I’ve started writing this post a few times, but it ends up being really long, so I’ve decided to write a short summary of my approach to my diet, and I’ll expand on each section over the coming few weeks.
I’ve had a complex relationship with food (and my body) over the years, but I feel like I’ve started to figure out what works for me. And that’s a key point – this is what works for me. One of the first things we learn as trainee Nutritional Therapists as that we’re all individuals – our bodies are all different and there are a number of factors which influence how we can best support our health and wellbeing.
That said, at a high level I don’t think there is any health or nutritional professional who would disagree that the three main tenets of my food philosophy are a pretty good template for healthy eating. In summary, they are:
- I eat as little processed food as possible.
- I try to avoid eating refined sugar, and minimise my intake of “free sugars” (which is basically any sugar that isn’t in a whole fruit – that includes honey and fruit juice)
- I try to choose the most nutrient dense foods I can – 5 a day goes without saying (it’s usually closer to 10!), but I’d also choose unrefined carbs over refined ones (e.g. brown rice over white) or plain yogurt with some berries over a bought fruit yogurt for example
At the start of September, I set myself a 100 day challenge – to embed good habits by eating this way 100% of the time for 100 days. In a way, I find that easier as I don’t have to deal with the internal dialogue about whether or not I should have that slice of cake/pizza/fruit and nut! It’s not that I’m not allowed to have it, it’s just that I’m choosing not to. I’ve done 76 out of a possible 78 days so far, both deviations were as a result of eating what someone else had cooked for me and I’m not going to be rude about it!
Many people advocate an 80/20 approach, where you’ll reap most of the benefits of a healthy diet by eating well 80% of the time. I’ll relax a little over Christmas and enjoy a few festive treats, but ultimately this is a lifestyle change, not a diet, and I’m aiming to eat like this most of the time. Some other things I’ve discovered whilst eating this way:
- I can actually say no to cake, and it doesn’t hurt that much
- Treats aren’t really treats if they make you feel shit, no matter how good they taste. You are not deprived if you turn down chocolate, you are deprived if you miss out on feeling good on a daily basis
- It’s a good feeling when someone asks “are you allowed this?” and you feel you can honestly say “I’m allowed to eat whatever I want to, I’m just choosing not to”.
- Cutting out processed food left my skin looking kind of glowy and the cellulite I’ve endured since I was a teenager has more or less disappeared. I have more energy and my digestion is better. What’s not to love?
It also hasn’t taken the fun out of food for me – I eat out regularly, enjoy dinner with the rest of my family and am still able to enjoy some sweet treats.
Note – I still consume alcohol (mostly) in moderation. A girl’s got to have a vice.