeheartedly and to not feel bad about it.
3. Understand What Your Body Is
Learn to appreciate and love your body for what it is: the reason you actually exist on this planet.
I think sometimes we forget that the body is not a doll that needs to look a certain way. That needs to be lean, curvy or skinny to be good enough.
Guess what? It’s already enough. It’s been enough to bring you right here right now. Your heart did not stop pumping blood, just because you decided to eat 500 less calories in a day. Your kidneys didn’t stop filtering blood and removing waste from your body, just because you had a pizza. Your body’s been there with you through all of your decisions, struggles and happy moments.
I wrote a blog post a while ago “7 ways to feel good in your body today“. And yes, I do get hits from Google that come with queries that may or may not make me feel like a sick pervert. But in that post I talked exactly about this – learning to appreciate your body for what it actually is.
The simple truth is – your body needs nutrients, happiness, rest, movement, air and love and you should aim for that. Not making it lean or manipulating it through diet, supplements or exercise.
4. Stop Playing By The Rules
Remember that those rules, and diet rules, are made by people. People like you and I. Not by some higher power, but by people.
Eating healthy has nothing to do with math. Who knows how many calories your body needs to sustain life? Calories aren’t everything in our food.
There are things in food that aren’t even mentioned in the nutritional breakdown. They aren’t even discovered and identified yet. Calories are not even half the story.
Eating healthy is about listening to the signals of your body. It should be a very natural process. You’re hungry – so you eat something that will satiate you. And you try to not eat past that point. There’s nothing natural about counting calories.
Life isn’t made to be lived only by rules created by people you don’t even know. Sure there is some information that is super useful (for example that vegans need B12), but other than that? Do you really need to count and overthink everything in your life? Do you really have the mental capacity, the time and energy to calculate every bite you put into your mouth?
Seriously, I think soon enough someone will come up with a strategy on how to poop better. You’re not doing it right! Oh, wait, they already did – here’s the blueprint.
Somehow over the last few years, everyone became an expert on nutrition and health. I get so many judgemental comments on Pinterest on one of my pins about anti-inflammatory foods. Somehow that pin shows the info for my tuna wraps. People would teach me how bread is inflammatory and eggs too and so this wrap will kill me.
I kinda roll my eyes every time I read a comment like this. 1st. Where is the proof these foods are inflammatory? 2nd. Read the article 3rd. I didn’t say you should make these wraps. I made them, because I’m not choosing to follow a strict anti-inflammatory diet every single day.
I’m okay with eating bread and cheese every now and then when I crave them. I’m fully aware that it does make me feel a little sluggish, but so do other things in life and I’m doing them too. I’m not perfect.
Right now I am eating gluten-free and dairy-free for a little bit, just to see how it will impact my body and other parts of my life. But I do have a very strong why here and I don’t feel deprived at the moment. If that changes – I’ll change it. For now, this dietary change works for me, I’m feeling better and I’m doing great.
Life’s not perfect. So do what works for you and don’t overcomplicate things.
If you decide you want to eat healthy and more nutrient-dense foods, here’s what you can be eating:
- vegetables – all colors – green, red, orange, yellow
- fruit – again all colors
- protein – fish, poultry, legumes
- seeds – flaxseeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds
- nuts – walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts
- herbs and spices
- whole grains
That’s it. Don’t ask me which brand. Don’t ask me how many carbs. Make sure to get a combination of these foods most days. That’s the best way to ensure you’re satiated and that your body gets enough nutrients to fulfill its functions.
And if you do add the occasional treat without overstuffing yourself every night, that would be okay. Don’t ask me how many % those should be.
How To Make More Nutritious Choices And Listen To Your Body
So I said and I hear it everywhere: listen to your body. But if we’re honest here, the body can sometimes be a bit confused. You can’t tell someone who’s 100 pounds overweight – just listen to your body it will tell you what to do. If that would’ve been the case, millions of people around the world wouldn’t be overweight and unhappy with it.
So here are a few, really quick and simple things you can do to help you make more nourishing choices without tracking EVERYTHING in your phone or bullet journal aka how to actually listen to your body:
- Make water your drink of choice and have it throughout the day. This simple habit will change so much – your energy levels, your cravings and your skin! Trying to cure thirst with food is actually a thing! Dehydration has its way of making us crave foods our body didn’t actually ask for, so when in doubt – drink water first and have it between meals.
- Chew your food. Some sources say you should chew your food until liquid, which might be between 20 and 30 times. This will help with digestion and satiety. Also, I read somewhere that food that makes you addicted, for example cheetos, are designed to melt, or disappear in your mouth super quickly, thus leaving you wanting more. Focus on foods that taste good when chewed more than 5 times. Here’s a little fun experiment to try: Chew on a grape and then on a cupcake for 20 times and see which one tastes better.
- Make rest a priority! Finally, enough sleep, stress relief and the one or the other 10-minute yoga session in the morning instead of intense exercise can help you listen to your body better. Nobody can make the best decisions when they’re sleep-deprived, overexercised and overwhelmed with stress, and yes – that includes food choices too.
So that was my little rant and I don’t know if it was helpful, it’s a bit all over the place, but I was on a walk and these thoughts popped into my head and made me kinda mad. I don’t like being mad, so I just had to let it out and I hope it didn’t make you mad, I hope it helped, at least some of you.