Diets are like shoes that don’t quite fit right. They’re uncomfortable, restrictive, and not conducive to long-term wear. However, letting go of the diet mentality is extremely hard for many people. It’s often ingrained in us or viewed as a distraction from other challenges, obstacles, and ongoing struggles in various aspects of our lives. Dieting means restricting food intake, usually in an attempt to lose weight or fat. But, as studies show, it’s not as simple as the “calories in, calories out” equation that many people focus on.
Dieting and emotional eating have numerous things in common–and they can perpetuate each other, leading to unhelpful eating cycles. Emotional eating can feel out of control, so we might turn to diets as a way of feeling in control. This doesn’t work, so we eat to cope with the frustration.
When it comes to eating, it’s important to find what works for you: What nourishes your body and your emotions, and what satisfies you. Finding a middle ground means trying out different ways of eating in order to figure out what’s helpful and sustainable for you.
So here are some strategies for discovering your personal eating style:
1. Do your own research. Read books and articles, and look for common eating approaches that might work for you. Meet with an accountability partner such as a family member, friend, or health coach to continually check in and modify as needed.
2. Keep it simple. Choose one behavior-based goal at a time, and try to stick to it for two weeks. Whatever you think you can manage in terms of habit changes, take it one step back from that. For example, if your habit change is to eat more vegetables, a tiny habit to begin with might be to place a fist-size portion of veggies on your plate at dinner time. If you are not a veggie-eater, you might want to go even smaller than that and just buy one vegetable to try for the week.
3. Focus on intention and attention. Eat without distractions, and slow down when you eat.
4. Crowd out. Choose a 90/10 or 80/20 approach that leaves plenty of room for your favorite foods. This means 80 to 90% of healthy whole foods and 10 to 20% of something you really enjoy. This will keep you from feeling deprived.
5. Balance the pendulum. Eat a little of everything that is served. Pay attention to basic portions: approximately one fist of veggies, one palm of protein, one cupped hand of whole grains, and one thumb of healthy fats.
6. Eat like an animal. Honor your physical hunger, and trust your instincts. Stay warm and hydrated with regular, consistent meals. Animals enjoy eating for nourishment as well as the experience.
7. Create room for pleasure. Mindfully enjoy foods considered more indulgent, if you choose. Get creative about food choices.
Life is too short to see food as the enemy! Incorporate these simple tips, and you will be well on your way to a healthier mindset that includes the joy of eating.
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I received my training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I learned about more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. Drawing on this knowledge, I will help you create a completely personalized “roadmap to health” that suits your unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and goals.
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