How to Eat Well with Ease
There seems to be a common misconception that maintaining a clean and healthy diet is something that only certain people, those blessed with incredible willpower, are able to achieve. When people start to learn about the things that I choose to eat and those that I avoid, I am often confronted with something along the lines of “Oh I wish I could eat that well, but I just don’t have the willpower.”
The good news is that willpower need not be a significant factor in maintaining a nourishing diet. In fact, I would argue that willpower is only really a factor as you are breaking old habits and transitioning to a newer, more nourishing way of eating. Once you have broken the cycle, the maintenance of this way of living should be effortless, for this one simple little reason… You crave what you habitually eat.
When I first heard this statement in the Food Matters documentary I was struck immediately by its simplicity and brilliance. Essentially, your tastebuds (and your brain for that matter) are constantly adapting and changing according to what we are eating. As I am sure you can all relate to, when you eat a lot of sugar or fatty foods it often leads to more cravings for these foods. When you then eliminate such processed foods from your diet the immediate effect is not so pleasant, because the cravings remain. However, the magic happens when you allow yourself to move beyond the cravings and nourish your body with truly healthy and nutrient-dense food, because then that becomes what you crave.
For the most part, I experience this reality on a daily basis. More often than not I crave the foods I eat on a regular basis, so if I am mindful and eat well then I will crave good food. In this way maintaining a clean diet is just about effortless because eating in this way not only comes naturally, but it makes me feel great. When I do allow myself to deviate and eat something that I consider a “treat”, it often leads to more cravings for that food. However, because I know about this tendency I can simply allow my body to calibrate back to its natural, balanced state by mindfully enjoying the treat and leaving it at that.
On the occasion that I have a food “bender” I am usually left feeling pretty worse for wear, which is another reason I find eating foods that nourish my body pretty easy (most of the time) – because it feels SO much better. If I have had a day, or even a few days, of less than optimum food I usually find my body craving veggies, juices and grounding, wholesome foods such as eggs and slow cooked meats. By following my body’s natural intuition I can usually find my way back to a state of good health in a matter of a few days.
The best part is that no matter who you are or what part of the health journey you are on, you have the ability to alter what it is that your body craves simply by changing what you eat. Another little nugget of wisdom from Food Matters that I love is the concept of focussing on adding, rather than taking, when making dietary changes. In this way, place your emphasis on introducing good food into your diet, rather than focussing on the foods you “cannot” have. This is a far more positive and holistic approach to take to changing eating habits and eventually the good food will just “crowd out the bad”. It is also a great way to start experimenting with some of the awesome health foods out there, like fermented veggies! Perhaps one week the only change you make is to try eating some fermented veg with one meal per day. It doesn’t matter how slowly you make the changes, I can guarantee with each day that you eat just a little better your body will be one step closer to a state in which eating well is your natural state. It’s all up to you!
Now at this point I should emphasise another important point, that is the concept of bio-individuality. Essentially, this means that due to genetics, lifestyle factors and states of disease/deficiency/health, every single person's nutritional needs are unique to them. For this reason, what might be the most nourishing diet for one person may leave another feeling pretty crappy. As unfortunate as it might be to hear, there is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to anything related to health, whether that be food, exercise, or hours of sleep needed. Figuring out what food makes you feel great can be a long process, but approach it with an attitude of adventure and curiosity and I can guarantee it will only get easier. Also, keep this concept in mind when you feel the little comparison monster creep in, telling you that your way of eating isn't "clean" enough compared to whoever's Instagram lunch you might be looking at that day. Lastly, realise that what constitutes a nourishing diet for you is also subject to change and is constantly evolving. Over the past few years my diet has changed dramatically several times, depending on where I am living, what food I have access to, what my body is in need of at the time and what's going on in my life. Try to avoid locking yourself into restrictive categories or patterns of eating and instead trust your intuition a little bit when it comes to choosing beautiful, nourishing foods that are going to best serve you and your body!
What are the ways you make healthy eating easier? How do you feel about willpower?
Love Erica x