Today is “Eat what you want day”. I just came across this by accident and it made me wonder: Do you not normally eat what you want? Do you normally eat what you don’t want? Why would you eat what you’re eating, if you don’t want it?
Maybe it’s because people like me have told you what to eat. Or maybe you read in a magazine that you should have a green smoothie every day. Or maybe your daughter has told you that only a vegan diet is acceptable these days.
In my experience, making people eat a diet they don’t like never works. At the same time, the diet you do like might not be doing you any favours. So, what to do?
Approach the issue in baby steps. Do what you can and ease yourself in gently.
If you’re currently living on a diet of ready meals and take-aways, sweet and savoury snack foods and fizzy drinks, you are not going to start cooking macrobiotic gourmet meals tomorrow, sipping macha tea as you stir. Perhaps you could start by buying better quality ready meals – even if that costs a little more. You can save the necessary money by cooking from scratch a couple of nights a week. There are thousands of very easy, quick and tasty recipes out there as well as cookbooks aimed at novices. Learn how to cook your take-away favourites yourself. (A great cookbook for that is The Hairy Bikers’ “How to love food and lose weight” – just add in a little more butter or olive oil than they suggest and hold back on the starchy carbs a bit). That would even give you the opportunity to leave out ingredients you don’t particularly like but put up with. You can customise. At this stage, don’t worry about whether your ingredients are organic, use sugar if you want. You can address one thing at a time.
If you do cook from scratch already but suspect that you could perhaps cook healthier meals, identify the most pressing issues. If that’s what you’re thinking about your food, you probably already know where it lets the side down. Are you overcooking your veg? Are you using more sugar or salt than you think is good for you? Do you love deep-fried food a little more than you should? Is half your plate covered by mash, with a tablespoon of peas on the side as your token veg? Where can you make changes that are not too drastic but provide healthier results that are as close as possible to the food you love?
Or do you think you already have an excellent diet – if only you could let go of sugar. You want to go sugar-free? Great, do it! Start by picking one thing you’re going to stop buying. Do you have a fizzy drink every day or every other day? Replace those with a healthier alternative – and, no, that doesn’t mean diet drinks. Try kombucha – it’s fermented tea, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. It’s actually really nice. Gradually wean yourself off flavoured drinks and have more water (you could infuse it with lemon, ginger, or cucumber) or herbal teas. Next, scale down the sugar content of your biscuits. Read labels. Less than 5g sugar per 100g is a good start for a biscuit.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start where you’re at and work your way towards a healthy diet. The one thing I can promise you that as you progress through making changes here and there you may find that what you cannot imagine giving up today, may be the food you have no desire for in a years’ time. Tastes change drastically over time.
I used to believe that a life without pasta was not worth living. Now I don’t even remember the last time I had pasta and I am not missing it one bit. It is not deprivation, I don’t even think about it. I felt in a similar way about biscuits. So, at first, I would bake my own healthier versions and they were delicious. But gradually I just went off them altogether.
Eating healthily does not mean a (now very long!) lifetime of deprivation. As you gradually change your diet, your tastes change. Your healthy diet becomes a way of life, something you don’t even think about.
Do we really need “Eat what you want day”? I don’t think so. I think we should eat what we want every day.
If you suspect that your diet has room for improvement, but aren’t exactly sure where to start, why not book in for a Diet MOT with me. Send me a 7-day food diary and I’ll book you in for a one hour session, during which we can talk about which tweaks you can make and how best to put them into practice. Click here to book.