Do you know that the food industry is worth US$9.36tn in 2023? I don’t think there is a day when I don’t get asked what to eat to be healthy. Food is such a hot topic that we are literally obsessed with food. It’s what we talk about, think about, and yes, on some occasions, dream about.
Food has such an emotional power over us because whether you recognize it or not, you have a relationship with food. It can be a healthy relationship, where you feel nourished and supported. Or it can be toxic, where it sucks the life out of you.
So, I want to share three truths about food and eating and I want to give you a concept that will improve your eating habits instantly!
But before we start, get your copy of my e-book The Wholehearted Diet. Discover the power of plant-based eating, stress less, and have more energy.
How Healthy Is Your Relationship?
But before we begin, I want you to sit down for a moment and truly evaluate your relationship with food. I mentioned it earlier because the basis of your relationship is the base of the way you eat.
If you find yourself eating unhealthily, or even using food to meet your emotional needs then the first step to improve your eating habits is to heal your relationship with food. Don’t be afraid to explore your childhood beliefs or thoughts you have about food.
It all can help with describing your relationship.
You see, we humans are emotional creatures, so it is only natural that we attach emotion to the things we do. And eating or even certain products have emotional meaning to us.
Remember your relationship with food is no different to the relationship you have with your loved ones, friends, co-workers, or your pets. The relationship is either healthy and supportive, or unhealthy and destructive.
In all your relationships you have full control of the health of it. You are in charge of how it is shaped, what you give and receive, and how it impacts your life. The only difference in your relationship with food is that you make all the decisions.
Why do I want you to reevaluate your relationship with food?
Because the number one motivator for humans is emotion. You either do something or not because of the way how you feel about it. So, if you attach a positive emotion to your eating, you will more often reach for that kale.
Eating is a Habit
For me eating healthy is easy. It is who I am and what I do. It is part of my identity. But it is also a habit, so I do it without thinking. How are yours eating habits? Are they part of your identity too?
We often talk about eating as a habit, but do you know what it means?
Habit is any activity that you do repeatedly. It happens automatically so your brain doesn’t go through the decision-making process of what to eat. This is good and bad news at the same time.
Because as you most likely recognized your eating habits may be healthy. You may have a smoothie for breakfast, avoid eating sugars and simple carbohydrates, and eat raw vegetables and whole grains.
You may also drink plenty of water throughout the day and consume alcohol on occasion or not at all.
Or you can start your day with breakfast cereals which are usually loaded with sugar, have a quick bread sandwich for lunch, snack on cookies or chocolate to cope with 3pm sugar drop, and have ready, highly processed food for dinner.
Both scenarios are the result of habits.
Your eating habits are not only limited to what you eat, how often, or what products you consume. Your eating habits include the thoughts and beliefs you have about food. So, let’s have a look at three truths that you need to accept about food to improve your eating habits.
Truth #1 Food is Medicine
It was Hippocrates who said, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.” And I cannot agree more. What Hippocrates meant was that the food you eat is important due to its nutritional value.
Food, and especially plants, contain vital minerals and vitamins that your body needs to function. Your body is a very complex organism, and each nutrient has an important role to play. So if you are deficient in one, something else can’t function.
I want you to start thinking about food as nutrients.
I often think about eating vitamin K, zinc, iron, and calcium when I eat kale. I would often say that I need some vitamin C so I would eat orange. Every morning when I add raw cocoa to my green smoothie, I’m thinking about the magnesium I’m delivering to my body.
You may think this is strange, but when you start associating nutrients with the food you eat you will start making healthier choices.
Now I’m going to step on a soap box and say that certain foods don’t have any nutritional value. Our bodies are not designed to consume unlimited starch, artificial sweeteners and colours, preservatives, or any other fillers you usually find in processed foods.
There is no evidence of our body needing those ingredients. What’s more, there is evidence of the harmful effects they have on our overall health.
I truly believe that we can heal through food. So, if you want to stay healthy, and have energy and vitality you need to nourish yourself through food.
