Stop dieting. Because DIETS DON'T work. Yes, you lose weight, when you 'stay on track', but about 95% of people who lose weight by dieting will regain it in 1-5 years. Dieting is a temporary food plan and it won't work in the long run. It does not matter if it's vegan, paleo, plant based, keto, fruit, high carb, high fat. It's not the diet it does not work it's our mindset which does not want to stick to bunch of rules and follow them for 2 weeks, month, half a year or a life time. Our mind has anti-rule behaviour, more we push it to the closed box, more it want to escape. Our mind has a claustrophobia for boxes, frames and sets of rules. Let me tell you my own example, I was vegetarian for probably a year, than pescatarian for 11 years, and 2 years vegan (only vegan first, than whole food plant based, plus high carb, very low fat towards the end). At the beginning I thought this is the best I have done in my life. It's so easy, stick with the rules and be healthy, cancer proof, heart attack proof for the rest of my life. Although for the outsider I might have looked like a happy healthy person following a healthy diet/lifestyle. But my mind eventually was going crazy with all these rules, this self-destroying action of pushing myself to the corner. I could fool myself for a while that I need to stick with these rules and this is the only way to stay thin and healthy. Unfortunately not. It's actually opposite, more new rules I have applied (because I wanted to be even more healthy), more I narrowed down food groups which I can eat from, eliminating all what could potentially be harmful, more war with the food I created. You think it should be opposite, I should be happy eating only these healthy foods. But not at all. I was getting crazier and more upset. More upset I was, more I was binge eating, more I was binge eating more upset I became. First my healthiest diet (I called life style by the way) was failing; second, my mental health was going down, not to forget I was gaining weight, which was the worst fear of all. Eventually I realised, that I am no longer eating to feed my body, I was eating to feed my emotions, my anxiety, lack of self-confidence and every other bad emotion I had. At the right time I discovered Mel Wells book ‘Goddess Revolution’. I know it sounds as cheesy as a soap opera title, but the content is truly amazing. It helped me to realise, that I needed to heal my mind first and that will stop the war I was creating with the food. I needed to stop this emotional trigger -> eating habit once and for all. First what I did I stoped dieting, that was the very first advise from Mel, although I never admitted that I actually was, as I called it life style, so it was kinda part of me, rather than something applied. I stopped calling myself vegan, plant based, not even vegetarian, I stopped labelling myself. I remember when I had my first meal at the restaurant not as a vegan. It was awesome, first it removed the tension from me choosing something strictly plant-based, but eventually I did anyway, as I know what my body wants. But instead of letting entire restaurant crew know that I am vegan, I just said that I am diary (lactose) intolerant (which is by the way true), waiter offered couple of dishes without milk products, he mentioned meat dishes too, but I simply without any fuss picked a vegetable dish and he kindly offered to prepare it without diary. That simple. I am tired of putting labels to myself and showing it people, no I am not ashamed being vegan, neither I am proud, I know that putting myself to the the frame of rules does not work and makes my mind unhealthy. Although I know I will continue eating plant based, but without show casing it. And if I will eat outside the rules, it will no longer be outside, so I will no longer feel a responsibility to beat myself up for that. Now I finally feel comfortable in my own body and that’s the most important thing. More I started loving my body less I am binge eating and gaining weight. And it’s not even how much you weight at the end, it’s how do you feel in your own body. Mental health is as important as physical, because both of them influence each other and works hand in hand. If one of them is failing, it will drag another with it. So it's very important to maintain both. So if you feel like me and want to heal your relationship with food, stop dieting! And heal your relationship with yourself first, heal your mind and start loving yourself.
Our body knows what it need and when. If I am full and still want a desert, it's not my body craving for desert, it's my mind craving for love and attention.
Eat intuitively. Eat when your body feels hungry. It sounds easy, but it's a bit harder than we tent to think. First of all because we forgotten this amazing mechanism, when your body actually tells when you must eat. Exactly when you feel hungry, when your body sends a clear signal - I am hungry, feed me! Unfortunately we developed such war like relationship with food, that we now eat, when we have time, when we feel happy (rewarding ourselves with food), when we feel sad , when we feel lonely and we need love (comforting and soothing), when we feel angry and worthless (punishing ourselves with food, so we feel even worse and can victimise ourselves). Our eating now became so dependant on our emotions, but it has nothing to do with it. We need to eat simply because we need to live. Food gives us energy to be able to wake up in the morning, to go to work, to meet our friends, etc. Food has nothing to do with solving your mental problems. But because we need to eat, eating your problems away became so socially acceptable, that it became a new normal. When you eat to solve your problems, food becomes a drug, not a simple food anymore. It does not matter, if it a chicken nugget, tub of ice cream (I don't care if it's the healthiest vegan options), peanut butter, medjool dates or nuts, as long as you use it other than to feed your hungry body it is a drug. Let me tell you my example, I was a pretty bad binger, and I really tried hard to eat my problems away, did not work very well. Although I thought I was in control, only because I changed the food I was binging on, so instead of full of refined sugar biscuits, I was binding on dates, nuts, I would even bake a cake (healthiest I could possibly bake) and eat it all by myself in a day or two. It sounds not too bad right, at the end the cake is fairly healthy, but what's not healthy is my relationship with food. The fact that I was seeking comfort and love from food, which is literally impossible. It of course gives this momentary satisfaction, but it's too short and it does not solve any problems. At the end it forms a bad habit of diving in to the fridge and kitchen cupboards when we feel bad.
