How to Eat Well & Lose Weight
Scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed. Shredded, picture-perfect images of fitness models with abs telling us to follow the latest fad diet, claiming that if you follow A, B, and C, you’ll achieve the “ideal body”. The reality is, losing weight isn’t as easy as eat less, move more. To summarize what happens when you diet- your body fights back. So often, you gain back the weight and then some once you “slip up” or end the diet.
That’s where the classic “eating everything in moderation” phrase comes in. I’m sure you’ve heard this popular wisdom before from your family and friends, and maybe you’re guilty of using it, as well. However, after years of dieting, jumping into the moderated-eating lifestyle may seem next to impossible. When you’ve been engrossed in diet-culture and living by a strict set of dietary rules for so long, you may feel completely out of touch with your hunger and satiety cues. How can you possibly eat rule-free without eating EVERYTHING in sight? How can you possibly eat moderately when you have no sensation left to gauge what eating in moderation is?!
Take a deep breath and take it slow. I promise you, you’re not going to gain a million pounds in a day.
What you need to do is to take small steps by first unlearning dieting. Then you can begin relearning mindful and intuitive eating.
MINDFULNESS MATTERS. INTUITION IS INNATE.
By focusing on mindful and intuitive eating, you will be able to develop effective eating habits to reach your health goals and establish a healthy relationship with food. Let’s first start off with the practice of mindful eating. This is when we are paying full or at least adequate attention to what we are eating and the amounts eaten without being distracted or just eating out of habit. It means turning off the TV, putting the phone away, and enjoying every bite. When you increase your awareness and appreciation of the food you eat, you gain an understanding about what foods nourish your body. When you’re enjoying food, rather than rushing through it, or eating by a pre-determined set of rules, you break the diet restrict binge repeat cycle, and food loses its moral meaning. “Bad” foods lose their allure when they’re no longer off limits, and naturally healthy foods become more appealing because they feel good – not “are good”. You need to believe that you have the ability to control what you eat, rather than the food controlling you and your emotions. Don’t let food stress you out. Trust me, by taking smaller steps, it will not seem so overwhelming, but will pave the path towards a healthy relationship with food.
The other related but not exactly the same nutrition philosophy is intuitive eating. Our body KNOWS what it needs and wants. If you give it quality, whole foods without all the excess additives, it will reprogram itself to crave healthy foods a lot more often! To eat intuitively is to listen to your body’s hunger signals. Are you full? Are you about to reach fullness? Are you eating when you actually feel the hunger sensation? When we are more in tune with our body’s natural hunger cues, we are much more likely to consume appropriate portions and eat without restriction, counting calories or macros; allowing us to attain our own personal healthy weight. You’ll actually ENJOY the food you’re eating too. What sounds hard about that?
WHAT IS EATING IN MODERATION?
Eating in moderation is aiming to have a well-balanced diet most of the time. Some people like to give a number (like the 80% “healthy” and 20% “whatever you want” rule) but I find this only drags us back into the diet mentality. I don’t like the 80/20 rule because I don’t like “rules”. To me it just means that most of your meals and snacks involve selecting quality, nourishing foods from at least several of the food groups such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, legumes, nuts and seeds. Hopefully, without the diet mentality looming over your shoulder, these foods become pleasurable as well, but we also know that we sometimes just need some wiggle room for the foods that are PURE pleasure. Like wine. And ice cream. And cookies. There’s room for treats every day, as long as the majority of your food choices are nourishing and feel good.
FOOD IS MEANT TO BE ENJOYED AND PLEASURABLE. NOT A SOURCE OF STRESS.
I believe that food should be pleasurable and eating should be enjoyed. I don’t believe in cutting foods out (unless you are allergic or have a sensitivity), or denying myself a certain food I enjoy. But I also realize that sometimes “everything in moderation” is difficult to nail down in practice – especially after years of dieting and restricting. It can be scary to suddenly be allowed the freedom to let your body choose when moderation is so loosely (if at all) defined.
You need to nourish your body with healthy foods that make you feel good and enable you to perform your best. You also need to nourish your soul by allowing yourself to have foods you love to eat with ZERO, and yes I mean nada guilt! Your body also needs some ME-time, which includes engaging in self-care activities that make YOU happy – whether it’s going out for a walk, signing up for a pilates class, chilling with some Netflix or reading a book with a cup of tea. Just allow yourself to wind-down from the busy life. It’s also essential to be physically active whenever you have the opportunity as part of your routine (and that does not mean you have to go to the gym, but finding something you love doing!). By taking good care of your body and mind, and treating your body with the respect it deserves, your body will love you back. Trust me. This way, you’ll find peace with yourself and really love the skin you’re in!
Eating moderately is really CONTEXT-specific in that the exact amounts you eat may depend on the type of food you’re eating. It’s also very INDIVIDUAL-specific in that it will vary from person to person. This is why solidifying specific numbers doesn’t make sense.
BE “IN-TUNE” AND LISTEN TO WHAT YOUR BODY WANTS BY RECOGNIZING YOUR INNATE HUNGER AND SATIETY (FULLNESS) SIGNALS.
THE TAKE HOME: HOW WE CAN UNLEARN DIETING AND RESTRICTION TO EATING IN MODERATION
Despite the controversies and backlash with the term moderation, I think the core concept is strong. If you take anything away from this article, here’s what I want you to remember.
Eating in moderation isn’t another rule. It’s not a strict 80/20 division of what foods can be fun foods and what foods have to be healthy foods.
Eating in moderation is about listening to your bodies signs and signals to tell you what it needs and yes, even what it wants.
Eating in moderation is about doing away with moralizing food and thinking in terms of “good food” vs “bad food”.
Eating in moderation is enjoying all of the foods you eat, and making pleasure (both physical, in what makes you feel good and emotional too) the primary criteria for what you eat.
Eating in moderation is about honouring and loving your body.
Stay you Warrior.