Food & drink

Nutrition with Jane McClenaghan: Five ways to change your mindset, appetite and relationship with food

We should look at our diet from a new perspective, so that instead of focusing solely on weight loss, we consider our overall health

THE way we talk about food says a lot about how our emotions are intricately linked with our food choices.

Comfort food, treats, being 'good' or 'bad', falling off the wagon...

The diet industry has us believing that if we eat the wrong type of food, we are weak, bad or have failed.

When there is so much guilt and shame around food, is it any wonder that we struggle to strike a healthy balance?

But what if we took a different approach? Consider for a moment what the word 'diet' actually means.

Look up a dictionary and you'll find this definition of diet: "The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats."

There is no mention of weight loss, restrictions or calories. It is the food we eat.

When we consider food from a nutritional perspective, and think about how it can change our wellbeing, we end up with a more positive connection to the food we eat, and we tend to naturally veer towards the food that makes us feel good - which usually happens to be healthy food, rather than junk.

This is not because we are following a diet - it is because we are following our own diet, we are noticing what makes us feel well, and making choices based on abundance of health, rather than restriction of calories.

When we restrict our diets, it is usually in a bid to lose weight. Take a browse of any social media platform and you will be bombarded by folk selling you their version of any fad diet. Often these are diets with little or no nutritional consideration outside the calories consumed.

What if we looked at diet from a new perspective, so that instead of focusing solely on weight loss, we considered our health. What if we could improve our energy levels, stop cravings, balance our mood and feel good, rather than being a slave to the numbers flashing up on our bathroom scales?

It is highly likely that this way of eating will result in more balanced weight, rather than yoyo dieting and the guilt of calorie restriction.

Sounds good? Here are five simple things you can do right now to help you change your mindset, appetite and relationship with the food you eat:

1. Be mindful. Don't eat on the run. Take your time to sit down at a table and enjoy the food you are eating. That way, your brain is telling your belly that you are eating, and you'll feel more satisfied by your food.

2. Take a bird's eye view of your diet. Rather than beating yourself up about eating one food, or one meal that you think of as 'bad', consider how this fits with the rest of your diet. If most of the food you eat is nourishing and healthy, then there will not be much damage caused by the occasional high sugar or high fat food. One chocolate bar once or twice a week is not going to make or break your health, but one chocolate bar a day might be a different story.

3. Don't go hungry. Eat enough to leave you feeling satisfied, so that you are less likely to crave unhealthy snacks between meals.

4. Fat, fibre and protein will leave you feeling fuller for longer, so add some of the to your plate with each meal to help keep you sustained and your appetite satiated. For fats, choose olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocado, eggs, oily fish, houmous, full fat dairy products. Increase your fibre by choosing wholegrains over white versions of carbs like rice, pasta and noodles, add an extra portion of veg to your plate and think about adding some beans and lentils into dishes. Protein comes from eggs, meat, fish, nuts, seeds yoghurt, pulses, cheese.

5. Stop restricting your foods. No food is off limits. If we restrict 'bad' foods, we can obsess about these and end up overeating, Instead, allow yourself a little something very now and then. Sit down and enjoy it. Treat your treats as treats, rather than something that we have to have control over.

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