Are you constantly worrying about nutrition? Did you know that the anxiety of making sure you are eating the healthiest foods is another form of stress?
Nowadays it’s understandable how you can feel some level of anxiety when it comes to making healthy food choices. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to eat healthy foods, but if eating healthy means being rigid and obsessive about what to eat. Taking away the joy and satisfaction of eating, then this is not true healthy eating anymore. Considering nutrition when you make your choices about food should not be stressful. It’s just about tuning into what you want and need while also considering basic nutrition.
When you start to Honour Your Health with Gentle Nutrition, here are a few guidelines for you to consider.
Eat a variety of foods. If you have been a dieter, you will have been used to cutting out foods and probably have a narrow selection of foods to choose from. If you are only eating around 10-15 different types of foods on a regular basis, this could mean that you try a new fruit or vegetable every week or try a different type of meat. This will build up variety in your diet over time.
Eat moderate amounts of food. In Intuitive Eating, there is no specific portion sizes. Moderate simply means, not too much and not too little, of any food. And you can sense this by tuning into your hunger/fullness and food satisfaction cues. And some days you may want or need more of a certain food and other days you may be satisfied with less. The more you’re in tune with your body, and the more you give yourself permission to eat all foods, you will find it easier to eat foods in moderate amounts, naturally avoiding the extremes of restricting or bingeing.
Eat a balance of foods over time. Your body is smart and can handle these fluctuations in nutrients, so you do not have to stress and have a perfect balance of all the food groups on your plate at every meal or snack time. Maybe one day you felt like eating more carbohydrates and the next day you ate more fat. Or maybe one day you ate lots of veggies and the next you did not eat any. Balance is not about perfection- it’s about what you’re eating on average, over a period of time.
Consider the taste of food. Healthy eating does not have to be plain chicken breast and steamed broccoli. Delicious food does not have to be only desserts and comfort foods. If you want to eat more veggies, but only have memories of steamed broccoli, then experiment with other ways to eat vegetables. Try vegetables grilled, sautéed or maybe “hidden” in a lasagna or eaten with a sauce. Healthy food can be tasty and enjoyable. It may just take a bit of trial and error to find what you enjoy, but do not give up. It takes a few exposures to new foods to find out if you like them or not.
Consider the quality of food. Quality of food is important. It can make a difference to your health and how you feel, but it should not be turned into obsessive or guilt-ridden rules. Please don’t turn the suggestions ridged rules when making food choices:
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. They are high in fibre and nutrients but are often considered “diet” foods. If you have trouble finding joy in eating fruits and vegetables, maybe try different kinds or different ways of preparing them that would be tasty to you.
Eat enough complex carbohydrates. Foods like whole grains, potatoes, squash, rice, and bread. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, and additionally complex carbohydrates contain fibre, vitamins and minerals. And this doesn’t mean you can never eat a refined carbohydrate again.
Eat enough protein. Foods like poultry, red meat, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, tofu, beans and legumes. Proteins are the essential building blocks of the body, important for your bones, nails, hair, muscle tissue, hormones, and enzymatic processes, to name a few. Nowadays protein had become a diet food to help preserve lean muscle tissue while losing weight and keeps you fuller longer after meals. These things are true, but don’t think you have to eat loads of protein every meal to be healthy. Again, choose protein sources you like to eat and eat enough of it throughout your day.
Eat enough fat. Foods like fatty fish, avocados, nuts and seeds, cream, butter, coconut oil, and olive oil. Fat is an essential nutrient, important to absorb certain vitamins, produce hormones, as well as provide another fuel source for the body. Fat also makes meals tastier and more satisfying.
Drink enough water. Water is an essential nutrient. Choose plain water or tea as your main fluid sources and minimize sugary drinks.
In general, choosing higher quality, more nutrient-dense foods more of the time, will probably give you more energy and longer lasting satiety throughout your day. But there is still room for what Intuitive Eating calls play foods.
Intuitive Eaters may eat some play foods every day, weekly, or monthly. There are no rules about how much you “should” or “shouldn’t” eat. Play foods are highly refined or processed foods, such as cakes, fried foods, fast food, chips, chocolate, ice cream and lollies. The reasons we call them “play foods” and not “junk food” is because “junk food” implies that these foods are “bad” . But these foods do have an important role in healthy eating. Consider this; If eating a piece of cake gives you pleasure and satisfaction in that moment, without any guilt or anxiety, then it’s OK to eat it even if it doesn’t have a high nutrition value. Once you’ve been through the process of giving yourself permission to eat all foods, play foods just become another food. Ones you can enjoy- not restrict or binge on.
We really hope you’ve enjoyed this series of the Intuitive Eating Principles. Ged & I have gone through the principles throughout our own recovery from rigid dieting behaviours. We have found food freedom and we hope to give our gift to you. So, know you are not alone and you don’t have to stay stuck and unhappy. It is totally possible to live your life without obsessing over food and your body.
If you resonated with any of these posts, please read the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It is a small investment for the benefits you can get from reading it and you too can start to view the world in a different way.
If you feel you need some extra help and support in practicing these principles you can book a consult with Sunny Nutrition and Dietetics.
Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2012) Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press
**Disclaimer: Please note that the information in this or any other blog posts on this site may not be suitable or apply to you, depending on where you’re at in your mental health and/or eating disorder/diet recovery journey. This information is for educational purposes only and not meant to be a substitute for medical or psychiatric advice. Please consult your healthcare practitioner before making any changes.