Eating nutritiously can be a drag, or that is how it seems at first. You know you want to be healthy, but you also know that you don’t want every meal to be a tasteless, bland, unimaginative ordeal. Eating is one of the joys in life. So how do you balance being in tip-top shape with some type of joie de vivre?
We often begin a diet after a period of less than desirable eating. With our stomachs full of pastries, pizza and deep fried decadence, we decide it is time to make a change. Starting tomorrow, we will eat nothing but nutritious, wholesome and slimming sustenance. In my humble opinion, this is the set-up for failure. When making a diet change, we shouldn’t do anything that we can’t see ourselves maintaining for a lifetime. Otherwise, our exciting, new healthy eating plan has failure built right into it. Can you really see yourself resisting cookies, cream sauce, macaroni and cheese for the rest of your life? Then you shouldn’t set up that type of expectation from the get-go.
A better way to request change from ourselves is to ask ourselves to transition away from the ‘bad for you’ foods and towards healthy diet choices. When eating a plate full of sugary, oily, refined carbohydrate-rich indulgence, our taste buds become dulled. Healthy options are tasteless and diet feels like deprivation. Give yourself time to transition to a better way of eating, and you will eventually taste all the crisp, fresh, naturally sweet goodness in a plate full of lightly steamed vegetables or a big chicken salad with olive oil and lemon. You will also have the opportunity to balance your blood sugar which will help keep cravings at bay
Here is how transitioning works. Let’s say that you begin every morning with a big bowl of granola. The problem with most granolas is that they have tons of added sugar. They also have a good deal of refined carbohydrate which quickly turns to sugar in the body. Therefore, you may want to transition to a more nutritious option. First you may choose a more natural granola made with whole grains, nuts, fruits and only lightly sweetened with agave or honey. You will eat this for a week while you get used to the taste of lower sugar. Then the next week you will instead make a big bowl of oatmeal with nuts and just a small amount of maple syrup or maybe some granola sprinkled on top. Again, you are transitioning towards a low sugar, whole food option. Then finally the next week, you will remove the maple syrup and granola completely, keep the nuts and add lots of fresh berries. You will have given your taste buds time to transition away from a sugary breakfast and appreciate the subtle sweetness of fruit sweetened whole grain cereal.
You can do this without setting up the false expectation that you will never eat your favorite foods again. As you transition to a wholesome diet, you will increasingly enjoy the taste of vitamin and mineral-filled health supportive options. When you eat what used to be your favorite sugar filled cereal, you will notice that the blood sugar rush makes you feel kind of crappy. When you have achieved stable blood sugar, you can eat your former favorite foods without them throwing you off your game. Instead of making you want to binge, now the sugar cereal will make you feel depleted, leading you back to your fruit and nut oatmeal the next day. You’ll enjoy your favorite foods, but not to a point where you want to eat them everyday.
Be kind to yourself when changing your diet and make sure to get all the support that you need. When we slowly adjust our meal plan, our taste buds steadily change and adapt, our blood sugar normalizes and “diet” becomes something that makes us feel good. Now is that worth taking the time for? That’s completely for you to decide.