Sometimes I wish I weren’t a nutritionist. Don’t get me wrong- I love nutrition, I really do! But it can be overwhelming to consider all the foods available to us, knowing which ones we want to eat, versus which ones we should eat. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know what I know, that I could just go off and happily eat my junk food. But then I realize, I did that for a long time and honestly, it made me quite physically and mentally miserable.
I read a passage in a book recently that stated anything with instant gratification rewards usually had long term consequences. And anything we had to delay gratification for generally had long term rewards. I do believe that is true, at least in my own experience. For many years I indulged unknowingly in foods that were wrong for me. Buildup over time led to so many health problems- weight issues and digestive distress in my early teens, hormonal imbalance shortly thereafter, thyroid condition, mood imbalance, and energy deficits in my adulthood… Those cookies and candies tasted good in the moment, but as years passed they caused much more pain than they were really worth. Add to that what I know now, and I realize that not only did they trigger serious health issues, they also contributed very little (if any!) real nutritive value. When I could have been filling up on foods that offered me true nourishment, I was busy splurging on empty calories devoid of quality nutrition.
I learned over the years to let them go, and replace them with foods that not only filled the void, but replenished the nutrient gap I had created. I truly love eating well, and I can feel the difference when I eat foods that do more than fill my calorie tank. That being said, I also love a good indulgence.
And that is probably the one thing that surprises people the most! Oh yes, I love junk food just as much as the next person. I can appreciate a sweet-laden dessert or a notoriously “unhealthy” snack from time to time. Comfort food is comfort food, from one person to the next. The only thing that changes is our own definition of what equates a comfort food.
As my nutrition knowledge grew, my definition changed. In my youth and young adulthood, I loved candy and cookies the most. I avoided fried foods and red meats, but not sugar. Somewhere in my mid thirties I turned down a road of health and nutrition, which led me to changing my habits, which led me to improved health, which led me to eventually going back to school for my Masters.
These days, I still appreciate a treat. It’s just a treat of a different kind. I have long ago abandoned sugary candies and cookies. I do love a good chocolate, I have learned to just up the chocolate percentage and value a quality dark chocolate over a milk chocolate. Occasionally I want a cookie, but I have learned to adapt recipes to reflect healthier baking options. And ironically, the red meats and heavier foods I once avoided? I learned to let them back in from time to time, but to choose them with quality and care.
And here is my response as to why. Nutrition boils down to the quality of the foods we eat, combined then with the method of preparation. We could prepare things in a very healthful way, but if we are starting with an inferior product, we are starting at a lower set point. Using foods of superior quality, we are realizing that many methods of preparation are available to us and are sometimes less (and sometimes much much less!) harmful than we once thought. A good quality dark chocolate retains more of it’s nutritional value than a highly processed milk chocolate- one that has been dwindled down to a higher proportion of milk and sugar than actual chocolate. Red meats that have been raised properly offer much more to our nutritional profile than conventionally raised red meats, potentially grown in an environment full of hormones, antibiotics, and stress. Same goes for chicken- yes, our beloved lean, white meat holds similar opportunity to damage our health goals due to poor growing conditions! So what does this all mean? It means that I am honoring my need to indulge but finding a more suitable indulgence to begin with.
As a holistic nutritionist, I understand there is much more to our health than just the foods we eat. I can eat perfectly each and every day, checking all the theoretical boxes of nutrition. I may be filling my caloric and nutritional tanks, but what about my emotional tank? There is an emotional value to the foods we eat, and there is an importance to listening to that call. When our body cries out for some kind of treat, it is asking for something more than just the food itself. Is it comfort? Is it reassurance? Is it cookies like Grandma used to bake? Or the homemade spaghetti mom used to make? Regardless, there is something our soul is calling for. Our job is not to power our way through and try to never indulge again. Nor is it to justify every beck and call of our soul’s requests to eat indulgences as we wish. No, it’s about balance. Ask yourself first what it is you need. Is there something missing in your life you are trying to satisfy with food? Maybe yes, and maybe you can make some changes to mend that. But maybe not. So if you still have the craving, find a way to satisfy your soul while not sacrificing your body.
In this day and age, healthier options abound for just about any treat you could ever desire. Find one. Try one. Let it be something you can be ok with. And know that while this isn’t meant to be an every day type of thing, it is more than ok to indulge every now and then. No guilt, no shame. No beating yourself up over some perceived weakness. Know that life is about many things, but starvation and deprivation is not one of them. Nor is perfection. Our bodies are strong. If we spend 80% of the time choosing what is right for us, the remaining 20% can more easily be managed by the body.
By removing these unrealistic expectations, you will find that your path to improved health and wellbeing becomes significantly more sustainable. Suddenly something that was overwhelming now feels manageable, doable, maybe even more pleasurable along the way. At least I know that has been the case for me, and the case for many of my clients. Ask yourself if the approach you are taking today is something you can see yourself doing a year from now, and five years from now. If the answer is no, it’s time to think again. And, if you need a little help finding the approach that is right for you, that’s what I am here for. So give me a call and let’s find the plan that makes sense for you.