If healthy eating made it on to your list of goals to hit for the new year, there’s no need to look towards restrictive diets. Here’s why eating more is better for your mind and body in the long run.
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, are you someone who dreams up big ticket goals only to see them slowly fade in the distance soon after? Most of us can certainly relate. Just 9% of people fully follow through with resolutions that are set at the beginning of the year.
However, your follow-through with New Year’s goals and resolutions doesn’t define your personal success or failure.
Besides, it’s probably not you. It’s the goals.
Eating healthier is always near the top of the list when it comes to the most popular resolutions but the internet creates confusion around what that exactly means.
We all know that at least one new food or food group will be proclaimed “toxic” this year, and there will surely be a documentary to scare you into thinking you should abide by some newly coined rules, at the risk of facing some nasty consequences.
P.S. Documentaries are not usually a reliable medium for health advice.
In recent memory alone, you’ve likely seen headlines around the dangers of fat, carbohydrates, sugar, gluten, grains, meat, nightshade vegetables, milk, beans, soy, peanuts, eggs, bananas, fruit in general, sparkling water, tap water, bottled water, deli meat, fish, butter, vegetable oil, and coconut oil among many others.
At least one of your favorite foods will be on the “no” list at some point.
The good news is, this really doesn’t have to be all that complicated. Sure, it can be hard not to get swept up into the world of wellness extremes. After all, no one wants to miss out on what could be the next big thing, especially in the social media-driven world we live in.
But what if there was an alternative to restriction that felt positive, uncomplicated, and sustainable?
Instead of putting energy into what not to eat, what about the goal of eating more?
That means more new foods so you get a variety of nutrients, flavors & textures.
It means more creative preparation methods so you can learn to make health-promoting food taste amazing, while learning to easily incorporate them into your normal routine.
Simple mindset shifts often have a huge payoff when it comes to health improvement, and better yet, is a more reasonable goal. In fact, you don’t need to make any radical dietary changes or to stop eating gluten. All you need to learn is how to objectively evaluate food, and make informed decisions about what best meets your needs in a given situation.
It’s important to remember that food is not the enemy, and is essential for fueling the lifestyle you want. If any of this rings true for you, it might seem unattainable now, but it is possible and the benefits are worth the effort.
So how do you even start this process?
The first thing you can do is consider making minor shifts in the language you use around food. For example:
- Instead of “this is high in calories”, try “this will satisfy me for a while”
- Instead of “this dessert is so unhealthy”, try “this is really rich & indulgent”
- Instead of “fruit is high in sugar”, try “the carbohydrates in fruit give me energy”
This is a powerful step in learning to make appropriate choices whether they’re based on nutrition, pleasure, social connection, or some combination of the three.
For the sake of your mental health, you may even find that using a “more, not less” approach can even be fun. Challenging yourself to include more variety (rather than arbitrarily eliminating a food) can be liberating and free up a lot of space to focus on other things, such as learning a new hobby or embracing forms of movement that you actually enjoy.
Remember that health is not determined by one food, meal or even day of eating.
It’s the patterns you create over long periods of time that truly make an impact.
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Leanne Ray, MS, RDN is a Denver-based Registered Dietitian empowering women to sustain healthy lifestyles that are practical and realistic. By helping others find happiness and joy through delicious foods that don’t involve guilt or stress, she shares how healthy eating can involve satisfaction instead of boring, low-calorie diets. Visit her site to read more from Leanne.