*Click here to listen to this blog post as a podcast. PART 1 | PART 2 (coming soon)
I’ll never forget it.
I woke up in the middle of the night with cold sweats — likely a sign of my body going crazy from trying to digest all the food from the binge I had before I went to sleep.
It was 3 a.m., and I couldn’t wait until the morning so I could wake up, go to the gym, do cardio and ‘burn off’ all the food I ate when I seemingly blacked out the night before.
“What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I stop doing this? Why can’t I just stick to my damn meal plan?” I would ask myself every day, and feel even MORE guilty every time it happened. I was getting more and more frustrated, because despite sticking to a super strict meal plan most days of the week (until I couldn’t sustain it any more and I would overeat on the weekends), I was actually GAINING weight.
“THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY,” I thought to myself. “I can’t keep sticking to this rigid meal plan of chicken and broccoli — it’s not even giving me the results I want!”
Ironically enough, I thought I was a walking billboard of the epitome of health: giving advice to my friends and family about the importance of eating veggies and protein, spending hours a day glued to my phone tracking every single calorie on My Fitness Pal, even throwing out an Oreo my boyfriend gave me because I was too scared to eat it (only to go home and secretly binge that night because I felt so restricted, of course).
Little did I know, my obsession with my ‘healthy’ diet was destroying my life:
My relationships with friends and family suffered — I had no social life because I was too scared to go out to eat for fear that I would eat ‘off my meal plan’. I became distracted from my job because I was ALWAYS thinking about food: what am I going to eat next? OMG my co-workers want to go to lunch — QUICK! GIVE ME MY PHONE! I HAVE TO TRY TO FIT THAT INTO MY MACROS!!!
And most importantly, my relationship with myself suffered. I completely lost trust in myself. I felt out of control around food. I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror (even when I probably looked ‘normal’ to the outside world). I was constantly obsessing over food and my body, and spent every moment of my day: from the minute I woke up, to the minute I went to sleep, thinking some form of thought about food or exercise.
It’s taken me 5 years and TONS of trial and error, but I can confidently say I’m at a place where I have a healthy relationship to food now: one where I’m not controlled my counting calories, following a meal plan, or jumping around from diet to diet.
And that’s what I want to share with you today. <3
Why Meal Plans Don’t Work
Before we get into all the practices I used to find true food freedom, can we just be real about something?
Following a strict meal plan is unsustainable.
You can only eat chicken and broccoli or spend hours every day glued to your phone tracking macros for so long before you want to raid the fridge, cover yourself in peanut butter and chocolate syrup, and dip pretzels into the gooey delicious goodness until you’re so full you physically can’t breathe.
No but seriously — not only is following a strict meal plan BORRRRING, it deprives us of many of the essential micronutrients our bodies need to function and thrive. I know personally when I was on a strict meal plan, it was pretty low in calories (especially healthy fats), and I actually stopped getting my period for a WHOLE YEAR.
Putting things into perspective, I didn’t want to risk never being able to have children for the sake of being a tiny bit smaller, so I knew it was time to change things up and not be so rigid with what I was feeding myself.
To find out if your current diet or way if eating is sustainable, check in with yourself:
Can you eat the way you’re eating now, 5 years from now?
If the answer is no, simply put: what you’re doing is unsustainable.
Does this sound like you?:
Maybe you’ve realized you don’t want to be stuck on a rigid meal plan or counting calories/macros for the next few years of your life, and you want to learn how to eat in a way that supports your goals and healthy lifestyle.
Maybe you’re currently stuck in the binge/deprive cycle and are scared that if you DO get off your strict meal plan during the week, it will make the binges that much worse and you’ll never be able to stop eating.
Maybe you don’t want to be tracking macros or religiously following a meal plan forever (ask yourself the sustainability question: Can I eat this way 5 years, 10 years down the road? If the answer is no, it’s unsustainable and it would serve you to explore ways of healthy eating that you can actually stick to enjoy with minimal effort).
If that sounds like you, I want you to know you’re not alone. I felt stuck in the binge/deprive, all-or-nothing, completely ON the bandwagon or face down in a bag of chips cycle for YEARS.
