How to Eat what You Want and still Feel Good!
When it comes to your health, it helps to know yourself. This can involve lots of introspection and reflection, but the intention here is more practical.
So, let’s start practical.
I love chocolate.
And, I also REALLY love Ms. Vickies salt and vinegar chips. A lot. And the balsamic and sweet onion chips are a very close rival.
I could eat these all the time. So, I do. I eat one square piece of my Lindt 70% cocoa chocolate bar each evening at dinnertime. And one bowl of Ms. Vickies chips a week.
Why eating a bowl of chips is not “bad”
Giving myself permission, instead of rules, to eat chips is because I know myself. I know I enjoy them. There are no known substitutes for my chips. And I’m not looking for any.
Having studied nutrition and participated in hundreds of conversations about food, I am aware of the tendency towards labeling foods “good” and “bad”. People are often asking me to assign (or agree with their) judgment about foods they or others eat. After all “good” foods are healthy and to be eaten in abundance. “Bad” foods are to be banished from our kitchens, eliminating temptation to consume them.
Enter problem. Putting chips on the “bad” or “must not eat” list maintains their status as evil. To be avoided at all cost. And I find that incredibly distracting from my real focus of wanting to eat well.
Reducing food simplistically to black and white categories has kept many of us from making sustainable change. Assigning judgment to foods keeps the topic of health, and what is good for you and me, safely outside us dwelling in the periphery of rules and debate. It keeps it away from considering you. And it forgets to consider the complexities and uniqueness of you.
Keeping foods on that “bad” list distracts from what’s most important and that is what’s important and healthy for you.
My way of eating chips allows them to live in my life in a sustainable, what is good-for-me, delicious kind of way. And now I’m no longer distracted by or fighting with what chips are, or, are not. Their goodness or badness has stopped mattering. And I’m freed up to focus on the bigger picture which is what I’ve been eating all day, or all week that has served my health well.
The kind of things that could be on the list of You being You:
I’d like to propose that you make a list of what you know to be true about yourself as it relates to being healthy and fit and look at it.
Here are some other examples of what are on my list:
I love doing cardio. It gets me out of my head and stimulates my energy.
I also love weight training. I have discovered (for me) that there is no feeling better than strong.
I’m best served to work out first thing in the day. Otherwise I’ll talk myself out doing it altogether.
Vegetables make me happy.
7.5 hours of sleep is what I need every night.
Routines and structure help me. (This has not always been on my list! Sometimes I struggle with this one. But still, it helps me.)
For me to be well hydrated means drinking 3L (12 glasses) of water a day.
I needed to pay close attention to my mental health. Especially when the days are shorter in the fall or winter season.
And, I love chocolate and chips.
It’s time to forget someone else’s definition of what it means to be healthy. And all the damn Rules.
This “Being Susan” list has helped me (bring to a closer end) the fight. Inspired by Gretchen Rubin from her book “The Happiness Project” she made a Be Gretchen list to understand herself and create space for personal change. If you want to move every day in the direction of being healthier, know yourself and where and who you are now. Create space for a more a loving and compassionate way of being healthy.
Believe me, I do hear that voice that says: “Never, Ever Buy Chips Again! They Are Bad For You” Sometimes I listen to the voice and don’t buy them for a week or two. But they always seem to find their way back. (Yes, this is often with my help.) It’s because I was trying to create change without really taking the time to understand what it is about me and chips.
So now I’m working on ending that fight, and am going to start to see what works for me, and what doesn’t. It’s my own little experiment. And now I have a stronger starting point including some other things that I need to be curious about:
Sugar drops me on my ass HARD. My head feels empty and hollow and hurts.
If I don’t eat 5 meals a day I get wicked headaches.
I hate feeling hungover (and for me that can happen with one innocent glass of wine combined with a good dose of insufficient hydration).
In October I better have my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamp on daily because depression can live in me.
If I don’t drink the balance of my water during the day I’ll be up all night peeing (maybe this goes for most people… still, good to know, right?)
Once in awhile I’ll crave an A&W mama burger (WTF?)
This part of my list is a tad different. It reflects hard learnings, some of which I’m continuing to learn, others that I’ve more accepted as what helps me. And slowly it gets easier and easier for me to say “no” to that celebratory sheet cake laden with icing. My body has actually told me quite clearly, on repeated occasions that it hates sugar.
So, if you’re feeling up for the conversation that wants to debate if sugar is good or bad I’m not as interested anymore. I have my own personal knowledge base which highlights that sugar is unhelpful for me but that not I’ve all sugar affects me the same way. I’m paying attention to that. I’m getting more intimate with the health principles and values that I hold, and am looking for ways to move closer to living in alignment with those. That is the (my) Quest.
Know Yourself and Be Curious
There is so much freedom in this. Guess what? There is no perfect diet or methodology. There is only what works for you. And only you can figure that out.
So on the topic of why did I eat that Mama Burger last week? It might surprise the people I know that I ate one, and believe me it surprises me. But I know me, I have it on my list and I am curious about that because it isn’t really in line with what’s important to me…. not at all. And I feel sick after I eat them…. It’s time to feel guilty. Stay curious about that Susan.
Your list can/ will/ should change
Something that used to be on my list was: I love Coca Cola (NOT Pepsi, let’s be clear). And just like that burger, I got curious about that item on my list, in other words it was me-watching-me. Over time, the picture got clearer as I watched how much I drank, what I drank it with, what (nutrition) information I was choosing to avoid and why, how it tasted in my mouth, how I felt…. all that curiosity made it all happen more naturally. No big fight. No 30-day challenge. No drama. No accountability. No rules needed.
What I’m not saying…
I’m not saying change will always be so organic as my Coca Cola story. What I am saying is if you have your list then you know your way forward. I made peace with Ms. Vicky in my own way and it is a part of how I live out my health. You will do the same for you because I know you too on your own Quest to be healthy. Focus on that.
So stop making healthy hard, and take some time this week to notice and note what you know about you. And then build your healthy life around that. There can be ease.
Drop me a comment below and be sure to download this free worksheet to capture what you notice.