By Andrea Holwegner, Nutrition Expert & Professional Speaker
Welcome to the August edition of my new e-newsletter “Bite Me,” which you can think of like an A-bomb that will… astonish, agitate, activate & advance you!
Each month I will send you a short reflection to shift your thinking and spark your motivation for wellness change. My message is not only about food, but about LIFE and achieving better balance, energy and health. Enjoy!
I have recently coined a new term “healthorexia” in my nutrition consulting practice. “Healthorexia” came to me one day after I finished working with yet another female client Karen that didn’t have an eating disorder but seemed to be taking the healthy eating message a bit too far. Karen was like many people, just trying to do the right thing. She was eating every 2 hours on a strict regimen, avoiding high glycemic foods such as bananas which could spike blood sugars, avoiding butter and white rice like the plague, and eating whole grains such as brown rice (never white rice). Karen was also worried that carbs were making her fat and that protein bars and supplements were the answer for weight control.
While there is truth and reason for all of the choices she was making, I asked Karen if she was actually enjoying what she was eating. She hesitated and seemed stressed by the mundane patterns she had implemented for months. She appeared betrayed that her body would not let go of the unwanted pounds despite all of her efforts. She cracked a smile when I asked her if she thought anyone has actually gained weight because they ate too many bananas. She also grinned when I asked her why the whole continent of Asia was not overweight since they ate a very high-carb diet based on large amounts of white rice.
Figuring out food and how to balance your nutrition is quite a challenge considering there is conflicting information wherever you turn. Sometimes with so many options, I think we can complicate things more than we need to. I vote for simplifying eating by starting with a basic principle of balancing health andenjoyment.
Balancing Health & Enjoyment
While healthy eating is absolutely important, so is enjoying your food and being flexible in your relationship with it.
I meet many people that make all their choices based on taste with little consideration to health. While this is not the answer and can lead to health issues, a diet based on nutritional perfection isn’t ideal either. To move away from “healthorexia” and ensure that you find balance between healthy eating and enjoyment of your food, here are some things to consider:
Realize IMPERFECT is Perfect
Give yourself permission to enjoy ALL foods and remember there are no bad foods.We all want what we can’t have – trying to take out your favorite foods will only lead to overdoing them and feelings of failure for not sticking to your perfect eating regime. It is better to have small portions of something you really enjoy more often, than binge uncontrollably with feelings of guilt.
Have a “BIG PICTURE” Philosophy
There are 21 meals in a week if a few are not ideal don’t worry about it! If you had 3 meals last week that were a nutrition disaster realize this is still a score of 85% on your diet which is pretty good. Remember to celebrate your successes rather than just notice your failures.
Tune In & TRUST
If you seriously tune in and trust your body, it won’t let you down. Intuitively you know what is good for you. Start small, choose not to go on a diet and toss out plans that have a forbidden food list. Listen to your body for hunger and satiety cues.
Like Karen discovered, white rice, bananas and a bit of butter on her toast are not the routes of all evil. Just like bars, shakes and supplements were not as enjoyable for her as eating a tasty meal. For Karen, weight loss and health has been more successful ensuring that she trusts her own intuition and includes a variety of pleasurable foods daily.
For me as the “chocoholic dietitian” balancing health and enjoyment means choosing nutritious foods daily that give me energy and nourishment I need for health. It is also means indulging in chocolate regularly.
Food provides nourishment for our body, but it tastes good because it is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated.