The worst part of dieting? Aside from the gnawing hunger every day, that’s gotta be missing your favourite foods right?
And then the guilt when you cave in and eat your fave foods. Sigh. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.
But it truly doesn’t have to be that way. You CAN have your cake and eat healthy too with intuitive eating… and it’s so lovely-jubbly you’ll feel like all your fairies, rainbows and unicorns arrived at once! Because you’ll have that most precious of prizes – food freedom!
Food freedom isn’t the golden pot at the end of the diet-rainbow. We already know the diet-rainbow is a big con job.
Nope food freedom is the path you take while you learn to eat intuitively and it’s the path you stay on for life – freedom with food!
So let’s get started now…
Step 1 – Make Peace With Food
Give yourself permission to eat any food. Ban the ‘forbidden foods’ type of diet-thinking. Ditch the black and white thinking about sugar being evil.
Now that might sound like a giant sugar-coated accident waiting to happen. You’re maybe thinking, “But if I have one I’ve my forbidden foods I’ll eat the whole packet Jennifer…”
And sure you probably will the first few times. But eventually you’ll get sick of eating the whole packet. And then you’ll eat fewer and fewer. Until eventually that no-longer-forbidden-food is just a normal everyday food like all the others in your cupboard.
Sounds impossible? Trust me (and thousands of other intuitive eaters), it’s totally possible to no longer desire a forbidden food you used to crave.
It’s called habituation and it’s a real thing when it comes to food.
Whereas we know that the opposite is true too – restricting foods makes us crave them more.
So if you want to have your cake and eat healthy too – you need to start by making peace with all foods. One food at a time.
When you’ve done that (and it’ll take a bit of time – how long it takes is a personal thing), then you’re ready for the next step.
Step 2 – Add Foods You Love
Diet-hell is paved with food rules and restrictions – you can’t eat this, you can’t eat that, you can’t eat on Mondays, you can’t have more than XX calories or macros.
It’s all about what you CAN’T have or do.
Whereas intuitive eating is all about what you CAN have or do. Bliss.
So when we add more of the foods we love – both play foods and more nutritious foods – we basically crowd out the other foods from our life. And what we’re left with is an amazing blend of foods that satisfy, bring joy to our soul and nourish our health. How so? Let’s step through it together.
1. Include The Play Foods You Love In Your Life
You’ve made peace with all foods by now. So whether you feel like eating cake or apple, roasted chicken or pizza – you get to pick what you love and you get to enjoy eating it when you want to. Your food life is now a zero-judgement zone.
2. Add Nutritious Foods You Love To Your Life
I wrote about this in detail in 8 Ways To Start Honouring Gentle Nutrition. Basically, eating healthy isn’t that complicated it’s just a matter of including fruits, vegetables and nutrient-dense goodies like nuts, avocado, wholegrains, beans and the like in your lifestyle.
The difference with intuitive eaters is crucial though – we CHOOSE to add only those fruits, vegetables and nutrient-dense goodies that we like into our lifestyle. There are no rules like “you must eat kale because it’s the best green ever.” Suck that. If you prefer iceberg lettuce then choose iceberg lettuce, not kale.
Like nuts and hate avocado? Then don’t make yourself eat smashed avocado on toast (even if it makes a great shot for instagram). Prefer roasted nuts better than raw nuts? Then eat roasted ones. You choose which nutritious goodies to eat and you choose how you prefer to prepare them. Your life, your rules.
Step 3 – Watch The Magic Happen As Hidden Sugar Disappears
1. Less Nutritious Foods Get Squeezed Out
What happens as you add more of the nutritious foods you love into your life, is that it tends to squeeze out the less-nutritious foods that you’re not such a big fan of. Why eat boring rice crackers, when you can enjoy a handful of your favourite roasted cashews, right?
Because if you’re eating to your hunger and fullness – you won’t just keep adding more and more foods to your day. You’ll add the nutritious ones you love, keep the play foods you love, and undoubtedly start dropping some of the boring, everyday less nutritious foods that you don’t enjoy that much.
2. Hidden Sugar Gets Squeezed Out Too
Sugar gets a pretty bad rap nowadays and that’s a shame. Because sugar is a joy to eat. The problem is that processed food often contains hidden sugar, saturated fat and salt. So if we eat a lot of processed foods, we’re eating a lot of sugar and salt without realising we’re doing it.
But, once you choose to start adding more of the nutritious fruits, veges, wholegrains and other nutritious goodies you love into your lifestyle, there’s a good chance you’ll reduce the amount of less tasty processed foods you’ve been eating. And so, by default, you’ll also be reducing the amount of sugar and salt you’re consuming by way of processed foods.
The hidden sugar gets squeezed out by the nutritious foods and the play foods you love. #winning.
The Secret To Having Your Cake And Eating Healthy Too
The secret to having your cake and eating healthy too is to do the steps above in the order listed – first give yourself permission to eat freely. And only then, when you’ve successfully dropped that diet thinking, to start looking at how to blend gentle nutrition into your lifestyle.
Most dieters try to go straight for Step 2, and they don’t allow themselves the freedom to enjoy play foods they love. They also don’t even consider which nutritious foods they enjoy and which they hate. So they end up with a warped diet of foods they feel they have to eat and like, even though they’re really not enjoying it. The whole thing becomes a big chore, rather than food being the true joy it can be in your life.
How long the whole journey takes is a personal thing – some newbies to intuitive eating get it all sorted in a couple of months, others take years. Don’t compare yourself to others. Your journey is a personal one – no-one else has experienced your life or the challenges you’ve faced.
Just know that there is hope – you can have your cake and eat healthy too.