Do you ever struggle with making the right choices around food?
Do you often times find yourself regretting what you just ate, and feeling as though you should have eaten something else?
I want to share with you one of my favourite strategies for finding more balance through your eating, that you might not have thought of.
So, what’s this great secret to finding more balance in your eating?
IT'S NOT REALLY A SECRET- IT'S A HABIT
More than any ancient secret, it's actually just a great habit, and it is to provide yourself with more variety.
PROVIDE YOURSELF VARIETY
PICTURE THE FIRST SCENARIO:
You’ve just come back from a long, hard day at work. You’re hungry, and you’re craving something cool, and crispy, and fresh, and filling. You open up your refrigerator only to find it is nearly empty, aside from a few items. There’s no other food in the house and you’re too tired to go out to the shops.
In the fridge you see chicken, cake, and some vegetable samosas
I know it’s a strange fridge but stick with me
In the moment, you think the samosas are the closest thing to being able satisfy your cravings. After all, they are cool from being in the fridge, crispy in texture, and will definitely fill you up.
So, of course you’ll eat the samosas. You eat 1, 2, 3, big samosas, or more. You’ll eat enough to feel full which makes sense as you’re hungry.
But afterwards, maybe you don’t feel so good. You might even feel sick from what you just ate, but also strangely unsatisfied, and so even though you might be sickly full in the moment, in half an hour you might even strangely find your appetite again.
But why might that be if you're so full?
IF YOU LIMIT YOUR OPTIONS, YOU WILL PICK THE BEST OF A BAD HAND
Well, one gret reason is because it wasn’t what your body truly needed, but it was all you had available in the house.
PICTURE THE SECOND SCENARIO:
You’re hungry again for something cool, and crispy, and fresh, and filling. You open up your refrigerator again, but this time to find all of the shelves are full with a variety of foods from fruits and vegetables, to dairy products, to meats, delicious grain salads, and more, and even the samosas.
This time, you still go for a samosa, but only 1. Not because anyone forces you to, but because now you genuinely want to. Now you're also able to choose from other foods that match your cravings, like some chopped carrots, cucumber, cottage cheese, and humous.
I know it’s a strange meal, but in this second scenario, you’re matching your food choices to your craving with more accuracy, which means more nourishment and pleasure, which will keep you fuller, for longer.
FULLER FOR LONGER IS GOOD
With more variety and options to choose from, you don’t have to just settle for whatever is available. Instead you can find yourself eating a meal that is far more nutritionally nourishing, balanced, and leaves you feeling satisfied at the end, without that sick feeling.
EXPOSURE IS VITAL
Simply put, your body can be lazy, and will often want to take the path of least resistance. We all get tired and its natural to not want to cook a whole meal from scratch, or go all the way to the shops when there is food already within arms-reach. Especially after work… which happens most days!
If you eat roughly the same foods every day, and week, then the library of food choices in your head can be quite limited.
It can be difficult to visualise in your mind all of the options that would be perfect for you in the moment, because all of your recent choices have been routine, and in the moment your body is lacking energy, and sees food that will immediately give you that energy.
IS A MAN DYING OF THIRST GOING TO REJECT TAP WATER, WAITING FOR BOTTLED MINERAL WATER?
Sure, your body may be craving an apple, but if you seldom stock fruit in your house, then it can be difficult to visualise in your head that same fruit that you might need in the moment and be capable of pairing it with your craving. The closest reference you might have in your head, or recent eating experience, might be an apple pie. After all, you might eat apple pie every week. It might even be in your fridge when searching for food, and it does have apple in it after all! It’s also high in fats and sugars that your body might just not need in the moment.
DIETS CAN CONFUSE THIS TOO
Going on a diet probably means lots of variety from what you usually eat and is exciting at first. If you rarely eat broccoli and then all of a sudden you introduce it, it can be an amazing experience for the body. However, after the diet fails (which statistically speaking it probably will), you will more than likely now only associate broccoli with an unpleasant experience of dieting, and so be more likely to avoid it in the future.
