Do the foods you love, love you back?

The word diet immediately gets my blood boiling a bit. “Diet culture” is toxic and detrimental. I often feel like everywhere I look a new recommendation is being made. In a world full of conflicting diet plans, how in the world is someone supposed to decide how they should eat?

Coffee is good for you one day—“drink at least two cups a day”—and then disputed the next as an acidic demon built to wreak havoc on your insides. One day you read that you should double your recommended amount of protein, and the next you find out that this is a good idea—if you want to store that extra protein as fat.

Even as a certified nutrition coach with an extensive background in health, fitness and wellness, I still struggle to find real answers. Like real answers from organizations that are truly working for our health and wellbeing.

My former food loves

I have been lucky enough to be tall and energetic enough to maintain my weight fairly easily. Despite my “fit” outward experience, the truth is up until a few months ago I had not worked out consistently for about five years and my diet was a hot mess (are chips not a meal?).

My passion for learning about nutrition comes from my drive to be my healthiest, happiest self and due to my issues with chronic pain and other “mystery conditions” ranging from idiopathic anaphylaxis (exactly as fun as it sounds) to pre-diabetes. I really should have re-evaluated my eating plan long ago.

I have also found that nutrition is a missing link with many of the patients I would see for physical therapy. Exercise and bodywork alone are not always able to overcome a super crumby diet.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Have you also made it to the point where you are fed up with the way you eat? How about the way your body feels? Are you willing to make changes, but are left confused by the ever-conflicting dietary guidelines out there?

I’m glad you might be feeling that way too. But overhauling your daily nutrition is no easy feat. And it is certainly not something I can tackle in one article. My goal of this article is to change a part of the mindset around diet and nutrition.

When it comes to choosing foods we often go by what we “love”, what we find comfort in, or what is cheap/convenient. Here’s something I want you to really think about though:

Do your favorite foods, the ones you love so much, love you back?

That was a no for me, dawg. I was a verified carbo-holic. My go-to comfort foods included: pizza, goldfish, and bagels with lots-o cream cheese. Basically if it wasn’t processed and filled with gluten and dairy I wasn’t feelin’ it.

I had formed a bond with these foods after indulging in them during many hard times. They were there during break-ups, after knee surgery, after a long day at work. This pattern just continued on and on. These foods provided me with a carby fat bomb (tasty and providing a short-lived burst of energy), required no to minimal prep, and were cool with my budget. 

Unfortunately as you may have guessed, these foods were not truly comforting me. In fact, they were actually making my bad health situation worse. I so did not feel the love.

Food is not everything, but it’s important

While nutrition is important, making healthy food choices alone is likely not going to cure your chronic pain. I wish! But I can tell you for dang sure that if you are constantly loading your body up with processed garbage you will make your health situation worse.

No one deserves to be in chronic pain. You didn’t get this way because you like to eat chips. But having chronic pain does not give you a free pass to treat your body like a garbage can like I did for many years. I get it, when you feel like crap, it’s easy to eat like crap, because why does it matter anyway? You and your body deserve so much better though, and I think you already know that.

Getting there

After a few weeks of cleaning up your diet, seeing the positive changes it will make, you will gain momentum. Your palate will actually change too! So cool. If you cut out processed high sugar or salty foods, eating some of that stuff later makes you really taste how nasty it truly is.

For me, to give up processed, carb-filled snacks I knew I had to do something major. I went for a keto diet in hopes that by increasing my fat intake I would be more full and satisfied and less likely to indulge in processed snacks. It was hugely helpful (and successful, for me at least).

There is no magic diet plan that works for every one—believe me, I’ve looked.  But no one needs added sugar. No one needs processed foods. Think about what you are eating and how it actually makes you feel.

Here are a few practical tips to keep you going:

  • Don’t try to change everything at once. Set yourself up for success. Cutting out junk food, cookies, candies cold turkey is rough. Phase ’em out gradually.
  • Find healthy, whole food snacks that you enjoy to have on hand when cravings hit.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you indulge. If you are eating clean most of the time, a slip up will not derail your health. Also, beating oneself up, never got oneself anywhere good did it? Thought so.

Eating healthy, whole foods is fun. As a reformed Cheez-it connoisseur I can vouch. And you know that baby spinach loves you back, boo. You got this.

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