Body Wellness Series
This article is part of the Body Wellness Series. It's a proven fact that our thoughts influence our behavior. Body Wellness is a mindset we adopt to move beyond the preoccupation we have with our physical body and the "right" way to eat and upgrade our daily thoughts about food choices, body, weight, and lifestyle. It's a concept central to my coaching practice but also essential to keep in mind for any mindful cook and eater looking to achieve greater vibrancy and ease. Because as Tony Robbins says: where our focus goes, energy flows.
In today's article, 2 Key Mindsets to Eating Well, I describe food in terms of “healthy”, “unhealthy”, “good”, and “bad” in order to be as succinct and clear as possible. However, I don’t think of food in, or coach using, these terms because I believe they perpetuate the toxic cycle of labeling, categorizing, judging, and moralizing food, and ourselves and our food choices thereafter. Please keep this in mind as you read the article.
Recently I had a close friend say she aspires to eat healthy.
And then came the “but”.
“BUT”, she said, “I enjoy unhealthy food too much.”
Sound familiar? If we’re mindful of our lifestyle we’ve probably found ourselves at some point wading in the murky waters of self-doubt, guilt, and shame, playing tug-of-war between two opposing desires: to have a healthy diet but not deprive ourselves of those unhealthy foods we enjoy on occasion.
But these opposing desires don’t have to be at conflict. We can eat well and make room for unhealthy treats, if we do it in an intentional, deliberate way. However, that ultimately depends on the mediator: you, or more accurately, your mind.
It seems to me we’ve become so health conscious, we feel pressure to eat perfectly all the time. In addition, social media exposure leads us to believe others have the perfect diet, and we feel badly about our own food choices.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with aspiring to eat and live well. We need a vision and goals to drive us forward, after all. But when we think we must have the perfect diet (and perfect body, for that matter) before we can be happy and healthy, that’s the exact mentality preventing us from making healthy choices NOW.
The way we think about the food we eat influences our food choices and health as much as the food itself. So today I want to share two key mindset shifts that will help:
- explain this powerful connection between our thoughts and choices
- relieve the internal conflict between the desire to eat well and enjoy unhealthy treats without guilt
Key # 1: Ditch the All-or-Nothing Mentality
We’ve been conditioned to think we have to be all in or completely out of the “healthy eating” circle. Driving this belief is often:
- Fear of failure that we won’t have enough willpower to sustain a healthy diet
- Lack of trust in our body’s resilience and ability to find equilibrium if we have unhealthy treats
Here’s the truth. Our body is more resilient than our mind allows. And a healthy diet is not a perfect diet. It’s not about willpower, failure, or depriving ourselves of things we enjoy. Eating well is influenced by an attitude, where we choose to focus on adding in good things (because we all want to feel good after all), rather than avoiding the bad. When we focus on the good things and then (discerningly!) sprinkle in occasional unhealthy treats, we have a more balanced perspective. We’re able to enjoy the treat for what it is, rather than turn a single unhealthy choice into a global statement about our whole diet.
At this point, you may be thinking: “This sounds great Katie, but how do I eat well if I’m always craving unhealthy food?” And I would say: by making one small upgrade at a time, while keeping in mind this next point.
Key #2: We Crave the Foods We Eat
Science shows the foods we regularly eat change the makeup of good and bad bacteria living in our gut. Why does this matter? Because our food cravings are in part determined by the type of bacteria in our gut. The bacteria living on our food encourages the growth of that very bacteria in our gut, causing us to crave more of that food.
My suggestion? Focus on upgrading the foods you eat on a daily/weekly basis versus agonizing over the unhealthy foods you eat a few times a month. Because it’s what we eat most of the time that has the greatest impact on our gut health, mood, and cravings.
See the table below for a few easy upgrades to get started. Then make your own list and go shopping!
In the end, I don’t believe we have to have conflicting desires when it comes to our diet. We want a healthy diet and a healthy perspective so we feel good in and about our bodies. And, as the key mindsets above suggest, we get there by making one incremental upgrade at a time and focusing on the good things we’re adding in.
*Lead photo: Cauliflower Chickpea Stew