“Eat more fruits and vegetables!”. You must have been given this type of advice when the conversation revolved around how to have a healthy, balanced diet. Although there is some truth to this statement, it is a bit too generic for my taste and it is almost frustrating.
The act of eating is important. It is such a source of pleasure that it should not be limited to what you should and shouldn’t eat; to the simplification of categorizing food as “good” and “bad” for health. Of course, fruits and vegetables are very important for health! So… does that mean we’ve got it all figured out?
Of course it doesn’t. I consider that the search for a healthy and balanced diet, to lose weight or to keep in shape, must be done from a holistic perspective that responds to physiological needs, while adapting to the behavior of each person. Your relationship with food, but also the reaction of your brain in a situation of “emotional hunger”, your desires, gluttony, or feelings of guilt are among the many factors that influence your eating habits.
It may sound complicated but it’s not. I’ll say more: it’s much easier than trying to calculate your daily calorie needs and less stressful than when you focus on what’s “right” and “wrong”. The most important thing is that you reconnect with your own body, to better recognize and respect your feelings of hunger and satiety.
Learn more about the best way to have a healthy and balanced diet:
- Some ideas for a light evening meal
- How can I eat healthy?
- I can’t stop eating: why?
Forget about scapegoats
To return to a normal relationship with hunger, let’s go back to the basics of what it means to have a “healthy and balanced diet”. We are bombarded with information on the dangers of gluten, lactose, fats, sugar. We are trained to identify “dangerous” foods that “make you fatten” or, on the contrary, “beneficial” foods that “make you lose weight”.
The easy solution is to believe that we should only eat salads, fruits and vegetables to follow the “ideal” diet.
The reason I use quotation marks over and over again is that these words represent concepts that make no sense. There is no such thing as good or bad food, there is only food. How you emotionally connect with them will determine whether or not you will gain weight.
Feed your brain’s desire for healthy foods
I don’t like to use the word “avoid” with my patients, which is so popular with the fad diets. “Avoid chocolate”. “Avoid soft drinks”. “Avoid white flour. What message is sent to your brain? That these are forbidden foods.
Restrictive diets of this type tend to change your perception of “forbidden foods” so that they become “rewards”, a kind of source of happiness. After a terrible day, you convince yourself that you deserve to eat something “forbidden” to relieve your stress. Many diets emphasize “cheat day”, the day when anything goes.
I prefer to work with positive messages. Eat more fruits, vegetables, rice, beans, real (unprocessed) food. Drink more water and less sugary drinks, such as juices, soft drinks, alcohol. Cook as much as possible, to better control the amount of sugar, salt and oil on your plate. By favouring natural foods, you will more easily move towards a healthy and balanced diet by reducing the quantity of processed foods (which do not actually provide anything exceptional for the body, since they are rather a source of energy, sugar, salt, fats and chemical elements).
Still wondering which foods to choose? It’s simple: all the fresh foods you can find on the market, which are rich in bioactive compounds, nutrients and fiber. If you prefer them, you’re safe. The more you vary this type of food on your plate, the better the nutritional quality of your diet will be.
By improving the way you manage your hunger and food, without being too restrictive, you can enjoy eating a simple tomato. Once you introduce more real food into your diet, the mechanisms associated with the hedonic (reward) system of the brain can change. You will gradually change the link between the sensation of pleasure and the consumption of sugar or fat, and you will begin to enjoy other tastes and spices.
Healthy and balanced diet for losing weight: it’s never too late to lose weight.
Better late than never. Many people believe that once you reach adulthood, it’s too late to try to eat a healthy, balanced diet, but that’s not true. Even after 25 years of ineffective diets, you can still change your relationship with food by changing your perspective on food and diets. Of course, the ideal is to create a healthy relationship with food from childhood, but studies also show how repetition can reprogram our brain and change our palate.
In summary: when you eat more real food, you reduce the amount of processed food on your plate, this leads to a change in your tastes and you take more pleasure in tasting new flavors, while getting used to a new eating behavior. If you eat a lot of processed foods, try to change your habits little by little. For the first few days, cook with your favourite fresh foods. Little by little, give a second chance to those you think you don’t like, or that you have never tried.