You Know What? Food Isn’t Always About The Micronutrients.
The food you eat plays a crucial role in providing nutritional support for your body, to create vibrant health now and long into the future.
But food also needs to be eaten for enjoyment, a type of nourishment sometimes overlooked by nutrition professionals.
Before anyone jumps on me for saying this, let me be clear: Sure, the vast majority of the time, I’m helping my clients switch to cleaner choices, practice home cooking and YES – get those critical nutrients in!! Nutrient insufficiency and the toxic load caused by too much junk in the diet certainly have a role in the disease process, so in our work together, there’s a great deal of emphasis on making nutrient-dense choices when it comes to food.
What do I mean when I talk about ‘nutrient-dense choices’? For example, if my client decides to try a casserole or stew recipe, they might at first serve it up on a bowl of white rice. And that’s not a terrible choice, but in time we might decide together that it can be served up on sweet potato instead. Sweet potato will still give you a lovely starchy, carby base for your meal, but it’s got a lower glycaemic index and a better nutrient profile than plain white rice, so you’re getting more ‘bang for your buck’. Another example: instead of a huge bowl of pasta for dinner, stir some steamed veggies through a pasta sauce instead. Or replace an afternoon snack of crackers and cheese with some veggies and hummus. You get the idea.
But sometimes, we’ll *choose* to eat crap food… and believe it or not, I think it’s important that we do that from time to time. (And if you’re working with me as your Health Coach, we’ll make sure this fits into your Wellness Plan, and we’ll talk about what a balanced approach looks like).
Embrace Eating For Joy
Good health includes a balanced attitude and a readiness to have fun and enjoy.
You might partake in a meal that’s a little outside your idea of ‘healthy’ because mum cooked it, or maybe because it’s an old family favourite… Or because it’s your kid’s birthday, or a friend’s birthday, or maybe because you’re out at a restaurant for a work celebration.
The key is to conscious about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. As you’re preparing to sink your teeth in to that first delicious bite, think to yourself – I’m eating this because it’s gonna be freaking delicious and because I’m with people I love on a special day! Or whatever your reason might be.
Eat for joy, and be conscious about your choice to do it.
Food is definitely to be enjoyed, not endured. And while eating healthily most of the time is the goal, you can also be flexible at times.
Also, when you’re indulging in something delicious but not totally healthy on the odd occasion, it’s far better for your mental and hormonal health to indulge with intention and joy than to scoff mindlessly and feel guilty later.
Take your time and use all your senses to thoroughly enjoy the experience.
Eating For Enjoyment… OR Emotional Eating?
While we’re talking about eating for pleasure, do make sure you check in with yourself.
Eating to a burger at the pub for your company end-of-year celebration dinner is entirely different from experiencing a strong craving on the way home from work (maybe you had a stressful day?), inhaling a burger before you’ve left the drive-thru… and hiding the evidence so your spouse doesn’t find out. Can you see the difference here?
Sometimes my clients are surprised when I tell them it’s ok – and yes, it absolutely fits into your Wellness Plan – to enjoy a couple of chocolate biscuits in the evening with their partner.
But again, there’s a big difference between enjoying a chocolate biscuit on the couch with your partner in the evening, and eating the whole pack at once, alone, standing in the pantry because you’re stressed, bored, lonely, addicted or dissatisfied with your life.
And, if that’s the case, please reach out so we can work together to unravel some of the underlying emotional reasons.
Perfection Isn’t The Goal
Admittedly, I personally eat clean almost all of the time. I could probably learn to relax a bit more! But when I’m creating a Wellness Plan with my clients, we work towards an 80/20 or 90/10 lifestyle over time.
… Because there’s a heap of evidence out there to support the fact that the stress of eating a ‘perfect’ diet will outweigh the benefits and create feelings of deprivation, and potentially even weight gain.
With our new, deeper understanding as to how our thoughts can drive our biochemistry, feeling consistently deprived can result in low mood, and for some, an eventual binge. Occasionally, irrational or obsessive thoughts and behaviours around food can also develop.
How This Looks In My Life
Last month I took my daughter out on a date to an Italian restaurant – her favourite cuisine!
I ordered gnocchi, she ordered pizza, and we shared a serving of garlic bread. Then later, we walked down The Parade and enjoyed a gelati together.
(I didn’t take a photo, sorry… I was a bit too busy enjoying the moment… I can assure you we looked cute though, you’ll have to use your imagination!)
We had such an awesome time! Just the two of us, uninterrupted conversation and super delicious food!
I laughed to the point of tears as she gave excellent impersonations of her brother and everyone in the restaurant stared at me as I dried my eyes! Haha! And, I ate and enjoyed my gnocchi, and garlic bread, too. Two foods I wouldn’t normally eat, but I consciously made the choice to enjoy an authentic Italian dinner with my gorgeous ten year old.
After all, we were out, celebrating life and each other. If that’s not a critical component of good health and longevity, then I don’t know what is.
Do You Eat For Nourishment AND Enjoyment?
I’d love to hear from you on the topic of food and enjoyment! Do you love to indulge and enjoy when the occasion calls for it? How do you feel during and afterwards?
Are you clear on the differences between emotional eating, binge eating, stress eating… and eating for joy? Get in touch and let me know!