1. Embrace a positive relationship with food
What emotions and words come into your head and your heart when you think of nutrition and eating for weight control? Are you thinking boring, restrictive, flavourless, hungry, sad, denial or other such negative words? Your challenge today is to start to turn that thinking on its head!
One insightful study showed that even the thought of going “on a diet” actually made participants eat more today. They perceived that they were going to be going without and therefore compensated by rewarding themselves with extra food before that freedom was taken away. It’s the old “I’ll start on Monday” mindset followed by the thinking “I’ll eat whatever I like until then”.
To truly get long-term results not just in relation to weight control but also to overall health and wellbeing – a more positive mindset is a must. We are ultimately pleasure seekers and food should be a joyful part of life. By genuinely enjoying eating healthily, you’ll be able to do it forever and banish ‘diets’ forever.
Today I challenge you to embrace a positive relationship with food. Think of nourishing your body with real foods that taste delicious, rather than restricting foods you think you shouldn’t be eating. Every time you eat something, sit down at a table and be present in the moment. Truly taste the food and think about how that food makes you feel, not just in that moment but an hour or two later. Turn any negative emotions about food into positive ones. Guilt has no place with food – instead enjoy the food and if you do overeat or indulge in less healthy foods, simply put it in the broader context of your overall diet. Savour whatever the food is and enjoy every mouthful. Then simply plan lighter more nutritious meals for the rest of the day.
2. A Template For Healthy Eating
What we eat is of course important, but there are in fact many ways to eat healthily. What suits you will depend on your culture (what you ate growing up), your likes and dislikes, any allergies or intolerances, your ethical or religious beliefs and so on. So don’t be swayed by the diet a friend follows, or what the latest celebrity is espousing. Your healthy eating plan is yours to enjoy and yours alone.
To that end I created the Dr Joanna Plate to help you know how to put together a healthy meal. It’s a template for eating that allows you to have autonomy over your own food choices while being guided by me. You can be vegan or an omnivore; follow a Mediterranean style diet or an Asian one; embrace kale, quinoa and green smoothies or be honest that those foods just don’t cut it with you and opt foods that are more familiar to you. What is important is that you base your plate on real foods rather than highly processed modern foods and that you make your meals really tasty and enjoyable to you.
Your challenge today is to create your breakfast, lunch and dinner using the Dr Joanna Plate to guide you.
1. Plants – make these mostly vegies, with a little fruit. Breakfast may be more fruit if having muesli or cereal, or it could be vegies if having a hot breakfast. Fruit may also be in a salad or salsa with a savoury meal. Otherwise your goal is to make half your plate vegies.
2. Add a protein-rich food. If a vegetarian meal this could be tofu or legumes. Otherwise dairy, eggs, meat and seafood all count here.
3. Add what I call a smart carb. These are essentially wholegrains, legumes (count these here if not a vegetarian meal) or starchy vegies like small salad potatoes, sweet potato or yam.
4. Finally make sure you have some good fats. Fat makes food taste good and so we enjoy it more! But it also adds fat-soluble nutrients, helps us absorb more of the phytochemicals, including many antioxidants, and slows down digestion so we feel more satisfied with the meal. Extra virgin olive oil is ideal, as are avocado, nuts and seeds.
3. Recognise Non-Hungry Eating
We all eat for lots of different reasons and hunger is just one of them. You might eat when you’re upset or angry – I call this swallowing your emotions with food. Perhaps you eat when you’re bored or procrastinating. Or you feel like eating something just because you see someone else eating that particular food, or unbeknown to you an advert for a food product slipped into your subconscious mind resulting in a craving you then indulged.
A little non-hungry eating is absolutely normal and is of no consequence in the overall scheme of things. In fact it can be positive and joyful. Just think of savouring a slice of birthday cake or taking the kids for a gelato at the beach on the weekend. These occasions are not about satisfying hunger. Rather they are about recognising that food is more than the nutrients it contains. We can eat healthily while enjoying such non-hungry eating events, provided they don’t happen too often.
The first step in knowing whether non-hungry eating is a problem for you is to recognise how often you do it. So your challenge today is to count up how many times you go to eat when you’re not actually hungry, then in your journal or diary write down the reason you were going to eat. You may find that you resist actually eating the food, simply by being more aware, but regardless write it down so that you start to see your own patterns of eating and your susceptibility to external cues to eat.
To recognise non-hungry eating think of your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is utterly ravenous and 10 completely stuffed. Number 5 is when you can’t feel food in your stomach, but neither do you yet feel hungry. Today every time you are thinking about eating stop and ask yourself which number are on. If you are a 5 or above this is non-hungry eating. The second step is to then identify why you want to eat. Is it a legitimate joyful eating occasion or would some other activity actually be better to fulfill your need?
4. Love Your Body
I know this sounds a little clichéd but a positive relationship with your own body involves respecting it sufficiently to want to feed it well. It’s easy to stuff rubbish food in your mouth when you tell yourself that you don’t care what you look like, or that you hate your body anyway so what does it matter?
This is not about aspiring to the perfect beach body – whatever that is. It’s about being respectful of and grateful for your own body. That doesn’t mean you have to love every part of it; we all have areas we wish were thinner/more beautiful/smaller/bigger and so on. But it is about learning to accept them and appreciate everything our body does do.