There IS a better way. With some time and patience, along with the tips I’m going to share with you today, you CAN live a genuinely healthy lifestyle and create a body and life you love — free from drama and stress surrounding food and your body.
Making Health a Lifestyle Instead of a Diet
SO, how can you create a truly sustainable healthy lifestyle? One where you can eat healthy, but also indulge and not feel guilty? One where you don’t have to obsess over calories or carbs or fats or protein? One where you’re not glued to a strict meal plan and go completely off the rails if you ever ‘cheat’ on your diet? And one where you can control your weight almost effortlessly by following some light, not overly intense structure?
I’m going to share with you the top tips that have helped me ditch the drama surrounding food, create a healthy relationship to food, fuel my body, go out to eat with my friends, eat well without being restrictive, and weigh what I want with minimal effort once I established healthy habits.
Here are the practices that helped me go from diet and body obsessed, to intuitive eating with light structure.
Boy oh boy does FOOD FREEDOM feel so good. Can’t wait for you to experience it.
Disclaimer About My “Style” Of Intuitive Eating
Just to be upfront, I don’t follow ‘intuitive eating’ 100% by the book. I believe each of us has a personal, unique relationship to food, and while some people may love the idea of being liberated to eat whatever they want, I’ve found that having some light structure works well for me to stay on track and have energy throughout the day.
Biologically, if we eat more sugar, we tend to crave more sugar — which is why I’m not a huge fan of ‘eating whatever you want, whenever you want,’ because that can lend to creating unhealthy habits on the opposite end of the spectrum and create a whole other host of health issues: heart disease, diabetes, insulin resistance, weight gain and high cholesterol to name a few.
That being said, if I want a donut occasionally, I eat it without guilt — I just don’t feel the need to eat a dozen donuts like I would’ve back in my all-or-nothing, binge and deprive days.
I don’t label or pigeon-hole myself into one category of eating. I’m not paleo, gluten free, an intuitive eating pro, yada yada… I just eat in a way that feels good for my body, and I deeply respect anyone who has to follow a certain style of eating for health reasons (i.e. gluten free because of Celiac).
I will never stand on a high horse and say “my way of eating is the ONLY way.” It’s not. This is simply me sharing my experience of ditching meal plans and diets, and learning to eat in a way that keeps me looking and feeling my best.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive in to the good stuff!
My Top Tips to Help You Eat Intuitively with Light Structure, Ditch the Food Drama and Weigh What You Want
Some of these tips are more philosophical and will cause you to dig deep and really think about your life (grab yo journal and let’s dive deep, hunny!) Others are very simple and practical — little habits that you can start implementing into your life immediately.
I recommend reading through all of the tips and seeing what really hits home with you right now. We’re all unique individuals with different relationships to food, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to creating freedom from food. This is not intended to diagnose or cure anyone from an eating disorder — please seek professional help if you believe you have patterns of disordered eating. This is simply to help you ditch the drama surrounding food, and start creating true freedom and happiness in your life so that you don’t waste another minute obsessing over things that aren’t serving you.
BIG HUGS, friend. I’m here to guide you along this journey if you need me.
1. MINDFULNESS: Am I truly hungry?
A lot of times, we eat out of reasons other than true hunger: we’re bored, lonely, anxious, celebrating something special, or it’s a random Tuesday night and work was hard and you feel like you ‘deserve’ that ice cream even though you’re not actually hungry. Tuning in to your body’s signs of TRUE hunger takes practice and it takes time, so don’t expect to become a master of this over night. And everyone’s body is different: some people may feel a slight rumbling in their stomach when it’s time to eat, other people tend to experience a bit of lightheadedness or dizziness because their blood sugar gets a bit too low.
When I’m hungry, I can FEEL it. My stomach starts to growl (even after I’ve had a glass of water), I get a bit lightheaded, and despite my best efforts — I tend to get a bit “hangry.” When you’re wondering whether you’re actually hungry or just bored/tired/anxious/excited/stressed/eating out of any other emotion, take a second to take a deep belly breath and ask yourself, “What am I really hungry for right now?” Sometimes you’ll find it’s not food at all — maybe you’re bored, so go for a walk. Maybe you’re lonely: call a friend. Maybe you’re anxious: take a bubble bath and read, or do the task you’ve been putting off. If you’re truly physically hungry, EAT of course! But check in with yourself first to see if you’re physically hungry or emotionally hungry.
