Before we get started, I need to confess: I may be a nutritionist, but I didn’t come to this easily.
I didn’t grow up as a foodie with an organic garden. I didn’t eat broccoli and kale as a toddler and green juices as a teenager.
Instead, I was a serious junk food junkie, with absolutely no interest in healthy food. I started eating a healthy diet out of a health crisis and desperation. And in that I realized how much I loved helping people feel better and eat better.
If you’re struggling with your diet…so did I. If you feel you don’t have the willpower to change…neither did I. Happily, you don’t need to struggle or use willpower, you just need to shift the way you look at your diet.
So, out of our collective food struggles, I decided to look at nutrition a little differently than through the mainstream lens. I probably won’t ask about what you ate for dinner last night; I don’t have a favourite cookbook or recipe to share, and I won’t tell you the nutritional benefits of x, y or z food.
These things have very little interest to me.
The reason is really simple: parsing apart our diet, working out the math of nutrition (carbs, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals) doesn’t actually create health. It only creates frustration. Okay, sometimes it can help. It can help if you’re severely deficient or have an issue where you need a specific balance of nutrients, but when it comes to true health, these ways of looking at our diet are meaningless.
And that’s good! We’ve made it way too difficult to know what to eat these days. Can you imagine it? If you could just know what to eat—know what your body wants, know that you’re feeding your body exactly the way it needs. No counting, no dieting, no stress—just pure, unadulterated food bliss. Ahhhhh.
I have good news for you. You can. Today. Okay, maybe tomorrow. Or soon. But you can. And it doesn’t take a degree or diploma in nutrition. You just have to learn a few basic skills—skills that need to be practiced, but that’s all! It’s just a set of skills. Like learning to ride a bike, it takes some effort at first, but before long it comes naturally. And then you’ve got this skill for life.
Your body wants you to learn this skill. It’s tired of eating unappetizing food that’s pretending to be healthy. It wants pleasure. It wants love. It wants health.
So there it is. It can be this simple. But! What if your brain likes numbers and adding up your diet gives brings you comfort? This has been how you have controlled your food choices for many years/decades. So it might fight back, and that’s okay.
Just keep trying to practice these skills and your brain will soon understand:
#1: Eat more real food.
This is whole food. Food without packaging or ingredient lists. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and so on. Do your best. Try for a little bit more every day or every week. Any time you replace a packaged food with a whole food is a big win!
#2: Chew it, taste it, enjoy it.
Spend time with the food you’ve just made. How does it taste? Do you like it? Is this what you want to be eating right now? Life is way too short to eat food you don’t enjoy just because it’s healthy. Try adding new things. Be creative with your diet. Have fun with it!
#3: How do you feel after your meal?
Do you feel good? Have energy? Feel satisfied? Or do you feel tired? Have low energy? Craving something else? This is important information. A meal that your body loves is one where you feel good, have great energy afterward, and feel satisfied. Make note of the meals you feel great after and the ones you don’t. A pattern will begin to form.
#4: What do you crave?
Many of us see our cravings as something to deal with, something to get over, or something we’re too weak to stop. But they’re not! They’re actually your body’s language. Your cravings are an incredible tool for discovery. Learning about what, why, and when you crave certain foods is a key piece to your overall health puzzle. Listen, take note, and see what you find. For example: craving chocolate? This can be a sign of a magnesium deficiency; stress burns through extra magnesium. Dark chocolate, cocoa, and raw cacao are all great sources of magnesium.
Craving salt? Salt cravings can be a sign of lots of stress and low adrenal glands. Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, your body usually wants more sea salt. And if you eat mostly whole foods, you can add sea salt to your foods to your taste and enjoy!
#5: Why do you want to eat?
Are you actually hungry? Real hunger is an empty feeling in your stomach, a slight dip in energy and the feeling that food would be nice in the next few hours. It doesn’t change your personality and it’s not demanding. Anything else is a blood sugar crash. Or, are you feeling emotional and food would feel really good right now? If so, that’s okay! Just be aware that this is why you want to eat.
Most of us move from emotions to food unconsciously, so if we take a moment to feel out what’s going on it’ll make this form of unconscious emotional eating less and less powerful. Talking to a trusted friend, counselor or spiritual teacher can also help.
Does this all sound too easy? The truth is creating new habits is actually quite difficult. If you struggle with these, again, that is more than okay. Be kind to yourself and take your time. It will become second nature and in return you’ll have meal after meal of delicious, mouthwatering food that you can’t wait to enjoy. That you’re enjoying slowly, while chewing really, really well.
Please, give yourself permission to enjoy food again.
You can have food luxury and a healthy diet. They can come together!
Just give it some time.
Author: Lisa Kilgour
Editor: Tess Drudy; Editor: Travis May