As human beings, we need food to live. Just like gasoline fuels a car, food gives us energy.
But let's face it; food can also be a source of comfort, reinforcement, and a social activity to engage in. Have you ever used food as a way to cope with negative emotions? If done frequently, this can create a very negative cycle. Eating a bag of chips may feel good in the moment, but afterwards you just feel guilty, ashamed, and even more depressed.
Thinking of food as an energy source, rather than a way to cope, may give you a healthier outlook on what you eat and when. So, what can you do to eat more healthy?
Diets of all kinds are promoted everywhere you look. The problem with many diets is that they aren't really sustainable. They often don't give us the right balance of foods and nutrients that we really need to thrive. Most people who go on extreme diets end up gaining the weight back eventually.
If you restrict eating habits too much, it can be hard to stay fueled to keep going. You may constantly feel hungry, unmotivated, unfocused, tired, cranky, and sad. In worst cases, your hair can fall out, your nails get brittle, and your muscles fade away. Physically and psychologically, our body begs for more and different food. Too often, we end up bingeing on junk rather than eating something nutritious.
Avoid Binge Eating
Obviously, eating too much food isn't good for you. It's especially a problem when eating the wrong foods, or for the wrong reasons. After all, most of us don't binge on kale or broccoli. Instead, we stuff ourselves with chips and ice cream; or we eat that second burger or that fourth piece of pizza.
If we fill our bodies with empty calories and fat, we miss out on the nutrients needed to feel good, and then often overeat. Even bingeing on a particular fruit or vegetable isn't exactly healthy. An orange might be great for vitamin C, but doesn't have all the other nutrients that your body needs. Too much of most things isn't good!
The best way to eat healthy is by focusing on balance. This means eating the right portions and the right combinations of food. So you can have a slice or two of pizza, just try not to eat the whole thing. If you don't want to eat meat, make sure you're eating enough other foods rich in iron and protein as well. Mix fruits and vegetables in with other snacks, and balance everything out by drinking a few glasses of water.
Pay attention to what you are eating, when, and why. Are you eating to soothe your emotions? Are you eating because you are bored, or because it's a habit to eat at a certain time of day? Instead of grabbing a handful of cookies, find something else to fill your time. Identifying other ways to cope with stress or emotions can provide distractions and change bad eating habits. You might even try keeping a food journal for a few days to see if there is a pattern of poor eating choices.
Practice portion control. How much do you really need to eat to satisfy your hunger or fuel your body? Put the pretzels in a small bowl rather than sitting down with the whole bag. Take your time, and slow down when you eat. When you rush and gobble down a meal or a snack, you will typically end up overeating.
Educate yourself. Just as there is a lot of information on all sorts of diets, there is also a lot of information available about healthy eating. Understand the importance of various vitamins and nutrients and how they help your body function. Knowledge is power --even when it comes to the foods that you eat.
Remember, it's okay to ask for help if you need it. Finding a balance is hard, and the world we live in doesn't exactly make it any easier. Take control of your health the right way, by eating healthy foods that provide premium grade fuel your body.