2. FINDING A PURPOSE: What fills me up, other than food?
This is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT thing that’s changed my relationship to food. Let’s be real: sometimes when we eat (maybe a lot of the time), it’s not food we’re really hungry for. We use food in place of connection, when we’re feeling anxious or lonely, when we’re bored, when we’re not happy with our job, as a temporary escape from all our struggles and stresses, and for many other reasons that don’t involve true hunger.
That’s why I love the concept of primary foods (you can listen to this podcast about primary foods v. secondary foods, and using things other than food — friends, hobbies, relationships, time with ourselves — to truly fill us up).
Essentially, primary foods aren’t actually ‘food’ at all, but rather the things that fill us up other than food. For example, have you ever worked on something you’re passionate for hours and forgotten to eat? Or you’re so deeply in love that you don’t even really think about food? THAT is the place we want to operate from the most — where we’re so deeply involved with what we’re doing that food is no longer the primary focus and thing we obsess about ALL day long.
There have certainly been points in my life where ALL I’ve thought about is food: how much should I eat? When is my next meal? Is this the right food to eat? Not to mention the HOURS I’d spend on my phone every day trying to fit all my macros into one magical little puzzle piece. When your focus and energy is consumed by FOOD all the time, you have little time and space left for things in life that really matter: relationships, hobbies, your job, and other things that can fill you up. I also found that when I wasn’t truly happy in a certain area of my life (my job, for example), I tended to micromanage my food even more — because I thought if I could just control my food and the way my body looked, it would make everything in my life ‘better.’ Hint: it did not. I just made me even LESS happy.
If you find yourself obsessing over food, it’s usually because you’re trying to avoid a BIGGER problem you have going on in your life right now. It takes a lot of courage to confront what you need to change, but it will ultimately make you a happier, healthier person — and chances are, it will solve a huge chunk of the ‘food problems’ you have right now, that are acting as a mask to cover up what you’re avoiding.
3. Do a Social Media Audit
You may be thinking, “How does social media correlate to my body? I just need to eat better and I’ll lose weight.” But a lot of our perceptions are influenced by social media, our news feeds, what we see in magazines and TV shows, and anything else we consume on a daily basis.
When we fill our social feeds with ‘inspiration’ of our ‘dream body,’ sometimes it can actually work against us when we don’t already have a healthy relationship with food and our bodies.
Take an audit of your social media right now: how much time are you spending on your apps every day? Who are you following? How do you feel after you’ve been mindlessly consuming your social media feed for way longer than you’d like to?
The key is to unfollow anyone who makes you feel less than your best — even if it’s someone you look up to but subconsciously compare yourself to. Ask yourself, “Does this person make me feel better about myself?” and if the answer is NO — unfollow them. You can always follow them again in the future after you’ve established a healthier relationship with food and your body and no longer feel tempted to compare yourself to them (which is very hard to do… we’re all human).
I do social media cleanses on the regular, because just like you, I get sucked into the comparison trap. Whenever I find that I’m more anxious and less happy than usual, I delete my apps for a few days and I quickly realize that my happiness increases by 100% (because I’m focusing on my REAL life that’s right here in front of me and taking the time to appreciate what I have in my life right here, right now).
If you want to learn more about doing social media audits or my cleanses, I created a whole FREE e-book for you called Unplug: 7 Days to Declutter Your Inbox, Stop the Obsessive Scrolling, and Become Stress-Free, Relaxed & Happy. You can download it right here. It was also one of the first few episodes I did on my podcast — make sure you’re subscribed on iTunes or Spotify because I plan to do an updated one soon!
4. GPF: Creating light structure around food choices.
This is where the traditional “intuitive eaters” may not agree with my approach, but that’s OK. As I mentioned in the intuitive eating disclaimer in the beginning of this, I don’t follow ‘intuitive eating’ 100% by the book. I believe each of us has a personal, unique relationship to food, and while some people may love the idea of being liberated to eat whatever they want, I’ve found that having some light structure works well for me to stay on track and have energy throughout the day.
