What would it be like if you never compared yourself to anyone else? Ever. Again. What if you ate to nourish your body for energy, health, and well-being? What if you stopped worrying about your weight and focused on eating healthy? I think the world would be a much different place. It seems we are never happy where we are, and we are always trying to look better. The images of what beautiful is go through our minds daily, and influence how, what, and when we eat. I don’t know how we got so far from eating normally and healthfully, but I am convinced that if we focused on getting back to normal, the world would be a much better place. We would be able to alleviate many of the health problems that plague our society today. We would all feel better, be happier, have more confidence in ourselves, and stop comparing ourselves to everyone else.
What is NORMAL? Webster’s Dictionary defines normal as: “usual or ordinary; not strange.” It is interesting that when talking about a “normal diet” our definition may be changing over time because as a society our eating habits are changing over time. Normal eating is eating when you are hungry, and not eating when you are not. It is choosing a variety of healthy foods the majority of the time. So how did we get so far from normal? Babies and toddlers do an excellent good job of regulating what they eat, and they do it naturally. They will not eat if they are not hungry, and they will most certainly let you know when they are hungry. When you feed them a variety of healthy foods, they will enjoy most of them. The diet becomes abnormal gradually over time when our conscious decisions start outweighing what our bodies are telling us. We start skipping a meal here and there to save calories because of something we read in a magazine. Or we may decide to eat more of that dessert because it “tastes so good.” Each time we ignore one of our bodies natural hunger cues, our normal eating habits are compromised. Over time, the more we make these conscious decisions about what and how much we eat rather than listening to our bodies cues, the more our natural normal eating habits disappear. It doesn’t help that there is a fast food restaurant on every corner, and the cookie isle in the grocery store has more choices than the produce section. Our culture is not helping with need to get back to normal eating. Our minds are very open to suggestion. When you walk into the movie theater, what is the first thing you notice? The smell of popcorn, right? You probably aren’t even hungry, but the smell of the popcorn gives you the desire to purchase it. It is clear that not too many of us eat normally anymore. We eat for many other reasons other than hunger. I am sure you can list a few.
What is HEALTHFUL? Healthful is defined as “beneficial to the health of mind or body.” And health is defined as: “the condition of being well or free from disease.” So what does it mean to EAT healthfully? It seems hard to discern in the 21st century with the nutrition information always changing. In the 1980’s having a baked white potato with salsa on top was the way to lose weight, but in the 1990’s and into the early 2000’s eating a white potato was pretty much the worst thing you could do if you want to lose weight. So why is the nutrition information always changing? I would propose that it really isn’t. To explain I must encourage you to think past the latest FAD whether it’s gluten-free, low-carb, paleo, or whatever. (Obviously some you have special dietary restrictions, and I am not talking about you here.) You must consider the nutrition information that has been constant and has persevered through the years. When you can do this, you will think of a few easy to follow recommendations for eating healthfully. Here are a few of examples of these recommendations. 1. Limit extra and added fats and sugars, and limit fried foods. 2. Limit heavily processed foods. 3. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein like beans, meats, and dairy, and use healthy fats. 4. Increase physical activity and be less sedentary. They seem simple enough, right? So why do we have to make it so complicated? First, you need to remember that the “diet” industry generates billions of dollars each year by proposing the newest health craze whether its pomegranate juice, sweet potatoes, protein shakes, detox drinks, or magic, cure any-thing teas. You can even buy your 5 servings of fruits and vegetables in a capsule now! Many people make a lot of money selling the same eating healthfully ideas with a different spin. Second, we are such an instant gratification society that we flock to anything that promises a quick fix. When we are searching for that quick fix, we tend to ignore the information that we know deep down is true, and we start searching for something new and exciting to try. Marketing campaigns promise results in unreal amounts of time, and show unrealistic examples of what you could look like, and with the hope that it is true, we buy in. We have forgotten what it really means to eat healthfully.
How do we get back to Normal and Healthy? Getting back to normal can be challenging especially if you have been eating abnormally for many years. The first step is to start listening to your body. How do you feel after you eat that large ice cream sundae? When was the last time you felt truly hungry? When was the last time you kept eating after your body told you that you had had enough? These are some questions that may help you get on track. Start paying attention to how the food you eat affects your energy levels, your mood, and your sleep. Here is an example of how to do this. I will use myself. I noticed every once and a while, I was having a really hard time falling asleep in the evenings. I was of course tired with a 4 year old and a 6 month old baby. I started to think about my eating habits in the evening. I noticed that the nights I would have trouble sleeping it was because I ate too much sugar too late. I made a rule for myself, no dessert after 8:30pm, and it has made a remarkable difference. I fall asleep easier, and I feel more rested when I wake up in the morning. You may also want to start paying attention to your hunger cues. Don’t let yourself get overly hungry, and conversely, eat to be satisfied not full. It may be hard to determine when you are satisfied, at least at first. But, that will get easier the more you practice. Some of you may be saying, “but, I never feel satisfied,” or “I never feel hungry.” Without going into a lot of detail about this, I will say that there are some of you who probably have eaten abnormally for so long that your appetite regulation cues are all off balance. This means you may not feel hungry when you should and you may not feel satisfied when you should. In this case, you must think logically about how to eat to get your body back to normal. The first step is to eat something every 3-5 hours. Work on getting in 3 meals plus 1-2 snacks daily with healthy foods. That doesn’t mean snacking on chips! Try some veggies with hummus or a piece of fruit with a cube of cheese. For some of you, it may help to count calories for a few days. I would encourage you to notice the difference when you eat to nourish your body rather than for pleasure. Food may start to become more like a friend than an enemy. To get back to eating healthfully work on following the simple recommendations above and ignore the “popular” diets in the media. There is no magic pill to get slim and so STOP looking for one! Eating healthfully is about moderation, variety, and being smart.
I propose that we forget about society’s view of beautiful and the never ending quest for instant results. Instead, we should strive to eat normally and healthfully. Our goals should not be to look good, or to be thin, or get noticed by whomever. But our goals should be to feel good, have loads of energy, and to be amazingly healthy no matter what our age. I genuinely believe that if we all stopped “dieting” and striving for perfection, then we could embrace the idea of nourishing our bodies for health, energy, and feeling well. Perhaps our countries may be able to transform from unfit, overeating, obesigenic, diabetic, depressed societies into fit, normal eating, energetic, happier, and healthier societies. Imagine what we could all be doing in 20 years if we went back to eating normally and healthfully!
We are given one body on this earth. What will happen if I don’t take care of it? The Lord has given me a purpose here on this earth, and I plan to take care of my body so that I can accomplish His purpose. How do you plan to take care of yours? Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 19-20 NIV.