In all my years as a health, fitness, nutrition and wellness professional, having engaging discussions on how to optimize health and well being have always been my priority as an educator. However, I have always felt that telling a person exactly what to eat was a bit beyond my reach, as there is no way I would be able to follow that advice myself, so leading by example has always been my path. We all know that diets do not work in the long term, but every few months a new program is published and the more restrictive it is, the more popular it can become. We seem to like quick fixes in our culture.
There is a way to improve and optimize your health and wellness through healthy eating choices-it requires a daily effort, which may seem like a lot of work depending on your mindset. I am extremely motivated to eat well, because I love food, enjoy eating and being healthy, so I make a conscious effort to do so on a daily basis. After many years of practice and reflection here is the Making Life Good eating philosophy to keep well:
- CARE about how, what, when, where and why you eat. This means cultivating a more conscious and positive relationship to food and eating. We eat 20 times a week, give or take, so it is important that we relate well to this part of our life. Having a good appetite means you are ‘really alive’. How do you eat? In a rush, at a leisurely pace, in conflict with making the right choice or in front of the tv? With your hands or a a knife and fork? What is the food you are eating? Can you know where it came from? When are you eating? All day long, at proper meal times, or odd times of day? Where are you eating? At your dining table, in your car, on the street, at your desk? Why are you eating? Hungry? Happy? Bored? For comfort? Socializing? Hopefully to nourish your body and soul.
- Be GRACEFUL. This means taking a moment for gratitude before we eat to notice that we have access to nourishing food and to be mindful and conscious while we eat. When you are in a state of grace, the conflict of I should or should not be eating this or that is not part of the picture. Being graceful is also having a sense of humour about food and life. We sure enjoyed this fried chicken on a stick with frosted flakes one time this summer:
- PREPARE your own food at least once a week to start. I have never wished to impose on anyone’s eating habits, and this is my one exception. If you want to be healthy, you must make it your habit to develop the skill to prepare your own meals, at least sometimes. It is the best way to learn better habits and take care of yourself. Get good at making your favourite breakfast, lunch or dinner.
- ENJOY your food by involving all of your senses whenever you eat. Some of us are more visual, some have more of a sense of smell, and others are super tasters. Tune in to what speaks to you. I personally prefer eating on white plates that appear full and when I need to pack a lunch I use a spongebob lunchbox (it makes me smile and kids laugh). Plus, many days I have some idea of what I will be eating, so I look forward to it with much enthusiasm!
- EAT REAL FOOD. Once you become more aware and care about what you eat, real food is the most appealing for how it tastes, nourishment and satisfaction. Always best to have vegetables, fruits and the right mix of grains and proteins for you. Minimally processed and packaged real food.
- OBSERVE and LISTEN to your body. You are the absolute best judge of what foods work for you and your metabolism, so developing awareness to how your body responds to food you eat is critical to being healthy. Check your energy level, digestion and general well being after every meal to learn what works best for you. This is a daily practice and will help you discern what is best for you to eat.
- SHARE food. Eating is a human need that can create great connection with others. I take every opportunity I can to share great food with everyone around me, as it brings me great joy to share delicious experiences.
The practices listed above involve constant learning and work, which is well worth the effort for feeling and looking your best all the time, making life good-