Biologically, if we eat more sugar, we tend to crave more sugar — which is why I’m not a huge fan of ‘eating whatever you want, whenever you want,’ because that can lend to creating unhealthy habits on the opposite end of the spectrum and create a whole other host of health issues: heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and high cholesterol. That being said, if I want a donut occasionally, I eat it without guilt — I just don’t feel the need to eat a dozen donuts like I would’ve back in my all-or-nothing, binge and deprive days.
That’s why I created the GPF style of eating, which stands for Greens, Protein, and Fat. It’s how I create every single meal so that I’m getting all the nutrition I need, without eating too little or too much. It’s not meant to be restrictive — in fact, I eat a lot MORE with this way of eating than I ever did when I was measuring out every grain of rice I was consuming. Instead, you eat as many veggies as you want, add some protein and healthy fats to keep your hormones humming and happy, and add a serving of fiber/carbs if you’re active and you need it.
I also make sure that 90% of my nutritional choices come from real, whole foods: if it has 1 ingredient, it’s probably good for you. I eat an abundance of veggies, fruits, proteins, nuts, seeds, and some grains like oatmeal or rice. I mostly shop the perimeter of the grocery store, as that’s where you’ll find all the fresh produce and meats with minimal added/processed ingredients. No matter what, I always make sure my plate has a ton of colour on it. When in doubt, EAT THE RAINBOW :) The more colour, the better.
I’ve spoken in depth about GPF on my podcast and in this blog if you’d like to dig in, as I could go on and on and rave about this style of eating for 928347 years — that’s how transformative this style of eating has been for my life!
5. Eat Bigger Meals Instead of Snacks
As I mentioned in my last point, the GPF style of eating is created to help you eat a variety of foods and stay full for a longer period of time: I’m talking 4-5 hours. The GPF smoothie I make in the morning literally keeps me full for a few hours until lunch, which is INSANE for a girl who loves to eat and used to eat little mini portions every 1-2 hours.
Here’s the truth: you’re probably consuming way more calories with your “snack” than if you were to just have a smaller portion of a meal. Here’s what I mean: let’s say you reach for almonds as a snack. I don’t know about you, but I can literally eat 10 handfuls of almonds and STILL feel hungry. Almonds are a great source of healthy fats, but that doesn’t mean they’re a free-for-all if you’re trying to maintain or lose weight. They’re very easy to overeat, and it’s easy to eat 500+ calories in just a few handfuls. For that amount of calories, you could be WAY more full and satisfied with a meal consisting of 6 oz. chicken, 1 avocado, 1/2 cup of rice, and an abundance of veggies.
At first it seems counterintuitive to have a meal instead of a snack, because we think, “Oh, this will take too much time.” or “I just ate, I shouldn’t have a meal again.” But it really doesn’t take much more time and like I said, it’s probably less calories than you’re consuming as a snack.
Instead of snacking, start to think of it as a ‘mini meal.’ Incorporate protein, veggies, healthy fats and maybe a carb source into every snack you have. And when you make your GPF meals appropriately, you won’t usually feel hungry for a snack — you can just stick to 3 bigger meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner. But if you ARE physically hungry (see tip #1!), here are a few ‘mini meal’ ideas you can use in place of snacks:
2 hardboiled eggs + sliced veggies and 2 tbsp. hummus
4 oz. chicken, turkey or any kind of meat + 1/2 avocado + any veggies you want
a salad full of veggies + chicken + olive oil and balsamic vinegar
1 apple or banana with 1-2 true tablespoons of peanut or almond butter
It may take some time and preparation to have these healthier alternatives on hand, but it’s well worth the effort when you have something healthy and nutritious ready to eat.
Always remember to check in with yourself and ask, “What am I really hungry for?” before reaching for a snack. Often times we snack because we’re bored or trying to procrastinate instead of eating for true, physical hunger. Try drinking a full glass of water, waiting 20 minutes, and THEN eating if you still feel physically hungry.
6. Stay Accountable to Portion Sizes
As I mentioned, just because something is healthy or a whole food, doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want of it with no consequences. Although foods like avocados, nuts, and nut butters are great sources of healthy fats — eating them (or any food) in excess can cause you to gain weight.