Your challenge this week is to appreciate your body and ensure self-talk, both in your head and anything you say out loud, is positive regarding your body. Banish negative thought and replace it with a positive affirmation. That might be about something you do love about yourself – perhaps you have a great smile or good strong arms – or it might be a positive about what you can do to improve your body.
For example “I hate my fat stomach” becomes “I’m carrying too much fat around my middle, but thankfully this is something I can change and I’m working on improving my eating and my lifestyle to gradually lose this excess body fat.” It’s a subtle change in mindset that makes a difference. List the things you do love about your body and play to your best assets. Dress up nicely – ladies and gents – as when you feel good about yourself you’ll find it much easier to nourish yourself well too.
5. Practice eating mindfully
We cannot truly enjoy eating if we’re shoveling food into our mouths while having our attention elsewhere. How often do you eat watching the television? While driving the car? Walking along the street? Or in the movie theatre? These are all occasions when eating tends to be mindless and overeating, or eating the wrong foods, tends to be the result.
Your challenge today therefore is to practice mindful eating. Banish all those moments of eating on the run and give some priority to mealtimes. That means no eating at your desk in front of a computer screen! Take at least 10 minutes, and longer if you can, to sit down properly and enjoy your meal whether it’s something you’ve made yourself at home or bought in a café or restaurant.
“Banish all those moments of eating on the run and give some priority to mealtimes.”
Avoid any distractions, including reading material, with the exception of a dining partner – eating with others is a good thing – and truly enjoy the meal. Put your cutlery down between mouthfuls and endeavour to eat slowly. While eating then consider the hunger rating scale you learnt on day 3 and try to stop eating when you reach number 8. That means when you are satisfied rather than when you are full, or the plate is empty. This is what the Japanese call “hara hachi bu” translated as “eat until you are 80% full”. It’s harder to do than you might think! But with practice you can recognise the point and learn to appreciate the food sufficiently to not over consume.
Let’s be honest, if food doesn’t taste good you’re just not going to eat it on a regular basis. You might force yourself to eat those overcooked vegies on the plate, but they’re not bringing you any joy and when the opportunity presents itself for something much tastier you’re probably going to take it! Healthy food has to be truly tasty food if it’s to feature on our life-long eating plan.Fortunately healthy food really can satisfy the taste buds. It’s a matter first of all of ensuring you really do understand what is healthy. If your perception of healthy food is salad of lettuce, tomato and cucumber with a bought fat-free dressing, or steamed vegies with a piece of plain grilled fish, then no wonder healthy eating does not excite you! Or if you’ve been bought into the latest diet plan that demonises whole food groups or generations old dietary staples, then it’s not surprising you might find yourself craving those foods.
“Healthy food has to be truly tasty food if it’s to feature on our life-long eating plan”
Your challenge today is to ensure each of your meals and any snacks are truly nutritious but also truly delicious. The nutritious part is easy – just ensure it matches the Dr Joanna Plate you learnt on day 2. Then to make it truly delicious think about what else you need to add. Recipes are of course a great means of menu inspiration and you’ll find plenty to choose from in my Dr Joanna Recipe Bank. But there are also plenty of simple things you can do. Here are just a few ideas:
– Drizzle steamed vegies with some chili-infused extra virgin olive oil and scatter with a handful of slivered almonds
– Cut a whole bunch of vegies such as pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, red onion, garlic and beetroot into chunks, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, scatter with fresh rosemary, a pinch of sea salt and plenty of black pepper and roast in a hot oven for 30mins.
– Sprinkle chicken breasts, meat or fish with a spice mix before cooking.
– Be adventurous with salad dressing. Add fresh herbs, use different oils or vinegars, or add mustard, yoghurt, pomegranate molasses, tahini or garlic for different flavours.
– Add seeds or nuts to salads for crunch and texture.
– Add fresh fruit and natural yoghurt to a plain bowl of muesli, cereal or yoghurt.
– Seek inspiration from International cuisines – almost every culture has healthy food when you look at their traditional foods!
7. Think more about what you do eat than what you don’t
Too often media reports and popular diets are filled with advice or opinion on what foods we should be avoiding. It’s a very negative approach that tends to demonise foods and drinks. It’s far more positive and productive to think about the foods we should be eating. By filling your plate with nutritious foods there is by default far less space for the unhealthy or less healthy foods, and they will slip to the periphery of your diet at any rate.
It is true that there are certain foods or drinks that deliver no, or very little, nutrition – soft drinks are one such example. But the reality is that in terms of your total health the frequency and amounts you consume of such foods or drinks are what is ultimately important. If you eat a predominantly healthy diet then whatever else passes your lips is really pretty inconsequential, and if you truly hand-on-heart enjoyed it then it was worth it!
“If you eat a predominantly healthy diet then whatever else passes your lips is really pretty inconsequential”
So instead of having this negative approach to food, your final challenge is to think more about what you do eat today rather than what you should avoid. Your goal is to get as much variety of real, whole foods into your day as possible, using your Dr Joanna Plate as your guide. Count up the number of different real foods you eat and keep a note as you go so that you can compare at the end of the day. Can you get to at least 20 different foods? Can you manage a minimum of 5 different vegies and preferably get to 10? That might sounds tricky but it’s easier than you might at first think. Throwing a whole bunch of different vegies into a salad or stir-fry gets you well on your way, and the chilli, garlic and ginger counts as three items alone!
Finally try to put all 7 challenges together moving forward so that over time you make the small changes necessary to build a healthier diet.
Information and image sourced from Dr Joanna’s Blog.