“What should I eat?” is a question we ask ourselves at least three times a day but with diet information being hurled at us from our computers, smartphones, TV and friends, the answer to the question doesn’t seem quite so cut and dry. If you are confused about what diet will give you the body you desire and still deliver on long term health, your confusion is justified. In the past thirty years, the diet industry has managed to demonize fats, carbohydrates and proteins only to turn around and tout them as the answer to our weightloss and wellness goals.
It’s not just the diet gurus who confound the issue. Our own government has changed the rules on us repeatedly. The very first USDA official eating guide outlined 7 food groups to eat from daily. Three of the seven were plant-based singling out specific colored fruits and vegetables as separate food groups. Up until 2005, the guides recommended anywhere from four to eleven servings of grains and cereals per day. Paleo people just experienced a mysterious collective shutter as we typed that. The truth is food is not the enemy. Fats, carbohydrates and proteins are all macronutrients that your body needs to survive and thrive. For too long we have allowed the latest diet craze to control our eating habits. We have been ignoring the one expert we should be consulting for the answer to that all important question.
So What Should I Eat?
It might surprise you to learn that you are the expert you should be listening to. You have within you the knowledge you need to eat well and be healthy. The key is listening to your body not the experts and advertisers that bombard you with self-serving messages daily. What we are talking about is listening to your body’s innate dietary wisdom. Listening to your body promotes a healthy relationship with food and releases you from guilt. It’s easier than you think.
Eat when you are hungry. This seems simple but you must relearn what hunger is. Hunger is a physical need for nutrients. We often confuse our emotional distress or elation with hunger. We eat to soothe or celebrate. If you are an emotional eater, you will need to acknowledge when you are engaging in feeding your feelings and mindfully choose alternative methods to soothe or celebrate. Settle your jangled nerves with a delicious “mocktail”, a relaxing epsom salt bath or connecting with family or friends. Get your body moving with some yoga or just put on some music and dance your blues away. If you are celebrating, organize a group class with your friends and learn a new craft or how to do improv comedy. Reward yourself for an accomplishment by picking something off your bucket list to do.
Stop eating when you are full. It seems elementary but you are not alone in eating until it hurts. In fact the issue is so common, we dedicated a whole blog to tips and tricks for recognizing when you are full. You should also know that certain foods signal your brain to let you know you’ve eaten enough and other foods will keep you eating long after your stomach is full. Micronutrients are the key. Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids. If you are eating foods high in micronutrients, the macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates and proteins) will be taken care of. So what we are talking about here is whole foods – vegetables, fruits, grains, beans/legumes and nuts/seeds. When you eat these foods, your body’s innate wisdom kicks in. It knows you are feeding it the building blocks for wellness and will let you know when you have provided what is needed. When you eat processed foods, void of nutrition, your body will continue to signal you to eat in the hope you will give it something it can use to keep you alive and healthy.
Release the guilt. Free yourself from the idea that fat is bad and carbs are evil or any other negative association you have with food. Stop beating yourself up about the occasional piece of pie. What you eat everyday is the determining factor for your health so, if you are eating whole foods high in nutrition everyday, the occasional treat is not going to have long lasting effects. So enjoy it. Guilt-free.
Stay inspired. Choose every day to be mindful of what you are putting in your body. Check out some of the information on Intuitive Eating, a concept put forth by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Watch a documentary like Forks Over Knives, What the Health or Fed Up. Or read up on the benefits of a whole foods diet. We love the basic rules author Michael Pollan has put forth.
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”
“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
“Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.”
“Eat only foods that will eventually rot.”
“Eating what stands on one leg [mushrooms and plant foods] is better than eating what stands on two legs [fowl], which is better than eating what stands on four legs [cows, pigs, and other mammals].”
“Eat animals that have themselves eaten well.”
“Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.”
“Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.”
“Pay more, eat less.”
We encourage you to reacquaint yourself with your body’s innate wisdom when it comes to food. Be mindful of what you are eating and honor your body. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim of the latest diet trend. Trust yourself. Listen.