If your goal is to maintain or lose weight, it’s important to stay accountable to your portion sizes. Having a food scale is a good way to do this, but if you don’t want to feel like you’re micromanaging your food, being obsessive about it, or you’re simply traveling and don’t want to bring a food scale, using your hand is an amazing way to keep yourself accountable to accurate portion sizes.
This is an infographic I love from Precision Nutrition (source: Precision Nutrition Calorie Control Guide):
7. Adopt an Abundance Mindset Surrounding Food
Something I tell myself whenever I eat is: There’s more where that came from. (Side note: I also use this mantra whenever I spend money to reinforce that whenever I spend, it will come back to me. This mantra has helped me develop a healthier relationship to food AND money, which are actually more closely related than you may think.)
Adopting an abundance has helped me ditch the all-or-nothing mindset surrounding food more than anything else, because it reinforces the fact that I don’t need to eat it all RIGHT NOW — I can always eat it tomorrow.
I always like to use this analogy with my clients: Imagine you dropped your phone on the ground and it cracked. Would you pick it up and continue throwing it on the ground — smashing it into a million pieces? Or would you accept that the damage is done, and that you don’t need to do any more damage?
It’s the same with our diet — just because you ate a donut, spaghetti, pizza, whatever the heck you wanted at the time — does NOT mean you need to eat everything else in your kitchen because this is the last time you will ever see those foods. The donut, spaghetti, pizza, popcorn, ice cream will ALL exist tomorrow. You can ALWAYS eat the second cookie tomorrow. You do not need to eat it all right now.
If I could get all the hours back after someone says, “f* it, I’ll just start again tomorrow/on Monday”, I could’ve saved the person MONTHS of frustration of trying to reach their goals without getting anywhere.
Don’t start again on Monday or tomorrow. Start at your very next meal. Chug a glass of water. Walk away. Remove yourself from the situation. And MOVE. ON.
8. Keep a Food Journal/Habit Tracker to Stay Consistent
One of my favorite ways to stay consistent in my training and nutrition is through journaling. I track all my workouts in a notebook so that I can see my progress over time, and the same applies to my nutrition when I want to dial things in and really get back on track.
You can use a physical journal or an app like MyFitnessPal, but to be honest, if we’re trying to get over the obsessive tendencies surrounding food and you’re triggered by numbers (i.e. how many protein, fats, carbs you’re consuming), it’s probably best to use a physical food journal where you don’t keep track of calories.
Keeping the food journal/habit tracker helps in ways beyond sticking to ‘healthy eating.’ It helps me identify different food patterns — for example, if I have a lot of carbs like oatmeal for breakfast, even though it’s good for me, I tend to crave carbs for the rest of the day. It’s also a good way to note your reaction to your meals. How do you feel after you eat? Does your skin break out? Do you feel bloated? Do you feel like you need a nap? All of these can be signals that you have sensitivities to certain foods, which may play a part in keeping you from reaching your goals.
Here’s an example of my food journal/habit tracking practice:
Breakfast (10 am): GPF smoothie with 1 scoop protein powder, 2 handfuls of spinach, 2 tbsp. chia seeds, cinnamon, cocoa powder, 1 tbsp. almond butter
feeling energized and full, but not overly stuffed.
stayed full for 4 hours until lunch
Lunch (2 pm): big a** salad with a bunch of romaine, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, 1 can of salmon, 1 small avocado, balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp. hummus
You get the point… and on a not-so-ideal day, it may look like this:
3 pm: donut from the break room at work. didn’t get much sleep last night so started crashing and craving sugar. I feel bloated and lethargic after eating it — it made me feel better for a few minutes but now I’m crashing again. (and the next day I may notice my skin is breaking out or the bags under my eyes are bigger, for example)
Then, at the bottom of my food journal/habit tracker for the day, I keep track of these other variables:
Number of steps on my Fitbit
How my skin looks
How much water I drank
The workout I did
My mood throughout the day (this can be greatly affected by how well I eat!)
Overall thoughts, feelings or things I need to note, i.e. cravings because of my period
I go through phases where I track all of these variables religiously if I’m trying to figure out something specific — like why I’m getting headaches every day, why I’m so tired, why my skin is breaking out, etc. And then there are other times where I just live my life and don’t track anything at all — mostly when I’m in maintenance mode and trying to just enjoy my life.
