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Nutrition Success – It’s NOT All About The Food!

You know, we’ve got this eating healthy thing all wrong. There’s 2 halves to it, and one of those halves NEVER gets mentioned.

Probably because it has NOTHING to do with food.

Literally nothing to do with what you eat, how much, when or any of that stuff.

I know - it’s a bit of a shocker, right?

This is what we’ve become accustomed to think of when we think of healthy eating:

Vegetables.
Lean Protein.
Smart Carbs.
Good Fats.

We consider habits like:

Drink 2 Litres Of Water.

We work on rules like:

Keep Sugar Intake Low.

All this stuff is about the WHAT. The foods, the quantities, the macros.

I get it, because that’s all I used to think about too - I had a spreadsheet and everything! I would plan my portion sizes, track my calories, count grams of this and that. And it worked fine - but I knew I didn’t want to live my whole life like that.

You see, there comes a time where you have to leave the spreadsheet, the tracker app, the obsession with macros behind…and learn to trust yourself.

Plus, focusing on the macros and foods and what not never helped me to really crack the deeply thorny issues like:

  • eating a whole box of Cadbury’s Roses because it was Friday
  • using fish, chips and beans (portion size: LARGE) to cheer myself up when I’d had an argument with my partner/had a bad day at work/stubbed my toe
  • chowing through a family size bag of Minstrels at the cinema
  • eating ALL of the food when I felt lonely or scared
  • being “good” all week and then binging at the weekends

Yup, that was me. Me and my crappy eating habits. Don’t think I haven’t been there - I have. I know what it’s like to feel out of control with food. I also know how to come out the other side, and that’s what swings us into the 2nd half of healthy eating, the half that has naff all to do with actual food.

You might even go so far as to say that this is the most important half and waaaaaay more crucial than the WHATs above (I would).

These are more nebulous. They’re harder to pin down and action plan - that’s probably why they get ignored or forgotten or not promoted within the nutrition industry. They have to do with how we approach food and - a phrase that I always think sounds a bit Oprah - how we RELATE to food.

They are:

  • not thinking of food as either “good” or “bad”. Carrots are just carrots, brownies are just brownies. They both have their place.
  • not overthinking and obsessing over food, but not underthinking it and throwing caution to the wind either.
  • knowing how food affects your fitness, energy levels, mood, health, mental aptitude and so on.
  • not looking for emotional solace from food or using it as a substitute for fixing an actual problem.
  • eating predominantly when you are hungry. Not being scared of hunger. Being able to sit with it and deal with it well.
  • sometimes eating when you have a craving and sometimes not. Having the ability to choose!
  • being able to stop eating when you are physically satisfied (i.e. before you are stuffed and having to undo your top button. :)).
  • choosing foods/drinks that you believe match what you need. Need energy for a workout? Need sustenance for a long day? Need hydration? Need to bridge the gap from breakfast to lunch?
  • eating mindfully and slowly. Being present with your meals, rather than wolfing something down whilst tearing to your next appointment.
  • being tuned into your own, internal, bodily cues and using these, rather than trackers or calorie counts, to regulate your food intake. Are you hungry? Are you full?

All these behaviours, mindsets, abilities - whatever you want to call them - are what makes you a healthy eater.

Further than that - in my view, eating the right kinds of foods (all that protein/carb/veg/fat stuff up top in this blog) that’s a SYMPTOM of being a healthy eater.

Both halves of this equation need attending to if you have a rubbish diet you want to fix.

But the way I see it - if you can get closer to owning those 10 behaviours, the food you eat will take care of itself.

I can’t overstate this enough. Those 10 behaviours are the key to the kingdom.

Just focusing on changing the foods you eat can be like putting a rug over a hole in the ground - it looks ok but step on it and you’ll fall in. Focus on changing your mindset and your relationship to food and you’ll be making headway on filling that hole in so you can’t fall down it any more.

To close the loop I opened earlier with these statements:

  • eating a whole box of Cadbury’s Roses because it was Friday
  • using fish, chips and beans (portion size: LARGE) to cheer myself up when I’d had an argument with my partner/had a bad day at work/stubbed my toe
  • chowing through a family size bag of Minstrels at the cinema
  • eating ALL of the food when I felt lonely or scared
  • being “good” all week and then binging at the weekends

working on those 10 behaviours are what finally enabled me to “fix” these crazy eating habits. I’m not completely done yet and by NO means am I perfect, as this is a lifelong piece of work. I still have triggers that cause crazy food choices sometimes, but I’ve got a handle on them and will keep on battling.

How about you?

p.s if you need some help, head over to this page for Health Habits Academy, this one for Nutrition Road Maps or this one for a custom approach just for you.

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