If we were honest with ourselves, I’m sure we could all admit to going through a time when we were super strict and regimented with our diet and what we ate, whether we did it to lose those 10 pounds to get back into those favourite skinny jeans or whether we just wanted to try out the latest ‘raw food vegan’ trend as one of the glossy magazines said it would leave our skin glowing. Whatever the reason, these huge shifts in dietary habits without you knowing, could quite easily go from a healthy intention to an unhealthy obsession without you even realising it.
Just have a think back. Have you ever turned down an invitation to go out for dinner with friends because the menu didn’t have anything on it that you could remotely eat on the current ‘healthy’ diet that you were adopting at the time? Well if so, just be aware that if this became a regular pattern of behaviour it could be the beginning of orthorexia nervosa, a mental condition that can end up significantly impairing one’s daily function. The disorder is characterised by anxiety, ritualistic thoughts and behaviours and excessive pickiness around food with a fixation on nutrition as a means to avoid other life situations and as a result the person may feel guilt, self loathing and socially isolate themselves. Like anything, when healthy eating is taken to the extreme it can actually become unhealthy for you. Healthy eating should compliment your life, allowing you to feel and function at your absolute best, however if healthy eating starts to dictate what you can and can’t do and limit your life then it’s no longer a healthy habit.
So in that breath I wanted to give you a couple of positive ways to help you maintain a healthy, yet balanced approach to healthy eating;
- 90/10 Rule
I love this one and a rule I personally live by. So the gist of it is eating healthy and the foods you know nourish your body 90% of the time then allows you to treat yourself the other 10% of the time. Remember, it’s the choices we make the majority of the time that count. So personally I tend to eat well when I’m at home and cooking for myself but when me and my husband go out for lunch or for a coffee now and again, that’s when I will treat myself but completely guilt free! And I don’t just mean a sweat treat, it could be a slice of some homemade hot crusty bread with melted butter, a sprinkle of goats cheese on your salad or perhaps your favourite glass of red, just something you that makes you smile, otherwise what’s the point? Food is a pleasure in life and there for us to enjoy, so let’s not forget that. Life is all about balance right, which leads me nicely on to my next point.
2. It’s All About Balance
So for me, the trick to finding balance in the way I eat is by listening to my body. Personally for health reasons I find that a predominantly plant-based diet works best for my body but this doesn’t mean that I can’t be flexible, no, no no! In actual fact I would class myself as a “flexiterrean”. Some days I tend to feel my body craving some more grounding foods, (it’s normally red meat or eggs) but I understand that this is simply my body’s way of telling me that it’s missing something. We should not be scared of cravings, quite the opposite in fact, we should embrace them and learn to respond to them, that is unless you body is just shouting “CARROT CAKE” at the top of it’s lungs 24/7 in which case that might be something you need to address! Trust me, you don’t need to spend your life counting grams of carbs, fat and protein in each meal, just trust your gut and let your body work out the rest. That’s what is was designed to do, balance itself.
3. Do Not Punish Yourself
After implementing the 90/10 rule, it only works if you embrace the 10%. Go mad if you like! Have that carrot cake with the extra cream cheese frosting just because – because you can and deserve it. However if you spend the proceeding hours punishing yourself and trying to work out how many calories were in that fab slab of heaven and how many minutes on a treadmill it’s going to take you to work it off, then you might as well have not bothered. Society has taught us this cycle of depriving and starving ourselves from all of the foods we love, followed by feeling guilty and bad when we ‘give in’ to temptation. We need to break free from this negative cycle and try and create a better relationship with the food we eat and our bodies. Try practicing your 10% guilt free. It actually feels invigorating when you do.
4. Eat Whole Foods Rather Than Counting Calories
Who really wants to live life counting every calorie that they take in? Life is seriously too short for that. Constantly assesing how many grams of fat, carbs and protein you are eating and writing it down throughout your day then putting it into a fancy app to calculate how many calories you have left over for diner? Urrrrrgh, not me and guess what? When you eat whole foods, clean plant based foods that haven’t been processed or refinded one hundred times over and a ton of sugar added to them, then there is no need to count calories, fats, carbs or whatever it is your counting! If you are eating a high quality, nutrient dense, clean diet high in plant foods then there is no need to worry about the the grams of this and that. Your body is getting exactly what it needs. Real food! Relax a little friends, delete that app and embrace more beautiful whole foods and your body will thank you for it.
5. Become a ‘Flexiterrean”
Now I think some of these obsessive habits can occur when we decide to commit ourselves to a certain ‘diet’. God there are so many dietory theories nowadays. You could be vegan or paleo, high carb or low carb, keytogenic or atkins, low fat or low protein, the list is endless but for me this rigidity in eating a certain way can bring about challenges in day to day life, especially in social situations. I sure don’t want to miss out on a friend’s birthday just because they are having it in an all you can eat meat fest of a restuarant. This is why I adopt the flexitterrean approach. Whilst adopting the 90/10 rule I would use this 10% to relax , especially in social situations so I can enjoy myself and not feel restricted. So why not give it a go? Test out your flexitterrean muscles today.
So that’s it, a few sure fire ways to ensure healthy eating doesn’t turn in to an unhealthy obsession. Remember friends, healthy living should not be ‘diet’, it should simply be a healthy way to live your life.
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