Put your hand up if you've been really ‘good’ this week?
Who planned to be good
(after a ‘bad weekend’) ?
but ate a mince pie at work today….
which of course now means you have officially failed at moral dieting commitment -surely you may as well live up to the name and finish the rest of the box?!
Let me make a little educated guess that those of you that can relate to this most commonly, are often stuck in a dieting cycle, or at the very least have a black and white viewpoint surrounding food.
I can relate to the good/ bad food debate very well.
I’ve been there myself many moons ago.
Thankfully it didn't last too long, but it was long enough to make me think and reflect that the way I had began to judge food was not ‘healthful’ and most importantly was not making me a happy human being.
I see the moral inferences surrounding foods every day, as both a female and a personal trainer.
“Oh I’ve been really bad this weekend so I’ll have a good week”
“Am I being bad eating this piece of bread?”
“I’ve been so good today I’ve eaten nothing but salad and fish”
“Is this good for me”? or “Oh Jill your so good” (when I eat my SuperSlaw!)
The good and bad of food associations with emotional guilt, justification, judgement and satisfaction is so entrenched that there is barely a day I don't hear a phrase likened to the above.
The good and bad of food is heavily associated, in my experience, with a dieters mentality. This is the mentality which (before I changed the way I thought), I lived in for a while.
A FEW CONFESSIONS
Things that happened when I thought I was being ‘good’ with food.
-Anxiety surrounding almost every social situation I entered which involved food.
-Anxiety and self loathing when I (inevitably) ‘fell off the good food wagon’ at the weekend.
-Binge eating of ‘bad foods’ when I allowed myself to. Don't misread this -I have never suffered with binging at the level of a compulsive eater/or any full gone eating disorder- but in my head at the time, if I ate anything bad -I viewed it as a binge. Binging = bad feelings. More often than not (note to those who ‘binge drink at weekends’-) this occurred after alcohol consumption (alcohol is known to disinhibit behaviours by lowering inhibitions/worries)
-A lack of perspective surrounding foods. I began to associate a ‘negativity’ with every-day food items (such as bread, diary, wheat, soy). Eventually this extended to grains, nuts (that hadn't been soaked!), nightshades (mushrooms- peppers) - there soon became very few foods that I actually saw as being healthful. This is not an easy place to be in for day to day living. Imagine the anxiety of trying to ‘grab a healthy snack in a lunch hour’!
Now its fair to say that the above is not a sustainable approach to either living well or with any degree of contentment. Maybe you aren't there yet. Maybe you never will be. But when we act out our feelings of the ‘good and bad' of food. Lets be careful to keep this in perspective. Without meaning to categorise people (as this again, is unhelpful), in my experience the dieters mentality is the most commonly associated. It also never wins. Dieters are plagued with an unknown end game and an emotional rollercoaster of happiness vrs guilt.
What helped me develop a healthier attitude surrounding food?
Seeing food for what it is
**FUEL for the Body
**Enjoyment for the mind
Food is ultimately energy for the body. Sugar is energy. Wheat is energy. Greens are energy. every item of food you eat is energy in one form or another. Yes some foods are better ‘energy sources’ than others, but ultimately we eat to live and function. Just like animals, we eat to survive and thrive. If we eat ‘too much energy’ we will gain weight. If we eat too little ‘energy’ (and move more) we will lose weight. This is the basics of nutrition. No maths equations needed.
So a few tips to try and help give you food for thought:-
-If you have eaten something sugary - make it on a day you move more. Make it on a day you have a hard training session. This will allow the body to use food as fuel. Days of activity will inevitably need more energry. Just don't fool yourself that a gentle jog in the park will burn off a mars bar and a mince pie. Look at the intensity of your training and exercise as a means to approaching how much energy you need that day. Be honest with yourself (or get a trainer to be honest with you).
-If you have eaten lots of sugary foods and have gained fat. Ultimately know that you need to move more (and at a greater intensity) whilst creating a ‘calorie deficit’ somewhere along the road for the fat gain to shift. The body doesn't care if you have been good or bad. It cares if you have eaten too much or too little. Think about overall intake vas overall outtake (as opposed to saint or sinner).
-The feeling of good vrs bad- creates hormonal changes in the body. The good hormones obviously are the ones we want to work on keeping. The bad hormones (so feelings of anxiety and guilt) create stress within the body. Stress hormones are linked to weight gain.
Judge how you feel about food in line with a mindset of enjoyment and how sustained this lasts. If you have enjoyed a sugary treat -savour the moment -practice gratitude that you have served your body with ‘energy’. If you know this energy isn't then needed to sit on your ass all day- go for a walk- get active. Failing that - eat foods which are lower in ‘energy’ (so lower in Kcals) for the remainder of the day.
-Practice eating small amounts of all foods you would previously have considered to be bad. So aim for balance. In my experience people binge on unhealthy foods because they see it as a ‘last chance saloon’ approach or a reward .The age old “I may as well eat the whole cake because I’m going on a diet in Jan” approach is plagued with problems. We know will power is over rated. We also know deep down its unlikely you will never eat a piece of cake again. Allowing yourself to have small amounts of foods which are perhaps less healthful removes this approach of an all or nothing eternity. Just think about managing the calorie intake accordingly.
-And Finally- Live according to your own morals. Not the morals that others place on food. If a friend doesn't eat bread as they think its bad for them. Good for them but don't feel like you need to feel guilty for dipping into the bread basket once in a while. Likewise if a friend tries to ‘feed you up with chocolate’ every time you visit - feel strong enough to say no when you need to. Learn to make your own moral compass about how you respond to this. Don't let other people influence how you feel about food if it doesn't serve your goal. Enjoy food, but manage the intake and the nutritional content according to how you want to live look and feel.