If you’re trying to get to the bottom of a medical condition (skin problems, hair falling out, low energy, bloating, weight gain), it’s worth a try to keep one of these food journals/habit trackers so you can show your doctor or nutrition coach. I find that this way of tracking doesn’t make me obsessive, but I think of myself as a detective that’s trying to get to the bottom of something — my health! It’s something fun and enjoyable to me because I genuinely love journaling and tracking things, but if I ever find it gets too be too much or I’m too dependent on it, I stop doing it. Simple as that. :)
9. Be Discerning: Grandma’s Homemade Pie > Stale Chocolate Chip Cookies
Is it really worth it to eat the stale grocery-store baked cookies that have been in the break room at work for 5 days now? Probably not. Being discerning means actively choosing what you’re going to indulge in, versus just eating something you don’t even really want just because it’s there.
Being discerning allows you to indulge without guilt because it’s going to be an amazing sensory experience and totally worth it — think: grandma’s fresh apple pie that you only get to eat once per year at Thanksgiving. Or making homemade pizzas at home with your partner as a date night.
Being discerning can also be translated to DON’T SETTLE FOR MEDIOCRITY. Ain’t nobody got time for stale relationships, a stale career, a stale sex life — so why settle for stale food that you don’t even really want? Delay the instant gratification of what you want NOW for what you want MOST. Indulge when it feels good to you, make it something special, and have the confidence to say no to something you know won’t make you feel good in the long run.
10. SLEEP, Relax and Reduce Stress
I know, I know — this is likely the point in the article where you start to roll your eyes. “I don’t have time to sleep.” “Sleep isn’t really that important, is it?”
As much as I wish we could stay up into the wee hours of the night and wake up super early and still see results in our bodies, such is not the case. Not only does a lack of sleep increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance and heart disease (among many others), just look at your own personal experience when you’re lacking sleep. Chances are, you’re craving sugar or high-carb foods, and you reach for a donut or a third cup of coffee at 3 pm because you’re crashing and burning hard. And maybe the most painful fact of all — you feel like you’re doing everything ‘right’ in terms of your workouts and nutrition, but you’re still not seeing the results you’re looking for.
Along with sleep, stress management plays a HUGE role in your overall health. If you find yourself constantly stressed or anxious, look at your sleeping patterns — they are likely correlated (you lack sleep, so you feel more stressed and anxious, and vice versa, fueling the vicious cycle).
Just as you hopefully have a morning routine by now, it will serve you to also have a nighttime routine. For me, this looks like no screen time (TV, phone or computer) an hour before bed, washing my face with my fave non-toxic skincare products, reading a book, writing in my journal, and sleeping like a baby.
11. Increase Your Activity Outside the Gym
Spending time in the gym is important if you’re trying to change your body composition. But let’s say you spend an hour in the gym a few days per week — what about the other 23 hours in the day? You’re likely sitting in your car driving to/from work, sitting on your computer at work, coming home and sitting and watching TV.
There’s a magical thing called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which is the amount of calories we burn doing things throughout the day. This means that by increasing your NEAT, you increase the overall amount of calories you burn throughout the day — which is great news and a pretty easy habit to get on board with if your goal is weight loss.
There are so many ways to increase NEAT, even if you have a full-time desk job. For example: park in the farthest parking spot wherever you go, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk or bike to work, go for a walk on your lunch break, do some squats in the bathroom stall at work, create a stand-up desk at your computer, do laundry, clean your house, garden, take up an active hobby like an intramural league, take dance classes, do yoga, stretch… the possibilities are endless, and it doesn’t have to be super tough physical activity that’s going to leave you exhausted.
Moral of the story: move your body more and it will thank you!
Side note: you don’t HAVE to go to the gym if you don’t like it. Weight training is super trendy right now, but if it’s not your jam, don’t try to fit yourself into that mold and end up doing nothing at all! Dance, do yoga, go for long walks or hikes — whatever floats your boat, makes you happy, and you can be consistent with for the long haul, DO MORE OF THAT, SISTA.
12. Check In: What’s the Best Choice I Can Make Right Now?
Along with my other favorite mantra, “What am I really hungry for right now?” I also like to check in with myself to see what my body really needs at this moment by asking, “What’s the best choice I can make right now?”
