Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Healthy Eating: What's Your Perspective?

Being a nutrition student and working in a health food store, I meet a lot of people that are trying to be their best version of "healthy." People complain of being in a constant state of struggle, not knowing what to do to reach their goals. I hear you, and as a human being, I sometimes feel that way  too.
Now, I don't want to come across as being preachy or haughty here, but I think a lot of this struggle has to do with perspective. Sorry if your eyes are rolling, but hear me out.

How do you think about eating healthy? Even if you have a pretty good relationship with yourself, food, and your view of yourself, does part of you still feel a little deprived when you're "being good" or on a diet? If you're eating kale salads every day, hating every second of it, and telling yourself to "just get through it," you're likely dieting and not creating lifestyle change. The dangers of the mentality that accompany dieting is that there is always a point in which you will fall off the wagon. Our brains always want us to be in balance, and this applies to our feelings of deprivation and reward. When you are feeling constantly deprived ("I am missing so much happiness and pleasure by skipping what I actually want to eat and forcing myself to eat this kale salad."), your brain is going to try to make up for that feeling of deprivation by asking you to give in to temptations later on. When explaining this, I always give the example of the disgruntled employee who takes from the company in order to compensate their feelings of unhappiness in their job.

So how do we address this conundrum? I have heard a lot of health professionals advise people to give in to their cravings and then just move on from there. While I think this approach definitely has validity and absolutely works for some, I prefer a different approach: altering your perspective. In my opinion, giving in to cravings is the same as the approach of  Western medicine in that it is treating a symptom. By changing perspective, you are getting to the root of the issue instead of masking symptoms by giving into cravings that will always return. Rather than view your healthy food as depriving, view it for what it actually is: fuel. You are not depriving your body, you are nourishing it. You are fueling it. You are pampering yourself, setting yourself up for success. Feel grateful for the opportunity to nourish your body at every meal. It's much harder to feel deprived when you approach healthy eating with this perspective.

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