I’ve been thinking about food an awful lot lately and testing recipes like mango lettuce wraps and sweet potato and black bean tacos to get ready for the 7 day clean food challenge. Delicious.
This way of eating has become routine for me and it’s made me realize how far I’ve come. I’ve spent years now reteaching myself how to eat in a way that works for me and allows me to feel energetic, light and strong. I have no idea how many calories, fat grams or protein I’m supposed to have a day. I eat what my body craves (which has certainly changed in the last few years) without guilt or worrying. It drives me crazy when you read in magazines that women ‘should’ eat 1200 calories a day. What? How can one approach work for everyone?
To be truthful, for years I worried about every single bite that I put into my mouth. I ate too much, and then too little. I mentally calculated how much I’d have to work out to burn it all off again. It was exhausting and awful and I hated every minute of it.
Over the past few years of studying nutrition and figuring how what works for me (and what doesn’t), I’ve developed my own theories and approaches that are more relaxed and allow me to enjoy life from a healthier and less stressed perspective and I wanted to share them with you.
1. Food as love vs. food as stress
A friend of mine began tagging her Instagram food pictures with #foodislove. I immediately loved it because we have a choice to think this way and it’s takes the stress right out of it.
For years I lived in the stressful zone thinking about food. I worried about what I was eating, but ate it anyway. I felt guilt. I felt pressure to burn it off. It was totally stressful and at points consumed my thinking.
Food as love? Ah, exhale and relax. A bag of chips made in a factory doesn’t feel like love…. but fresh cherries warmed by the sun? That is love. Your favorite meal made by your mom – that’s love. Sliced tomatoes, avocado and a pat of butter for a summery, light meal- that is love. A fresh salad with pears, pecans and homemade vinaigrette – that’s love too. A glass of cold wine on the back porch while you relax under the stars – yup, love.
See the difference? It forces you to know that food can (and should) nourish your body, mind and spirit. One is about the food and the calories and the rules, the other is about your full experience. One leaves you feeling guilty. The other fills you up.
2. Relaxing the rules is a good thing
Okay, maybe sometimes we need some food rules to break us out of a bad habit or help begin or restart our journey to a healthier lifestyle. But once you’ve adopted health and wellness as a priority and you naturally crave high quality food to nourish your body, then it’s time to loosen up the rules a bit.
Here’s a great way to practice – stop banning the foods you love to eat. Why would you do that? You’re human. That means if you create a rule for yourself that you can never eat something you love again, you will automatically want it more than you’ve wanted anything in your whole life. That’s just how it works.
Trust me, you will see me occasionally eating ice cream in the summer and enjoying the heck out of a cheese platter. I just don’t let it derail me anymore because I know how to get myself back on track. The trick is following an 80/20 way of eating. 80% of the time, I eat healthy foods that I love and make me feel good. And because of that, when I want to indulge, I do so without guilt. Many times I’ll try to eat the healthiest version of whatever indulgence I’m going for, like these, but when that’s not in the cards, whatever. I know that my body can keep me in balance because most of the time, I’m making great, healthy choices.
80/20 takes the pressure off. You don’t need to be perfect.
3. Food is the gateway to a better life. It’s a starting point, not the end.
I actually don’t care a lick about the nitty gritty of nutrition. I care about health and happiness and a big life filled with freedom, love, warmth, flexibility and joy and I care a LOT about eating for the way I want to feel. For me, that means lots of vegetables, protein, natural grains, nuts and fruits. Food is the tool that allows me to feel that way.
True health and wellness go way, way beyond the realm of nutrition. It’s so much more well-rounded and so much more fun. It’s when things in your life are integrated and aligned with what you truly want.
Food has to be at the the start of the shift because it so deeply affects the way you are in the world. It’s the gateway and it can propel you forward in a big way. Once you are healthy and strong and balanced and energetic, your life will open up. It will create momentum for you. It will create major shifts and expansions. You’ll feel aligned and engaged and ready to roll.
THAT’s why I care about nutrition – for the possibilities, the feeling good and the opening up of your life.