Truth #2 Food is Energy
Everything you do requires energy. And how does your body get energy? Through food, of course! So, the truth number two you need to incorporate into your life is that if you want to have energy you need to eat foods that give you energy.
Your body requires carbohydrates and healthy fats to convert into energy. Although some energy is produced by using protein, this is in much smaller quantities.
The type of energy differs depending on what food group you eat.
Carbohydrates are much more easily absorbed into your bloodstream so they can be used quickly to produce energy. It is an easy-to-access energy and is used every time you need it right away. This is why if you are exercising, or are needing a quick boost of energy, your best food choice is a banana, muesli bar, or another carbohydrate snack.
On the other side, you have healthy fats which are a great source of long-term energy. Your body takes longer to convert it into energy, and it also takes longer to access it. But healthy fats will sustain you if you need energy for a prolonged period of time.
So, when you know you have a busy afternoon and evening in front of you, your best option for lunch is to include healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, seeds, nuts, or avocado. It will keep you satiated for longer and you will avoid the 3pm sugar crash.
Certain foods can be your energy drains, such as refined sugars or starch, so always ask yourself if the food you eat gives you the energy you need.
Truth #3 Food is Not for Comfort
If you have re-examined your relationship with food, you know what emotions eating brings up. I’m not sure if I attach any emotions to food. I probably do, because we all do, but I don’t use food as my emotional filler.
If you discovered that you have a strong, emotional attachment to food, because you use food as a tool to meet certain needs, then truth number three can help.
You have just learned that food is medicine, so you need to look for the nutritional value of food, and that food gives you energy. Because the truth is that food is to nourish you and not to comfort you.
I know I will get some pushback from this because we use the phrase comfort food a hundred times a day. But the primary role of food is to provide nutrients to our body so it can function. It is not to give any level of comfort whatsoever.
And when we attach the emotion of comfort to food, we change the meaning food has. Our eating habits transform because now we want food to fulfill a need it can’t.
So, next time you have a battle between eating an apple and a donut I want you to ask yourself this question: which food will give me the nutrients my body requires? And dive deeper by checking if what you are about to eat is to nourish your body, or if are you trying to meet an emotional need.
The 80/20 Rule
All three truths will help you to make changes in the way you perceive food. You probably noticed that eating habits are not only what you have at the end of the fork, but it has a lot to do with your mental habits too.
But I don’t want to leave you only with mental strategies, I want to give you a tool you can put into action at your next meal.
From now on, when you prepare any meal, I want you to think about the 80/20 rule. Now, it is not the Pareto Principle where 80% of your outputs come from 20% of your actions. This is a great productive and time management tip, but not to improve your eating habits.
If you have ever done coaching, you most likely were asked by your coach to say where you are on a scale from 0 to 10 when it comes to your confidence and importance in any areas of your health and life. The rule is that if you picked 7 then you have great chances of succeeding.
I want you to throw away the 7 and go for the 8. Make it so that each time 80% of your meal supports healthy eating habits. 80% of your food choices are to nourish you. 80% of the meals throughout the day are healthy options.
The 20% is the wiggle room for any food cravings, any late-night pizza dinners, or any time you do need that cookie.
Why do I want you to think about eating as an 80/20 rule?
Well, if you ever went on a diet, you know why. Our way of thinking can be very rigid. We often think that we can do it all or nothing at all. And we beat ourselves up when we lapsed.
None of it helps with improving our eating habits. But giving yourself 20% margin for error does.
How to Improve Your Eating Habits
The moment you change the way you perceive food is the moment your eating habits shift. You start looking for nutrients, energy, and nourishment from your food. You will heal your relationship with food and stop using it to meet your emotional needs.
This will give you the power to resolve any underlying issues you may have around food.
And how to improve your eating habits today? Make 80% of your food choices to be healthy ones. It’s ok if you have your favourite pasta dish or a piece of chocolate from time to time. As long as they keep to the 20% you are succeeding already.
Ready to get started with a plant-based diet? Get your copy of my e-book The Wholehearted Diet. Discover the power of plant-based eating, stress less, and have more energy.