What if I told you there were THREE common healthy eating pitfalls that loads of women fall into when it comes to trying to eat healthy.
Would you want to know what they are? Would you be surprised if I told you it wasn’t having a sugar addiction or eating too much processed food? Because girlfriend, it most certainly is not either of those.
Instead, we’re talking foundational stuff. In an ideal world we would have learnt this stuff as kids (and yes please, for the love of God DO share these with your children). But we don’t live in an ideal world; we live in a culture that:
- Is pretty damn judgemental when it comes to people’s eating habits,
- Definitely judgemental about people’s body size and shape, and
- Gives us constantly-changing advice on how to eat healthy
So not surprisingly, you might feel a bit worried about how to eat better, about how to ‘eat right’. You might be worried about your weight, your tummy rolls, and the judgement of others about your lifestyle habits.
It’s not weird that you don’t know these three things. Or that you’ve fallen into these pitfalls for years; that blame lies squarely at the foot of our thin-obsessed culture. You’re constantly impacted all day by messages about how to eat and look. And when you put all these messages together, they unfortunately point you directly towards these pitfalls.
The good news today though, is that you’re about to update your GPS, to find another route to healthier living, and this one will divert you around the pitfalls and is guaranteed to bring you more peace, along with a happier and healthier relationship with food. Amen!
So let’s get started with the first healthy eating pitfall:
#1 Not Eating Enough – A ‘Ladylike’ Appetite
The unwritten messages are clear – having a big hearty appetite is nothing to be proud of for a woman. Guys yes, they can have a big appetite. They can tell hearty tales around the dinner table of how many weetbix they devoured for breakfast each morning as a kid, or how many roast potatoes they managed to stuff into their Christmas lunch.
But women don’t do that. We all know that. It’s not written in a book. It’s an unwritten code. Big appetites look ugly on a woman.
Recently I read a fabulous book by Shauna Niequist called Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, with Recipes. In it Shauna shared about how she struggled with her own appetite for many years:
“My appetite is strong, powerful, precise, but for years and years, I tried to pretend I couldn’t hear it screaming in my ears. It wasn’t ladylike. It wasn’t proper. So I pretended I wasn’t hungry, pretended I’d already eaten, murmured something about not caring one way of the other because I was afraid that my appetites would get the best of me, that they would expose my wild and powerful hunger…
I realised that even most of the thin women I knew had learned to demur about food and hunger – I alread ate; I couldn’t possibly; I’m absolutely stuffed. But Sara (Shauna’s friend) loved to eat and believed it was her right, and a pleasure. She didn’t overeat or undereat, cry or hide food. She just ate, for sustenance and enjoyment both, and I was fascinated. Still it took almost a decade more for me to say those words – those words, “I’m hungry” – without feeling ashamed.”
Maybe you feel the same as Shauna, or maybe you’re more like Sara.
Either way the truth remains the same – when we become OVER-HUNGRY, after ignoring or not sensing our hunger cues, our body tips over into a place of primal hunger – where your body is solely focused on survival. In this state your body thinks you’re starving and it wants to save you. So it ups the signals to search for high-energy foods.
Nutritious foods won’t interest you, instead you’ll be looking for high-fat or high-sugar foods to fill that big hunger (also known as the “I feel like a sugar addict” phase).
n this state your eating feels a bit out of control. You’ll eat fast and eat too much, as you rush to gobble it all down. After all, your body is in survival mode and it will push you to eat as much as possible to fend off starvation.
And all of it makes complete sense when you consider this simple rule:
This is what happens when you IGNORE your hunger too long. When you try to dampen down your hunger to a ladylike level. To say no to seconds for dinner, when you’re really hungry. To say no to the dessert when you’re really hungry. When you choose a small dish off the restaurant menu because you’re too ashamed to choose the big meal you really feel like eating.
Trust in your hunger and feed it accordingly. And it will look after you. Feed your hunger and it will keep OVER-hunger and OVER-eating safely tucked away.
#2 Judging Food Choices – The Walk of Shame
We are so judgy when it comes to food and people’s food choices. “You’re going to eat thaattt?!” “I’m so bad, I ate a pile of fries.” “I’m so naughty I had a doughnut.” The list goes on and on (and on).
But all of the judginess achieves nothing, except for guilt and shame, which then leads to emotional eating and hey presto! Now you feel even lousier. You’re not going to get a certificate for being a perfect eater, or automatic entry into heaven, by being all judgey towards yourself. You’re just making yourself feel lousy about eating food.
Don’t underestimate how harmful your mindset and words can be to your relationship with food and your body. Drop the guilt about food. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods. And you are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on what you eat. Eating a piece of cake is not the equivalent of burning down an orphanage.
So stop guilt-tripping yourself about food – change the record (old school yes), create a new narrative in your head that’s more positive about food and your body.
Wanna know more? Check out the 5 Signs Your Mindset Is Sabotaging Your Eating for some fab tips.
#3 Restricting Sweet Foods – The Circle of Guilt & Cravings
There’s a well proven link between food guilt, restricting certain foods and cravings. Basically, food restrictions cause cravings.
Researchers have shown this time and time again. Whenever they limit people’s access to a certain food, they all start craving that food. They can change the foods, give them the craved food and restrict another food, and the same thing happens. We want the food that is restricted.
We want what we can’t have.
The grass is greener on the other side of the fence (and so are the chocolate bars and candy).
What this means is, as soon as you try to ‘eat healthier’ by removing certain foods from your diet, you automatically start thinking about the restricted foods more, then you start craving them, and because of your new rule that you can’t eat them, you want them even more. Finally you give in, break your own rule, and eat the food while laden with guilt. Argh!
Instead of entering this circle of doom type of relationship with food, it can help to break the food rules we’ve been following. Without the rules, there is no guilt or shame, no restriction and no increased cravings. Now you can just eat the food with freedom, and what generally happens is over time you’ll find you eat less of that food thant when you tried to actively restrict it.
If you really feel like your relationship with sugar is a bit messed up, then check out this post on How To Stop Sugar Cravings. It’s got a pile of handy tips to help you on your way – just remember, you are not the problem, our culture’s messed up ideas about food/sugar is the problem!
Above all else, remember to eat and enjoy the many foods that God created and blessed us with.