Being on a diet can be extremely tricky. With all the information about the ill-effects of different food items that flood the internet, reliable information gets lost. Most food-related ‘studies’ have little or no evidence to support it. Hence, their credibility is questionable.
And if you take into account all the studies, and eliminate foods that are hailed as bad for your health, you will be left with eggs, boiled chicken, fish, avocado and broccoli only!
So let me start with what every nutritionist will tell you – no basic food is inherently bad. The trick lies within choosing the right food in the right amount. Which means that it is possible to eat out while you are on a ‘diet’, although making your own meals is a better option. When you make your meal, you can control everything that goes in it, from the quality of ingredients to the proportions of additives and spices. However, that is a discussion for another day.
For today, I want you to start with loving food and having a healthy relationship with food. By that, I don’t want you to embrace the commonly accepted definition of a foodie, where you are on a rampage to eat every piece of cheesecake and every freak shake the city has to offer. Rather, I recommend you to enjoy the process of eating. And have food in its primitive form. Here’s how you can go about it.
Satiate Hunger, Not Emotions
This is the most important rule you must adhere to. It took me a while to master this, too! Food is an integral part of our lives and we tend to associate it with our feelings and occasions.
When you’re in a good mood, you want pizza. When you have company, you eat to give them company. Similarly, when you are PMS-ing, you gorge on sweets and ice-cream. When you’re out with friends or family, you want to top off your two-course meal with dessert and drinks. You eat when you’re bored, you eat and drink when you’re watching cricket with friends. The list of reasons that make you decide to eat is endless. And most of those reasons are in fact, unreasonable.
It is necessary to draw a clear line between eating out of hunger and eating out of any other reason. You see, the stomach will stretch as far as you make it, but that is not actually good for your health. So you must eat only when necessary so you are not overeating. Let your stomach take the call, not your mood.
Relish What You Eat
This is literally what your grandparents and your parents have been urging you to do all your life. Look at your food, smell it, enjoy it slowly. Relish your meal and concentrate on eating. Ideally, take at least 20 minutes to finish your meal. That gives your brain enough time to tell you that you are full and prevent you from overeating. Start listening to your body and stop dulling your senses with your phone or the book you’re reading.
Eat Everything, In Moderation
When you crave a cupcake and you keep procrastinating that, the urge builds up and someday you will break down and eat more than one. Switching your eating habits cannot be achieved overnight. When you are starting up, it is okay to give in to cravings, but resolve to never overdo it. Have half a cupcake, slowly, enjoying every bite.
Remember that cravings are to satiate your mind, not your body, so you just need your brain to know that you’ve had the cupcake and be content. Nutritively, a cupcake is useless since it does only harm to your body. Slowly, you will learn to understand your body better and get to the root of these cravings and eradicate them for good.
Besides this, don’t cut food groups from your diet. Eat everything, in moderation. Find healthy alternatives or healthy recipes for the dishes you like. For instance, I love waffles, so I looked until I found a healthy recipe where I use oats instead of flour to make the waffles. I did the same for pancakes, where my pancakes only have protein now. Both the waffles and pancakes taste fantastic.
Clean Your Pantry Stock
The best way to stop yourself from snacking unhealthily is to rid your pantry of all the chips and pastries and unhealthy fried options that you are prone to snack on. This way, when you’re hungry, you only have fruits, dried fruits and nuts to snack on. Once you thrust healthy snacking upon yourself, you will eventually develop a liking for it and it will soon become a habit and preference.
Don’t Stress About Every Morsel
Unless you’re an athlete or training to be one, you don’t need to count your macros closely. That will take the fun out of eating and will soon frustrate you. Have an idea of the breakup that is beneficial for you – how much protein, how much fat and how much carbs you need to eat – and utilise that as a thumb-rule.
So one portion meat, one portion salad and a slice of bread or chapati will work for you, for instance. This way you aren’t stressing constantly about your meals and you can always pick healthy and suitable options when you eat out. Cut yourself some slack, and give yourself some time to adapt to the healthy lifestyle.
Change is bound to happen. It will take some time, though. Have patience with yourself. Changes that you see overnight also disappear overnight, leaving an unhealthy disaster behind them.