This comes in handy if you’re traveling or out of your usual environment, and maybe you’re not really sure what you should order at a restaurant. Ask yourself, “What’s the best choice I can make in this moment?” — maybe that’s a bunless burger with a side of sweet potato fries. Maybe that’s your grandma’s homemade pie because that’s what your soul is craving. Maybe it’s a grilled chicken salad with avocado because you didn’t sleep well last night and you’re trying to beat those dreaded sleep-deprived sugar cravings.
100% of your best is going to be different every day — do not let that stop you from making progress. What’s ONE small step you can take today in the direction of your goals? And to break it down even farther: what’s the best choice you can make for yourself at each meal?
Sometimes all it takes to make positive changes in your life is awareness of your current habits, and a willingness to change and correct course when what you’ve been doing hasn’t been working for you. Asking yourself, “What’s the best choice I can make right now?” is a simple way to start doing that.
13. Develop a Healthier Mindset About Food
This one could really be at the top of the list, because it’s one of the most important things that dictate your relationship to food.
After spending time around Mark’s family, I realized something remarkable about food. His mom takes love and care to prepare the food — sometimes taking all day to create various parts of a meal. This is something I was never exposed to as a child; I was raised by a single mom and a lot of the time we would just grab whatever was easiest and most convenient, and sit down at the TV to eat dinner.
I’m not blaming my mom — she’s an incredible human who absolutely gave me the best childhood she possibly could have. But after seeing a family sit around a dinner table and bond over a delicious meal that they’ve spent time preparing, I quickly realized that it’s not about the food at all. It’s about the connections you make, the laughs you share, and the topics you bond over while eating the food.
Think about some of the food rules that you hold as truth right now. Maybe it’s “bread is bad for you” or “carbs make you fat” or “fat makes you fat.” Then take a look at cultures around the world, like Italians who eat pasta and olive oil every day. Or Asian cultures whose main staple of a meal is rice. And ironically enough, Americans are the ones with the highest rate of obesity and heart disease, despite the fact that other cultures are eating what some of us may consider “bad” foods every single day.
So, expand your horizon. Travel to expose yourself to new cultures if you can. Watch Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat on Netflix. Buy a cookbook or check one out at the library so you can experience what it’s like to put a little labor of love into a meal.
Food is a part of our lives that will never go away — we HAVE to eat every day. So why not ENJOY it and use food as a way to bond, connect and celebrate, instead of something we demonize as bad, and spend our time obsessing over? *food for thought, no pun intended :)
Before we go, I want to manage expectations for you:
THIS. TAKES. PRACTICE. It won’t be a walk in the park. In fact, it will feel difficult at times — and you’ll feel pulled to revert back to a meal plan because that’s what feels ‘easier.’ Avoid that temptation, because that’s what got you to this point in the first place.
THIS WAY OF EATING TAKES TRIAL AND ERROR in the beginning. The first few months/years of eating this way does require a decent amount of mindfulness and effort, like the first year of going to the gym. Maybe you don’t want to wake up and lace up your shoes at 5 a.m., but do it for long enough and it becomes second nature and something you actually look forward to. The same is true with ditching food rules — it is HARD at first. You’re attached to tracking or counting or your way of doing things, even if you know it’s not working in your favor. Understand that you won’t be perfect at first. You WILL f*ck things up. And that’s ok… because the sooner you get back on track (and not feel guilty about it), the closer you are to living a life free from drama or stress surrounding food and your body.
And in the grander scheme of your whole life, taking a year to figure out a way to eat that will last the next 20, 30, 60 years of your life is worth it, wouldn’t you agree? :)
I want to hear from you!
Did you find these tips helpful? What does your relationship with food currently look like?
If you want someone to walk by your side for the year that you’re changing your relationship to food, I would be honoured to help. Apply for coaching here to schedule a free consultation with me and I’ll be in touch very soon!
Sending you so much love and positive vibes on this journey.
We’re all just here trying to be happy, healthy and free from the drama surrounding things that shouldn’t steal our energy. I hope you can take some tips away from this article to make your life even just 10% better, starting today.
All my love,
>> All photos in this blog post were taken by the lovely Ellie. <<