Going to the extremes is exhausting to the body, so it’s no surprise that restrictive diets never work out. Try a gentler approach with your body, and see how much further you get.


The diet world likes to overcomplicate things, claiming to hold miraculous secrets to eating that will unlock your healthiest body. These ‘secret’ tactics are typically harsh on your body, taking your health on a ride to the extremities and back.

No wonder they never last in the long run.

But what if you were told there is no well-kept secret to nourishing your body with food, other than to pay attention and listen to what your body needs?

That probably doesn’t sound as glamorous, but it’s simply the truth.

It’s about coming up with what foods you value, cueing in to your hunger, and easing into all of your wants and needs when it comes to food. It’s about allowing yourself to enjoy what you’re putting in your body and realizing every food that goes in your mouth does not need to be the picture of health. It’s about finding those veggies you do enjoy eating and figuring out how you like them prepared, rather than eating the ones that you don’t enjoy.

It’s about being kindler, gentler approach to adapting to your body’s needs. Here are 3 ways to do it:

​1. How to create food values & ditch food rules.

Think about what’s important to you when eating. Do you value a colorful plate or a plate that includes most of the food groups or buying locally grown foods? Whatever it is, food values are there to guide your decisions, gently. These values are meant to just help shape your meals, but they aren’t something that has to happen every single time you eat.

In contrast, food rules were something you probably felt like you should do all the time, which becomes all-consuming and are commonly associated with guilt. Feel free to ditch those.

2. How to enjoy what goes into your body.

First things first, choose foods that you love to eat and you’ll automatically enjoy what’s going into your body. That may sound oversimplified, but when you start to eat all the foods you love, you can truly enjoy eating and put the joy back in eating. The key to eating foods that you love is to ditch the food rules and embrace food values instead.

It may take a little work, but try new recipes or preparation techniques. Find those veggies your enjoy or certain grains that you love and make those. Don’t worry if there are certain foods that you don’t like or care to eat. Some is better than none!

3. You don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy.

It’s all about finding that middle ground, where you find what works for your body. Your meals don’t have to look like salads & green smoothies all the time. Eat the foods that you enjoy, and try not to fret that the only things you want to eat are cookies, cake, and ice cream.

Think about your favorite dessert, then think about what it would be like if you ate it every meal for a week. You would probably get tired of the taste, and the special treat of eating it would wear off pretty fast. There are going to be days or weeks where you eat more cookies than veggies, but there are also going to be times where the opposite occurs because that’s what your body is craving. It will take time to trust your body & listen to what it wants, but once you start practicing, it will come naturally.

Allow nutrition to gently guide rather than control your food choices, but letting your cravings, satisfaction, and body do the heavy lifting. Give yourself permission to eat all the foods you enjoy and throw the guilt out the window.

Adapted from the original article.

Emily Holdorf, MS, RDN is a Scranton, PA-based private practice dietitian on a mission to empower others to live a healthier, happier life.  By emphasizing a non-diet approach to eating, Emily helps individuals form a better relationship with food by focusing on why there’s room for every food in moderation. Find out more about about Emily at EmPowered Nutrition.