When is the last time you went to a restaurant and ordered 50 percent protein, 30 percent fiber, and a side of omega-3s? Probably never.
Yet that's exactly how a lot of diets advise you to eat. A simple Google search on "how to lose weight" can bring you into a world of confusing diet terminology like BMI, GI, LDL, HDL, etc. Any beginner would have to start using a dictionary to define what these scientific qualities mean before even starting to make food changes.
Registered dietitians who have spent years studying the body truly know how proteins, carbs, fats, and calories work in our bodies. But most of think we can figure it ourselves with just a bit of extra help.
Before I lost 40 pounds, I could have recited to you everything there was to know about the science behind foods. I also felt like the science gave validity to whatever restrictive diet I had been doing at the time, even though I didn't truly understand what it all meant for me.
Scientific education definitely has its place, but the first step toward finding your personal connection to food is to start simple. Today, I am an integrative health coach and I want to share with you how changing your diet language can help you make better health decisions:
1. Identify foods with your senses.
The first step toward developing a true understanding of how food affects you is to identify foods at face value. What are simple properties that you observe about a carrot? It grows down into the ground, is orange, has a crunchy texture when raw but a soft texture when cooked, and is sweet. How does it make you feel? Grounded? Calm?
2. Ask yourself "Do I like ____?" — not "Is ____healthy?"
How many times have you eaten vegetables with a cringe on your face and a voice in the back of your head saying, " I have to eat this because it's 'good' for me"?
Plenty of scientific information about carrots — how it's full of beta carotene and helps eyesight — is not really helping you answer the question "Do I even like carrots?" Too much scientific knowledge early on can cause a dieter to eat foods that they might not like in an effort to eat something "healthy." At the same time, another dieter might reject an otherwise healthy vegetable like a carrot because they read somewhere that carrots are too high in carbohydrates.
Personally, I had been making it a point to eat chicken breast because it's considered a lean protein, but then I woke up one day realizing that I don't even like chicken breast. I realized that I felt better as a vegetarian.
3. Ditch the diet lingo and focus on healthy foods you like.
Learning about foods in terms of science creates different categories we have to organize our foods into, and this whole process of measuring and arranging can make us feel restrictive with foods.
Instead, place your focus on which food textures and flavors you like and how those foods make you feel. You'll find that you may be more open to trying different kinds of foods. Shifting your focus can help you stumble upon a mecca of great health foods that you enjoy eating.
Instead of going on another restrictive diet backed with complex scientific information, try exploring what the foods in your environment truly mean to you, how they affect you, and make your judgments.
I discovered new foods that I loved, and was also able to make distinctions between which foods I like more within categories. For example, I found that within grains, I enjoy rice more than bread and that the water content helps me digest better than bread which is dry. So, I started trying other grains that have more water like oatmeal and quinoa for example. Everything is more fun when you think of it as an experiment rather than a permanent change that starts "right now" — you can always go back if you don't like it.
You don't have to eat foods you don't like just because you read that they're healthy. This new understanding will be the basis of what finally brings you to find peace with your food.
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