First of all we need to reset our body signals to default. Our body knows when it needs to be fed, trust me, otherwise we would just die if we did not have it. So every-time you feel like eating, ask yourself, is my body hungry or is it something in my mind which triggers me to think about external comfort (food). I promise you, you will know the answer straight away. If it's hunger which makes you think - food - go and have the most amazing meal. If it’s emotions you talking, pause for a moment and ask yourself what it is this emotion making you feel bad and seek for comfort. One easy way to separate those two feeling is that hunger never comes out of sudden, it builds up, it's never urgent and it's never drawn to specific food, e.g. cake, peanut butter, etc. The emotional 'hunger' is usually urgent and sudden, it rarely takes time to build and let's you decide what you want to eat and let's you prepare it. The emotional urge for food usually comes straight after a bad emotion or thought comes up (e.g. after negative self talk to yourself), it has to be fulfilled immediately, so it will never give you time to prepare something, so it is usually straight from the fridge/cupboard and most likely is sweet/salty and greasy combination. It's because your mind is hijacked in a way, that it is sending signals to your body, that you are starving and you need the richest food possible to satisfy your hunger in shortest possible time.
Second of all you need to educate yourself what the healthy foods are. Once you done your homework your body will never crave junk food or can of coke. Your mind though might, but as I mentioned before you need to listen to your body not mind. Saying you need to know what is the healthy food, I don't mean follow another diet. It's a very simple knowledge which I can give some hints to. And I am sure you know most of it already.
*More whole, less processed. When you take an apple, you know it is an apple and it's the only ingredient - apple. If you an apple pie, you know for sure it's not just apples there. If you get a pie from the shop, it might have some ingredients you don't even know what these things are. If you can't identify them, they are not food. Let's say not apple pie, apple jam. Sounds not too bad, but once you take a look at the back of the jar, you might find ingredients which does not sound like food at all. Also fewer processes it's been through, more nutrients it has preserved. Let's say, apple and unsweetened apple purree with nothing else added. Still the whole apple wins, because it has not been boiled for several hours, means it has more nutrients left. So conclusion here: the wholer, less processed and the fewer ingredients - the better for you, and if it has bunch of ingredients, try to see if you understand what they are. If it doesn’t sound familiar, I wouldn’t put it to my mouth. Whole also means not refined, so what it comes to sugar, grains, pasta or bread - choose unrefined. So try to avoid white (refined) sugar and products full of it, especially carbonated drinks like Coke, candies, chocolate bars, donuts, etc., white rice, white flour and it's products such as white bread, cakes, pizza , etc. Replace them with whole or at least 1/2 whole, 1/2 refined to start with. It might seem strange at the beginning, but trust me once you get a hold on the, you will never go back, as it taste better, fills you up quicker and you know it’s a lot more nutritious.
*Choose organic. Organic means, not GMO and less sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and other horrible stuff, which has been proven to cause cancer, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, obesity and other health problems. Because all these harsh chemicals kills our bacteria inside our digestive system, which causes loads of heath disorders. Just a little fact for you to think: we are only 10% of human genes, the rest 90% is bacteria. So if we kill the bacteria which makes up 90% of us what’s left? Especially if you eat animal products such as meat, eggs and milk try and eat them organic. I know it's more expensive, but maybe eat less, but better, quantity vs quality! It is simply because they are more concentrated in pesticides and other chemicals as they are fed with non organic food, so they accumulate it in their tissue (meat), milk and eggs.
*Make your plate as colourful as possible, but I’m not talking about skittles here. Fill your plates with colourful vegetables, make fruits your snacks.
Reduce the amounts of animal products and replace them with healthy plant source of protein, include beans, lentils, chickpeas, cruciferous vegetables. Because having 20% and more animal protein in your diet increases cancer cells growth in our body and to be fair all you need is 10% of protein in your diet and all plats has them, so don't worry if you cutting on meat and cheese you will not get protein deficient.
Choose healthy carbohydrates such as brown rise, quinoa, buckwheat, replace chips with grilled sweet potatoes.
Grill, steam or water sauté your food instead of deep frying or frying or boiling for hours. Include fresh vegetables and salad to most of your meals.
Have a sweet tooth? Me too. Instead of biting in a greasy donut try and make your own desserts with less sugar (remember replace white sugar to less refined alternatives: brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, even unrefined cane sugar is a lot better than white, try stevia, I personally don’t like it, but it works for some people), whole wheat or oat flour or any other whole grain alternative, replace butter with healthier fat such as coconut oil or avocado, I also use bananas or unsweetened apple source instead, and if you use oil, use less what it says in a recipe. You can also replace eggs with Aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas) or ground flax seeds to make it even healthier.
*Choose local and seasonal products. Go to your nearest farmers market, connect to farmers, those real humans who grow your food, talk to them, that’s when magic happens when you actually connect to your food you eat, by knowing where it comes from and meeting people behind the scenes.
*Dedicated time to eat and only eat. No phone, no TV, no checking emails or browsing for new pair of shoes. Eat mindfully. Have you heard about mindfulness meditation, that’s exactly the same, but instead of concentrating on your breathing, whilst eating concentrate on your food, smell it, absorb beautiful colour pallet, look at your plate as if it’s a piece of art, enjoy textures and flavours with each bite, chew it slowly and peacefully, absorb how it slowly travels down to your belly. And repeat this mindful eating until the plate is empty or you are full every single time you have a meal. I’m pretty sure you do this every time you go expensive restaurant, so you want to enjoy every single bite of each dish, it should not be different even if you pay £5 pounds for your meal not only when you pay £50 or even more if you prepare it yourself.
So here’s beginners guide for your mind to digest and once you get a hold of it, the rest will just come automatically. We all know all of that but because we are so busy and so distracted and disconnected from nature we are simple choosing wrong things to put to our bellies. We choose what’s easy and convenient without questioning if it’s good for us.
So I invite you to reconnect with your bodies, nature and food. Beautiful synergy which we modern people abandoned and this is the main reason why our eating habits are like a battle, which should be opposite.
to be continued (and expanded)...