In fact, having more variety of foods might seem like you’ll only eat a variety of cookies, cakes, and other goodies, but that’s not the case either. Dieting breeds us to stay in black and white thinking, without variety.
In a diet, you’re either eating ‘good’ and ‘healthy’ foods or you’re eating ‘bad’. If you’re eating 'bad' foods then by dieting’s definitions, you’ve failed so why bother eating anything more nourishing?
You start a diet that tells you to eat ‘good’, and ‘healthy’ foods only. Anything else is failure and your fault. Well of course those narrow kind of parameters mean even that even the tiniest bit of a ‘sinful’ food means you have failed.
So, what do you do? You throw your hands up and say, “fuck it, I failed”, and then you go on a binge of only ‘bad food’ because you can only see yourself being one or the other- good or bad. If you’re not all ‘good’ then you must be all ‘bad’…… at least until you’re ready to be all ‘good’ again!
DO YOU RECOGNISE THIS PATTERN IN YOURSELF?
There is no failure with eating. Real variety means exposure to all foods that you like, and experimenting with others that you may not like so much, but are aware of the potential benefits. Not to mention that if you are eating from a wide selection of more wholesome foods, then it’s going to be harder to eat as many less nourishing foods.
Because even though both are available, you simply won’t have room in your stomach for all of it.
VARIETY MEANS SPACE FOR ALL THE FOOD YOU LIKE
The more often you’re exposed to a variety of all food groups, and see that they are available to you with easy access, the more likely you are to crave them, so make it easy for your mind to get creative by stocking your home with as much variety as you can muster.
Also, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying sugary foods if you like them. Of course, too much of any food is bad news for us in terms of health, and highly palatable (sugary, processed, fatty) foods, are some of the easiest to overindulge in, but when you truly have permission to eat all foods that you like, and you actually have a variety in front of you, your body and cravings will start to dictate far more accurately what you should be eating to give you nourishment and pleasure.
Here are some hot tips to get you started:
1. PRIORITISE MORE NOURISHING FOODS FIRST:
If you open the fridge, and you see a fruit salad and piece of chocolate cake, and you want both, try eating the fruit salad first.
That’s not to say don’t eat the cake, but instead to see if the fruit salad doesn’t satisfy you even better than the cake could have. You may still want the cake afterwards, but at least you’ve nourished yourself first. Processed foods are often extreme in flavour, and the cake will be so much sweeter than the fruit salad, and so if you eat a piece of fruit afterwards, the natural sweetness of the fruit will be numbed down, and you are more likely to just go back to another serving of cake.
2. START SMALL:
Start with buying just a few extra items on your next grocery trip. Too much change in one go can be overwhelming in many cases, and often reduces our chances of continuing the practice consistently.
3. EAT THE RAINBOW:
Try and create a rainbow of colours on your plate from wholefood sources- This is a great way to be your own personal nutritionist and get plenty of healthy food, full of nutrients, without needing to get bogged down with what things like phytochemicals are, and yet still enjoy their benefits.
4. STOCK QUICK AND EXCITING HEALTHIER OPTIONS:
When you are hungry, tired, bored, or rushed for time, you´ll want something that is super-fast, or no effort to prepare, and exciting. Highly processed foods will likely always be quick and exciting, so when you´re shopping for food, try and stock your kitchen with more exciting nutritious food too.
5. PREPARE YOUR OWN FAST FOOD:
Pre-prepare, or buy more nourishing foods that you can heat up in the microwave in seconds- Think making a big portion of tasty, colourful stir-fry, and then freezing it down into individual tuppawear, which can defrost in 5 minutes when you most need it.
6. EMBRACE FAST FOOD
This is a great one for people who live on the go and are always eating out. Source fast food restaurants that offers exciting, and nourishing options. Even many supermarkets are now offering express salad bars in stores that can make a convenient stop on the way to work.
Try and find a few different places so you have a selection of a few, and nothing that is too far away. This works especially well for city workers, who have an abundance of choice, often only within 5 minutes walking distance.
That’s all from me. If you enjoyed this piece then I’d love if you’d subscribe to my Instagram: @thefoodandbodycoach. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.