At the risk of sounding like a hater…when we start to eat healthfully we get some really screwed up notions about eating.
And I get it. The things we have to tell ourselves to get by and yadda.
Usually I don’t make much of some of the beliefs I hear expressed. But, frankly, some of them are biting us in the butt and it’s time for it to STOP.
So I’m posting these three things to start a conversation. You may agree with me 100%. You may vehemently disagree. That’s ok! But let’s talk about this. Because as I’ve said (ad nauseum) the stories we tell ourselves are important! Let’s make sure the stories we tell ourselves about healthy eating support our goals instead of undermining them.
Myth #1: “Food is only fuel…”
Pardon me for saying…but that’s one of the biggest loads of crap we keep perpetuating!
Spoiler: Food is not only fuel.
It does fuel our bodies, yes. But when we say food is only fuel we are grossly over-simplifying the process of eating. And it can end up biting you in the butt!
There are plenty of foods that are nutritionally superior to what we eat day-to-day. So why don’t we eat them? Usually because we don’t like them!
Humans were built with taste buds for a reason. In the early days of humans, our taste buds mostly helped us differentiate between what was safe to eat and what could literally kill us. These days our brains have evolved to such exciting features as being able to associate the taste of a food with a nutrient our bodies need (a sophisticated function that allows us to develop cravings for certain foods when we present with certain nutritional needs).
Food isn’t just fuel. And the reason that belief can bite you in the butt is that if you try to make food only fuel, and try to force yourself to eat foods you hate because you think they are the “correct” thing to eat…you’re gonna rebel. And it isn’t going to be pretty.
Alternative thought: Food nourishes the body, and happens to be delicious. Choose foods that do both of those things. Don’t ever ever ever EVER eat food that isn’t delicious. If you live by that standard, I’m willing to bet my next paycheck, you’ll naturally become a very healthy eater!
Myth #2: That you’ll magically start to like healthy foods (that you didn’t like before)
Now the caveat here is that this sometimes does happen after weight loss surgery. For example, before surgery, I HATED spinach. Like…I’m talking about “I will fake a food allergy if you try to feed me this” hatred.
Now I love spinach! But it wasn’t some magical shift.
What I realized is that I didn’t like the way spinach was being served to me before. My parents tended to either make that nasty frozen block of spinach, canned spinach OR they boiled it to within an inch of its own life. It was wet, gloppy, slimy and disgusting.
After surgery I started eating raw and lightly wilted spinach and found I rather liked the taste and texture.
But. Don’t automatically assume that if you start a process of getting healthier that some switch is going to flip that will make you like a bunch of foods you didn’t like before. That may happen with some foods, but at the end of the day you may always like what you like, and that’s ok. That’s important to note because we tend to beat ourselves up if we don’t develop those preferences. And we all know where beating ourselves up leads us, right?
Alternative thought: We like what we like. But sometimes we need to reach outside those foods for our nutrition. Why not try pairing things we don’t like (or have never tried) with things we do like to see if we like them better together? If so, great! If not, try to zero in on foods that you can at least tolerate, even if you don’t love them.
Myth #3: That once you’ve been eating healthfully for a while, you can’t be tempted.
I think deep down we all know this one is BS, but I think that somehow we still magically believe that people who are consistently healthy eaters just don’t get tempted as much. That is so not true! And in the interest of honesty, I’ll say I’m speaking as a person who talks to a lot of consistently healthy eaters – I’m not always a consistently healthy eater myself!
But here’s the deal. Everyone has food vices. Everyone. And most people who are consistently healthy eaters accept that every once in a while they are going to indulge. But they have developed this habit of enjoying those moments, then moving on. (Notice I said they developed that habit. I rarely find that’s an innate habit for most people.)
Alternative thought: Even when you eat healthfully, you’re going to face temptation. That doesn’t make you weak. That makes you human! The trick is to watch out for situations where you are likely to face temptation and decide in advance how you’d like to handle it. Be mindful!
The secret to eating healthfully for life
Heck, I dunno! Man…if I had that secret I would not be driving the world’s most tortured Toyota Camry, mkay?
But I can tell you what I’ve learned.
- You don’t have to eat healthy 100% of the time to be a healthy eater. Over the past 9 years I’ve learned a better sense of balance. Yes, I do indulge sometimes. But because my main goal is to eat food that nourishes my body well, proposed indulgences have to be truly worth it. When I live my life by that standard, I do ok.
- Accountability is important! For years I railed against daily food logging and weighing myself. Over the past year I’ve started those practices again to hold myself accountable. It’s easy to tell yourself stories in your head about what’s happening to your body. Data makes everything real (which, admittedly, is scary). I shared with you guys a short time ago that I use a service called Good Measures that provides me with a bariatric dietitian, a platform that analyzes my unique nutritional needs, and helps me build better eating habits. That accountability has helped me to think twice about a great many things I thought about putting in my mouth! If you’d like to read my review of Good Measures, click here!
- Pay attention to your body. It’s surprisingly efficient at giving you signals about how you should eat. Our bodies react to the things we put in it – for better or worse. I know that if I eat too much fat (cough…cough…peanut butter!) I’ll get acne. If I eat too many starches, I get terrible gas (TMI, I know!). One of the things I implore you to do as you start to build your healthy lives is to stop and listen to your body. Not just when you feel nauseous or something comes back up. Listen for the subtle signs, both good and bad. I know, for example, that even though bananas aren’t my favorite food in the world, half of one before a workout gives me a mid-workout boost! So things like that. When you understand how your body reacts to food, you can build a way of eating centered on YOU.