Perfect diets don’t exist. Don’t believe me? Let me ask you: how often have you tried to follow a dietary plan that supposedly should help you sort out all your physical ailments and as a result make you completely happy in all other areas of life also? Ignoring the latter part of the promise, how often did you actually achieve the physical changes resulting from such a diet and maintained those results without feeling deprived or restricted?
If I would guess, I’d say temporarily for a short time or never. Please, don’t feel ashamed or guilty for admitting this. I want to re-assure you that this is normal. We are human, not perfect. Our relationship with food can be a journey which opens us up to really getting to know ourselves if we are open for it. If we approach it with curiosity and no judgement. If we are kind and compassionate towards ourselves instead of self-flagellating and controlling. If we are accepting of the fact that we are human and that we are exploring what works for us and what not and that this journey takes time.
Let me share my approach with you.
By now, you should know that my diet is not perfect… and quite frankly that is not what I am striving for (any longer – I used to be quite obsessed at a stage until I realized that was not healthy, either). If I did, food would become such stress and frustration and where is the fun in that?! Where is the nourishment in that?! I have sufficient stress in my life (usually self induced I must add) without wanting to add extra pressure in an area of my life which is inherently deeply nourishing, not just for the food that we eat, yet also how we eat it and in what surroundings.
So, what do I do then to bring joy, comfort and ease into my relationship with food?
Here are my four tips to success:
- Consistency is the way forward: you don’t need to eat a clean wholefoods diet all the time. Allow yourself the occasional treat out, a rare takeaway or a quick ready meal, particularly in exceptional situations. There is no need to feel guilty, ashamed or like you have fallen of the bandwagon: we are all human, you are no exception, and with the next choice you can make sure you have a healthy wholesome meal again.
- Compromise meals: this is a biggie for me! I have a partner who experienced my first few tries of cooking ‘healthier’. It did not always work out great and as a result he is very cautious when it comes to my experiments. So, when I am cooking for both of us I know to rely on those meals I know he likes and slowly expanding to things which I have perfected or tried out successfully when cooking just for myself!
- Upgrade your normal choices: here shop bought pizza springs to mind for me which we do occasionally have (yes, shock, gasp, I know!… told you my diet was not perfect). This is one meal where the compromise boundary goes a lot towards Mr A Vibrant Life, yet I am always, always upgrading the pizza by putting LOADS of extra vegetables on top (think courgette, onion, peppers, asparagus, mushrooms, artichokes, etc. ) and serve it with a huge bowl full of leaves (like rucola) on the side to bring the nutritional value of the meal up.
- Connect to your body and mind: you can make your meal a quality meal anytime by really getting engaged into the process of eating. Make sure it’s a nice, relaxing environment (light a candle), take your time chewing and eating, switch off any electronics or other distractions. The biochemical processes in your body switch over to where your digestion is optimally supported so ensuring the absorption of nutrients and activating hormonal messengers that tell you when you are satiated. Hence, make sure you to get all your senses engaged, make eating a pleasurable experience, so that even when your dinner may nutritionally not be a quality meal, it is quality when it comes to nourishing your senses and other pleasure senses!
What do you feel is one thing you can take on board from this list that would benefit you and your relationship with food?
PS: The only argument that I would let pass that there is a perfect diet is when it comes to personalized nutrition. However, even personalized nutrition recognizes that diet needs to change as other factors change (such as age or season). I also strongly believe that health is a mindset (read more here) as much as physical wellbeing – something that diet cannot provide and something that we have to actively work on by working through our limiting beliefs and common thinking behaviours.